Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Guest Post - Archie at Riverdale High 1 Review



 

Doug: Good day, and thanks for dropping in on yet another wonderful post contributed by our readers. Today your tour guide is none other than Redartz, who is going to take us through something dear to all comic book lovers -- a #1 issue! In this case he's going to let us drop in on perpetual high school Archie Andrews and friends, circa the early 1970's. Now if that isn't prime BAB territory! So strap in, kids -- this one's sure to be full of light-hearted fun.









 


 Archie at Riverdale High #1 (August 1972) 



Redartz: We are venturing into some largely uncharted territory today, outside the realms of Marvel and DC, and also leaving the genre of costumed adventurers! In that spirit, I will begin with a little background information for those who may be less familiar with “America's Favorite Teenager”.


Archie first appeared in Pep Comics #22 (December 1941), making him of age with such Golden Age icons as Batman and Captain America. Throughout the following decades Archie, along with his growing cast of characters, appeared in many comic magazines. In fact, by the 70's, he was featured in so many titles he could rival Richie Rich for space on the spinner racks! One thing these many titles had in common (besides the main cast of characters, of course) was their format:  they generally contained two or three short humorous stories and a couple of  single-page gag strips.. From time to time there were  more adventurous tales, such as those involving Archie's superhero identity  “Pureheart the Powerful” ; yet these stories were still went for the funnybone.     

             
This brings us to our subject today. Archie at Riverdale High (or ARH, for brevity's sake) was intended to be a departure, featuring stories of adventure and drama more serious than had been previously attempted. Another title,  “Life With Archie”, had also begun to feature some weightier stories by this time. But in the case of ARH, this was the purpose from the get-go.
             
A brief interlude: for many years, the creators behind Archie comics were not credited in the books, making identification challenging. Many thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for the information on the artists and writers for this issue. Indeed, even they are not certain of the identity of the cover penciler, speculating it likely was Stan Goldberg (a name familiar to Marvel fans as a colorist of note). Rudy Lapick is credited as the inker. 

The cover's top third is taken up with the logo (appropriately designed ; looks like they took it off the back of a jersey). The feature story is portrayed with a blue-bordered inset panel featuring Archie and “Pop” Tate ( owner/proprietor of the Choklit Shoppe, Riverdale's chief hangout spot); showing Pop as he tells Archie of the impending loss of the store. The resulting standoff is depicted in the main cover area. Artistically the linework is clean, and follows the traditional Archie house character design. Yet the cover strikes me as a little busy: five word balloons and a blurb! Also, that logo, while striking, might have been better served with a solid-color background. The figures and school building seem to add to the visual overload.


“You Can't Win 'Em All”, story by Frank Doyle, art by Harry Lucey



This is a fairly straightforward sports story, with rivals Archie and Reggie Mantle competing to win the company of Betty and Veronica at the planned Victory Dance following the championship baseball game against Central High.  Unfortunately for Riverdale's team, the Central players score in the first inning! Riverdale manages to prevent any further scoring through the succeeding innings, but is unable to score. To make matters worse, the news is spread that Coach Kleats will be facing a transfer if Riverdale fails to win the championship! So things look glum as the team trails heading into the 9th. Inning. At this point, things start to brighten for Riverdale (and Coach Kleats) as the team manages to load the bases. Then, with two out, Archie comes to the plate. Down two strikes, Archie launches a grand slam for the win!

Yes, the ending was pretty predictable; Coach's job is safe and Archie gets the girls. In a typical teen humor book, one really wouldn't expect anything different. Two points of interest about this story, however:

First, the description of the game action was pretty accurate. References to a sacrifice and working the pitch count show that writer Doyle is familiar with America's pastime. In fact, much of the story reads like the play-by-play from a radio announcer. I  wonder how many readers actually understood the term “Texas Leaguer”...

Second, the artwork by Harry Lucey is worth mention. I consider him the 'Sal Buscema' of Archie comics. Lucey's figures are simple and streamlined, and effectively express the exaggerated action of humor strips. He has a lightness to his line, his backgrounds minimal. Contrast this to Stan Goldberg ( perhaps we can call him the John Romita Sr. of Archie), who displays a heavier, curvier (?) style as shown in the second story. Lucey's artwork is frequently featured in Bronze age (and earlier) Archie stories, particularly when more physical action is depicted. 


