Comic books 27 Aug 2007 04:30 am
“The Adventures of Little Archie” is a 96-page trade paperback collection of vintage tales from the 1960s. The author and illustrator is Bob Bolling, who provides a new cover and introduction for the volume.
According to the back cover, many collectors consider Bolling to be the “Archie Comics’ equivalent of ‘the duck man,’ Carl Barks.” This is stretching things quite a bit. What Barks did during his lengthy stint writing and drawing Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge is, quite honestly, some of the most brilliant creative work inside or outside of comics. Perhaps Archie fans who see Bolling’s work in a similar light are blinded by nostalgia; I came to both Barks and “Little Archie” as an adult, so I am not fooled. Which isn’t to say that the present volume isn’t good. Point in fact, it’s great, but it isn’t up to the level of Barks. Then again, what is?
The book reprints eight stories of Little Archie, beginning with the first, “Little Archie on Mars,” and concluding with one of the best, an homage to Richard Matheson’s “Incredible Shrinking Man” called “The Incredible Cat Caper.”
Readers looking for prepubescent adventures of the entire Riverdale gang will be disappointed. While Betty, Veronica, Jughead and the rest make occasional appearances, most of the characters Bolling creates are separate from the rest of the Archie universe. These include green-skinned mad scientist Doctor Doom and his boy assistant Chester, Archie’s seafaring Uncle Burt, and aliens Abercrombie and Stitch.
While Bolling draws Little Archie in a familiar cartoon style, many of the secondary characters are rendered more realistically, as if they just stepped out of an adventure strip. An escaped gorilla looks more real than Little Archie, even when they appear together in the same panel. Ditto for Archie’s mom (quite the dish as Bolling renders her) and many of the strip’s villains.
I have been on an Archie kick of late, and this volume keeps my interest alive. It was originally published in 2004, so the Archie Comics folks are past due for a second volume.