Archie Digests for September and October 2009

Archie’s Double Digest #202

In this “New Look” story, which has come to mean “poorly drawn versions of the Archie characters with turgid dragged-out soap opera plots”, Archie’s still planning to leave Riverdale. I know that won’t happen, so instead, I find myself distracted by Norm Breyfogle’s art, or as I call it, Invasion of the Giraffe People. Has Jughead been drinking Ralph’s Gingold stretching soda? On the next page, Archie and random volunteer recreate Mr. Fantastic’s elastic arms.

Archies Double Digest pageArchies Double Digest page

The only entertainment I’m getting out of this comes from the name of Archie’s new residence. He’s moving to Martinsville, which in Virginia was my dad’s family’s hometown. I also noticed that all of the ads in this issue, with the exception of the inside and back covers, are for Archie comics — collections, sets, online versions. Has their agreement with DC to share advertising ended? Or is no one much interested in buying print ads, as has happened with magazines?

A short reprint story about researchers trying to understand what teens think about when grocery shopping was amusing, as were some unexpected bits with Archie being stupid. It wasn’t his silliness that was surprising, but the ways in which he screwed up: reading biorhythm charts, TV anchor, teaching girls to box. The unusual choices at least provided some freshness to the plots.

Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals Digest #135

Pals n Gals Digest #135

Given my dislike of the “New Look”, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this, the latest story to take that approach. It focuses on Reggie falling in love with a new girl, Bernadette, who’s a hard-working good student and has little tolerance for his pranking antics. Instead, she has more in common with Dilton. A psychology class and Reggie trying out for a national contest to find a stand-up comic, promise additional complications to come.

A focus on Reggie, who’s usually just part of the background, could be interesting, if they delve further into what makes him the way he is and why the others put up with him. The art, by Tod Smith, is better, too, although it was odd to see a more “realistic” version of Principal Weatherbee. Mostly, I liked Bernadette’s focus and how unashamed she was of her abilities, intelligence, and drive to succeed.

Also in this issue are some Sabrina reprints with her in Gravestone Heights, a neighborhood full of monsters, including her new friend Cleara, the invisible girl. (For someone who complains about not being seen, I’d think she’d wear clothes more often. Instead, as the stories continue, she adds a hair bow, lipstick, earrings, and a t-shirt. That’s all, which leads the reader in some odd directions if you stop and think about it.) Sabrina’s been glammed up with miniskirts, big earrings, boots, and cleavage, so these stories must date from the 80s.

Even weirder is Eye-da, a normal girl except that she has, instead of a head, a giant eyeball. I’d like to see more of these stories — I’m unfamiliar with them or their history, but I like the idea of gently weird teens hanging out together.

Betty & Veronica Double Digest #174

Wanna see the Archie gang as furries? Check out “Is This Place a Zoo?”, a reprint story included here. Betty and Veronica start discussing what kind of animal they’d be, and as they envision various creatures, the drawings reflect their ideas. So Veronica becomes a gazelle wearing a hat or a leopard lady in a bikini. Strangely, when the girls change, their heads are included, but when Archie talks about being a gorilla, it’s his normal head on an ape body. It ends with Betty and Veronica in a cat fight, sigh. What fetish material this is.

Archie Digest #258

Archie Digest #258

This small collection, full of holiday stories, would make a lovely stocking stuffer. Veronica learns to be considerate and not show off her wealth in a time of economic struggle. Archie finds pleasure as well as frustrations in playing Santa. Then he gives his dad an unexpected gift. My favorite, though, was the one where Betty and Veronica learned not to get into the spirit too early, as everyone went crazy with holiday cheer at school. I’m all for the “meaning of the season”, but it’s also nice to be reminded not to go overboard.

Also in this issue are a couple of Sabrina Christmas stories. That sounds like it would be an odd match, but it works surprisingly well, as she uses her powers to help out Santa and values working for money to shop over zapping things up.

(The publisher provided review copies.)

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