“Second Chance”, writer Harry Doyle, pencils Stan Goldberg, inks John D'Agostino

The cover feature opens with Archie entering the Choklit Shoppe, only to find “Pop” Tate in despair. It seems the entire block upon which the shop sits has been condemned! Jughead enters, thinking it all to be a joke; but realizes the gravity of the situation upon reading the legal notices Pop has been given. When Jug asks how this can be, Pop informs him that the 'powers-that-be ' can do whatever they want (ah, cynical adulthood!).

The news spreads across Riverdale, bringing disbelief that the iconic Choklit Shoppe is soon to be history. It also brings Archie and his friends back to the shop to learn who gave the orders to level the building. They learn that the Greystone Building Corporation is responsible, and so proceed to pay the Corporation a visit. To the kids' dismay, however, they are informed that Greystone is committed to “progress”, in the form of a brand new building complex. In fact, the representative ushers the group out the door while dismissing their concern as “sentimental hogwash” (I presume this gentleman was not a public relations man..).



As if things weren't bad enough, upon hitting the sidewalk Archie's friend Dilton runs up to give them more news: Pop has barricaded himself in his shop and is ready to be demolished along with it! Indeed, the wrecking ball is ready, and the crew chief seems willing to put it to immediate use, Pop or no Pop (a bit melodramatic, yes; he could be Snidely Whiplash in disguise). Archie warns him that to proceed would amount to murder, so the wreckers decide to hold off for one more night. 

This gives Archie and friends a little hope- they head for Veronica's father, Hiram Lodge (the most powerful man in town). Surely he can prevent the destruction of the Choklit Shoppe! But no, when they first attempt to persuade him to intervene, he gives them the same answer they got from Greystone. That is, until they actually told Mr. Lodge the ultimate victim of said progress. Now Hiram gets on the phone to his troubleshooter, trying to track down the source of the construction plan. Even he has difficulty unraveling the trail of holding companies, so they take the final step: put it on the computer ( yes, that was a big step, in 1972; today five minutes with a smartphone could have clarified everything)!


Well, as it turns out, the man at the top of the command chain is Mr. Lodge himself. Thus a quick visit to the worksite sends the demolition crew packing, and the group into Pop's to celebrate. As with the first story in this issue, the ending could have been seen coming; we all know Pop's will continue to serve up sundaes and burgers till doomsday. Yet the story kept my interest, and I recall as a twelve-year-old reading it and enjoying the melodrama. Doyle and Goldberg played it straight, eschewing the jokes and gags. At the time this comic was on the stands, my favorite tv show was “Emergency”; I tuned in weekly to see what crazy rescues and potential disasters were looming. This title, Archie at Riverdale High, offered the same plate of ever-changing high drama ( soon to appear were stories featuring blizzards, broken elevator shafts, near drownings, etc.). So , at least for me, the book delivered what it promised. This was the first Archie comic I followed religiously, and actually the first comic I ever collected from issue #1. Of course, within two years I'd leave it behind for Marvel, but at the time this comic was tops on my list. It still holds a special sentimental spot up there, even now...



19 comments:

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug said...

Colin (and everyone) -

I think we are the lucky beneficiaries of some sort of Blogger glitch today. I first noticed it on my phone this morning and then on my laptop once I got to school. I've checked our settings and everything is as it should be. I've checked a couple of other blogs that use the Blogger platform and they don't seem to be affected. So I think it must just be gremlins.

Doug

Edo Bosnar said...

Damn gremlins. Knew I shouldn't have fed 'em after midnight...

Redartz: thanks for the great review. And I'm glad someone (besides Doug a few years ago) has tackled Archie - because for me the Archie comics were a significant part of my childhood comics reading for a few years. Like I noted in my Donald Duck review, during my funny animal phase I was also a big ARchie fan. However, I never bothered to reacquire any of once sizable collection of Archie books (most of which were digests - I just loved those), so I can't do any reviews.
I remember having a few issues of ARH, and you're right, they generally featured these more serious and/or topical stories. Also, I think it's cool that you have a run of these series from the first issue.

Humanbelly said...

Redartz, this is a very delightful stroll down a different part of memory land. (Like, not on the sidewalk-- perhaps walking in the grassy easing between sidewalk and road, say.)

I don't think I ever bought a single Archie comic, and yet I know I read tons of them through my childhood and youth. It's like they were always around and underfoot almost anywhere comics might accumulate. Barbershops, the library (!!), friends' houses, at school, and even in our own home. I'm pretty sure we had a succession of babysitters that would bring them and just leave them behind.
Through, say, the 60's and into the 70's it was indeed an amusing and fun genre. The stories, if anything, resembled the high school-based radio comedies of the previous era- Henry Aldrich, Archie Andrews (naturally), and Our Miss Brooks. The writing and gags were amusingly convoluted and/or at the time comfortable and predictably corny. But then, I don't know, maybe the advent of the Saturday morning cartoon caused them to get dumbed-down a bit more or something, 'cause they seemed to become rather more simplistic and obvious in their approach (Ha! Although that's a bit like comparing a Red Delicious Apple to a slightly redder Red Delicious Apple--!).

