Despite my recent preoccupation with the company’s past, I have to admit I don’t follow current Archie comics much, and when I do, I conclude that it’s not just nostalgia talking: they really aren’t funny enough now. All the emphasis on soapy plot twists and gimmicks is not a good sign for a franchise whose titles were mostly popular with kids as the comedy alternative to superhero comics, and which seems at some point to have drained the comedy potential out of most of its regular characters. But I will admit that this, from a list of upcoming comics for November, looks more interesting to me than Archie marrying Veronica, Betty, Midge, Ophelia, Cricket O’Dell, Miss Betty Lou Clutchgrapple, or whoever:
ARCHIE & FRIENDS #137
PART ONE OF A TWO-PART STORY THAT REINTRODUCES SOME OF THE MOST MEMORABLE CHARACTERS ARCHIE EVER PUBLISHED!
“Cosmic Cosmosis Part One”: Working at the Pep Comics shop to get a discount on comics and a place to store his collection, Chuck is visited by his friends as he bags and boards. Suddenly, glowing meteors from the MLJ Nebula rain down in Riverdale, including one that crashes into the shop and morphs into a door to other dimensions! This cosmic portal leads to a world that Chuck, Archie and his friends have only ever seen in comics… a world of talking ducks and bears, super-powered heroes and oddball beings from other planets. It doesn’t take them long to realize they are in the presence of a veritable “who’s who” of some of the greatest comic book characters ever published by Archie and its earlier incarnation, MLJ Comics: Captain Sprocket, Cosmo the Merry Martian, Squoimy the Woim, Gloomy Gus, Judge Owl, Ginger, Suzie and more! The trouble is, now that the “fantasy world” has invaded the “real world,” the “fictional” characters seek as much a taste of reality as possible: Wilbur and Seymour want to meet “real” girls to date, Pat the Brat realizes there’s a whole new potential audience to pull pranks on, Cubby the Bear wants to see how earth bears live, and more. On top of it all, Super Duck and Reggie get into a no-holds-barred shouting match!
Okay, so I know and you know that this is probably mostly a way for a company to get all their defunct characters back into print for a moment, on the off chance that they might want to do something with them (or license them out like their superhero characters). But this still sounds like a perfectly respectable idea in a one-off, “remember that guy?” kind of way.
Most of these characters failed because they weren’t any good, and ruined many a child’s digest-reading experience — do you know what it’s like to be in the middle of a digest and then find Super Duck, who is not super in any way, screaming at some salesman and getting electrocuted or something? — but as Justice League Unlimited proved, it can be enjoyable to see characters who weren’t very good, as long as they aren’t the star of the story.
The only remaining question, though, is which of these characters was most horrible to encounter in a digest. There were a couple whose comics were actually good, like Cosmo the Merry Martian, and a few others who were inoffensive, like Wilbur (he’s like Archie, except he’s conventionally handsome, and nobody wants handsome heroes, so get out of here, blond boy). The real boredom came from:
– Funny-animal characters intruding on the wacky human-kid adventures I paid to read;
– Anything that appeared in various Mad ripoffs from “Archie’s Mad House” to “Tales Calculated to Drive You Bats!”
But ultimately, nothing compared to Super Duck for the sheer power to make six pages of digest space feel like a soul-destroying void. Not just for all the reasons described by Mr. Kitty at “Stupid Comics” — the Donald Duck ripoffs without any of Donald’s basic charm, the inappropriate duck sexuality — but because every story was irredeemably depressing. It was like watching a bad Chip and Dale cartoon — an asshole gets his life destroyed by other assholes — except with worse drawing and more comprehensible dialogue. “Super Duck” is like Curb Your Enthusiasm if Larry ended every episode bankrupt, abusing his family and trying to murder people with axes.
And yet, for historical/geeky purposes, I’d even be OK with seeing that guy again. Once. With a written and signed guarantee that he will never get his own comic book again.
I except Katy Keene from this list of digest-ruiners because while she did ruin many a digest for me as a boy, I admit that I probably just didn’t get her because I was a boy. If I hadn’t insensitive clod, I would have known why it was important to care what she would wear to her double date with Randy and K.O. Kelly.