Comics – Friendly Fire

Writer: Holly G! (Holly Golightly)
Pencils: Holly G!
Inking: Rudy Lapick
Lettering: Bill Yoshida
Coloring: Barry Grossman
Editor: Victor Gorelick
Editor-in-Chief: Richard Goldwater
Original Publication: Cheryl Blossom, No. 23
Cover Date: June, 1999
Length: 17 pages

I’m reviewing another comic story today in order to devote extra time to the 1990 movie review, which I hope to post next week.

Today, I’m reviewing a three-part story from Cheryl Blossom’s solo title, which ran for nearly four years from April of 1997 to March of 2001 (cover dates), totaling 37 issues. This is in addition to four earlier miniseries, so, all told, girl has 50 issues to her name. Not too shabby!

Cheryl’s series follows her life at home, at Pembrooke Academy (more on that below), at her job (she ran a teen magazine called “Fresh” during this time), and elsewhere.

I first discovered Cheryl’s solo title with issue #20 in late December of 1998 while in Orlando, and that started up a period of Archie collecting for me. I had already been familiar with the character (well, insofar as “she’s one of Archie’s girls and has a brother named Jason”) from one other story (as a reprint in my very first Archie digest), but this was my opportunity to learn more about her. Needless to say, I became a Cheryl Blossom fan for life.

The story that I’m reviewing today is a three-parter totaling 17 pages (that’s, like, an epic by Archie standards, or at least it was back then) called “Friendly Fire” from Cheryl Blossom, No. 23, from June of 1999 (cover date). The premise?

cheryl-blossom-23

Holy shit.

Yeah, if you don’t know by now, Cheryl isn’t usually friends with the Riverdale gang – except when she is. Whether she is or not depends on the writer, but her gradual integration into the gang began here, and instances of Betty and Cheryl being on friendly terms could still be seen over a decade later.

Oh, yeah, Pembrooke. Archie Comics has been inconsistent over what Pembrooke actually is. It might be a separate town from Riverdale. However, a four-part story called “Queen B” in 2011 had Cheryl attending Pembrooke Academy but specifically living in Riverdale, giving the impression that Pembrooke was an exclusive community within Riverdale. However, there was a Pembrooke Mall, which Betty and Veronica shopped at for whatever reason. The story was weird in general, and no elements from it seem to have made any lasting impression, so it looks like it’s been quietly ignored, which is probably for the best.

Also, Cheryl has sometimes attended Riverdale High, such as from 2003 to 2008, when her family had lost money and was merely upper-middle class instead of filthy fucking rich. However, there have been other instances of her attending Riverdale High (sometimes explained). However, as the Classic Archieverse was winding down in 2015, Cheryl was attending Riverdale High for no apparent reason, giving the impression that the writers had quietly dropped Pembrooke Academy. Indeed, the conclusion of “Freshman Year: The Missing Chapters” in 2010 had Cheryl transferring to Riverdale High in ninth grade. Of course, “Queen B” stepped all over that less than a year later. “Afterlife with Archie” has her at Pembrooke Academy (well, before the zombie apocalypse). “Life with Archie: The Married Life” had her at Riverdale High. New Riverdale continuity has her at Pembrooke Academy. The upcoming “Riverdale” TV series has her at Riverdale High.

However, in this story that I’m about to review right now, Cheryl attends Pembrooke Academy – except she’s not seen doing so in the story itself, because it’s a summer story. Onward!

Part 1 (pages 01-06)

In a television studio for “Cable 82”, Veronica and Betty, in front of a live studio audience, welcome their viewers to “The New Veronica and Betty Teen Talk Show” (or just “Teen Talk”). A footnote humorously reveals it’s a cable access show that premiered in Betty and Veronica, No. 130, not that it fucking matters. It’s not as if we need to know that in order to understand this story.

Anyway, Veronica and Betty have decided to have “interesting local teens” as guests on their show. The first of these guests is Cheryl Blossom. The audience claps and whistles as Cheryl comes out.

