Friday, November 10, 2006

Archie's Pal Jughead Comics #177

Archie’s Pal Jughead Comics, December 2006, Archie Comic Publications
writer: Craig Boldman
penciller: Rex Lindsey
inker: Rich Koslowski
letterer: Jack Morelli
colorist: Barry Grossman
editor: Victor Gorelick
editor-in-chief: Richard Goldwater

Saved By the Bell had Screech. Parker Lewis Can’t Lose had that kid with the utility trench coat. Beverly Hills 90210 had those two underclassmen, until one of them dramatically died and the other became a major cast member in the latter seasons of the series. Yes, every high school epic has its comic foil, but before any of today’s tagalongs were even a twinkle in a screenwriter’s eye, Archie had his faithful pal Jughead. Donning his patented crown and boasting his insatiable appetite, Jughead was the first loveable loser of comics, the underdog that was all too happy dwelling in another’s shadow, despite his potential to achieve headline status all on his own. Even in his own title, Jughead is still “Archie’s pal.” I don’t think he’d have it any other way.

Incidentally, speaking of Jughead’s appetite, I had to share this issue’s cover alongside yesterday’s Treehouse of Horror to emphasize why these two comics stood out to me on the stands. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, can you see how my mind is drawn to the focus on food? These covers are vastly different in content and composition, but that similarity, with the presumption that these titles are targeting a younger audience, makes them agreeable back-to-back reviews to me.

Admirably, one creative team contributed four distinctive stories for this issue, the standard format for these long-running cartoon-oriented series, I’m learning. Artistically, these tales are consistently well illustrated, and as I briefly explored in this week’s Krypto review, I can understand the artists’ responsibility to maintain the integrity of these characters’ rich contexts. For Krypto, Min Ku sought to retain the look of the source material – the animated series – and for Jughead, Lindsey and Koslowski attempted to preserve the Archie clan’s original designs while updating their sense of style to attract a more contemporary audience. They rise to the contrasting challenge as well as can be expected, but I wonder how many kids come to Archie on their own, versus via encouragement from an adult that enjoyed the characters in their youth. I suppose this is a compliment to the creative team’s craft, but despite my general ignorance of the Riverdale sect, I was surprised how familiar the gang felt after just a few pages’ worth of reading. I mean, Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica aren’t complex charactersby nature, but the quirks that have kept them endearing for generations are just as apparent now as they were when Jughead’s crown was arguably in style. That’s impressive.

Incidentally, here’s a brief synopsis of Jughead’s misadventures in this issue:

Judge Jughead: As a punishment for eating in class, the Principal assigns Jughead the responsibility of judging a makeshift grievance court, where “his honor” causes more grief for his clients than their original cases entailed!

Jughead, Yes Man: When Archie blames his pal’s pessimism for his bad luck with girls, Jughead agrees to be a yes man for Archie’s romantic endeavors, including the inevitably failed plan to take two girls to the fiesta!

Jughead the Watcher: On the same day as the Wrestling Expo and Gutbusters’ grand opening hamburger giveaway, Jughead is stuck at home babysitting his little sister Jellybean, but when his galpal invites him to a flower show, Jughead is grateful for the quality time with his li’l sis!

The Beat Goes On: Although Jughead’s incessant drumstick tapping gets him sent to the office, the Crowned One uses his rhythm to save the day by rat-a-tat-tatting the Principal’s thermos open, fiddle-dee-deeing a file off of a high shelf for the secretary, and tappity-tapping his teacher’s brooch out of the clogged cafeteria sink! Way to stick it to the man, Jughead!

Honestly, these simple stories were just plain charming. I can understand why fans young and old alike would have an insatiable hunger for Archie and his pal. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with the purchase of this issue, but I think the “S” on Jughead’s shirt really stands for satisfying, because after this review, I was pleased with my impromptu trip to Riverdale. Something tells me A Comic A Day will be back soon.

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