“Did you know . . . Archie and his friends recently attended their friend Kevin Keller’s wedding . . . to another man?”
Archie Comics have not been the bestselling comics of all ages for nothing.
Available at drug and grocery stores, Archie Comics are frequently the introduction to comics for those not fortunate to have a comic shop nearby. Parents know that if they hand their eight year old an Archie, they are giving their children a safe, fun read.
Riverdale, Archie’s quaint suburban hometown, is a bastion of acceptance, tolerance, respect, and “chocklit shoppes.” What better place to while away a Saturday afternoon?
The latest edition of Dark Horse’s reprint anthology series Archie Archives is a welcome return to Riverdale. But this may not be the Riverdale you remember. Collecting Archie Comics issues 19–32 and Pep Comics issues 57–58, we are back in the 1940s—1946 to be exact. World War II has ended, the suburbs are booming, Andy Hardy has come home, and everyone is looking to move forward.
1946 was also the year that MLJ Magazines, the publisher of Archie Comics, decided Archie was popular enough to warrant his own self titled comic and subsequently changed their name to Archie Comic Publications. Archie wasn’t only available at the news stand, you could also listen to the gang’s hijinks on the weekly “Archie Andrews Show” broadcast on NBC radio.
But this may not be quite the Archie you remember. The first thing you’ll be struck by is the crisp clear pages. No longer relegated to newsprint where you can discern every dot of color, Dark Horse has given Archie the deluxe treatment with a hardcover edition featuring beautiful, saturated color pages. Dark Horse has also listened to reader complaints about earlier Archive volumes not featuring the issue covers; they are all here.
The most striking visual distinction in the earlier Archie comics is in the depiction of the women. Ms Grundy is no longer prim and proper with her gray hair pulled back in a bun. In 1946 she was a snaggle-toothed redheaded teacher, though she still carried a torch for Mr Weatherbee.
Betty and Veronica are no longer the girls next door. Here they could pass for Hollywood Starlets. In fact, almost every student at Riverdale HS looks like s/he should have graduated 10 years earlier, especially Veronica and Archie’s nemesis Reggie Mantle.
Archie still looks a jovial youth, and his parents don’t seem quite as aged as their later depictions.
It is truly fascinating to go back and read the Archie Archives. Start with Volume 1. These anthologies are time capsules in themselves, good guides for seeing the difference between comics published before and after the Comics Code was put in place in the 1950s.
Here we have Veronica in a low cut dress, a plunging V-neck that almost reaches her navel and later sunbathing in just a towel. We have scenes of boys skinny dipping in a nearby swimming hole, no frontal nudity but full moons aplenty.
We also see Archie and the gang pulling the wool over noted authority figures and Mr. Weatherbee *%#* at the students—scenes we would never see again after 1954.
Archie Archives Vol. 6 lets us see where Archie has been and where he is now. Today, most comic publishers no longer adhere to the Comics Code, and Archie has moved into the 21st century.
Did you know that Archie once ditched Betty and Veronica to date Valerie Smith, his first black girlfriend? Or that Archie and his friends recently attended their friend Kevin Keller’s wedding . . . to another man?
While no longer the Archie Comics of your parents, it seems that today’s Archie Comics are pushing boundaries—in much the same way your grandparents’ comics did.