Friday, June 28, 2013

What's So Golden About... Archie Comics 64?

Archie Comics #64 (September/October 1953)
"Winner Lose"
"Safe at Home"
Uncredited:  Likely by Vic Bloom and Bob Montana

Doug:  Many of our readers seemed to like our examination of a WWII-era Captain America story, and although today's fare probably lies outside the Golden Age, we're going to bend the rules just a bit.  So, what have we here?  The two short tales I'll show you today are contained in the trade paperback, Archie Americana Series: Best of the Fifties.  As I remarked in the Phoenix review from Bizarre Adventures, I also cannot recall exactly how I came to own this tpb; I know I did not pay for it.  The mystery remains, which benevolent vendor threw it into an order I'd made?  Let's see what was happening with Riverdale High's famous kids in the era of Leave It to Beaver.


Winner Lose

Doug:  Ah, rivals for a young beauty's affections.  Here we find Veronica telling Archie "no dice" to a weekend date.  No can do, says she, because she's going boating with Reggie.  So Archie, totally defeated, heads to the soda jerk to drown his sorrows.  In walks faithful Jughead, always willing to lend a hand.  Archie feels that there's no way he can compete with Reggie's new boat; the only choice is to get a boat of his own!  So he and Jughead set out on a mission, and actually find a candidate -- for $20.  Jughead's skeptical, but Archie is, after all, desperate.  So the boys buy the boat and set about fixing it up.

Doug:  A couple of days later, Archie and Jughead go looking for Veronica and find her with Reggie.  Archie insults him, as any would-be suitor would.  Reggie fires back that he wishes Archie had a boat so he could show him who is boss.  Reggie mentions the local boat races, and Archie now has to put his money where his mouth is -- especially since Veronica says she'll give all of her boat dates to the winner.  So the next day the whole gang is at the river, except Jughead.  He's gone to borrow his uncle's outboard motor.  Archie doesn't even have a motor for his boat!  Reggie can hardly contain himself.  At the last minute Jughead comes staggering up... with a motor that's about as big as Archie's boat!  The boys get it installed just in time -- well, in fact a few moment late, as the race starts!  They finally get the motor started, and the recoil throws Archie out of the boat!  Jughead's on his own now.  He finds the course, and wouldn't you know it?  He starts picking off the competition one by one.  With only Reggie to pass, Jughead zooms right on by and through the tape!  However, he's got so much power, he keeps right on going.  And wouldn't you know it -- the only way to stop the boat was to beach it... hard.  When Archie arrives, it's to find his winning boat smashed on the shoreline.  So Veronica's boating dates?  They go to Reggie anyway, because Archie doesn't have a boat!

Safe At Home

Doug:  I think the charm of these stories is their predictability.  In both of the samples I've presented we can see the gag coming, but the true measure of a storyteller is that they keep it fun for the reader along the way.  There really aren't any twists or turns in the plots, but just watching the tale unfold is a joy.  For the second story, which was only five pages in length, I chose to present pages 2-5 in their entirety so that you can see what I mean.  Here they are:


Doug:  So what's so golden about these stories?  Well for starters, everyone's clothed -- the boys don't have their pants hanging off their rear ends and the girls don't exhibit (as one of my colleagues likes to say) "cleavage in two places" -- although I was a bit surprised that Bob Montana draws just a peek of it on Veronica in the first story.  I don't know that there's a lot here for Frederic Wertham to complain about, but what I do notice is the seminal nature of these stories to such television programs as the above-mentioned Leave It To Beaver, as well as The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and even on up to Happy Days.  Do you want to know the first cast of characters that I related to Archie's crew?  See if you can link the cast of The Amazing Spider-Man to each of the characters in these stories.  I've not heard Stan Lee or Steve Ditko ever discuss Archie's stable of comics as influences on their own creativity, but in my eyes it's pretty plain to make the connections.

Doug:  So would I read the rest of the trade paperback's stories?  I just might!  After all, knowing that tales of Archie and Jughead as beatniks, or the Elvis look-alike contest lurk just a few pages forth makes me smilingly curious.  After all, sometimes it's nice to get away from one's usual preferences and explore just a bit.


Anonymous said...

The Dobie Gillis TV series actually seemed to draw more on Archie comics than on Max Shulman.

Edo Bosnar said...

Those panels you posted sure bring back memories; I went through a big Archie (and Disney Ducks) phase when I was in 3rd & 4th grade. In fact, I almost completely stopped reading super-hero comics. Anyway, my favorite were the digests, which often reprinted older stuff from the '60s and even '50s on occasion.

Anyway, if it wasn't for the expense involved and the fact that I just have way to much stuff on my "to read" pile anyway, I wouldn't mind revisiting some of those Archies stories.

david_b said...

Dobie Gillis was pretty awesome, just a great series.

Booksteve said...

Nice post but, just for the record, Vic Bloom never really worked for Archie Comics long and is presumed only to have scripted the very first Archie story.

And Bob Montana stopped working for the company after WWII when he started the ARCHIE newspaper strip. The rest of his life was spent, very successfully, working on that strip without actually having to deal with the folks at the comic book company.

