The Archie Essays: Digital Riverdale

The Archie Digital Store, the app through which you can download Archie comics to your phone, pad or home screen, is “Now on Android,” the homepage of blares.

I have an iPhone and have been an online Archie reader for years, and can’t imagine what it’s like to have waited this long for the opportunity. First Archie Comics came in separate apps, which meant a different little box on the phone screen for each issue. Then a store developed, which was much more manageable, with new offerings easier to find and buy. Archie has been an acknowledged pioneer in portable-device publishing, experimenting early with new wrinkles in the industry, from digital-only offerings like the revamped L’il Jinx to foreign-language versions.

I’m also a fan of Archie Digital Comics, an online subscription service which offers older Archie titles which haven’t been making it into the Archie Store—obscure titles such as Pat the Brat, Young Doctor Masters or Cosmo the Merry Martian, some of whom have been getting referenced recently in nostalgia-friendly new Archie comics such as “A Night at the Comics Shop.”

and early issues of Pep Comics which feature some of the earliest appearances of the Archie characters but are headlined by superheroes The Shield, The Hangman and earnest warriors Jolly Rogers and Sergeant Boyle. Pep #23 is so full of old cultural stereotypes—not just the archvillains but the Archie adventures (Archie ruins a suit belonging to Betty Cooper’s dad, so he takes it to a comical Jewish tailor, who mixes it up with a magician’s outfit)—that the Archie Digital site carries this “DISCLAIMER: The stories, characters, and incidents in this publication are entirely fictional. This publication contains material that was originally created in a less racially and socially sensitive time in our society and reflects attitudes that may be represented as offensive today. The stories are represented here without alteration for historical reference.”

I still happily buy the paper comics, but the digital editions have a clarity and colorfulness and vivacity and out-of-timeliness all their own. It’s like having an extra closet in the house with a fresh stack of Archie in it. One that glows in bright yellow “Meanwhile..” panels and bright red “Archie” round-letter logos and, of course, bright orange hair.