As STARTLING MONIKER readers are probably aware, I’m an Archie comic fan. The total lack of continuity, the haphazard mixtures of old and new material in the digests, and the often-bizarre slang made up by the writers has always entertained me. I’m sure it also helps that I know practically nothing about comics.
Still, for someone who likes life open-ended and full of possibility; there’s no place quite like Riverdale– it has multiple mountain ranges, oceans, world-class museums, a zoo, a desert, snowy winters, mad scientists, multi-millionaire yacht clubs, a handful of swamps, and one high school full of crazy kids.
Unfortunately, those kids are crazier than I thought– they’re Jesus freaks! (Comic scans and atheist-knows-best rant follows)
Fortunately, I’m not too upset. If I blink, the Archie universe will change. Archie has been everything from a star quarterback to the bumbling moron who can barely keep the water bottles fresh. It’s just that I guess I have to draw the line somewhere. These particular comics, which were recently blogged about at Scans Daily, are the result of long-time Archie artist Al Hartley teaming up with Christian comic company Spire Comics. Check their phallic/swollen testicle logo in the upper left corner. Yikes!
They’re pretty much a total train wreck, even for an Archie comic, which rarely has anything resembling decent writing. Dig on “Archie’s World,” where the gang go on a complete world tour as missionaries. Their first stop is New York City, because as Archie explains, “most cities in the world have become jungles!!!”
And before I forget… almost everything in a speech balloon is followed by three exclamation points, usually with their own line. Weird!!!
Anyhow, after seeing the bankruptcy clinics, drugs/bailbond stores, and massage parlors of Times Square (I know, totally common businesses to find there) ; the gang moves on to London, Rome, and Pigalle. I had to look this last one up, apparently Al Hartley is more knowledgeable about international red-light districts than I am…
Of course, the gang makes it to Africa, destination for all the famous missionaries. Jughead nearly starves to death in the jungle, and later beats out some groovy tunes on the bongos while trying to swat “pesky Tsetse flies.” I’m not sure I’d call an insect potentially transmitting a fatal, parasitic disease to 30+ nations in Sub-Saharan Africa “pesky,” but hey– these are the jokes!
A little later, the gang goes head-to-head with the pagan Polynesians, defeating their witch doctor in a canoe race. Then it’s on to Kashmir, where my lazy self performs the first in-comic scan:
Basically, the simple-minded Hindus are having a huge festival– and since they all love American music so much, they bring their elephants and camels into the dance hall to dig on the Archies’ good vibes. On particularly rabid fan begins offering cows to… someone… in order to purchase Big Ethel. He goes as high as four cows before realizing that the Jesus freak Archies’ are just too high on the Lord for livestock trading.
The next page is an ultra-strange “moral” of how Jesus can get little kids out of holes. Baby Jessica could have used this sort of help:
Like everything in these comics, it’s a pretty flimsy argument. Notice how angry the Bee is to even mention the Buddha. I’m also digging the 70’s stud Jesus. He’s like a young Grizzly Adams!
On to the next comic, “Archie’s Something Else!” This one is also pretty wild, somewhat frenetic even for Archie. We start off with a bomb scare at Riverdale High, Archie’s alarm clock birthday present for Mr. Weatherbee being drowned with a firehose, the Bee complaining about his gout, and finally meeting a new student named Legion.
Legion looks like Jughead and Captain Caveman’s lovechild, and when he meets the Bee, he’s busy making protest signs– “down with the system,” “homework is for the birds,” “who needs teachers?,” and my favorite: “life is a squirrel cage!”The Bee is momentarily distracted when the Riverdale High chapter of the Hell’s Angels rockets down the hall, notable for being the only Angels’ chapter with matching maroon helmets and jackets.
Understandable for a man who was nearly mowed down by a trio of motorcycles in a hallway, the Bee loses it. Archie comes to the rescue with some first aid gout treatment bandaging, resulting in the Bee’s embarrassment when a snarky television crew arrives to get the big scoop about the horrors going down at Riverdale High. And that’s where I lumber over to my scanner, and wearily push a button:
So let’s see… what happens next? The news folks find Moose, who they’re sure is on “dope,” but it turns out Moose is “not THAT dumb,” har har. Jughead leads everyone to the cafeteria, where the newsies are aghast to find Betty in rapturous prayer over her sandwich and milk. “PRAYING??? You mean that sort of thing goes on in this school?” Betty’s prayer apparently lasts two full pages, or she’s in a coma– there’s no real difference, is there?
The news team spots Legion, and tries to interview him about his “don’t eat knockwurst,” “boycott turnips,” and “leave lemons alone” signs, but are sidetracked by Archie, who shows them to Riverdale High’s Bible Club– which the news crew mistakenly identifies as an interracial rap session. Chuck (Archie Comics token black guy and comic artist) corrects the producer, telling him that black and white differences were “all settled 2,000 years ago!!!”
Presumably, this was the work of Jesus, who is well-known for brokering peace in Selma, Cape Town, Birmingham, Santiago, etc… I’m a little let down by Dilton, the “brains” of the group– even he’s deep into reading the Bible: “It teaches us His promises!!!” Shit, Dilton… you’re supposed to set the example here!
The big payoff for this comic is coming up, though. Big Ethel marches in with scruffy hippie stereotype Legion just as the news team is scoring big debate numbers by pointing out that real life is about things like Riverdale’s morning bomb scare. The reporter shoves a mic in Legion’s beard, who takes the entire next page to deliver the most ridiculous piece of steaming hippie nonsense to ever appear in print, easily beating out Timothy Leary’s best efforts. I scanned this full-page panel– it’s wonderfully weird:
Check out the red thing above Legion’s forehead. Was Legion a member of Cobra Command? Is this the commie Donald Duck? And who measures liquid in a mass balance, anyway? Kudos to Al Hartley for managing to get Legion involved with occult activity, alcohol, inhalants, smoking pipes, pill abuse, poppy harvesting, intravenous drug use, cocaine, and apparently using an eyedropper for acid.
All ostensibly due to Legion’s parents being divorced, of course. Poor boy never had a chance, ha ha ha.
Like all coke-snorting, junk-shooting, glue-sniffing, pill-popping, astral-traveling, drunken Satan worshippers I know; Legion still proudly displays his “Boycott Turnips” sign. It’s stuff like this that separates the real Archie fans from the pack, I tell ya.
Anyhow blah blah blah, Legion has found Jesus, thanks to Big Ethel’s toothy rap session. Legion confirms it with a Jesus “heart” poster, and his big line– “Suddenly I had this feeling that I’m worth something! That I’m not just an animal crawling through life!”
Oh, and by the way, Legion made the bomb threat.
BUT WHO CARES??? JESUS!!! YAY!!!
…and that’s more or less where it ends. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone thought something this simple could possibly be an effective evangelical tool, let alone one with a positive message. As nearly as I can tell, the message is something like “the world is big and scary and changing and wrong, so put your Jesus helmet on and everything will just go away.” Sick!
There’s also a fine post about the history of Spire Comics at Generation Exploitation, just in case you need more of this madness.