May 20, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 815: Archie's Girls Betty and Veronica #217, January 1974

A girl is accused of indulging in the dirty Hippy lifestyle, but it turns out she's actually just poor. Three years before yesterday's comic, and the social commentary is a bit more pointedly conservative. It's interesting to see the evolution of the comic from actively promoting a very conservative version of middle America to implicitly doing it with its mediocre stories. And that's the crux. The stories in this issue are far more expertly crafted, even if the subject matter is a lot more problematic. In the first tale, the girls of Riverdale decide to take some of their power back by preying on the local boys and assaulting them with kisses and hugs. The reason for this seems to be a worrying propensity for the boys in town to sexually assault the women whenever they want. Of course, the boys are completely open to this kissing accostment, and so the girls' power is taken from them once more. Betty is spotted with a basket, rushing to a nursery, and everyone assumes it's a baby, and that, of course, Betty will make a wonderful caregiver. Let's leave aside the fact that she's a teenager in high school. A baby was left on her doorstep - surely she must give up her education to become a mother!

This said, the stories play out in a much more satisfying manner than the later ones. There's equal parts drama and comedy in some of the stories, and better character development in a lot of ways. Perhaps this is what the comics of the later Seventies don't do quite as well - they rely far too much on the archetype of the character, rather than using that as a foundation upon which to enrich the character. Though perhaps this is also a natural swing of the pendulum for Archie comics. Using the same characters over and over for such a long time, perhaps the stories can fall afoul of the producers of the content resting on their laurels for a while, until they realize that the characters need more than simply reiteration of the same old stories. Is this where we are now with these characters? And will they return to their formulaic tales in a couple of years? It'll be interesting to watch.

Enough Archie comics for now. I'll bounce back into them soon, I'm sure. But tomorrow we'll start looking at one of the superhero runs I have that I have only now been able to properly access since rearranging my comic boxes: Iron Man.

To be continued.

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