Veronica is suspiciously happy to have Cheryl as their guest. Betty calls Cheryl an “active teen” and prompts Veronica to ask her “special question” of Cheryl. Cheryl suggests to “Miss Lodge” the subjects of her teen mag, acting career, and rock star fame, only the first of which is legit. Veronica wants to know the “real” Cheryl. Cheryl admits she’s a “unique individual”.

Then Veronica drops her bombshell, accusing Cheryl of lying about her hair color and offering photographic “proof” of Cheryl’s brown hair and dye job. Cheryl is furious. Betty is aghast. Veronica admits to Betty that she’s doing this out of revenge for Cheryl constantly stealing her spotlight. Cheryl gets up and runs off the stage in tears, calling Veronica horrible. Betty angrily says she’ll have no part of this, runs after Cheryl, and apologizes. However, Cheryl runs out of the television studio, gets in her limo, and tells Jamie (her chauffeur) to take her home.

Back in the studio, Betty finds Veronica in a private room, watching the tape of the show and laughing. Betty is furious, and Veronica further pisses her off by suggesting she start wearing her hair down to hide her “way big” ears. Betty declares Veronica’s gone too far and confiscates the tape. She decides to go over to Cheryl’s to apologize for Veronica’s “horrendous” behavior, which is of no concern to Veronica.

At the Blossom estate, Betty buzzes at the gate. She has to state her name and then learns she’s on “Master Jason’s” “always let in” list.

Jason is buzzed in his room and informed Betty has arrived. He meets her in a hallway. As they take a transparent elevator to Cheryl’s floor, Betty explains the situation.

However, Cheryl is crying and angry and doesn’t want to see Betty. Her dog, a cute Pomeranian named Sugar Blossom, is mad at Betty, too.

Part 2 (pages 07-12)

Betty gives Cheryl the tape and explains she stopped the interview from airing, but she wishes she could do more to make it up to Cheryl. Betty’s sweetness gives Jason a boner. Cheryl thanks Betty for the tape and says she would have “just died” if even more people saw it. Betty suggests a great big strawberry shake at Pop’s, and Jason hopes to come along. Cheryl doesn’t want to show her face in public, but Betty insists no one will believe what they saw, because “they all know Ronnie can pull a fast one”. Cheryl agrees, much to Betty’s delight. Jason asks if he’s coming. Cheryl says yes, because he’s paying, which amuses Betty and delights Jason.

At Pop’s, Cheryl, Betty, and Jason sit in a booth (Jason sits next to Betty and across from Cheryl), and Jason orders three strawberry shakes, which destroys the possibility of a twist on the classic “three on a soda” image.

Archie arrives, and Cheryl ducks behind the table in horror, because Archie was in the studio audience. Archie is sympathetic and doesn’t believe Veronica’s stunt, so Cheryl pretends she was looking for an earring and then gets close to Archie and thanks him (which Betty doesn’t mind in the slightest). Jason asks his “ol’ pal” Archie to pick up their shakes from the counter and get one for himself on him. Archie thanks him and orders a vanilla shake. Get it? Betty and Blossoms are fun, and Archie is bland.

Veronica arrives and greets “Archiekins”, but Archie goes off on her and doesn’t accept Veronica’s “excuse”.

As the newly-formed group of friends enjoy their shakes (Jughead’s eating a burger in the next booth), Veronica tries to downplay her stunt, but Betty and Cheryl make fuck eyes at each other and discuss the deliciousness of their shakes while ignoring Veronica, so Veronica storms out of Pop’s, furious.

The next day, Betty gets two calls (she has call waiting). She accepts Cheryl’s offer to come over and use her tanning room but rejects Veronica’s offer to comes along for a sale at the mall – and lets her know exactly who she has plans with.

Later in the day, Betty is impressed with Cheryl’s tanning room. She had been expecting a tanning bed, but Cheryl has an entire fucking indoor beach (she prefers realism)! The girls have fun, and Cheryl admits this is the first time that she ever had a “friend” share her sun room. Ooh, no build-up to it; Cheryl already considers Betty to be her friend.

