As some of you may know, among my many pursuits is the Archie Comics podcast I produce with my friend and co-host Lucy Cappiello, Radio Free Riverdale. As two of Canada’s most prominent (or only) Archie Comics podcasters, we were asked to review the Archie 1000 Page Comics 75th Anniversary Bash, an anthology published in celebration of comics’ most popular redhead’s seventy-fifth birthday for the National Post.
How do two people review a book together? That’s a valid question and one Lucy and I had no answer for when we started. But we came up with a perfectly respectable solution. You can read the full review on the National Post‘s site, under the headline “Double Digest: Two Archie aficionados discuss the Riverdale gang on its diamond jubilee.” But an excerpt from our join review follows:
Evan: Riverdale’s city motto certainly isn’t “diversity our strength,” even if black mainstays Chuck and Nancy appear throughout this anthology. I will say, though, growing up an obsessive comics fan, Archie was still something outside of the hyper-violent masculinity offered by the superhero comics of that day.
Despite Archie’s general terribleness with girls, he and his friends were romantic, ridiculous – even emotional. And when women writers are at the helm of an Archie yarn, it makes for the most interesting stories, like the touching “Poor Little Rich Girl” that aims to enter the head of a misunderstood Veronica Lodge. Female writers seem to understand why Archie comics work best – they take the givens and explore the inner lives of the characters we thought we knew so well. How do you feel women fare in Archie comics?
Lucy: I struggle sometimes with the women characters in Riverdale. C’mon, Betty! You deserve better than playing Archie’s perpetual back-up plan! And yet, just as we get used to the repetition of various sexist themes, every so often the writers remind us that Betty and Veronica’s friendship is actually more steadfast than either of their relationships is with Archie.
Betty and Veronica provide more insight into female friendships than Ferrante’s Neapolitan saga! Or we see a character such as Big Ethel find self-worth outside male attentions, or lack thereof. These moments of pushback give the women a little more complexity, a little more recognizable humanity, a glimpse into female interiority – before we inevitably return to funny-book hijinks.
The female relationships in Archie are imperfect and often imbalanced, much like all friendships forged in youth, but they represent a feminist stronghold in the women’s lives. It’s a transgressive inclusion for a comic that relies so heavily on type. And hamburger gags.
Read the full review here.