I almost always prefer the first few years of a strip. The characters are fresh and more alive, not as restricted by increasingly limited personality traits as they will quickly become. If readers like a character because he's sarcastic or because he's naive, those traits will become exaggerated until the character becomes trapped by them and can't really react in a surprising way. At the beginning, characters are much freer and usually more spontaneous. They're usually not as good-looking too, and have more individual faces and bodies. That may seem like an odd thing to like, but comics (and cartoon) characters tend in general to be become younger-looking and cuter as time goes by (if only that were true for most of us in real life, eh?)Anyway, here are two pages from PEP# 48, May 1948. Archie and his cronies have shoved the super-heroes like the Shield and the Hangman out of the book and taken over MLJ Publications in a bloodless coup by now. This is still before the Comics Code; a few years earlier, MLJ heroes had indulged in remarkably gruesome and violent stories, and although this wasn't Archie's style, there's still a rather risque and rough edge to some of the slapstick.
Our mystery guest
One of the major creative forces in both the Golden and Silver Ages.