Then that fucker Jason barges in, wearing designer swimming trunks with Betty’s face, her name, and hearts on it. Instead of being weirded out, Betty is amused. Cheryl declares he’s “goofy but lovable”, and she and Betty have a laugh over it, which shocks Jason.

Betty ends up spending a lot of time with her new BFF, being out with Cheryl every time that Veronica calls. Alice informs “Ronnie” that they’ve been spending a lot of time together lately. Examples include Betty and Cheryl rollerblading in the park and sharing a drink with Archie at Pop’s (with lot of love all around). Of course, Jason gets an extra straw, hoping to get in on the action. A sad Veronica thanks Alice and sighs.

Part 3 (pages 13-17)

The Cherylification of Betty is now complete. Betty is now wearing a shirt with a giant blossom on it as well as a blossom choker. Cheryl and Betty’s outfits in this scene were designed by Heather Solomon of Sheridan, Indiana.

Anyway, Cheryl thanks Betty for treating her to the movies, and Betty is glad that it was better than the last one that they saw. Cheryl was thinking of throwing a party this weekend, and Betty’s down for that. It gets even better when Cheryl reveals it will be in honor of Betty. Cheryl will invite the kids from Pembrooke. Betty asks permission to invite the Riverdale gang but then wonders about inviting Veronica. The two of them simultaneously decide the fuck with her.

The next day, Cheryl’s thinking up ideas for the party, wanting to make it a party that Betty will remember. Cheryl’s outfit in this scene was designed by, amusingly, Cheryl Jones of Texas. Cheryl needs “top-notch entertainment” and decides on the band that she sees on a “Spun” magazine cover, “Whole Thing“. She calls up Gruffin Records and not-so-subtlely lets them know whose daddy is boss. When that doesn’t work, Cheryl flips her shit and threatens the dude over the phone. Gig secured.

On Saturday night, it’s like a fucking Hollywood premiere at the “Cheryl’s Friendly Bash”. Yeah, even though this party is supposedly in honor of Betty, Cheryl did have to insert her name into the title.

Betty, Archie, Jughead, and Reggie encounter three of Cheryl’s classmates on the red carpet. I believe two of them are Bunny and Cedric, but I don’t know who the other girl is. Anyway, the three of them make fun of the “peasants”.

Once inside the mansion, Cheryl welcomes them to the “Cheryl Blossom’s Friendly Bash” and invites them to “eat, dance and be merry”. Reggie pulls Bunny to dance.

Cheryl gets on the stage and introduces the band. The band starts playing, and Courtney Love unnamed blonde woman starts singing.

Betty and Cheryl take Bunny and Reggie having a good time as harmony between Pembrooke and Riverdale. Cheryl is suspicious of a “strangely familiar” maid that she’s never seen before. As Veronica takes off her disguise, a shocked Cheryl calls for the band to stop the music.

Veronica offers a tearful apology to Cheryl and doesn’t blame the gang for not hanging out with her, because she wouldn’t want to hang out with her either. She then cries and runs off.

Veronica’s apology has affected Archie – but Betty even more so, because she gives chase. For whatever reason, Cheryl considers this “Ronnie” stealing “half” of her guests. Bunny puts down the “mallrats” and then accuses Cheryl of having fake nails (I guess hair and nails are the worst fake things that a girl can have in these comics). An outraged Cheryl orders the “catty creeps” out.

Cheryl wonders if this is the thanks that she gets for being a good friend. That fucking pig, Jughead, is stretched out on a table, having eaten tons of food and making a spectacular mess. He thanks Cheryl for being a good friend and burps. Cheryl replies to Jughead and sighs.

I love this story! It’s one of my favorites and forever included in my personal canon.

That said, it isn’t perfect. The ending is rushed. Betty goes running back to Veronica too easily, and she doesn’t even excuse herself from her bestie’s party in her honor. Also, the quick ending causes some confusion on the final page, making it seem as if most of the rest of the Riverdale gang followed Betty out the door between panels, and then the entire Pembrooke gang was supposedly thrown out, seemingly leaving only Cheryl and Jughead at the party. That’s pretty sloppy – as is the “Your welcome” (which was fixed in reprints – as was “CD’s” -> “CDs”).

