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Monday, September 30, 2013

By Bob Montana

328 pages - $39.99 srp - Hardcover - IDW Publishing
B&W with some supplemental material in color 

Honestly, if I had to get rid of my Archie Hardcover books and could keep only one or two, this would be one of my choices. It's a fun read from start to finish, each strip is a separate gag, but Bob Montana weaves continued story lines throughout and they make it so much more enjoyable.

You get the summer vacations, the Christmas stories, situational events, football season... it makes it, for me anyway, more satisfying and allows you to follow the characters as they interact over a period of time.

Bob Montana, who obviously I'm a big fan of, improves right before our eyes week after week, year after year. The gags are there, the puns are funny, the situations are classic, and of course, the girls are sexy and fun. 

IDW's design and quality is top notch making it a winner all around.

And naturally their's plenty of Undercover Archie moments!

Here's an early one of Veronica's shower silhouette (from Feb 18, 1946). You don't see this in Archie anymore!

And from January 3, 1948...

Betty is crazy in love as always and full of suggestive ideas! (from June 17, 1947):

When I say crazy in love, I mean it! (from March 8, 1946)

Here's an example, not only of Betty using her head to get Archie's attention (That's Jughead holding a stuffed Moose head behind the bushes), but you can also see an example of the progression of Montana's work from the previous early panel. (From July 18, 1947)

Some may find it annoying, but they sure get a lot of laughs out of Betty chasing Archie! Sometimes it even works out for her.... well, sort of.... (from December 30-31, 1947)

Ultimately though, all Veronica has to do is give Archie an occasional kiss (something we don't see much of anymore) and it keeps him on a leash (from December 23, 1947):

(and from June 27, 1946)

Even when Miss Grundy has somehow managed to pull Archie away from the girls, Montana still makes their appearance a highlight of the strip. (from June 14, 1946):

And some of the names.... (from Jan 14, 1948)

Here's the infamous 'Bone Up' panel. Yes, this is how it was published (from December 16, 1947):

And this infamous phrase as well, exactly as published. I know for a fact, you won't see Archie using this phrase in anything currently published! (from April 2, 1947)

And there is the famous football strip that runs for several weeks, where Archie gets knocked out before a big game, and Betty, fearing he'll be called a coward for not showing up, suit's up for him to play the game! 
Ah, that Bob Montana was a genius! No wonder everyone read the newspaper back in those days! (from November 8-9, 1946)

I found this in my search for material on the book: An original strip of Bob Montana's art! (from June 4, 1946)

Always available at Amazon! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

PEP COMICS #31 - on newsstands July 1942

Another well done Bob Montana splash page. Veronica is in yellow:

In this scene, Archie gives Veronica a ride to the airport after the swim meet, where she changes out of her swim suit into her street clothes in the back seat. "No peeking Archie! Keep your eyes on the road!" Archie seems a bit uncomfortable.
Note: My interpretation of the term 'Upper Berth' is the top bunk in a cruise ship cabin...

PEP COMICS #30 - on newsstands June 1942

Out of all of these early Archie's that I've gone through and read, this scene probably took me by surprise the most! Obviously 'Escort Agency' had a different cultural meaning back in 1942, but I love that line about how 'Betty sure is popular since she started wearing slacks!"

Of course, as good of an idea as this sounds to Archie, his first client ends up being Miss Grundy!

JACKPOT #7 - on newsstands October 1942

Man, they were trying to get as many of these Archie stories out as they could!

In this one, we see Veronica sunbathing topless, with just a towel over her backside. Now that just isn't something you'd expect to see in an Archie story these days...
And you have to love that dialogue, "I AM AND READY TO SIZZLE! WHAT'S ON THE FIRE COOKIE?"
Archie spins the hole of his hat around on the length of his finger, and Veronica covers herself in exclamation and excitement.
I guess Veronica didn't like being upstaged by Betty in the last Pep Comics!

PEP COMICS #27 - on newsstands March 1942

As mentioned earlier, this is all very early in the history of sequential art storytelling, so it's always interesting to see artists grow and improve story to story.

Not sure what it was between Pep Comics #26 and #27, but here in #27, Bob Montana decided to see if he could put a little 'life' into Betty's breasts. The rest, as they say, is history!

In this story, Archie becomes class president and we learn the Riverdale school colors are brown and gold.

