Review by Win Wiacek
The Festive Season has never failed to produce great comics stories, and this splendidly appealing, cheap and cheerful digest gathers and re-presents a superb selection of cool Yule extravaganzas. It’s pocket-sized as long as your pockets are both deep and strong, as the page count exceeds 400. The stories are of ancient and relatively recent vintages and sorted according to themes, beginning with a selection from ‘The Early Years’.
It naturally kicks off with ‘Archie Andrews’ Christmas Story’ by Bob Montana (1942) wherein our hapless boy wonder is even more obvious than usual and ends up with a surfeit of the same present from everybody he cares about. Also from 1942 and Montana, ‘The Case of the Missing Mistletoe’ finds Archie and Jughead at loggerheads after unknowingly taking identical twins to a party (sample art left). A few unchanging years later ‘Christmas Cheers’ (1944) by Harry Sahle and Ed Goggin has Archie in deep trouble after losing his diligently deliberated present list – and all his savings.
To list every scintillating story over the generous 416 pages would probably use up the website word count, never mind what’s allocated to a review. Suffice to say from the earliest days this American institution has quite literally “owned Christmas” through a fabulously funny, nostalgically charming, sentimental barrage of cannily-crafted stories capturing the spirit of the season through the broad range of a cleverly crafted cast.
Consistency is key, and the 1958 ‘Generous to a Fault’ by an unknown writer and artist Dan DeCarlo is as funny and heartwarming as Dan Parent and Jim Amash’s 2009 ‘Give and Take’. The stories not only feature all the Riverdale regulars, but those characters whose keenly anticipated Yuletime visit occurs but once a year, like Jingles the Elf and Sugar Plum Fairy.
The themed sections deal with ‘Christmas Trees and Decorations’, ‘Gifts and Giving’, ‘Playing Santa’, ‘Santa and his Elves’, ‘Santa’s Sprites’, ‘Once Upon a Yuletide’, ‘Winter Wonderland’, Holiday Party Time’ and ‘Christmas Spirit’. As the stories are short, the selection offers every Archie creator of note over seventy years.
It’s ‘Once upon a Yuletide’ that offers the odder ends of Archie history with Dexter Taylor’s ‘A Children’s Story’ showing how a little red-headed scamp entertains a lost Santa Claus from a strange other world. ‘Let it Snow’ by Paul Castiglia and Fernando Ruiz introduces a quartet of seasonal superheroes in 2002 to while away a quiet night of tale-telling (sample spread right). This fanciful feast finishes with two half-page gag-fests starring Dan DeCarlo’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch enduring a ‘Hanging Hang-Up’ and experiencing ‘Foto Fun’.
As with every Archie Christmas collection, these are perfect stories for young and old alike, crafted by a host of Santa’s most talented helpers, epitomising the magic of the season and celebrating the perfect wonder of timeless children’s storytelling.