I'd honestly never given much thought to the fact that, of couse, there had to be different artists working on all of these zillions of stories and books. And once pointed out, how obvious it is! Geeze-- could any artist on earth churn out 200 or so pages a month?? I've also come across some VERY old (1940's) Archie Comics over the years, and it's surprising how much evolution the look went through before it settled into that house style that we're all so familiar with.

HB

J.A. Morris said...

Nice review Redartz, I read lots of Archie comics when I first discovered comics, then switched to strictly superhero stuff. But today, I almost never pick up new superhero comics, but I pick up the Archie comics digests a few times a year, especially their Christmas issues. Life is "funny" sometimes.
I always thought Reggie was a real sociopath in most of the stories, still feel that way when I read new Archie issues.

Garett said...

Refreshing review Redartz! I read Archie as a kid-- they just always seemed to be around, like HB says. I like Harry Lucey's art, and think of him as the GROOVY Archie artist. His scenes with the gang singing and playing music had a carefree, spirited look that fit the time. Stan Goldberg is good, but I think of him as the meat-and-potatoes artist who gets the job done in an enjoyable way. Dan DeCarlo is the premium Archie artist for me, friendly like Goldberg but with more solid forms. DeCarlo was also a top cartoon pinup artist, and a big influence on Jaimie Hernandez from Love & Rockets. My other favorite Archie artist is Samm Schwartz, who specialized in Jughead's stories. I'd like to see more Archie reviews by you, and see what you think of all the different artists.

I wasn't as big a fan of the serious Archie stories, but I read them anyway. One last thing, my band did a cover of Sugar Sugar at our last gig, and the crowd, made up of 20 and 30-somethings, went crazy and packed the dance floor!

Martinex1 said...

Redartz, I was so glad to see Archie make an appearance here; thanks for the great review. Like others have mentioned, this brings back such nice easy going memories. I did not know that Riverdale High was planned to be more topical and "real world"; I always knew it had a different feel but had no idea that was intentional. It is funny how the whole gang (the main stars plus Dilton, Moose, Midge, Mr. Weatherbee, Miss Grundy, etc) are so ingrained in my brain.

Regarding the artists, like HB said, it should have been logical to me that there were many different contributors. But the house style was so defined (especially in the 70s) that it never really occurred to me at the time. I would say that the Archie style was as buttoned down as Mickey Mouse was for Disney. In the early going, there was the transitional development, but once the "official" version was defined it really did not waiver. It is a shame the artists were not regularly identified and credited; there must have been dozens of contributors. I may have this wrong, so please correct me if I do...but I think Gene Colan even did some work on Archie. Imagine that!

It is fun to look at these comics from today's perspective; just the fact that Archie was so popular in the U.S. back then says something about how much we changed. Archie was #1; what is he today?

One last note, J.A. is right, Reggie was a jerk and maniacal. Why did they ever hang around with that guy? And I never got the whole Betty and Veronica thing... Betty for sure! Ha.

Redartz said...

Thanks so much for all the kind comments, everyone! Doing this review was certainly a pleasure, one I intend to repeat (thanks Garett)!
HB- it was the Saturday morning cartoon that introduced tje Archie world to me; I played to death the copy of "Jingle Jangle" I got off the back of a cereal box...

Martinex- Neal Adams did some work on Archie early in his career, as well. It would be quite interesting to pick up a couple of the stories he did just to see if you could identify it by sight. Oh, and Betty would be my choice too, no contest!

Edo Bosnar said...

Martinex, Gene Colan did indeed do some art for Archie comics, but it was all in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Otherwise, since it's come up - and I know I'm going to be in the minority here - but I always preferred Veronica...

Humanbelly said...

A few other fairly random thoughts & observations (this really is an easy, fun topic, isn't it?)--

"Betty or Veronica?" is pretty much a pre-teen version of "Ginger or MaryAnn?", isn't it? Betty for me, as well-- no question (MaryAnn, too).
And the cartoon truly solidified that for me when they went with this inexplicably saccharine Southern Belle dialect for the character. . . ugh. Whose brilliant call was that? 'Cause they figured young kids couldn't otherwise tell the blond girl and the brunette girl apart--??

