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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Archie and Reputations

I opened this window, stared at the customary blank white space, and said audibly to myself: "Am I going to write about Archie today?" And I guess the truth is that I am. That's exactly what I'm going to do.

Up until the last few months, I was aware of Archie in the same way that I was aware of Betty Boop. It was painful to look at and served as evidence that there have been vast amounts of time when the entertainment landscape was so dark, so dismal, that these were considered viable forms of entertainment. Like The Munsters, circus peanuts, and savory gelatin dishes, it made me question the generations before me. What could these people possibly have for me, wisdom-wise, when these things are their legacy?

But here's the thing about everything that's going on with Archie books now. It's awesome. Not because Archie was awesome (he wasn't), but because with the right team, comics are like house-flipping shows: you can take a disgusting property and turn it into a pretty nice little bungalow that only smells faintly of cats, and that's only if you knew what to smell for. There's a good chance I lost track of that metaphor before bringing it home.

On the other hand, I see regularly on Facebook that I'm supposed to stop being such a fanboy about Star Wars if I don't like the new stuff that keeps getting released. Like because it says Star Wars on it, it's unpatriotic of me to not be into the boring Force Awakens with Boring Kylo Ren and Pretty Awesome Rey but Really Boring Another Death Star. Here's my take on Star Wars and The Goonies and Back to the Future and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure: I liked them when I was a kid and it is relatively public knowledge that kids are not the most objective critics of the media.

When I rewatch them I still like them and it's impossible to separate the good feelings they bring to me from the actual quality of said movies. But they're just movies to me. If the rumored new Bill and Ted movie is good, I will be happy because it's one more thing in this world that enhances my life and makes me smile. If it's bad, it's bad. Lots of things are bad and that's actually good because if I even spend my entire life chasing truly great media it would be impossible. Thank goodness that people make bad things that I can ignore, guilt-free, while I'm also shamed for ignoring Game of Thrones.

I think there are three and a half good Star Wars movies. That's not even that bad of a track record considering that the guy who made them also made Howard the Duck. I wish we could look at every new movie the way we look at every new Star Wars video game. Which is to say there have been more bad ones than good ones but the good ones are very good so maybe this will be one of them? If not, I can treat it like the Raiders' historically miserable Sunday Night Football game: I thank God that my livelihood doesn't depend on the success of those things and move on with my life.

The irony of all of this that I can't shake is that I went to the library today to pick up the new Jughead comic that I'd reserved I also grabbed two Star Wars comics, because even if I am completely ambivalent about the movies, I have loved the new comics unequivocally. The Leia book is amazing, for example. In it, Leia tells Han that the Alliance could use "a hairy beast and his copilot," and when Han tells her Chewie is the copilot, she says, "I know."

That's the first best "I know" said in the Star Wars universe, in my opinion, and that's a tall frickin' order.

And when I looked up the Leia book real quick to remember some stuff about it I saw that it was written by Mark Waid, which is bananas because here I go talking about Archie which was what I planned on doing in the first place before that detour. Mark Waid writes Archie, you see. And boy does he do a good job.

The first book is drawn by Fiona Staples, who is the best, and who you probably recognize from Saga if you pay attention to Saga, which you should (but don't read it on the bus or plane or whatever). Also the spinoffs are amazing. Jughead is drawn by Erica Henderson, who is also the best, and who draws Squirrel Girl, and just got turned over to Ryan North, who writes Squirrel Girl and you guys I have written a lot about how much I love Squirrel Girl.

Here's my point. When I was in junior high I was not well-liked by the masses. I was teased a lot and ignored when I was not being teased. I sort of got my act together by the end of high school and made a lot of friends who would have traditionally been out of my league because by then we didn't care as much about leagues. Except the people I grew up with never really got on board with me being a different person. All they cared about was the kid who picked his nose a lot in elementary school and who was weird in junior high but not the kid who was kind of funny and learning to be kinder. People didn't want to let me change, though. They liked the good old days when everyone knew my place and I didn't somehow manage to go on multiple dates with a cheerleader.

See I set out to write an aggressively non-political post because I was looking through old Facebook stuff and saw that I had friends who would comment and like my stuff years ago who almost certainly have unfollowed me by now and I think that's a huge bummer. But also it's hard not to look at people who are angry that football makes them uncomfortable now that the predominately black player base who have been well-behaved up until now are suddenly showing that they aren't happy and guess what, they never were. Not because they aren't well-compensated, but because even with all of their money they see that their neighborhoods are still terrible and their brothers, sisters, and cousins are still scared for their lives when they get pulled over at night.

When I watch a new Star Wars movie, I mourn a childhood that felt easier, though I know that's just hindsight talking. I don't think about how there was a kid my senior year who grew up with me who would not let me be anything other than the nerd he remembered. Who would roll up balls of clay in pottery class and throw them at me while kids who I thought were my friends sat next to him and laughed. I remember how my confidence would dissolve and I was the same old kid who dreaded going to school and was afraid to walk home when the other kids were so I would play tag with my friends until the streets were clear and I felt safe.

It's not the movies that have changed. It's me. They're still goofy and have good sword fights and bad acting and lots of Muppets. I want to get that feeling back but it's gone, and lightsabers aren't going to bring that back. If you're watching football and it makes you feel bad now, because you don't like thinking that this country isn't fair, it makes sense to lash out and write a rant about just letting people enjoy things, just like you did when your friends rightly asked how the First Order somehow has the budget to make a Starkiller Base when they seem to have no discernible revenue stream. You just want things to be the way they were, even if those things were bad. Because it's always easier that way.

Those good old days are gone in Archie, too. Archie and Betty are best friends and next-door-neighbors who then become the perfect couple until something kind of minor happens but it's big enough that it makes them realize they shouldn't be a couple anymore. What they didn't bank on was that after being a couple they couldn't just go back to being best friends anymore. Especially when Archie starts dating Veronica and Betty starts dating Sayid. They can't even play video games together anymore without getting in trouble with their significant others. Was Sayid in the original comics? It seems unlikely. Anyway, also who cares? Who cares about any of what happened before because these are some of the best writers and artists currently working and they could be writing a Brady Bunch meets The Munsters comic and I'd be reading it. OK come to think of it I would be reading that no matter what.

But wait you guys, though. WAIT. This isn't even all that's going on with Archie! There's also Afterlife With Archie, in which the gang fight a zombie apocalypse! There is The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, about the titular teenage witch and her war with Madam Satan! There is Archie vs. Predator, for goodness sake. I included links to prove that I didn't make any of this up!

There are daily things that are terrifying in this life and world and I write about them regularly. I often delve as deep as I can into the worst of what humanity has to offer and I'll be darned it if isn't nice to stick my head up above the surface of that muck now and again to take a deep fresh breathe of something surprising and fun. So this week it's Archie. Deal with it.

But hey what if you remember really liking something but when you get older you realize that it has some really profound flaws but you think there's enough good there to keep fighting for it but instead of Star Wars it's your country or your church? What would you do to make it better? Hint: whatever it is, if it's not just keeping quiet and being grateful that it exists at all because anything else would potentially make someone uncomfortable, it's wrong. That's what I learned this week and also why I needed something fun and cute to read and write about, you're welcome.