The print repost.

Herbie Archives Vol. 1 (of 3)

(first published in The Comics Journal #295, Jan. 2009; the formatting and some wording differs, as do the pictures)

This is another one of those pricey ($49.95) Dark Horse Archives collections, which I haven't really kept up on; shrink wrap does that to the compulsive flipper. I do, however, recall the restoration quality varying a bit from project to project, particularly in terms of color - some of the books employed flat, solid tones obviously meant to approximate vintage colors via digital means but often laid too opaque for my tastes, leaving the line art overwhelmed.

I'm happy to report that this one's different; the digital restoration, credited to Aren Kittilsen, preserves the aspect of inexactness present in all those evident dots from the '50s and '60s, albeit likely made slightly more respectful of line borders, and definitely left whiter (sometimes slightly bleached) from the cleanup. I'm no restoration expert, but it strikes me as a good effort, given the comics involved.

(dots aren't crazy for scanners like mine, though)

After all, the foundational visual appeal of those works is Ogden Whitney's juxtaposition of chilly commercial draftsmanship with jarring instances of disrupted reality; when a dog lifts his paw up to point a human-looking thumb backward -- as typical a cartoon gesture as can be -- it's funny because it's genuinely a freakish thing to see in Whitney's square world. The uncertainty of period coloring processes only underscores this feeling, giving all those suited men and their hats an extra old-timey boredom while latently suggesting a universe prone to coming apart at the seams whenever a fat kid should suck on the right lollipop and walk off into the air, plain as day.

Anyway, this book collects the first five issues of the American Comics Group's 1964-67 Herbie series, plus 75 or so pages of earlier shorts (1958-63) from Forbidden Worlds, along with a miscellaneous Unknown Worlds story in which the character appears briefly. It's stuff you've probably seen fêted for years, and it's good that there's a big new collection out, but be aware that it's still a mostly repetitive kids' comic -- being the adventures of the corpulent title lad, hated at home yet actually an unlikely powerhouse adventurer -- in spite of writer/editor Richard E. Hughes' likeably nastier-than-usual sense of humor (Herbie on your not buying the next issue: "Only means blood, fractures, teeth scattered around. Not nice.") and Whitney's askew visual constructions.

Still, it's fine in small, period-appropriate doses, and armed with an accomodating page presentation, less lolly-solid than cinnamon-spread.