Advs. of Little Archie

ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE: trade paperback collection published 2004 by 
Archie Comics; featuring stories written and drawn by Bob Bolling and with a 
foreword and cover by him;  price $10.95 US; ISBN 1-879794-17-9

Book  Review by Bill Henley

When I was a young kid, a couple of my favorite  comic books were comics
*about* kids.  One was SUGAR & SPIKE, created  by Sheldon Mayer for DC Comics;
I've reviewed SUGAR & SPIKE issues and  written about the series on the list
before.  The other was LITTLE ARCHIE,  created by Bob Bolling for (what else)
Archie Comics. As I recall, LITTLE ARCHIE  was one of only two comic books that I
ever actually subscribed to, for a time,  so as not to miss an issue.  (The oth
er was Marvel's X-MEN, but that was a  few years later.) 

As I grew older, I apparently decided I was too  "mature" for "kiddie"
comics, and stopped reading S & S and LITTLE  ARCHIE.  Still later, during the late
60's, I picked up on SUGAR &  SPIKE again and ended up collecting most of the
run of the title. But I never  really got back into LITTLE ARCHIE, though I've
picked up a few odd issues here  and there, including issue #2 from 1956. 
(That was the same year SUGAR  & SPIKE launched, come to think of it.  Most
likely both titles were  inspired by the success of DENNIS THE MENACE in
comic-book format, though  there's also the story that John Goldwater got so tired of
being ribbed about  his company publishing nothing but "Archie This, Archie
That, Big Archie, Little  Archie" that he decided to actually publish a comic
called "Little  Archie".) 

Anyway, Archie eventually stopped publishing LITTLE  ARCHIE, but over the
years the original stories by Bob Bolling became something  of a collectors' cult
item.  Last year Archie Comics published a trade  paperback of the series,
and this past week I got around to buying it (I missed  seeing it when it first
came out).

So did the stories reprinted in this  volume remind me of why I liked the
series so much when I was Little Archie's  own age?  Well, yes and no.  The charm
I found in Bolling's drawings  and characterization of Little Archie is still
visible.  But these stories  mostly come from a later period than when I was
reading the strip (I must have  been reading some of the earliest issues,
while these reprints are from  1961-65).  I remember the series as dealing with
the humorous and  relatively down-to-earth doings of Little Archie and his
friends around  Riverdale-- "little" versions of the regular Archie gang such as
Betty, Veronica  and Jughead, as well as some characters unique to the series
such as Little  Ambrose and the strange girl Evelyn Evernever. 

These reprinted  stories, on the other hand, take the title "Adventures" of
Little Archie rather  seriously-- they all involve Little Archie getting
involved in fanciful  adventures that would not be out of place in a superhero
comic.  Little  Archie meets Martians, battles pirates in the past, hunts an
escaped gorilla, is  nearly killed in a flood when a dam breaks,  is shrunk to
midget size by  aliens, and fights the super-villain Mad Doctor Doom (who has green
skin, not  metal armor).  While there is humor here, it's mostly muted, and
some of  Bolling's art pages have a strange and uneasy mix of cartoonish
drawing on  Little Archie himself with realistic drawings of the dangers and menaces
he is  facing. 

Also, oddly, though Little Betty and Veronica appear on  the cover, none of
the rest of the Archie gang appear in the stories chosen for  reprint, except
for a couple of cameo appearances by Little Jughead.

I  gather these quasi-adventure Little Archie stories have their own
nostalgic fan  following, but my own vaguely remembered affection for the series is
based on  the earlier period when it was a more conventional kid-humor strip. 
(I  have a a parallel feeling about SUGAR & SPIKE.  During the late 1960's, 
Sheldon Mayer tried to revive waning interest in the strip by doing a series of 
book-length "adventure" type stories in which the babies, along with the
genius  Bernie the Brain, get involved in fighting villains and have
science-fictional  adventures.  Though I collected them, I never cared as much for those 
issues of S & S as I did for the earlier-- and later-- issues where Sugar  and
Spike had small-scale adventures closer to home.) 

So while I'm  glad to have this Little Archie TPB collection, I'd probably
have enjoyed it  more if it had more of a mix of story types, with some of the
earlier, more  humorous stories along with the later wild adventures.  If
there's interest  enough for a Volume 2 (this book is officially designated "Volume
1"), maybe the  Archie editors will go that route.