Doug said...

Booksteve --

Thanks for that info., and you've also given us another element of the Golden Age of comics -- uncredited creators.

I did consult both the Comic Book Database and the Grand Comics Database when setting up the post, as well as a quick perusal of the results of a Google search -- I couldn't turn up any solid info. on the creative team.

So, if any of our readers have any insight towards giving the writer and artist their due, please submit your knowledge or even guesses.



Anonymous said...

My first comics were Archie comics that were handed me downs from my older sister, and definitely where I learned the basics of comic literacy - so I have a soft spot for them (which I still had them).

The Hernandez Brothers (esp. Xaime) cite them as an influence on their Love & Rockets work.

I love the progressive direction they try to take these days, which sometimes tempts me to pick one up. From what I understand, these days the Archie Universe has multiple continuities just like Marvel and DC!

William Preston said...

In elementary school, I read Archie comics (after my Harvey comics phase: Casper, Richie Rich, et al). What strikes me is how vibrant and energetic the art is in this old issues. It's actually more interesting than what was being done in the '60s and '70s.

Garett said...

I remember reading lots of Archie as a kid, in the back of the station wagon on summer vacation. It's interesting to see this Bob Montana or Montana-ish art, but I prefer the Silver/Bronze age Archie art-- Dan DeCarlo was like the standard, then Samm Schwartz had the more angular style that totally suited Jughead (I think he drew some Golden Age superhero stuff as well), and Harry Lucey who had that groovy kind of style, looked great when the gang played music and danced! I still pick up the occasional Archie from 1970 or so, as I like their art around that time.

It's amazing Archie has lasted so long, and stayed so much the same...have they killed him off and revived him yet?? Interesting themiddlespaces, that they have multiple continuities...I'd be curious to see the Earth-2 Archie. I guess they had caveman Archie, etc in those Elseworlds-type stories. I wonder what Alan Moore would do with Archie.

Archie had some giant teeth in the '50s. Thanks for the review Doug, nice change of pace!

Garett said...

Oh and for those not up on the latest Archie...I picked up Archie Meets KISS (TPB) last year for my niece, who is a big KISS fan, and she loved it!

Doug said...

You are welcome, Garett -- it was a lot of fun reading those stories.

Did anyone read that one-shot with Archie and the Punisher? I believe John Buscema did the art.


Garett said...

2 votes right now separating Buscema and Adams! I voted Buscema, for his great figure drawing. I prefer Adams in the Kree/Skrull War, but Buscema also drew some great Avengers stories... and Buscema reigns on Conan, even though Adams had a cool issue or two. I'll vote for an Adams cover and Buscema interior! : )

Karen said...

I just don't get how Adams' Bronze Age output beats Buscema's. If we were comparing overall career work, then maybe there'd be an argument, but for the time period we're looking at, for me, it's a no-brainer.

Anonymous said...

Archie and the Punisher?? What...what happened to he, don't tell me...he's gone, isn't he. Okay. Did they bury him on a nice peaceful hill, surrounded by pine trees? A vat of acid??!? No! ahhhh....

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett, there was indeed a caveman Archie: I remember reading a few prehistoric Archie stories in some of those ubiquitous digests I had back in the late '70s. Basically, it's the same type of stories, except all the kids are wearing Flintstones-esque animal-hide togas and living in caves.
Also, does anybody remember watching the Archie cartoon show? As I recall, it included a segment in which the Archie gang lives in some historical setting. One I distinctly remember involved them meeting George Washington Carver.

As to the Buscema/Adams showdown, I'm a bit puzzled, too. And I'd go one step farther than Karen and say that even based on overall career work, I'd still go with Big John over Nefarious Neal.

Anonymous said...

I think comparing Adams to Buscema is like comparing a really good apple to a really good orange.

Redartz said...

A good metaphor , Anonymous!

I too went through an Archie phase, and still enjoy reading them. Secret agent Archie, "the Man from R.i.v.e.r.d.a.l.e." was one favorite theme. He showed up in "Life with Archie", about the same time the Pureheart/ Captain Hero stories were appearing. Life with, and later "Archie at Riverdale High" were interesting for the more dramatic (as opposed to straight humor) stories they featured.

Doug- yes, I have Punisher Meets Archie. The story was a lot of fun; filled with references to the Archie legacy. As I recall, Miss Grundy was a bit smitten with Frank Castle...

david_b said...

Agreed on the comparisons, Anonymous, what exactly in the end does this ranking really prove..?

I guess the answer is 'nothing'.. Other than good banter and comparative strengths from all the regulars and occasional droppers-by..

Which by in large is the best part.

Doc Savage said...

I still read
Archie regularly in the form
of their digests. Great value for your money.

Steve said...

Archie gave us some incredible artists. Samm Schwartz doesn't get enough credit for the remarkable graphic storyteller he was. He leads your eye with brilliant compositions and hidden site gags. I still chuckle at his Jughead stories.

Steve said...

I agree-just bought B&VComics Digest #1 from 1980-fun stories and beautiful Dan DeCarlo art!

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