- Posted by Johanna on May 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm
- Category: Archie Comics
Archie & Friends #141, #142
Freshman Year: The Missing Chapters continues with stories of Reggie (#142) and Betty and Veronica (#141). I’m disappointed that the two girls get lumped together, without each getting a chapter of their own. They’re interchangeable enough without creators emphasizing that. And it’s yet another “however will we get tickets to our favorite band’s concert?” story. I know, as teen stereotypes, the girls have to be fickle and celebrity-deluded, but … well, sometimes I enjoy Archie comics, either out of nostalgia or because they do good stories, and sometimes they’re not as successful.
(Instead of Betty and Veronica each getting an issue, stupid new character Pencilneck G. gets his own focus issue in #144, the final part of the story. Ah, the vagaries of creator self-indulgence.)
The ham-fisted foreshadowing of Reggie’s story, where he gets in trouble for cutting class to hang out with older kids who are exploiting him, didn’t make issue #141 any easier to read for me. It’s pretty predictable. That’s the trouble of Reggie as a character: he’s got to do bad/dumb things to provide some conflict, but they keep wanting to redeem him to justify his place as one of the gang. That is, if he stayed mean, why would everyone else keep hanging around with him? But if he doesn’t, he’s a weak member of the team with little to contribute and a confusing characterization.
This is more like it. A story that shows Betty the truth about her options, and that Adam might be a better choice for her than Archie. Heck, anyone who put her first would be a better choice. I know that nothing’s going to break up that eternal triangle, now that Archie (as a company) has been milking it for 70 years, but a girl can hope. And there’s lots of dancing in the story, too — although we can’t really see it on the page, I like the associations.
The next story, with Betty as a sandwich maker dealing with some difficult customers, was surprisingly funny, in large part because it leaves behind the usual subjects for something realistic many people can relate to. Last, there’s a cute little tale of Archie and Betty taking a cheap date — timely! Even if the ending gets back to the “Archie is a cad” theme in a predictable (and even somewhat uncharacteristic, since I don’t believe he’d be that clueless, even for him) way.
It shouldn’t surprise me that the variant, limited edition cover (the cream-colored one) is the better one — that’s the point of making fans chase after it. But let’s look at what it’s done right: It shows more of the cast with a better idea of the intriguing story idea (Jughead finally gets fat) inside, thus making readers more interested in finding out more. It points out that the story includes Sabrina, who has fans of her own who might want to buy the comic for that reason. And it plugs the guest writer, who might have some name value. About the only way it could be improved would be to have some color. The standard cover, on the other hand, is generic and boring. Few people care about a round-number anniversary any more, and those that do aren’t reading Archie comics.
So what about the story? Jughead trades his metabolism for a dream meal, involving cheeseburgers, pizzas, and an amusement park. (This dish has to be seen to be believed, and even then, only in the comics.) Since his eating habits don’t change, he packs on the pounds. His friends try to help, only to fall into the witch’s clutches in various amusing ways. (And I love her visions of their souls, which make her reject them immediately, since she sees their most annoying habits.) Best of all, the story has a point and a clever ending. Good for guest writer Tom Root! This issue is a great place for a reader to sample the comic or check back in with these old friends.
Archie’s Double Digest #207
I know “realism” isn’t really the goal with these types of stories, but sometimes the details are just so wrong that you have to wonder. For instance, in the first story, Archie wants to find a lost parrot in order to get the reward money. He’s wearing a cargo vest with pockets. From one of these, he pulls a small bag, which contains “the lunch I packed — cold pizza, salad, and crackers!” We know this because he offers to split it with Jughead. First off, who puts pizza in a bag? But more strangely, how does he fit all this food into one pocket (as clearly shown in the art)?
I know what the writer was thinking — he needed crackers for the parrot, and so salad made sense, but this is Archie, so the pizza had to come along. The end result, though, is just loony, and not in a good way. Then again, once we start seeing Archie up in a tree chasing a bird with a slice of pizza in its mouth, few readers are thinking about the magic expanding vest pocket.
Another story similarly had me wondering about the small things. Archie wants to throw a party, but his mom has spent her whole Saturday cleaning the house. Even though the friends will make a mess, Mom reluctantly agrees. Then in through the front door comes Dad with hat, tie, and briefcase. “Gosh!” he says. “I hate it when I have to work at the office on a Saturday! Hey! The house looks great!”
Even working on a Saturday, why would Dad wear his full suit, complete with fedora? I found myself wondering if the writer had originally scripted a weekday story (which makes much more sense for the “we don’t have anything else to do tonight” premise when it comes to Archie and friends), but someone thought “we can’t imply that mom doesn’t have a job or spends her whole day cleaning, that’s too old-fashioned.”
Then there’s the Dilton story that features a busload of lovely young women who are “our state’s most brilliant girl scholars”. They’ve all come to see “the boy who won our state’s top science prize”. Yay for a whole flock of pretty smart girls, but there’s a weird undercurrent when it comes to lumping all the smart girls (who do love their miniskirts) together as Dilton’s groupies.
Finally, in a reprint, Archie puts on roller skates to help him get to school faster so he won’t be late. He winds up scooping up Mr. Weatherbee in a crazy ride that ends up with them rolling into the swimming pool. In a school? Where there are several male students already hanging out in trunks? Is it opening bell or not? Are they all just great sportsmen who wanted to be ready for first-period gym swim class early?
I know, I’m thinking too much about all of this. It’s just the way my mind works. On the other hand, a story late in the book that should be ridiculous — about a pro wrestler who’s a villain in the ring but a nice guy out of it — I found completely plausible.
Betty & Veronica Double Digest #179
As a palate-cleanser, the lead story here is a nice one. Veronica, Betty, and many of their friends are promoting the idea that girls can be both brainy and attractive. Weatherbee is against anything that looks like organized demonstrations, but through tutoring, the Nerd Girls make the school look good on a statewide test of tech knowledge. The story is predictable, but the message warms my geeky little heart (even though I don’t really believe Veronica as their leader, given some of her rich girl tales later in the volume).