I don’t think any comic book of the ’70s had as much insane shit in it as Archie at Riverdale High. And that’s saying a lot, because we are talking about the ’70s here. But this title, launched in the early ’70s as a home for “serious” stories focusing on academic or athletic issues, packed an impressive number of WTF moments into its bi-monthly issues. You could pick up an issue at random and find: Archie beats up the members of a rival school when they “touch his body with a Central High towel”; a famous painter agrees to paint Mr. Weatherbee on condition that Archie will pose for him in the nude (which he does); Archie infiltrates another rival high school in drag; Archie uses special-effects technology to convince everyone that a kid is actually a superpowered alien named “Nazda.” Many of these stories were also full of floridly melodramatic captions, a possible throwback to Frank Doyle’s early days writing and drawing “Space Rangers” and “Wambi, the Jungle Boy”.
You can make an argument for the higher weirdness quotient of Life With Archie, where Archie spent the ’70s battling Satanic, child-murdering teddy bears, but that title always had fantasy/alternate-universe stuff. But what happens to a kid’s brain when he picks up a comic about high school adventures and is treated to a story like this one, where Betty loses her memory, wanders off and becomes a mud wrestler? And then the only way for Archie and Jughead to save her is for Jughead to disguise himself as a woman, and what is it with this title and men in drag, anyway?
I turned this into an embeddable YouTube video because it’s just easier to post that way. The Hector Berlioz music is just meant to speed the story along and the choice is not of any significance, though I take pride in the fact that the big cymbal crash coincides with the key moment in the whole story: Jughead’s realization that Archie wants him to make The Supreme Sacrifice. Which, as I mentioned, involves drag.
That story pretty much speaks for itself. I do want to point out one thing that has haunted me since young me encountered this in a digest. Understand, I don’t believe in nit-picking the plot holes in anything, let alone comic books. Pointing out every plot hole as if each one is some kind of crippling flaw is almost as bad as pointing out every continuity goof in a movie. All that said:
This previously-unknown kid who goes to the carnival — he has to be a new kid because they couldn’t let any of their regulars willingly go to such a “sleazy outfit” — sees a girl from his school who has been missing for days, maybe weeks. His first statement after recognizing her is “I’ve got to call Archie.” I’m just saying, if this guy thinks he should call Archie before notifying the police… or her parents… or even the principal… then he is so dumb that he probably walked into an open manhole as soon as this story was over. And that explains why we never saw him again.
The other important lesson from this comic is that you can learn a lot about characters from what they say when Jughead throws them Helluva Far™. Betty says “EEP!” like all good-hearted people. Stan Snavely exclaims “AIEEE!,” like some Jonny Quest villain. That’s how we know he’s evil.