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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Goodbye, Archie Digest - 2011 In Print Media

I just wanted to thank you all for checking in and reading this look back on 2011 - the year that this blog began.  Over the course of the last five years, I've discovered that I'm a completely different person at 35 than I was at 30 - at least on an emotional and dare I say spiritual level - and while a lot of the things have remained the same in my life, I've been able to look at them a lot differently.

I mean, at age 30, I was thinking that there would be no way that I would be able to afford to move out of apartment life, and just four years later I bit the bullet and did exactly that.  Mind you, the transition has not been completely easy, but it was a necessary change that I had to make in order to be happier, and to control my sanity.

(Believe me - if you knew any of my former neighbours, you'd understand my desperation for a change of scenery.)

And you know, sometimes when it comes to change, it can be a bit jarring at first.  Especially when the thing that changes just happens to be something that you've gotten used to for several decades. 

In this case, I want to talk about the time right around the end of 2010/beginning of 2011 when the Archie Comics Publication team made the decision to eliminate all digest titles from circulation.

Note that I said DIGESTS - not DOUBLE DIGESTS.

I have to say, as a fan of the Archie series for almost thirty years of the company's seventy-five in existence, this news really brought a lot of mixed emotions.  And, while at the time of the announcement there were only four digest titles still in circulation, it was still sad to say goodbye.

The four titles that ended their run in late 2010/early 2011 were Archie Digest, Betty and Veronica Digest, Tales From Riverdale Digest, and Jughead and Friends Digest.

In the case of the latter two, they were new digests that were created with the demise of two other older digests - Laugh Digest and Jughead With Archie Digest.

But Archie Digest was the company's first ever digest.  Since 1973, it had been entertaining fans with the promise of two new stories (one in the front, one in the back) and the rest of the book was filled with reprints of classic Archie tales.  It was a great way to introduce people into the world of Archie and not feel like they missed out on some of the older tales.  The Betty and Veronica Digest also had a long run, debuting in 1980, and much like the Archie title, it ran two new stories, and several older stories, only mostly featuring Betty and Veronica stories. 

Here's a screenshot of the first Archie Digest I remember reading.  I must have gotten it for a Christmas present given the cover gag.

And this is the first Betty and Veronica Digest that I remember owning.  And yes, I actually can remember!   My memory when it comes to Archie comics is photographic.

So, what prompted Archie Comics to decide to quit selling the digest books?  

I would think one factor would have been the fact that Double Digests outsold the single titles - literally by double the amount!  For every ten Archie Digests that were sold, twenty Archie Double Digests would be purchased.  And you know, from a consumer perspective it made more sense.  After all, you got twice the entertainment with a double digest than you would an ordinary digest.

Another reason?  Digests shrank to the point where it almost became a waste of money to purchase them.  At the time Archie Digests first became available in 1973, they were fifty cents for 160 pages.  By the time the final issue of Archie Digest was printed (#267), the cost was $2.50 for EIGHTY pages!!!  I don't know about you, but I didn't like paying five times the price for a book half its original size!

So, the final issues of the four remaining digests were Archie Digest #267, Betty and Veronica Digest #208, Tales From Riverdale Digest #39, and Jughead and Friends Digest #38. 

But this didn't mean that Archie had given up on digest publication altogether.

Instead, they decided to bring out three replacement double digests to make up for the four that were axed.  It also gave the company a chance to make some more money by releasing higher priced books onto the marketplace, but I suppose any company would do anything to increase profits.

In the place of Archie Digest came a title called World Of Archie Double Digest. As of May 2016, it's on its fifty-ninth issue, and continues to be one of Archie's more successful titles.  I particularly have a soft spot when it comes to the World of Archie title, because it reprints more of the older stories that I used to love reading as a kid.  It's a classic mix of old and new and it also is the title where you can read more of the one-off stories that Archie Comics dabbled in.  Stories starring That Wilkin Boy, Sabrina, Pipsqueak, Lil Jinx, and Katy Keene.  It was a real grab bag of stories that any Archie fan could appreciate.

Jughead and Friends and Tales From Riverdale morphed into the generic Archie and Friends Double Digest, and much like World of Archie, the book focused on classic tales from old and new.  It was also the book where you could find most of the SuperTeens series, so if you were a fan of Pureheart the Powerful, Captain Hero, and Evilheart, this was the book for you. 

Unfortunately, this series didn't last as long as World Of Archie has.  After 33 issues, it was once again revamped, and is now running under the Archie's Funhouse title.  Though, to me, I see no reason why the company did this, as it seems to be the same exact book!  But hey, some of the decisions the company has made haven't been the greatest - such as letting go of most of your classic Archie artists and writers to make way for new blood who are changing Archie way too fast.

Yep.  I said it.

As for Betty and Veronica Digest - it became B & V Friends Double Digest.  And weirdly enough, it was the only title to continue the same number sequence that the original title used...which explains why it's currently at issue #247!  But the B & V Friends title was another positive step for the company because it became the title in which Betty and Veronica merchandise was promoted.  When the company was promoting a new hardcover book that featured Betty writing in her diary as a fourteen year old, they printed excerpts of the book over a six issue spread.  It was almost like a sneak preview for us to sample before we committed to buying the whole book.  I have to say, it's quite smart marketing on Archie's part!

It's hard to say where the future of Archie Digests will go over the next few years.  2016 is looking like another year in which Archie will have to reinvent the digest style once more.  But I survived the reinvention periods of 1989, 1992, 1997, 2005, and 2011.  I'm sure I'll make it through this one too!

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