Archie Digests for September 2008

Archie’s Double Digest #192

Archies Double Digest #192

The lame new story that opens this digest has Archie trying to get Jughead to fake a funny video to win money. No one ever says anything about this being cheating or a bad idea. Instead, it’s a reason just to see Archie hurt or beat up.

That’s why I found it so surprising to enjoy much more a couple of the reprint stories that follow. Why? Because Archie is a much more dynamic character. Instead of things happening to him, he takes stands and achieves change. In one, Veronica’s been taken in by a couple of fake mediums, and Archie and Chuck expose their scam. Another is even better: a new student has become the school prankster, annoying everyone. Archie catches him, figures out why he’s doing it, and gets him onto the school track team, where he can get the attention he’s seeking in a way that makes everyone happy.

I miss an Archie who shows why all the girls would be interested in him. He’s dynamic and responsible, instead of a klutzy one-dimensional figure of fun.

Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals Double Digest #125

Archies Pals n Gals Double Digest #125

Archie’s newest “New Look” story begins here. After starting with Betty and Veronica, then doing one with Jughead (a bad match for the approach, I thought, given how exaggerated his appearance is), now it’s the turn of Midge and Moose.

That’s not a bad choice at all, since the characters could use some exploration. They’re the longest-running couple in the Archie “universe”, and most readers don’t know very much about what keeps them together. When they appear, it’s usually to have Midge flirt with Reggie, who then bears the brunt of Moose’s anger. Funny slapstick, but when thought about, disturbing. Is Midge happy with Moose? If so, what does she think about his overprotectiveness? If not, does she stay with him out of fear?

After a two-page recap of how great their “New Look” approach is, the story begins with Betty and Archie conveniently discussing the characters we’re about to meet. I haven’t seen so many head-and-hand panels since I stopped reading old romance comics. It’s odd to see figures drawn so differently in design but looking so much their same exaggerated selves in terms of gesture and expression.

In this story, Midge decides to go out with Reggie behind Moose’s back so she can better determine “what [her] true feelings for Moose are”. Seems to me a better option would be not dating anyone for a while, but there’s a reason they quit calling the New Look books “more realistic”. My favorite part of the whole piece was seeing Reggie look ridiculous in a popped-collar polo.

Betty & Veronica Double Digest #164

Betty and Veronica Double Digest #164

The story in which readers vote to pick Cheryl’s new boyfriend (begun in Double Digest #161) continues. It’s a shame I didn’t read this until after the voting deadline (October 6), since this third guy, a motorcycle-riding popular chef, is the best yet. He seems more rounded as a character than the other two, who were more two-dimensional clichés (a jock and a geek). In addition to having his own talent, George also uses his knowledge of psychology to get rid of Cheryl’s annoying brother Jason; is willing to tell her off when needed; and has a fan club of his own, providing fertile material for future stories in which Cheryl, used to being the center of attention, gets jealous. George is so interesting a character that I wonder if the writers have already decided on him or are simply stacking the deck to get the guy that they want voted for.

The second new story in this digest nicely shows how active Betty and Veronica are, with them playing golf and tennis at Ronnie’s country club, then biking home. The punchline is predictable, but the simple premise is refreshing, even if the actual activities feel several decades out of date.

The reprint stories range from oddly intriguing (Betty thinks the life of a plastic doll would be nice, so she writes a poem about it) to outright ugly (genius kid, drawn with a freakishly large head, attends Riverdale High). It was interesting to see a reprinted Katy Keene story (included mostly to plug the new collection). I really do wish that Archie would bother to credit its artists at times like these, because I was very curious to know who drew it in such a larger-than-life style and obvious 80s fashion. It was cool to see hair care tips for readers included, too.

I must also mention another story that caught my eye: a new female art teacher asks students to bring in art from their walls at home. Veronica shows up toting original Van Goghs, Picassos, Monets, and such. Once the teacher recovers from the shock, she points out that “there is a great misconception out there that the truly great artists were male” and goes on to make her teaching lesson about the contributions of women. Then Veronica finds out that her Daddy owns plenty of those, too, only they’re in a special wing “dedicated entirely to woman artists throughout the centuries.” Something of a mixed message, there, I think, but it is nice that he lets her take more of them to school because art should be shared with everyone.

Several more stories this issue deal with Betty and Veronica scheming to outsmart each other, whether it’s over preventing the other from dating Archie or who gets which lead role in the play. While playing into stereotypes of female cattiness and competition, they do provide some spark that’s missing in the blander “we’re all friends together” modern tales. I particularly liked Veronica’s opening thought balloon in one, as she enters Betty’s kitchen,

“It’s almost nine PM, and she’s packing a picnic lunch! Strange! But then, middle class people are kind of strange.”

9 Responses to “Archie Digests for September 2008”

  1. Anthony Says:

    One bit of dialogue in the Moose/Midge story had me scratching my head—namely, Betty’s use of cartoon “swear word symbols”: “True. Nevertheless, that’s no excuse for Moose to be so @#&%! temperamental.” Kind of odd to me to see Betty of all characters “swearing” (vs. someone like Reggie or, well, Moose); are there any stories in the “regular” looking comics (or the previous “real look” comics put out) that showed Betty talking like this?

  2. Johanna Says:

    Not that I recall. I didn’t even notice that — but since this is Archie, I’m tempted to read “darn” in for it. :)

  3. Colonel Sartoris Says:

    The video story was lame.

  4. Archie Digests for October 2008 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

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  5. James Schee Says:

    I read the Midge/Moose story today. It was pretty head scratching for me.

    I think it has to do with how time and society has changed. I’m sure back then it was looked at differently for a big guy to be so defensive of his girlfriend.

    Now.. well when even his “friends” have to be scared if they say something that goes against his girlfriend’s taste. For fear of being beat up, well it makes him seem like a downright pyscho.

    So much else about Archie has changed over time. Betty and Veronica being friends is the biggest of course. Yet other things like Diilon’s smarts being appreciated, racial diversity, Reggie being shown to have a heart under his bravzado.

    Moose needs to have some type of change as well, be moved beyond, or Archie needs to stop doing stories that point out things that don’t work if thought on. (like superhero stories that revolve around superhero identities)

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