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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Archie's Weird Mysteries

I’m sure that by now, most of you probably know that I have a bit of an obsession with Archie Comics.  And I make no apologies for it either.

In this particular blog, I think that I have made at least nine entries about Archie Comics as well as the characters that have appeared within the comics.  In fact, I’ll provide a list, as well as the appropriate links to each segment, just to further prove my obsession with Archie Comics is very much real.

Yes, you can say it.  I’m obsessed.  But, you know what?  I don’t care who knows it.  Part of the reason why I gravitated towards all things Archie was because the comic books helped saved my life growing up.  I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but it is one hundred per cent true.  I had a difficult time finding and keeping friends in my childhood, and I was a rather lonely kid.  But I knew that when I got home, I could always open up an Archie Comics Digest and enjoy the adventures of Archie and his friends in the town of Riverdale...a town where everyone was friends with almost everyone, and a town where respect and kindness were valued above anything else. 

It was a place that I really longed to be a part of when I was a child.  And even though Riverdale was a fictional place, I still felt as though I was a part of that loving community spirit that was present in each story.  I think that’s why I have continued reading the books for a quarter of a century now.  It’s not that I refuse to grow up or anything like that...rather it is because they were one of the things that were a constant positive influence on my life and times, and I have no shame in admitting that they are the one part of my childhood that I refuse to give up on.

I think you know where this is going.  Yes, this is another blog post on Archie Comics.  The tenth one I have done since I began this blog a year and a half ago.  Can I help it if Archie Comics provides many life lessons and interesting stories?

All right, what if I promise you that I will keep this blog entry Halloween themed?  How does that sound?

You know, there have been approximately 50 different Archie titles that have been released over the seventy years that Archie Comics has been in business.  Some of them are classic joke titles like “Archie’s Joke Book” and “Reggie’s Wise-Guy Jokes”.  Some titles are filled with danger and adventure, such as “Life With Archie” and “Archie at Riverdale High”.  And some titles barely registered with audiences like “Faculty Funnies”, “Archie’s R/C Racers”, and “Archie’s All-Canadian Digest”.

But very rarely did the Archie title venture into the genre known as science-fiction and horror movies. 

Sure, the “Life With Archie” and “Archie at Riverdale High” titles did have stand-alone stories that featured aliens, criminals, and unexplained occurances, especially during the 1970s...but once people hung up their hot pants and donned leg warmers, these kinds of stories seemed to fade away for more realistic tales.

At least that was the case until 1999, when a brand new cartoon series debuted on PAX television.

The cartoon was “Archie’s Weird Mysteries”, the first new animated cartoon series for Archie Comics in twelve years.  The show only managed to air original episodes for approximately four months (it ran from October 2, 1999 until February 21, 2000), but reruns aired in syndication well into 2001.  It’s actually slated to make a comeback to television on the American cable channel “qubo” sometime in 2012 (if it hasn’t already by the time I post this blog entry, that is).

The plot for “Archie’s Weird Mysteries” is one that is a bit hard to explain, but I’m going to give it my best shot.  Do you remember watching any of those really cheesy horror films from the 1950s and 1960s?  You know the ones I mean, right?  Any of those movies that feature giant blobs that will destroy the world, or space aliens that will destroy the world, or mutated dinosaurs that will destroy the world, or <insert generic B-movie monster> that will destroy the world?

Well, what happens when these B-movie monsters end up finding their way into the small town of Riverdale after an experiment in the Riverdale High science labs goes terribly, terribly wrong?  You end up having a series that spans 40 episodes that feature Archie and the gang trying their best to keep these movie monsters from making Riverdale their own personal playground.

Naturally, Archie Andrews is the main character of this series.  In this cartoon, Archie’s job is that of news reporter for the school newspaper, “The Blue & Gold”.  In each episode, Archie is usually found typing out his articles on a laptop computer, and serves as narrator at the beginning and end of each episode.  But Archie isn’t the only one that stands up to the various monsters.

You have Betty Cooper, who basically maintains the nice, sweet, girl-next-door image that she has portrayed over the last seven decades, Veronica Lodge, the snobby, rich girl who ends up competing with Betty for Archie’s affections, Reggie Mantle, the jock who has a love-hate relationship with Archie, and Jughead Jones, Archie’s best friend who maintains a friendship with Betty, a feud with Veronica, and a love affair with cheeseburgers from Pop’s Chocklit Shop.

Perhaps one of the coolest things about the show was that a secondary character ended up receiving a starring role for a change.  The only time I ever remember Dilton Doiley ever getting top billing for anything was with his short-lived comic book title “Dilton’s Strange Science”, so it’s refreshing to see him take on such a huge role in “Archie’s Weird Mysteries”.  Sure, he may be the stereotypical poindexter who spends more time playing chess than making out with girls, but at the end of the day, he is almost always the brains behind the operation.

There are other characters that also have recurring roles in the series, such as Mr. Weatherbee, Miss Grundy, and Jughead’s dog, Hot Dog.

So, just what sorts of monsters make appearances in the series?  And how are most of them created?  Here’s a partial list; swamp monsters, UFO’s, a man-eating worm, a tapioca pudding blob, the spirit of a deceased librarian, zombies, a giant beetle, and even a Mega-Mall of Horrors!

What makes it interesting is that almost all of the main characters of the series (except for Betty as far as I can tell) end up either becoming monsters or end up creating monsters!  Reggie somehow ends up having a robot doppelganger, Veronica somehow becomes fifty feet tall, Archie transforms into a monster after drinking a mutated energy drink, and Jughead accidentally creates a monster after accidentally spilling chemicals on a slice of pizza!

On one hand, the show had its perks.  It was a fun distraction and entertaining enough to be amused for thirty minutes...and for the most part, I have a bit of an interest in the genre known as “really bad horror movies”.  The minus side of this show was the animation.  Although it was produced by long-running production company DiC, there was something about the animation that made it very choppy. 

But all in all, it was an Archie show, so I suppose that I have some soft spot for it.  Heck, it inspired a comic book serial of the same name which ran for four years total, so in that regard, it was a success that one particular generation will always remember.

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