PEP COMICS #26 - on newsstands February 1942

Here we have the first appearance of Veronica Lodge and Bob Montana goes out of his way to make her look special. Is Archie licking his lips? Not sure if it's meant to be some kind of metaphor, but the boys are paying no attention to that 'Keep Off the Grass' sign.

This is also the first appearance of the Riverdale High School exterior.

This story also features another motif we'll see plenty of over the years: Archie juggling two things at once, in this instance, working AND being on a date with Veronica.

JACKPOT #5 - (on newsstands March 1942)

Another great Bob Montana splash page, and another situation I doubt you'll see in a modern day Archie Comic. Featuring the first appearance of Reggie Mantle and Mr. Weatherbee. This issue actually came out AFTER Pep Comics #26 (on newsstands February 1942).

We learn an important lesson in this issue that Archie NEVER learns. If someone says "The teacher NEVER goes to that (Event)", it means they will 100% be there!

PEP COMICS #25 - on newsstands January 1942

I love these Bob Montana splash pages. To me it was some of his best art of this early period and this piece is one of my favorites, with Archie's Jalopy (it's first appearance) bouncing along the street. It may not seem very suggestive at first, but the strategic placement of that 'Keep 'em Flying' sticker is interesting... (Incidentally, it was a wartime slogan)

That jalopy would cause Archie many a problem over the next number of years....

JACKPOT #4 - December 1941

Bob Montana must've really been on this Archie thing, because after Pep Comics #23 (on stands Nov. 15th) and #24 (on stands Dec. 15th), he had another story done and it was printed in Jackpot #4 (on stands Dec. 20th.)

They weren't wasting any time!

Another book with multiple character stories featuring Steel Sterling, the Black Hood, and others, Montana was probably happy to have as much exposure for the character as possible.

I've included this page for a number of reasons; Betty dangling on a rope in an accentuated position, Jughead getting poked in the butt with a nail, and finally, Betty landing on Archie's butt after falling. Bob Montana had it all going on with this page and everyone's butt, and I'm not even going to bring up the dog's tail....

PEP COMICS #23 -24 - on newsstands November/December 1941

Archie started out as a feature toward the back of Pep Comics, and it would be sometime until MLJ became aware they had a hit on their hands. So for the first number of issues they naturally struggled to find an identity and direction; trying different things. Some good, some... not so good.

Not sure what became of 'Pearl' around the Andrews household, but it was probably a good idea that the character was left out of future stories... (from Pep Comics #23)

         Archie's effect on female's hasn't always been limited to Betty and Veronica. Witness this kiss on the cheek he gives to Miss Scott (an early prototype for what would become Miss Grundy). As early in it's history as sequential art storytelling was, Montana has laid out a nice gag in these three panels.
(from Pep Comics #24)

   Archie immediately runs into Betty out in the hallway (literally) and her body language in the middle panel and then Archie's in the third are especially suggestive. If Veronica had never shown up (2 issues later), Betty would've had it made!
Hey...Archie's a blonde in the middle panel!

After all of that Archie ends up in the boys shower and the first skin we get in an Archie story is a boy's butt. What's up with that? Still, I doubt you'll ever see a panel like THIS in an Archie comic ever again!

PEP COMICS #22 - December 1941

   It was a different time, and comics were in the early stages of their birth. Superman and Batman were only 2 years old, when Archie made his first appearance in Pep Comics #22 on Newsstands in October of 1941.

   Besides Archie, we also see the first appearance of Jughead and Betty. It's only fitting that in the very first panel we see Betty swooning as Archie shows off for her. 
   This first Archie story, in appearance, looks like it was influenced by the Little Rascals TV show, which was nearing the end of it's comedy reign. The characters look younger, and haven't been fleshed out yet of course, and it even says Archie would rather be called 'Chick'. 
   Bob Montana, the original Archie artist, would eventually set the standard for how they looked that would last, in most ways, to this very day.

Pep Comics had been around since January of 1940, featuring MLJ's 'The Shield' super hero (the inspiration for Simon and Kirby's Captain America), as well as the Hangman, Madam Satan (drawn by a very young eventual Archie artist Harry Lucey) and others. 
Superhero's were all the rage at the time, so no one had any idea that one day this Archie character would be the emphasis for the whole company!