- Posted by Johanna on December 17, 2006 at 1:22 pm
- Category: Archie Comics
I enjoy reading Archie comics during the holiday season, because their old-fashioned wholesomeness works especially well in Christmas stories.
Betty #161, for instance, opens with a simple story (by Mike Pellowski, Stan Goldberg, and John Lowe) about everyone’s favorite do-gooder raising money in order to give residents of a senior citizen’s home Christmas decorations. All of her friends contribute in their own special ways — Archie plays Santa, Pop Tate donates some food, and so on.
The writer early on attempts to address the obvious answer, having Betty think to herself “I can’t go to Veronica or her parents for a donation–the Lodge’s [mistake!] are away on a winter vacation and won’t be back until Christmas day!” The kids wind up pulling together decorations and singing carols, and they’re reminded by a kindly old woman in a wheelchair that the holidays aren’t about gifts, “it’s about giving and sharing! It’s about peace on earth and good will to all!”
However, by the end, Archie has shown up with gifts, thanks to Veronica. Betty thought it would have been rude to call her and ask for money, but it’s ok, because Veronica called Archie instead. That’s something of a trick on the reader, raising the possibility, eliminating it, and then relying on it after all. It also illustrates how difficult it is to do stories about the virtues of helping the less fortunate when the multi-billionaire Lodges can simply wave their money and make whatever it is happen.
The lead story in Betty & Veronica #222 (by Kathleen Webb, Jeff Shultz, and Al Milgrom) addresses that problem directly, with the two girls arguing over who’s going to buy Archie the MP3 player he wanted for Christmas. Betty really had to sacrifice in order to save the money, while Veronica is just naturally extravagant.
The fight breaks up the two friends, which gives Sugar Plum, the Christmas fairy, the mission to bring them back together and help them find the proper spirit of the season. Of course, everything’s resolved with more appropriate gifts being chosen.
It turns out that Archie’s parents have bought him the MP3 player, anyway. I think it’s a shame that no one says that spending hundreds of dollars on your high school boyfriend might not be tasteful or appropriate, but I guess those concepts are completely out of date.
Archie #571 was the last of the holiday bunch. Mike Pellowski, Stan Goldberg, and Bob Smith put together a story about a kid wanting a mint condition antique action figure. The kid practically blackmails Archie into giving up his (magically lost in the mail for years but finally delivered just in time) because of his soldier father away from home. I think it’s supposed to be heartwarming, but it’s so calculated and lacking in sensible plot logic that it all feels very artificial.
I was particularly put off by the last panel. As Santa Claus and an elf peek at him from behind a tree, Archie thinks to himself
Sometimes, things happen during the holidays that make certain people believe Santa Claus does exist! Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas to all! Especially those who believe!
I suspect I may be oversensitive to “war on Christmas”-type bigotry but that last sentence doesn’t sound to me like it’s talking about Santa any more. I’d heard that Archie was thinking about implementing a policy of cutting back on their holiday stories, because it cut down their audience overseas and besides, they had plenty already in inventory. I was thinking that that was a bad idea, but maybe not.