What was the thinking behind having a comic titled REGGIE & ME--? It strongly implies that the two were buddies, pals, and friends to the end. As mentioned before, Reggie was pretty much a narcissistic sociopath, with no sense of charity, justice or fair play whatsoever. That would be like Reed Richards having a comic called "Doom & Me", y'know?

Looking at the baseball game story in Redartz review--- are we able to glean what Riverdale's school colors are-?? And if we can (grey and. . . faded burgandy---?), do we reeeeeeeally think they should change them? Does anyone have a sense of whether the school did have consistently established colors? Hmm-- what was their mascot, anyhow-- the Riverdale Streetsweepers?

Does anyone else feel like the kids are all drawn with their mouths agape, like, 80% of the time-- whether they're speaking or not? Kinda. . . lowers the cumulative IQ in the malt shoppe at any given time. . .

HB (loving the gang in spite of nitpicks!)

Martinex1 said...

Ha ha HB! I would get back into Marvel collecting full time if they had a "Doom and Me" book. Can't you just imagine them fighting for Sue's affection. Throw Namor in in Jughead's role and the Thing as Moose. Comic gold there. If that was possible, then I could look forward to "Lil Reed and his Pals".

Also for some reason I remember the gang wearing letter jackets from school and for some reason I remember the "R" being yellow or white on a deep blue green (almost black)background. I also recall them wearing blue jerseys for a football game. I guess ol' Riverdale had as many colors and uniforms as Oregon does today. Maybe they were funded by Mr. Lodge.

Did Archie have any continuing titles, multi issue stories or continuity? I don't remember any, but very possible I missed something.

I still am amazed by the knockoffs from DC and Marvel; they swiped the whole style and feel of the books in some of their early 70s titles.

Anonymous said...

Martinex, great idea about Lil' Reed. However, I'm seeing the Thing in Jughead's role, Sue is obviously Betty, while I suppose Medusa would make a good Veronica...

Anonymous said...

Great review Redartz. Some of those panels seem familiar...maybe I read this when I was a kid; I didn't buy the comics, but I bought some digests. My favourites were the "superhero" ones...Archie was Pureheart, Jughead was Captain Hero, Betty was Superteen...and Reggie was Evilheart! Seriously, who calls themselves Evilheart?

And since we seem to be voting, put me down for Betty as well...and MaryAnn...and Bailey over Jennifer on WKRP :)

Mike Wilson

Martinex1 said...

Evilheart? That is classic. Now I cannot help but picture Dr. Doom removing his mask and it is really Reggie Mantle underneath(ala Xorn is Magneto). I am sure that is what the new Secret Wars this Summer will be about!

Just waiting for Miss Grundy to turn out to be Mystique.

Oh, if only "What If" would resurface with cross company storylines.

pfgavigan said...

Hiya,

Great subject for a post. I guess I went through a Harvey stage, an Archie stage and a Marvel/DC stage. All were enjoyable to me at the time and, thankfully, I never became contemptuous of any of them.

"Doom and Me" ?!? Hmmmm . . .

Doug, Karen!! I've got an idea for a guest post !!

Yours,

pfgavigan

david_b said...

Never had interest in the comics, but an enjoyable review. I enjoyed the Saturday morn show back in the day, as well as 'Josie and the Pussycats' and other successive permutations..

Again, despite our grand opinions of both DC and Marvel here, once again I shudder thinking about how far greater Archies sales were during the late Silver/early Bronze timeframe.

It's all dollars and cents, folks.

Humanbelly said...

Well, and to support that, DaveB, there was either a Bullpen page or letters page well into the mid/late 60's where Stan mentions that Millie the Model had been and still was Marvel's #1 selling book at that time. Good heavens!

Another random thought:

Miss Grundy may actually have been moonlighting over at Marvel-- earning extra pin money as the so-called "Aunt May Parker"--- has NO ONE ever noticed the resemblance???

HB

Redartz said...

Great comments, folks; thanks for all of 'em!

"Doom and Me"? Oh, if we could only see that. Lockjaw as Hot Dog, the Scarlet Witch as Sabrina? Hey, they did Archie Meets the Punisher, so anything is possible...

Oh, Garett: it gladdens the heart that your band got such a warm reception for your version of "Sugar, Sugar". There may be hope for future generations yet!

HB- you may be on to something with the Marvel/Archie moonlighting. Flash Thompson / Moose ? Hmmmm...

MikeS said...

I wonder if Mr. Pewterschmidt from Family Guy was based on Mr. Lodge?

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