Back Issue #107 September 2018 (magazine review).

I was surprised with the cover of this issue of ‘Back Issue!’ featuring the Archies but then, this issue is all about the Archie Comics. They were also formerly MLJ Comics but, like DC Comics, adopted their more popular collective name. As is pointed out in the introduction, there isn’t just a Big Two, but a Big Three. Archie Comics having the same swings in sales as them but have still kept swinging and even had their own TV series. I only ever really read any of them back in the 1960s, so getting their full history here does tend to fill in some gaps in my knowledge. I suspect the real reason why they never caught on in the UK is because we had our own school-based humour product. I doubt if Riverdale could compete with the Bash Street Kids or even St. Trinian’s. We Brits like our humour a little less wholesome.

Alas, most of the original creators at Archie Comics had no longer with us but we do have interviews prior to that with Stan Goldberg, who was also once a colourist at Marvel, and writer George Gladir.

Of course, Archie Comics had many rivals, taking on some or most of the same characteristics, even if the ages of the characters changed a little. Objectively, from reading Steven Thompson’s article, I would think the group dynamic and contrasts would have made it difficult to do anything else and I could draw comparisons to a multitude of sit-coms that have applied it as well.

I didn’t realise that ‘Sabrina The Teen-Age Witch’ was created in 1962 nor how much her life was incorporated into Riverdale prior to her TV show.

Another aspect of Archie that never really caught on over here was the animation material. Of course, we all knew the ‘Sugar, Sugar’ song, just not how many other records and albums there were which was quite a lot.

Just in case you thought Archie and Riverdale was the template, Archie Comics themselves predated them with ‘That Wilkin Boy’ (1944-1965) which was something else I hadn’t known. It even bridged the gap between the two titles as he’s a relative of Jughead Jones. I was surprised that there has been no comparison between Riverdale and ‘Happy Days’ but I suppose there was no Fonz equivalent.

The ‘Rough Stuff’ material this time focuses on Archie Andrews himself and if you thought drawing him was just simple lines, seeing the pencils shows eve artists have to find the right marks themselves.

I seem to have a lot of ‘just in case’ start lines this time around, so just in case you think this ‘Back Issue!’ is all about Archie, Ed Catto has a look at Gray Morrow’s sorcery comics for Archie Comics under it’s ‘Red Circle’ imprint. Not perhaps as horrific as, say, Warren Magazines, but he did get a variety of top talent to draw stories in its limited run. I reviewed ‘The MLJ Compansion’ a couple months ago but Steven Wilbur also adds a recap of their super-hero line here as well.

Finally, a look at the less than tame, by Archie Comics standards, Cheryl Blossom who practically brought a modern age cheesecake to Betty and Veronica and a triangle for a time with Archie Andrews himself.

I’m more versed in Archie Comics mythos than I was with ‘The MLJ Companion’ but this is in terms of characters more than the creators to be fair so treat this issue of ‘Back Issue!’ as a worthy companion piece.

I gave two examples of British school age humour in my introduction to this review and I suspect it looks as alien to our friends across the pond as aspects of Riverdale does to us. Some aspects are very similar though. They are idealised versions of what adults think youngsters were like or did or would like to do but never will. Fictionalised chaos for us and a safety blanket for Americans or at least the parents who bought Archie Comics for their children. A useful reminder.

GF Willmetts

August 2018

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 8.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 7.61 (US))

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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