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Archie Comics Reprint Round-Up (review)

Three different big ol’ books from Archie Comics. Having worked in various capacities now on no less than six books about Archie Comics and three related magazine articles, Archie has emerged as one of my favorite comic book publishers of all time.

From the classic Archie Giant Series titles to the ever-present supermarket digests, Archie Comics has never been shy about reprinting their older material. Here, we offer three current examples, each with a somewhat different outcome.

The Magic, Music & Mischief book is just over 300 full color pages for $19.99 and divided into three sections—Little Archie, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Josie (and the Pussycats).

The Little Archie section actually brings up the rear, with a number of the somewhat more realistic adventures by Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor that have made the strip a cult favorite for decades now. Good stuff, indeed!

The longest section is the center one which presents some lovely Dan DeCarlo work on some great Frank Doyle stories of the Pussycats but, even better, shares a nice selection of the same team’s lesser known but equally (if not more so) entertaining pre-Pussycat stories of Josie.

The book opens, though, with dear Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

George Gladir swore to me once that he created her solely as a one-shot deal but that letters came in and he was asked to bring her back a few months later. Starting with her very first story, we’re given a nice selection of her bewitching misadventures from her first decade or so.

Each section of the book offers a succinct but rather generic introduction. There are credits given for all stories but several Archie creators have complained that the credits often get mixed up in the reprinting so I’d take them with a grain of salt. As to what actual issues any of these stories come from, we’re never told.

Still, overall, a delightful and entertaining collection of not quite Archie comics.

If anything, The Best of Josie and the Pussycats is even better!

At more than 400 pages, it’s definitely thicker! You won’t find any She’s Josie stories in this one but that’s just nitpicking. What IS here really is something akin to the best Pussycats stories through the decades, right up to and including Dan Parent’s wonderful tale of Valerie’s romance with Archie Andrews and beyond that to some of the rebooted Riverdale Pussycats (that would likely have DeCarlo rolling in his grave).

All value priced at $9.99!

The fact that Archie can and did publish these beautiful color collections makes me question their thinking on our last volume, though, as Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Complete Collection Vol. 1.  This comes to us with more than 500 pages, also at $9.99 but…in black and white.

The back cover tells us this but it doesn’t say why. Unlike, say, Will Eisner or Steranko or Bernie Wrightson, whose art often looks even better in black and white, the Sabrina artwork by Dan DeCarlo with Rudy Lapick, Joe Edwards, Bill Kresse (whose work Gladir told me he didn’t care for on the strip), Al Hartley and Joe Sinnott (Yes, THAT Joe Sinnott! I had no idea he had worked on Sabrina’s strip!) was designed for color and often looks unfinished without.

The stories are fun and funny and watching the strip evolve episode by episode over its first full decade of existence is great…even though some of these same stories are in the other book we talked about above. Each story here does list where it’s from and gives what appear to me to be accurate credits. But when you get up to the groovy era of the mid-sixties to the early-seventies and all the obviously hip fashions are completely colorless, well…It’s like watching The Brady Bunch on a black and white television!

So each volume has it’s good points, and each offers great value and great reading—no nostalgia necessary—for hours and hours.

But why, oh, why did they turn off the color on everybody’s favorite teenage witch?

 

 

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Dennis Roy

    March 11, 2018 at 4:07 am

    I suspect that ArchieCo just didn’t have a lot of confidence that a Sabrina collection would sell enough copies to be profitable. The same book (still in black & white) had been solicited three or four years earlier and the solicitation was cancelled (presumably due to low pre-orders). It had been solicited at least one more time since and been cancelled again, before the most recent solicitation finally made it into print. There are only a comparative few trade collections of Josie, Sabrina, and other characters, despite the vast number of titles with the logo ARCHIE in big letters. Even Jughead has only ever had a single trade paperback collection devoted to his stories (although another has just recently been solicited, Jughead’s Time Police). I think the Sabrina b&w collection was just testing the market to see what it will withstand in terms of reprints. It’s also the only COMPLETE chronological reprinting of any series character which ArchieCo has done so far, and I think they were seeing how it would fare if modeled on the format used by DC Comics’ SHOWCASE PRESENTS and Marvel’s ESSENTIAL reprint collections. ArchieCo tends to later “upgrade” trade collections like with the hardcover Deluxe Edition versions of their earlier trade paperbacks for the first two volumes of The Best of Archie Comics series, so maybe down the road we could actually see a Deluxe Edition (in color, and at full comic book size) of the b&w Sabrina Complete Collection v1.

    • Dennis Roy

      March 11, 2018 at 4:23 am

      Another thing to consider is the production costs of reprint collections. Archie isn’t quite as well-organized as DC or Marvel, and doesn’t have ALL of its library of stories from the late 1950s or early 1960s already scanned and ready for reprinting, so they probably had to search out actual printed copies of some of those early obscure issues of Archie’s Madhouse to scan the printed pages and remove the color in order to get a COMPLETE chronological collection of all of Sabrina’s earliest appearances. Most Archie trade collections just recycle either more recent stories, or stories which have already been reprinted earlier in their digest titles, so there’s no additional production work required to reprint stories in trade format as opposed to digest reprints.

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