After "Who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman?" the next unanswered question in comics has to be "Betty or Veronica?" Riverdale's blonde and brunette duo continue to chase and be chased by Archie after 70 years, and though their shoe styles may have changed over time, they haven't lost a step"”as is readily apparent in the new Art of Betty & Veronica collection from Archie Comics.
Sitting down with the oversized book, it's the cover that strikes first"”the stark white contrasted with a spot-UV treatment for both Betty and Veronica's figures makes the characters stand out, and the silver foil lettering adds a shimmering note of class to the package (Veronica would be pleased). But it's not all outward appearances, as the 160-page book opens up an art gallery of pages scanned from the original artwork of Betty & Veronica master craftsmen Harry Lucey, Dan DeCarlo, Dan Parent, and others.
DeCarlo was always my de facto Archie artist"”it was his name on the covers and interiors of the digest reprints that found in grocery stores while on my summer vacations. It was DeCarlo's simple line work that gave the Riverdale roster a personality and such a fun range of emotions. Until I saw his black and white originals alongside his color pages, however, I didn't appreciate his eye for fashion. It's easy to take fashion for granted in mainstream comics, especially superhero books, where decades-old costumes are accepted because they've been around for so long. Not so with Betty and Veronica, who, under DeCarlo's pen, were tuned to the styles of their times"”from flower prints and oversized sunglasses in the 1960s, bell-bottoms in the 70s, shoulder-pads in the 80s, and cargo pants in the 90s. It was this attention to detail that earned reader loyalty, because even if the characters didn't age, the fashion and sensibilities grew up with the readership.
Harry Lucey's pages show what an influence he had on Love & Rockets artist Jaime Hernandez, where thick lines draw out the facial expressions, and Betty occaisionally looks every bit the precursor to Hernandez's Penny Century character. The last main portion of the book is devoted to Dan Parent, whose duck-billed version of DeCarlo's style is both familiar and, at times, odd. The reproductions, though, are top-notch across all artists. Editor Craig Yoe presents choice pages with blemishes whole and without any color correction; this is an art book for Archie aficionados, a coffee table treasure. Betty or Veronica? Now readers never have to choose.
P.S. Although I've always been partial to Veronica.