Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty
written by Tania del Rio; art by Bill Galvan and Bob Smith
Archie Comics is tackling the popular “illustrated diary” format (think Dork Diaries or Diary of a Wimpy Kid) with this hardcover starring the Riverdale girl next door, Betty.
It’s aimed at kids 9-12 years old, which is obvious. Although the stories are supposedly about Betty’s fears and struggles entering high school, she seems much younger. It’s a well-known saying that kids like to read up from their age, so that aspect doesn’t bother me; what does is how goofy Betty seems. She was always competent at so many things, from reporting to car repair, but that character is nowhere to be seen in these pages. Instead, this little girl is panicky and goofy, whether she’s starting a dog training service or dreaming of competing on a BMX bike or lying about having a little brother to give the school counselor a problem to help her with.
Another element that seemed out of character to me was how boy-crazy Betty was about Archie. She’s constantly writing about how cute he is or coming up with some scheme to spend time with him. It felt overdone. We do get to see other familiar characters like Jughead, Reggie, and Veronica, who is portrayed as a stereotypical mean girl desperate to be accepted by the older high schoolers. As a result, Betty hangs out with Jughead more than she does anyone else.
As a cartoon, interspersed with the text, Betty looks extremely generic, one step up from a stick figure with a ponytail. Typical of trend-chasing, this book feels a couple years too late to really hit the market. The stories are cute, but they could have applied to any kid character, so there’s nothing uniquely Archie about any of this. It feels like a graft, as though the Archie gang was pasted into a preexisting book just to get something out in this format. New readers might wonder why these particular characters hang out together; Archie fans will find Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty unsatisfying and out of character.