Aug 29, 2016
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 551: Archie Giant Series Magazine #541, September 1984
While Archie comics are mainly known for the bumbling teenage adventures of the titular hero, there's another fine tradition in their storytelling: the adventure tale. Archie and his friends live in a silly, nostalgic little world, but it's one that is equal parts rom-com and action film. Today's comic follow Betty and Veronica around Bangkok and Hong Kong on the trail of a group making counterfeit Lodge-brand jeans. There's hair-raising attempts on their lives, a horrendously stereotyped East Asian rickshaw driver who helps them out, mysterious characters in trenchcoats and sunglasses - all the ingredients for a "Romancing the Stone"-style adventure (which came out around the same time as this comic).
The adventure stories are probably less well-known than the usual Archie and the gang shenanigans, and in light of the recent reboot of the characters into a more "dramedy" format we're not likely to see a return to such stories - though really, Afterlife with Archie is sort of the endgame of this kind of storytelling with the characters. But they definitely highlight an important part of what these characters come to problematically represent: some kind of ideal young person in America. The characters are equal parts teenage romantics and Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys-style adventurers, precisely the sort of traditionally emotional yet resourceful young people that one might want to see eventually running the country. I think one of the things that's really fascinating about these comics as I read through the various decades they represent is the blatancy with which they sometimes espouse ideology. The earlier comics, as I've noted in other posts, are much more about simply being teenagers. But the comics through the 80s and 90s are definitely describing a particular kind of teenager that is "acceptable" to the American psyche's conception of what a teenager should be.
But I shouldn't be surprised, right? After all, Everything's Ideology. Onward.