Archie Comics for January 2009

Betty & Veronica Digest #190

Betty & Veronica Digest #190

This issue: the debut of Kumi, a Japanese teenager who moves to Riverdale! Why does that sound familiar? Because she was plugged as a new character introduction nine months ago. It wasn’t really worth the wait. Kumi spends the story amazed at the wonders of America: “new American sweets”! And snacks! Big house with big rooms!

She hopes for a cool American boyfriend. She thinks the other kids look much older than she does. She has language issues, so she gets too much cafeteria food. There’s no real feeling of her character here; any fish out of water could have been swapped into this situation with no change. I hope, in future stories, we see more of what makes her her, instead of “generic Japanese teenager”. Some of the items in her description from that older announcement haven’t been seen yet, and they’d help make her more distinctive.

Another story, “Forgive & Forget?”, has a unique premise, though. Veronica tells off Archie for being late when they’re meeting at the mall. Then she keeps hallucinating him apologizing whenever she sees anything round and orange, culminating in her lunch, a talking cheese pizza. It’s a twisted way to bring some humanity to Veronica, and perhaps even to shed some light on what she sees in the guy. (She certainly can’t get him out of her head.)

Also in this issue is a reprint Sabrina story from when they were drawing her as a kid in a flat style to match the then-airing cartoon. I normally can’t stand the look, but this story, about a menacing snowman, is timely and entertaining. The bad wizard Zamboni’s magic hat possesses the snow creation, and each time they think they’ve got him smashed, another twist happens. It’s Aunt Zelda’s knowing side remarks that I found most fun:

Sabrina, hearing of the old villain: “He sounds interesting!”
Zelda: “No, he was just a big pain in the … AAAGH!” (as she’s interrupted by a snow attack)

Or later, “It was going to be such a nice, calm day… Bake some cookies… Read my catalogues…” Then Salem and his ego gets involved, before magic saves the day.

Also in this issue are two pages by Barbara Slate titled “You Can Do a Graphic Novel”. (Do? They couldn’t pick a more relevant verb?) This short piece looks like it was excerpted from something much longer, since it only discusses process and could apply to any writing or creative effort. I wonder if it’s intended to be part of a series? There were a least a couple more stories I’d recommend, including one about the value of a basketball teacher who isn’t perfect, which makes for a good track record for a digest.

Archie’s Pals’n’Gals Double Digest #127

Archies Pals n Gals Double Digest #127

The Midge’n’Moose “New Look” story continues with part 3. I haven’t cared much for any of these supposedly more realistic stories for many reasons, but one of the more prominent is that writer Melanie J. Morgan takes a very talky approach. That may be why these installments are 2 or 4 times as long as a typical Archie story without much more happening.

Here, Archie and Betty try to get Moose and Midge back together by setting up a fishing trip/picnic. Like any plot that happens in something labeled “part 3 of 4″, it’s doomed to fail. In this case, it’s in an artificial way that reads like page-filler.

Just like the text, the expressions by artist Tod Smith are similarly overdone. On one page, Betty is encouraging Midge to remember fond past times. Midge’s expression looks like someone just told her she’d run over a pet. Elsewhere, Betty’s proud of her plan, so she jumps in the air like the football team just made championships. Plus, there’s the problem of inconsistent characters — their faces change from page to page, even taking the exaggerated grins and grimaces into account.

In keeping with the opening theme of pride getting in the way of happiness, several other stories feature someone deserving getting comeuppance, whether Reggie on a dating show, or Chuck trying to prove men cook better than women when he doesn’t know how to turn on an oven. There’s also a retelling of A Star Is Born, only instead of succumbing to drink, the older actor succumbs to pizza.

One where Sabrina turns the Archie gang into birds is educational as well as hilarious — Mr. Weatherbee is a penguin. Mr. Lodge is a vulture. And the gang hangs out at Pop’s bird bath. Others capture problems with snowy weather and the never-vanquished challenge of high school.

Archie & Friends #126

Archie & Friends #126

A new four-part story starts here, focusing on the life of cartoonist Chuck Clayton. He’s asked to help instruct kids in an after-school program.

As a part-time teacher, he faces snobbery from “real” art faculty, apathy from the kids when they find out he’s not a professional, and the problem of keeping their attention focused. The tips he learns from his parents show how teaching is a skill in itself, and the whole experience is educational for him (and the reader) as well as he establishes a comic book workshop. Perhaps because the creators obviously know and love the material, this is the best recent lengthy Archie story yet.

Betty & Veronica #239

Betty & Veronica #239

At first, I thought this issue was nothing special, just the usual stories about things not going the characters’ way, ha ha. Then I realized something smart was happening: all of the stories featured exotic wishes. In one, Veronica accidentally starts a new dance craze. Who wouldn’t want to be found memorable dancing, even if she looked silly? In another, Betty and Veronica fight over a new cute boy who’s interested in them and their hobbies. Sure, the main point is “be careful what you wish for, because schemes backfire”, but the idea of a guy who shares your interests is a fine fantasy.

In the lead, Veronica accidentally winds up bring paparazzi to Riverdale. Everyone’s seduced by the idea of getting their pictures in the papers, until they realize that they’re playing into stereotypes and refuse to feed the media beast. It’s a good modern message, but using the fantasy of being famous for being yourself makes it more interesting to a teen audience who hasn’t yet figured out that comes with a downside.

6 Responses to “Archie Comics for January 2009”

  1. Justin Says:

    I will have to keep an eye out for that Archie & Friends digest. It sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. jdh417 Says:

    How was the Josie and Pussycats story in B&V?

    As for the New Look stories. I don’t think they’re a bad idea, just not well executed. From listening to an interview with the first New Look artist, I got the impression that management was dictating the look more than the artist, which is usually not a good thing.

    I’m sure there are other artists who’d love to do their own versions of the gang. Did you see J. Scott Campbell’s take on them in Gen 13 #13?

  3. Johanna Says:

    Yeah, I posted those Gen13 pages here about a year ago.

    I don’t remember any of the Josie stories I read this go-round, sorry. I tend to not pay too much attention to them, because they remind me of Archie’s miserable treatment of Dan DeCarlo, and that makes me sad.

    That’s a shame to hear about the management control, but that’s what tends to happen with such a long-running franchise.

  4. jdh417 Says:

    Jughead has never looked cooler.

    The interview with the New Look artist was on the website under the Old Time Radio show link, I think. I can’t find it anymore. Maybe its just me or its just another page that doesn’t work correctly on their website.

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