I’ve probably made this abundantly clear over the past few years here at the ISB, but I’ve got a lot of affection for Archie comics, and a particular fondness for the bizarre forays into the world of the supernatural. Those stories–which were often bizarre even without comparing them to the tame, setup-punchline stories the line’s mostly known for–were largely a product of the ’70s, when the first cracks in the Comics Code meant that everyone and their flame-headed stunt cyclist brother were adding touches of horror to their comics, but there’s a more recent example that somehow managed to be almost as odd.
I speak, of course, of Archie’s Weird Mysteries:
Hitting shelves in 2000 to accompany a short-lived animated series, (and currently being reprinted in Tales From Riverdale Digest, hands down the best of the Archie titles) Weird Mysteries was essentially 31 issues of Archie mashing up Scooby Doo and utterly shameless amounts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. How shameless, you ask?
Well, in one issue you find out that Veronica is the Chosen One who has mystical vampire-killing powers called “The Ender.”
So, you know. There’s that.
The Buffy influence is strongest in the stories about Scarlet, who, as a teenage vampire sent to infiltrate Archie and his running crew, is not to be confused with Marvel’s ex-nun vigilante or GI Joe’s counter-intelligence specialist from the ATL. The same elements are all there, what with her being dispatched from a nearby cave to find the curio shop, Archie’s supernatural mentor, the ersatz Stephen Strange that is Dr. Beaumont, and she even turns good, then evil again, then good again.
What’s really notable about her, however, is that she may in fact be the worst disguise artist in comic book history:
That’s right, folks: Her plan is to put on a shocking pink wig and a “ninja style jumpsuit” so that she can blend in with people who already know who she is.
But that’s not the story I want to discuss tonight, as there’s one story from Weird Mysteries that, while it lacks the supernatural element that was common in the rest of the series, manages to be even creepier, mostly because it starts with Archie… scrapbooking:
Okay, look: Archie likes girls. That is pretty much the dude’s entire deal. But the fact that he carries around a three-ring binder full of photos and vital information about the entire female population of Riverdale High that he pines over while they’re bringing it on at cheer camp? That’s pushing it.
It does come in handy for Riverdale’s burgeoning Mad Scienitist population, however, as one of them decides to use Archie’s ill-gotten dossiers to create a robot with the best qualities of Betty and Veronica and then send her to date Archie to study the alleged SCIENCE! of horny teenagers. Thus, Lisi is born:
And suddenly, this is the story where Archie dates a sexbot.
I’ve got to say, though, that I really do like the art for it. There’s a sort of stripped-down (even by Archie standards) quality that blends the traditional Dan DeCarlo house style with something that’s clearly attempting to emulate the animated-series style of guys like Mike Parobeck and Bruce Timm, and it’s something I’d have liked to see applied to the whole line.
But that doesn’t really matter, because this is the story where Archie dates a sexbot.
Unfortunately for Archie, Lisi somehow manages to end up with Betty’s tendency to get clingy and Veronica’s tendency to be a hateful bitch, and Archie has to be free, baby, you know? But attempting to shut her down in the normal way doesn’t quite work, as Veronica’s personality has rooted itself in the mechanism, and is just too stubborn to die, and while they come tantalizingly close to doing a story where Ronnie’s negative traits mutate into a sentient technovirus and/or V.E.R.O.N.D.O.K.A. (Vicious, Extremely Rich Organism Neatly Designed Only for Killing Archie), they manage to overwrite her with Cheryl Blossom and sell her to a store to be used as a mannequin, which is also fairly creepy.
But not before she polishes Archie’s helmet.
And on the cover.
One can only imagine what Archie wrote on Lisi’s scrapbook page.