Aug 27, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 549: Archie Giant Series Magazine #248, September 1976

http://www.comics.org/issue/222556/

There's a cool story featuring Betty in a swimming pool in this one. It's not exactly what you think, but before I get to it, let's get out of the way the fact that the artists at Archie Comics are very, very good at depicting a certain kind of female form. I'll fully admit that Betty and Veronica were, for me and probably for a huge percentage of comics-reading young boys and girls, some of the earliest women I thought of as sexy. To a certain extent, I still do. Lucey, DeCarlo, et al are really good at what they do.

Today's Betty in a pool story, however, focusses much less on the boys drooling over women in bathing suits (though that is the punchline of the piece), and more on water safety. In fact, the whole story ("The Instructors") is pretty much a PSA for the importance of learning to swim. We have numerous shots of Betty in the pool, demonstrating various ways of swimming, complete with superimposed arrows showing the directions that one's arms and legs move. Betty's dialogue during these portions sounds like it was lifted verbatim from a pamphlet you might find at the local rec center.

Though it's a bit of a disappointing story, it shows the ways that the producers of the comics were thinking through the medium. This was a comic published in the mid-70s (actually, the cover date is the same as my brother's birthday), a time when comics were only taken seriously if they were put out by underground publishers and featured Crumb or Foolbert Sturgeon. But the Archie creators in this issue embrace the potential of comics as a site of pedagogy, and do so with a certain degree of sophistication.

Onward.

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