- Posted by Johanna on June 30, 2007 at 9:04 pm
- Category: Archie Comics
I used to pretend to review Archie titles, but it’s hard to do. What is there, really, to say about formulaic stories month after month? (There’s nothing wrong with formula, and part of its appeal is the predictability.) The art rarely lives up to my standards (or the high points set by classic artists like Dan DeCarlo), but if you can recognize the characters (even if only by hair color), does the audience care?
Will anything I say make a difference, by convincing someone who doesn’t read the comics to try them (unlikely) or encouraging those who do to stop (even more unlikely, since readers of their titles and this blog probably have little crossover)? Praising certain books was ignored by those too concerned with their image to read Archie comics, and panning them sometimes seems like whipping a lame puppy. The books just want to entertain their young audience.
That said, I do appreciate receiving a package of review copies monthly, and it can be fun to talk about the comics. So here’s what I’m going to try: I’ll point out items that caught my attention, either because they were heart-warming or head-scratching or just plain odd. Readers, please let me know if this is more or less entertaining to you.
First up: the Betty and Veronica titles have changed their tag lines (prominently run at the top of the cover) from “are you a Betty or a Veronica?” to plugs for blogs, of all things. Betty & Veronica #227 runs “Go blogging with… ” over top of the logo, as does Betty #166, which adds “@ archiecomics.com” underneath so readers know where to go.
(By the way, apologies for the lack of cover images — I can’t find a reliable source. The publisher doesn’t seem to put them up, and independent sites use the cover images distributed at preview time, which frequently change when it comes to details like these.)
Once there, there’s no permanent link, but currently, the rotating ad banner at the top includes promotion for blogs for the various characters. They’re cutely cross-referential, often talking about the same fictional event from various perspectives. There’s also a News/PR blog, which is a plus. It’d be even more useful if they included a weekly release list, especially if they showed the covers.
Also in B&V #227, this odd little exchange by Kathleen Webb, in which Veronica demonstrates wit:
Betty: I add a lot of things to my wardrobe from [yard sales]!”
Veronica: I know… I can tell!
Betty: That was snarky!
Veronica: “Snarky”? Oh, yeah! The new word for “snide”!
Creators seem to be willing to have the two fight more openly these days, which I like. It helps provide some spark to their relationship and better distinguish the two personalities. That particular story also demonstrates creative competition, with the girls assembling cool outfits from their bargain finds.
Betty & Veronica Spectacular #78, written and drawn by Dan Parent, takes the opposite tack: the two team up to throw a tiki party, and much of the comic tells readers how to do the same thing, with the main story showing the decorations and events; related fashion pages (even one for the guys, which is a terrific idea); plenty of text tips on things to do; and two pages of recipes.
This title has become more like a magazine, with short features backing up the longer main story. I’d love to see it continuing on this path, becoming thicker by including more fashion and event features. This themed issue is a great start, and I hope more issues follow the same approach.
Switching gears from the girls for a moment, the last story in Jughead #182 was oddly amusing… it revolves around Jughead’s dad showing him how to drink from the garden hose as one of the “joys of summer”. Jughead wants a bottle of water instead, because the hose is “unsanitary”. When he tries, he shoots himself in the face.
It’s exaggeratedly silly, but the idea that teens would have to be introduced to drinking from a hose is both funny and strangely realistic, when you think about it. The generational difference is the kind of observation that seems obvious once pointed out to you but you’d never have thought of on your own. And typical of Craig Boldman’s writing, the visuals are an essential addition to the story.
Oddest of all the stories this month was one particular reprint in Jughead’s Double Digest #131 entitled “I Was a Teenage Jughead”. Over a drawing of Juggie as Wolverine (brown stripe costume, grey hat extended into points, cutlery attached to the back of his hand) runs these captions:
I’m a mutant… a money making machine! Any Market Comics superhero character! Anxious young people who enjoy wearing capes and hitting!
When Jughead gets hit on the head by a box of comics, he wakes up on the yellow brick road, where he meets Archie as Bug-Boy (in familiar-looking blue-and-red longjohns), Moose as the green Bulge, and some girl I don’t recognize as the Silver Thrasher. That’s a rather clever combination, if you remember the particular era of the skateboarding Night Thrasher, since skateboards were a way to surf on sidewalks. I’m freaked out that she doesn’t look like either Betty or Veronica, though.
There are plenty of amusing snipes in here, like “All right! A mindless fist fight at last! What would a visit to Market Comics be without it?” When the four get what they want, Moose winds up with courage, which turns him into the Punisher. Sadly, Juggie doesn’t actually become a mutant — I guess a misleading splash page is another convention of the comics they’re satirizing.
There’s also a new story in which Hot Dog rescues a missing panda, neat to read just because it’s so odd to see a panda roaming through Riverdale.
Back with Betty & Veronica Digest #175, there’s a quiz featurette with Cheryl Blossom. The reader answers questions to determine which of the three girls they’re most like; I wound up evenly Betty and Veronica. That might account for their appeal: together, their characteristics cover the gamut.
Last for this batch, Betty & Veronica Double Digest #152 contains part of two of the “realistic”-ally drawn Bad Boy story. Except the deck is heavily stacked. Writer Melanie J. Morgan works so hard at having tough guy Nick be a jerk to everyone that the reader has no idea what Veronica sees in him. We have to take her attraction on faith, which means his eventual departure will be no big loss. It’s much too one-sided a story to work.