Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Some people really LOVE Archie. Like...LOVE it, love it. They've been making this comic for close to seventy years now (or something like that). I don't totally get what exactly is going on here. I mean, yes, the characters are adorable, although I always ended up feeling like Archie's apparent ambivalence in regards to Betty and Veronica--leaving them in this endless cycle of sexual frustration without any seeming end--was strange. I mean I guess, in a way, that's kind of how those things go in real life. Things are very blurry because everyone isn't exactly sure just what they want, but they forgive each other because they're all just so into each other.

See, over time, a lot of comics and comic characters evolve and change. Archie definitely does not (until more recently). And in a weird way I've kind of come to respect that. If you go to a comic store today and buy an Archie comic, you're still pretty much reading the same kind of story that was running in the Archie comics that your parents read. And your grandparents before them. It's the same characters, in the same kinds of scenarios.

And see, that's actually hard to do. Look at the pressure to glam up your product these days. Everything is about reboots and re-imaginings, but has there been some hardcore Archie relaunch? The idea would be ridiculous, frankly. But that doesn't mean someone might not try it. More to the point, the fans wouldn't necessarily want that. We want Archie, Betty and Veronica all right where we left them. Sort of timeless. Sexually frustrated and confused maybe, but timeless.

Now that hasn't stopped them from doing some really whacked out stuff with Archie. I'm pretty sure Archie died a while back taking a bullet for someone. Somehow this has happened in one Archie continuity. I'm not sure how they found a way around it. But see, here's the thing--even when they do something like that, it's still kind of done the way Archie is done. It still has the same themes of adorableness overcoming all, or something like that. So even a gritty story where Archie dies, in a weird way, doesn't overshadow the essence of it still be an Archie story. Things still feel very romantic and I-don't-know-what-it-is that you think of as being Archie.

Take Archie vs. Predator. Yes, this comic is happening. Okay this comic is awesome. And the reason it's awesome is because it's exactly what I'm saying. There's this scenario that Archie and his love-struck pals are thrown into. It's very run of the mill: Archie and friends are on some tropical resort. Shenanigans and bidding for Archie's attention ensues. The tropical locale, of course, lends itself nicely to a Predator scenario. You know, just off the resort there's a lush jungle with this alien thinking lurking in the trees, blood of its victims dripping down tree trunks.

Nothing really horrible has happened as of issue one, but a cover of Predator rolling around with Jughead's severed heads and images of Archie hiding and readying to take on Predator (a la Schwarzenegger in the movie) have left me wondering just how off the rails this miniseries may get. Will Archie's pals be picked off one by one? I think it's entirely possible, yes. And I don't doubt that it will be awful and grizzly, like a Predator movie.

Yes somehow you'll be left with this sense at the end that Archie's adorable willingness to give-it-the-college-try was what saved the day, even when he's covered in mud to take on some alien monster. The final frame will be Archie and his friends (whoever's left) giving each other a group hug and yelling "Hooray! WE DID IT!" or something like that. I'm honestly not sure how much this comic will skirt the line between adorable parody and science fiction-ey brutality. All I know is that when it's all said and done, the comic will somehow still feel like an Archie comic. And I don't even get how it can do that. It just somehow manages to.

Okay, I've got to wrap this up and I know this is a wildly sexist conversation that I'll likely get some flak for. But I would be remiss if I didn't touch on this. Betty or Veronica? The answer is always, always, ALWAYS Veronica. And don't let anyone tell you different. Why? It's the difference between Gwen Stacey and Mary Jane. See, Gwen might be Peter Parker's true soulmate, but the reason people started writing in and letting Marvel know that they wanted MJ and Peter together was because MJ had a personality. She wasn't perfect, but she was independent and interesting, made their relationship feel more real. Gwen was too perfect. Too inoffensive.

And yeah, I get that Betty has this whole 'I'm a swan who is just going to come out of my shell' princess thing going on. But I like that Veronica is difficult. She's independent, she knows what she's after. And well, that's hot. If Betty and Archie ended up together, things would be perfect. It would be that storybook ending. But if Archie and Veronica ended up together they would have a lot to work out. Archie would have to grow some spine and stop letting her boss him around for starters. And Veronica would have to tone it down with the elitism a bit and let herself be a little more vulnerable. See, that's a real relationship. That's interesting.

Plus, Veronica is just really, really hot.

Perhaps you think, after reading my analysis, that I'm a closeted Archie fan that's been reading these comics for years. But see, that's my point. I've probably read...I don't, two Archie comics in my entire life. And that second one was Archie vs. Predator. But see, if you've read even a single Archie comic you already know the entirety of everything that has and will ever happen between the characters in this comic. You have all of the information about the plot available. That's why you can read any issue of it, once, and intuitively write an analysis of the relationships between the characters as I've done above. And I think that's a good thing in its own, Archie way.


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