Just got done reading two of Dark Horse’s impressive hardcover Archive books. The first was the initial volume of the Herbie comic book, a fabled series I’d always heard about but never actually read. Herbie is an exaggerated version of many comic book readers back in the day; fat, largely physically inactive, thick glasses, living in his head. His only apparent passion is for his omnipresent lolipops. Herbie’s almost complete physical inaction drives his surburban father to distraction. As the old man drools over other men’s sons playing baseball or whatnot, he can only complain bitterly about his own, “fat little nothing.”
However, what he doesn’t know is that Herbie (I guess) looks so bored all the time because he’s basically the most powerful being in the universe. I mean, he puts Superman–the old one, who could push around the planet Earth with his hands–to shame. Herbie has a nearly infinite number of seemingly magical abilities, and is often called to the White House to perform some task for the President. And these are real presidents, too. It’s pretty funnier watching Herbie interact with JFK and Lyndon Johnson (actually, the abrupt switch from one to the other is kind of jarring and sad, for obvious reasons), but even funnier to watch the presidents fume as their wives swoon over he-man Herbie.
The writing is consistently inventive and hilarious, and the art is just perfect for the period, looking exactly like stuff you’d get from a Superman or Justice League comic of the same vintage. Which, I imagine, is part of the joke. Along the way, a generally disinterested Herbie battles time travelers, space monsters, spooks and haunts of various sorts, spies, magicians and so on.
The comic definitely lives up to its reputation, and is entirely worthy of the deluxe, full color on thick glossy paper treatment Dark Horse is giving it. Two volumes are presently out–the third is due in April–and they run in the neighborhood of 220-230 pages. The books are a bit pricey at the list of $50, but you can find them for more like $32, and that’s pretty reasonable. And, of course, you can always read it for free at your local library. If they don’t carry the book, they’ll most likely be glad to borrow it for you from a library that does. Just ask.
Even better for my tastes is the oversized (to match the original publication’s magazine format) archive edition of Creepy Magazine. Man, this stuff is gold. Although neither this nor the mag’s brother and sister publications Eerie and Vampirella stayed at their peaks for long, during the early salad days (under beloved writer and editor Archie Goodwin–no, not Nero Wolfe’s Archie Goodwin) the stuff was glorious indeed. Dark Horse again pulls out the stops, and the original black and white art looks simply gorgeous on the glossy white paper. (The covers are reprinted in full color.) The quality of these books is top-notch.
Recalling the horror mags of EC Comics before the big crackdown, these are classic tales of vampires, werewolves, man-made monsters and other assorted beasties. The tales’ specialty (most written by Goodwin himself) were twist endings, and it’s amazing how much story they crammed into these six to eight page stories. My favorite artist is probably Reed Crandall, but Angelo Torres and others give him stiff (hehehe) competition. Simply terrific stuff.
By the way, if you haven’t read this yet, after all my recommendations, all I can do is weep bitter tears at the folly of Man. Seriously, hunt down a copy. You won’t be sorry.