Also, the story is pretty dated. Public-access television? Today, “Teen Talk” would be a streaming YouTube series on which Veronica and Betty would have guests either in the studio or remotely. There would potentially be a much greater audience (a world of teens) to witness Cheryl’s humiliation, and the most that Betty could do is prevent the stream from being permanently uploaded to their channel or take it down. Also, the band would be a parody of whatever the current flavor of the month is.

I proudly ship Betty/Cheryl (Beryl? Chetty?), and it’s all thanks to this story. I highly recommend it. If you come across this story, read it!

Tune in next Wednesday!

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Comics – In Search of Change

bettys-diary-17

Writer: Harold Smith
Pencils: Stan Goldberg
Inking: Rudy Lapick
Lettering: Bill Yoshida
Coloring/Production: Barry Grossman
Editor: Victor Gorelick
Editor-in-Chief: Richard Goldwater
Original Publication: Betty’s Diary, No. 17
Cover Date: June, 1988
Length: 5 pages

I’m changing things up again this week, mostly because NaNoWriMo has started, and I’ve decided to participate again this year. This means you might be getting more comic reviews this month instead of TV reviews. I’m still working on the big movie review, so that will be coming up eventually.

I’ve decided to review a story from the “Betty’s Diary” series. “Betty’s Diary” ran for four years from April of 1986 to April of 1990 (cover dates), totaling 40 issues. Unlike the other series, the main focus of this series wasn’t on laughs; it was to make you pause and think. As the name implies, the set-up is Betty is reflecting on events as she writes about them in her diary, and she comes to some kind of conclusion. I guess the closest comparison would be Doogie Howser’s journal entries at the end of each episode.

Before we get into the story, holy shit, can you imagine there was a time when Betty Cooper had two solo titles? Now, she has none. How times have changed!

Betty muses about how, sometimes, something that seems really bad turns out pretty good after all. Today, she went to a movie and stopped for a pizza. She found she had only one dollar left for bus fare, the bus accepted coins only, and the driver had no change.

Betty looked for a place to get change. A bakery wouldn’t give change without a purchase. A “self-service” laundromat (there’s another kind?) had a change machine, but it short-changed Betty by 75 cents. She refused to spend her last remaining quarter to call the (six-digit) service number. The laundromat was deserted, so Betty decided to call Archie to pick him up, but she was so upset that she dialed the wrong number – and then got upset when the person hung up. Why? Was she planning to ask this stranger to come to the laundromat and give her a lift?

Upset, Betty started walking. She passed by a basket filled with deposit bottles and got an idea; they’re worth five cents each. She collected as many as she could. Some stores wouldn’t take certain bottles, but she managed to collect 75 cents. She needed just 25 cents more.

Betty came across a homeless man digging through a waste basket for bottles. He mistook her as being homeless and decided to show her where to redeem the bottles, because “homeless people have to help each other”. He’s been homeless for over a year. He lost his job and then his house. He, his wife, and his young son live in his car. Betty felt horrible for him and, overriding his refusal, gave him her 75 cents and two bottles. She also gave him the address of her church (this is a rare religious reference in Archie Comics), which she, for whatever reason, has memorized. She said they’ll help him find work and a place to stay.

Betty felt really good for helping that man, who she wouldn’t have met if she hadn’t lost that dollar. Also, she’d been so preoccupied with looking for bottles that she hadn’t realized she’s walked more than halfway home. I just want to point out that, if she hadn’t waited for the bus and then gone off in search of change and bottles, she’d be home already. Why take the bus such a seemingly short distance?

Just then, Archie showed up and offered Betty a lift. She declined, saying “I just got the biggest lift in my life!” She concludes she’ll have to explain that to Archie someday.

This is a pretty nice story. Betty went “in search of change” and ended up bringing change to a man’s life, however small. See what I mean about humor not being the primary goal? “Betty’s Diary” is one of my favorite comic series, because it offers insight into Betty’s character beyond what you get in a typical Archie story (comic or cartoon). I’ll probably review more stories from this title whenever I don’t have enough time to write an episode review.

