Review by Win Wiacek
Archie have always celebrated seasonal and holiday traditions. In Riverdale it’s always sunny enough to surf in the sun during summer and it always snows at Christmas. Archie first Christmas story arrived in 1942, and the stories became so popular and eagerly anticipated that in 1954 the company created a specific oversized title – Archie’s Christmas Stocking – to cater to the demand, and these Classic Christmas Stories originated there.
After a jolly, informative Foreword from Kris Kringle himself, it begins with ‘Christmas Socking!’ from 1956, wherein Betty and Veronica throw a Christmas party and convince shy Midge that she should let other boys kiss her should the mistletoe demand it. That harmless tradition carries perils, however, as her possessive boyfriend Moose tends to pound anybody who even looks at her funny.
Four tales from 1957 lead off with ‘I Pine Fir You and Balsam’ as Archie convinces Veronica’s millionaire dad to save a few bucks by cutting down his own tree rather than buy one. Mr. Lodge only has himself to blame for the cascade of costly catastrophes that ensue. ‘Dis-Missile’ then sees Betty and Veronica intercepting their friends’ letters to Santa and unable to resist making some wishes come true whilst ‘Idiot’s Delight’ finds Betty employing devastating strategy to monopolise Archie’s attentions in the run-up to Christmas. ‘Dressed to Kill’ closes that year’s festivities with a rarely seen prose vignette with Archie’s girls hosting rival parties on the same night.
A trio of strip sagas from 1958 provides the superb slapstick ‘Slay Ride’ wherein Archie and a borrowed horse make much manic mischief, after which ‘Ring That Belle’ confirms the perils of eavesdropping when Betty gets the wrong idea about Archie’s surprise for Ronnie. A ‘Seasonal Smooch’ crafted by Dan DeCarlo sees Reggie abusing mistletoe privileges with Midge and sustaining agonising consequences when Big Moose gets wise.
‘The Feather Merchant’ from 1959 finds Archie in the doghouse after trying to impress bird-collector Mr. Lodge with a shoddy and shambolic selection of Avian Xmas gifts before Bob White’s ‘Those Christmas Blues!’ leads off a triptych of topical tales from 1961. Archie’s parents lament that they’ve been sidelined in favour of the girls in their boy’s life but have a wonderful surprise awaiting them, whilst ‘Not Even a Moose’ finds Reggie playing foolish pranks on the naïve giant and discovering the danger of telling people there is such a man as Santa.
Next up is an important milestone in Archie continuity. Jingles the Elf has been a seasonal Archie regular for decades and ‘A Job For Jingles’ his debut appearance by Doyle and DeCarlo, with the playful imp – who cannot be seen by adults – spending his day off just like any normal lad schmoozing around Riverdale and checking out the “attractions”.
Christmas with the Andrews boy always leads to disaster and injury for Mr. Lodge. so in 1963 he opts for ‘Escape’ to a sunny resort. Sadly, Archie’s ability to jinx the best-laid plans, like Santa Claus, knows no limits of time or distance.
Closing out this tinsel-tinged tome is Doyle and DeCarlo’s ‘The Return of Jingles’ from 1963, which sees the workshop elf resurface in Riverdale only to be upstaged by a brace of workbench associates wanting to see how much fun humans have.
These are joyously effective and entertaining all-ages tales, crafted by some of Santa’s most talented helpers, epitomising the magic of the season and celebrating the perfect wonder of timeless all-ages storytelling. What kind of Grinch could not want this book in their kids’ stocking (from where it can most easily be borrowed)?