Aug 28, 2016
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 550: Archie Giant Series Magazine #590, October 1988
In tomorrow's comic, I think briefly about the tradition of adventure stories in Archie comics. I'm writing this piece after having written tomorrow's piece and yesterday's piece (catching up from a busy weekend, dontcha know?), which is remarkably appropriate given that this comic is a time travel adventure. And, somewhat surprisingly, it's a really clever one.
The brief synopsis is that Jughead is targeted by criminals from the future because of his fundamental role in creating a peaceful utopian culture. You just knew it had to be Jughead, of all the Archie characters, who would achieve world peace, right? But as Jug is bouncing around through time with a distant relative of Archie's (January McAndrews), some really clever moment happen. Jug and Jan get the idea to escape at one point by transporting themselves back in time one minute and "borrowing" a car because they see themselves do it. This is what's called an ontological paradox in time travel, the seeming spontaneous creation of information. Jughead points this out, and rather than getting the typical "try not to think about it" answer, Jan says this: "We'll always come out and watch ourselves drive away...We'll always go back in time, borrow this car, and drive away with us looking on, giving me the idea to go back in time and take this care...Over and over again, for all time to come! It's a closed loop paradox! Don't try to figure it out!" Okay, so she does say don't try to figure it out, but she also offers a really interesting reading of the nature of time as a set series of events that play out infinitely across a four-dimensional continuum. The whole story hinges on this, as the event that starts Jughead on his path to world saviour is facilitated by his chance return to the right time and place from the very utopian future he creates.
There's a couple of other nice touches in this issue - January tells Jughead that historians finally figure out what the "S" on Jughead's shirt stands for, to which he replies "They...they know what it means? Everyone knows? B-but that's my biggest secret!" Later, when Jughead asks who Archie eventually marries, January's answer is "He was about to wed one girl...when he changed his mind! And suddenly married the other! Our scholars are still baffled! The girl he married was..." and of course she's cut off mid sentence by an explosion. But these are great moments of playing with the time travel story, and the knowledge that such stories can reveal, within a non-progressing, non-continuity heavy continuum such as the Archie universe.
I think January McAndrews and the time police return in their own series eventually, and since this issue was so clever, I may have to track some of them down. Of all the Archie comics I've read in the last few days, this one is the best.