Sep 2, 2016
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 555: Archie Giant Series Magazine #164, September 1969
An actual giant-size collection of nutty stories, basically revolving around Betty and Veronica trying to look as good as they possibly can in bikinis, and Archie drooling over every woman that walks by. And, honestly, that cover up there is totally indicative of the creepiness of Archie in this issue. He stumbles lasciviously through this issue with everything except a raging erection.
The comic does raise an interesting few questions, though. There is one story in which Betty, Archie, and Veronica go fishing, and Betty is really good at it. We get to see Archie appreciating a woman for something other than their well-rendered figures, and are thus given an inkling that he might see women as more than simply objects. But for the most part, the comic hinges on Betty and Veronica using their looks to turn his head. Archie comics have always been relatively good at reflecting the culture within which they're created, though erring more on the conservative side, and this comic, coming from a time of turbulent social change, at least offers tiny glimpses of moving into a space of equity and representation. In more recent years, Archie Comics have unabashedly embraced diversity and representation - we see the tiny seeds here from which the current crop of titles grew.
I find, as I'm reading more and more Archie comics, that I'm getting better at distinguishing the various artists from one another. It used to be that I thought there was a pretty standard Archie "house style," but I see now it's a very sophisticated blend of individual styles and standard character designs. There's a bunch of Al Hartley stories in this issue, and I keep expecting them to end with a paean to stories from the Bible. Dan DeCarlo is like the George Perez of bikini clad girls in beach scenes. How he manages to put so many characters in one panel and have it not look cluttered is beyond me.
A couple more days, and they we'll leave the Archie gang alone for a while. I've got a week's worth of Westerns that have been waiting a long while for their turn in the project. Onward!