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‘Betty and Veronica Decades: The 1960s’ TPB (review)

Written and Illustrated by Various
Published by Archie Comics


Even after I initially discovered Archie Comics around 1968, I shied away from Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica because, you know, they were GIRRRRRLS’ comics. The ’60s were a great time to be a kid but in Middle America, gender “rules” still held.

At some point, however, I became more enlightened and realized that, in fact, the Betty and Veronica comic books of the 1960s were some of the funniest, best written and drawn stories the company had ever published.

This brings us to the item at hand: Betty and Veronica Decades–The 1960s. Truth in advertising, that last bit should read, “The Early 1960s.”

In spite of reprinting nearly 40 stories, this collection actually offers only three from beyond 1965.

Right off the bat, I’m not thrilled as the late ’60s (and early ’70s, too) stories are my favorites. I love the increasingly mod attempts at fashions and trends.

Still, let’s take a look at what’s there and not what’s missing, shall we?

We start off with a brief Introduction from Dan Parent. If Dan DeCarlo remains, long after his passing, the artist most associated with Betty and Veronica, I think it’s safe to say that Dan Parent has earned the second spot on that list! So, a good choice…even though all he really does here is fanboy gush over what we’re about to read.

And what we are about to read is just as much a Frank Doyle/Dan DeCarlo collection as it is a Betty and Veronica one. With only a small handful of exceptions, every story here is by Frank and Dan. By nobody’s definition is that a bad thing, mind you! Doyle’s output for Archie (did he EVER work for any other publisher?) was prolific and all the more impressive because so much of it was and still is quite enjoyable.

The actual stories here don’t seem to be so much a “best of” grouping at all. They’re more a representative sampling of the Betty and Ronnie stories from the first half of that tumultuous decade. Almost all of them make for good reading, though. We get a number of them with short-haired Veronica, who, for me, visually defines the ’60s Archies more than anything else. You won’t find the slightest reference to assassinations, Asian wars, the British Invasion, folk music, weed, or increasingly dirty movies, all 1960s concerns. Neither are there any examples of the Archie superhero series from that period, or the fun but violent spy stories where sometimes Veronica was a victim, other times an enemy agent. You will, however, find such harmless trends of the day as roller skating, ice skating, good luck charms, hypnotism, woodworking, and anti-litterbug comments, all actual things teens were likely to encounter back then, even outside of Riverdale, USA.

There’s also a story each with a “real” monster, a “real” fairy godmother, and “real” dinosaurs. A few black characters who were Caucasian in the original are randomly morphed otherwise here by the digital colorist in Archie’s continued effort at diversifying the company’s past (even though there’s an apology up front to justify printing the stories as originally published.

In the age-old argument, “Betty or Veronica?” I was, for many years, in the Betty camp. At least I thought so! More recently, I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’ve actually been in the Ronnie camp all along! No matter your preference, both of these lovely young ladies are served well by the selection in this collection. Sure, I’d have added more from later in the decade but one can’t review what isn’t there, only what is. And what is…is choice Archie material both in art and story.

I’m not a fan of the publisher’s generally harsh-looking digital reprinting. I don’t care for the digital color and sometimes the line work is scratchier than it should be. Reminds me of when CDs first came out and everyone was so psyched because you could hear every cough and chair squeak previously buried in the original recordings. Over time, it occurred to us we weren’t MEANT to hear every cough and chair squeak in the original recordings! Maybe digital comics restoration isn’t all it’s made out to be.

Not certain what audience this is targeted at, either, as the retro-versions of our heroines here would come across as alien not only to TV Riverdale fans but to readers of the actual comics for the past few decades.

And I’m sorry, I still don’t see how they can call it “the 1960s” when the best years of the decade for Archie Comics are not represented at all.

Okay, so those are my complaints. What I have no complaints at all on, though, is the sublime art stylings of Dan DeCarlo and friends on the consistently amusing Betty and Veronica stories on display. On the strength of the fact that I enjoyed the stories as much as I did…

Booksteve recommends.



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