Thursday, October 27, 2005

Everything's Archie

Archie comics are now written by space aliens, with a information-transmittal delay of several years and only the most rudimentary grasp of human culture and behavior. Those current Archie writers who are not aliens are two hundred years old.

This BoingBoing post links to a sad, hilarious Archie comic called “She’s Goth to Have it,” in which Betty becomes a goth because her friends ignore her Rice Krispie treats. The comic seems to be originally scanned by this guy.

Let's break it down, just to belabor the obvious:

1) They’re at least ten years too late in noticing that goths exist. It was pretty silly when the characters used to say “groovy” all the time, but at least they caught onto that slang when it was still the ‘70s, and they caught onto Beatniks when it was still the ‘50s. This is just embarrassing.

2) I suppose it’s admirable that the story doesn’t trot out your typical goth stereotypes. But they seem to have invented arbitrary new stereotypes that are not only unrelated to goths, but call into question whether the writers even know what a goth is. According to this story, being a goth involves black clothes, crazy hair, and book-reading. That is, when it doesn’t involve colorful clothes, plain hair, and coffee-drinking. Goths will even try newfangled beverages like “chai” or “java,” whatever those are. So drinking coffee equals goth, now? If that’s not what they’re trying to say, then there’s an odd overemphasis on coffee in the story.

3) Okay, Archie, Reggie and Veronica are just being jerks. They’re ignoring Betty for no reason. And they’re stupid—who wouldn’t at least take a Rice Krispie treat? On the other hand, if they’re really ignoring her because she’s not “interesting” (which here seems to mean simply the way she dresses), then that’s unforgivable. Who needs them? And do they come around because of her new look or because she’s ignoring them? Did she really need to turn goth or did she just need to ignore them for an afternoon? What kind of lesson is that for kids? If your friends don’t like you, change yourself and ignore them and they’ll come around. And speaking of which, did this story really need to be compressed into a single day? Was it not unbelievable enough? Did the emotional stakes really need to be any more cheapened?

4) No one has ever, ever become a goth because their friends didn’t want their Rice Krispie treats. Ever.

Now, I grew up reading Archie comics, and I realized long ago that they hadn’t actually resembled real teenage life for decades, if ever. But they used to be funny, and the stories used to be smart, and make sense, and the characters reacted to each other in believable ways. Aside from how obviously out-of-touch it feels in every respect, from the obligatory video game references to—well, coffee—the character interactions are completely stilted and illogical.

It's not immediately apparent in this story, but they've also watered down their stories to remove any hint of genuine conflict, danger, or emotion. Pranks and rivalries are now exclusively childish and slapstick* where they used to be sometimes clever or even cruel. Reggie's another bland pal, evil schemes are always harmless, and no one ever does anything mean (except in stories like this, where appalling meanness goes unacknowledged or even unnoticed by the clueless writer). No conflict equals boring stories where people turn goth for no reason and being goth has nothing to do with even the posturing of sadness (okay, so Reggie uses the word "dismal"). Archie comics are in a pathetic state, indeed.

*Even worse, unlike older artists who could render slapstick in dynamic, fluid artwork that gave pratfalls qualities of weight and motion and humor, the current crop can barely draw human figures in natural poses when they're stationary. So even the slapstick is less funny than it was.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I know that when people don't like my baked offerings, I have to cut myself. Because I can't control their opinions over my cookies, but I can control this razor blade.