Tune in next Wednesday!

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Comics – A Date With a Dummy

archie-comics-digest-magazine-102

Writer: Harold Smith
Art: Tim Kennedy & Rudy Lapick
Lettering: Bill Yoshida
Coloring: Barry Grossman & Gregg Suchow
Production: Gregg Suchow
Editor: Victor Gorelick
Editor-in-Chief: Richard Goldwater
Original Publication: Archie Comics Digest Magazine, No. 102
Cover Date: June, 1990
Length: 6 pages

I’ve decided to review a comic this week, mostly to give myself more time to work on the big review. This is actually the first Archie story that I ever read (excluding the cover gag), because it’s the first story in the first Archie digest that I ever got. It’s also the new story in the digest. Back then, new stories were credited, but reprints weren’t (these days, with everything credited, who knows?). Of course, not knowing anything about Archie back then, I assumed the entire thing was new.

Jughead invites Archie to attend a triple-bill monster festival with him on Saturday night, but Archie declines, because he’s taking Veronica to the “Grateful Zombies” concert. Jughead is impressed, because his broke ass couldn’t afford the tickets. Somehow, I can’t picture Jughead as a Deadhead, er,…Zombiehead? Archie explains he got a part-time job as a “stock boy” at the Riverdale Department Store on Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. He’ll cash his check at lunch time, and that’ll pay for dinner before the concert. Jughead is envious.

Saturday, at 2:30 PM, Archie’s boss, Mr. Sellers (yes, really, and I’m not gonna make fun of it, because I once had a boss that worked as an employment specialist, and his last name was Works), asks Archie to drive out to their store in the mall and pick up a mannequin that they need for their display. So…the Riverdale Department Store has an additional store in the mall? What do they call it? It’d be pretty odd to walk around the mall, in Riverdale, and come across a store called Riverdale Department Store. Anyway, Archie agrees to do it, but first he calls up Veronica to tell her that he’ll be an hour late. This worries Veronica, but Archie says it’ll still be enough time to go to dinner.

Veronica decides to go to the mall and “console” herself with some shopping.

Later, Veronica walks out of the mall with a shit-ton of bags (which, by her standards, isn’t “serious purchasing”) and spots Archie driving off in his car with a red-headed “floozy”, which pisses her off.

Later, Archie has arrived at the main store with the mannequin. While Archie was out, Mr. Sellers got a phone message that Charlie McGee, the window dresser that the mall is sending over here, has car trouble and has Archie pick “him” up at the mall store. Wait, wait, wait. If Archie was heading out to the mall store anyway, why wasn’t he told to pick up Charlie? Or why didn’t Charlie bring the mannequin over to the main store?

Veronica comes by and confronts Archie about his “red-haired girl friend” (odd spelling). Archie points out her error. Veronica apologizes, embarrassed, but Archie finds it funny. He has to cancel dinner to pick up Charlie, and Veronica gets a good line in: “Your working for a living is ceasing to be amusing!”

At the mall, it turns out that Charlie is a hot blonde woman named Charlene. When Mr. Sellers said he got a “phone message”, does that mean he didn’t take the phone call himself? Archie assumed the dresser was a guy, and Mr. Sellers went along with it before even reading the name.

Meanwhile, Veronica remembers she forgot to pick up her dry cleaning and has to go back downtown.

She spots Archie and Charlie entering the main store and gets pissed again.

Mr. Sellers has Archie return the mannequin to the mall, because they don’t need it after all. Archie calls Veronica to tell her, but she tells him to fuck off.

Unfortunately, the store at the mall is closed once Archie gets there. By the time that he gets back to the main store, that’s closed as well. Archie’s mad at Veronica but then decides to take the mannequin to the concert.

Reggie and…some girl (Midge, I guess) see Archie carrying the mannequin, and Reggie has a good laugh over “the perfect date – a pair of dummies”.

Overall, this is an okay story, but it relies on a lack of communication. I hadn’t read it in years (possibly decades), but it’s still fairly funny.

Tune in next Wednesday!

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