01 September 2009

How will Hiram Lodge kill Archie Andrews?

Let’s see, what’s happening in the comics world . . .

Well, I’m already bored with the whole “Disney-Buys-Marvel” news, mostly because I don’t think much will change. Disney won’t touch the comics books because, after all, that’s not where the money is. They’ve let Pixar do their stuff, I can’t imagine they’ll demand that the Punisher start acting a bit nicer and maybe pick up work as a crossing guard instead of shredding mobsters. Although Sledge Hammer once worked as a crossing guard, and it was pretty amusing.

The same week that Tinker Bell bought Wolverine, another comic bombshell went off, although not one that the average comic book fan will think much about. That’s because it occurred in the world of Archie Comics, once known as MLJ Comics. Nonetheless, this event has caused plenty of pop-culture shockwaves. I don’t read Archie Comics because, well, I’m a male in his 30s. But I do have interest in them because they’re a major segment of comic book history and play a key part of the popular culture landscape. Not many children read comics anymore, but the ones who do tend to read the Archie mags. I remember during some of my teaching days that I had to confiscate a few Archie Digests (which often contained reprints from the 1940s) from my students, usually fourth and fifth grade girls. So Archie still has power, even though he isn’t appearing in Summer popcorn flicks.

And the big news is that after sixty-seven years in high school and bouncing between sweet Betty Cooper and debutante Veronica Lodge, Archie is finally going to propose . . . to Veronica! The issue, Archie #600, came out today, although the proposal was already forecast. This issue is one of a six-part arc written by Michael Uslan, who also got the Batman film series made. Odd double-legacy.

Which makes me immediately think, “No way, Archie is not going to marry Veronica. He’s not going to marry anybody. We have six issues to find some way to screw it up.” I can’t imagine that Archie Comics, which have hardly budged in story or artistic style since the 1940s (the kids stopped wearing sweater vests, but Jughead still has that weird jester-beanie thing, which has an interesting story), will now threaten the high school chastity life by having Archie Andrews get married—and apparently get freaky with the new Mrs. Andrews once he does. Because, even in starched-shirt Riverdale, that’s what happens on wedding nights.

Nope, I can’t see how the comics can survive going through with this, not with a reading audience that demands consistency and doesn’t care if things never change because they only read the comics for about three years before moving on. Eventually, they have kids of their own who will read the comics and they will notice that Riverdale still hasn’t altered in the slightest, Reggie’s still a vain jerk, they still can’t figure out Jughead’s hat, and they feel good about it.

However . . . I’m glad that when Archie actually went down on one knee, it was for Veronica. The Betty/Veronica comparison is a classic question for the male of the species, and his choice of one or the other is supposed to reveal some deep desire for a particular type of relationship. Or something. You want the sweet (blonde) girl next door, or the rich and devious (brunette)? For some reason, hair color is deeply tied into this question. Okay, it’s not a deep question, but you need an icebreaker at some parties, and politics are a no-no.

I prefer Veronica. Why? I don’t read the comic intensely enough to really know much about the Betty/Veronica personality difference aside from the superficial things we all know as participants of North America culture. I prefer Veronica because I just like her look. So blame the artists and the “house style.” Also, Archie picking her is a bit of shock for people, who thought that the “home-style goodness” of the Archie Comics line would have him go for the sweet, “good” girl. The people behind the comics knew what they were doing when they picked the controversial candidate. It seems that the majority of fans on the forums preferred that he go for Betty, and an online vote favored the blonde beauty by eighty percent. If Archie Comics wanted to get attention, they pulled they right stunt. They could’ve bought Marvel, but it was cheaper just to have Archie give Veronica a ring.

But, the marriage won’t happen. If anything, Hiram Lodge, Veronica’s rich father who can’t stand Archie, will arrange for an “unfortunate accident” to make sure that Archie never takes his daughter to the altar. I thought maybe ninjas would do the trick, but T. L. Bugg suggested “Cybernetic Reggie.” Now that might get some older readers to buy the issues. The Punisher once had a crossover with the world of Archie (really!); what if Hiram Lodge convinces Frank Castle that Archie is really a notorious meth dealer?

I’ve thought about this for too long already. Oh, did you hear that Disney bought Marvel? Spidey proposed to Aurora, and now he’s going to have to beat up a nasty-looking black and purple dragon.

Update: The whole Archie-proposes-to-Veronica ballyhoo was just a dream sequence. Nobody learned from Dallas, did they?