The Bronze Age Gift Guide: Valentine’s Day Edition



Normally I try not to spoil the joke with the picture I’ve included in the article, but this time it was pretty unavoidable. Even so, head to ComicsAlliance today to see a last-minute Valentine’s day gift idea should you find yourself as a destitute time traveler.

And keep this in mind: Those aren’t even the strangest things I’ve seen in the first three issues of Bronze Age Jughead Collection. I get the feeling that DVD and I are going to be good friends.

The Racial Politics of Riverdale



Today on ComicsAlliance, I use the upcoming Archie #608 to launch into a brief discussion of the history of interracial dating and non-white characters in Archie Comics.

It’s entirely possible that this is only of interest to me (and that I am, in fact, the only one who thinks about Archie this much), but there’s one thing that ended up being left out of the finished article, and that’s the double standard between boys and girls when it comes to interracial dating. Though there’ll never be a story where Archie marries anyone but Betty or Veronica, which I think has less to do with the fact that they’re white than with their status as the Classic Love Interests, he’s always seen hitting on other girls. He certainly had an interest in Kimiko, his new Japanese-American classmate, after all.

The boys, however–and as I said in the article, this plays into the classic racist fears of miscegenation leading to the dilution of racial purity–tend to “stick with their own kind,” as the old saying goes. I’m sure there are probably a few exceptions, but in the majority of the stories, it’s like an unspoken agreement at Riverdale High that Chuck needs to be with Nancy, Frankie Valdez needs to be paired with Maria, and… Well, other than Raj Patel, that’s pretty much all the male minority population, and he hasn’t had time to garner a love interest yet.

It’s a clear double-standard that sets up women as objects that need to be protected and men as conquerors, but the minute I start writing that, it becomes a Whole Big Thing, and Laura told me I’d already hit my mandatory Treatment of Women in Comics quota for this month. So please, enjoy the article, and I’ll keep obsessing over the comics that they keep next to Nutter Butters at Bi-Lo.

And Then There Was the Time That Betty and Veronica Were Kidnapped For Alien Sex Experiments

A few days ago, I posted this, my new favorite Archie panel:



The appeal here should be pretty obvious, but it’s worth noting that while this is the weirdest panel in the story–I’m still not sure whether “BLORT!” is someone’s name or just a rare example of Riverdalien profanity–the rest of it is almost equally insane.

The story in question is “The Visit,” recently reprinted in Tales From Riverdale Digest #35, though where it was originally published is anybody’s guess. I suspect, though, that it’s from one of the mid-70s “serious” titles, probably Life with Archie, as it has the same distinct brand of madness that you’ll find in stories about perfume counterfieters or renegade brain surgeons, only magnified to the power of Kirby.

It all starts–of course–with a meteor shower:



Clearly, there are alien shennanigans afoot! So afoot, in fact, that the very next day…



…Archie, Betty and Veronica are accosted by Bjordu, who shows up out of nowhwere and immediately starts penetrating the girls.



With his eyes, I mean.

Over the next few pages, it becomes clear that Bjordu intends to kidnap Betty and Veronica and take them back to the Fourth World for what he claims is SCIENCE! but that I think we can all agree is more along the lines of an interplanetary three-way. Archie makes a valiant–read: completely ineffective–attempt to stop him, but they vanish for a few pages and Archie gets caught in a miniature tornado.

And that’s when things start to get weird.

Because that’s when Bjordu’s sister shows up.



I say “sister,” because that’s how she’s referred to in the story, but for a blood relative, she seems awfully angry that Bjordu has selected Betty and Veronica for their experiments, noting that he has taken “two of the kind that appeal to you” but neglected poor Archie.

So angry, in fact, that she tries to kill Betty and Veronica with lightning bolts.



At this point, the metaphors pretty much break down completely, and Sister (I thought she might be the BLORT! mentioned above, but that’s how she’s referred to in the narration) decides that if Bjordu’s going to take Betty and Veronica, she’s going to take Archie:



Eventually, this interstellar lovers’ tiff ends–more out of the fact that they’ve filled up 11 pages than for any attempt at an in-story reason–and Bjordu and Sis fade into their spaceship and leave three very confused teenagers in their wake:



Archie Andrews, everybody: America’s Typical Teen!

Spooktoberfest Special: Riverdale After Dark

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.