Brainiac On Banjo: Mad Archie of the North Star?

Given current population statistics, if you live in a comic book, and you do not happen to be a Green Lantern or a Flash, chances are you are a Hulk or a Spider-Person. Add the Batman, Shazam and X-Men families, and the odds are overwhelming you belong to a personality cult.

Or… you can be an Archie. There’s a lot of them, too. Forget about the teevee show — forget about all of these characters media madness; I’m only talking about comic books here. Action Comics #1051, which dropped last week, gave us the bird’s eye lowdown on the 21st Century-of-the-week Superman family: there’s now about a million characters with the big S on their chests. The words “unique” and “special” have been replaced, as far as comics are concerned, with “redundant” and, stripped of that which makes these chapters distinctive, “boring.”

Except for Archie. There’s only one Archie, but he and his supporting cast members exist simultaneously in at least a dozen different forms. Amusingly, the creators manage to keep these varieties both unique and interesting. For example, we’ve had the New Look Archie, the married Archie (to both Betty and to Veronica, but separately — for better or worse), the Archie(s) that are more or less in the vein of the Riverdale teevee show, the Archie horror line stocked full of vampires, werewolves and other Universal movie ex-pats, and the Archies from both previous as well as future eras.

Damn, one might even say that Bob Bolling’s classic Little Archie is an Archie which differs from the mainstream carrot-top in that most of the teaching staff appear to be the same age as they are in the “America’s Typical Teen-Ager” Archie first visualized by the great Bob Montana in 1941. Quite frankly, Miss Grundy deserves better, and young Principal Weatherbee deserves hair. Or at least a wig that doesn’t jump up off of his head when something weird happens.

And now we have another. Archie Vs. The World is a post-apocalyptic one-shot that should not be confused by the French Possession’s 2009 song “Archie Saves The World.” It’s much more in the vein of Fist of the North Star and the Mad Max movies. In this story, Archie is no longer a jinx, a stumblebum or a fool. I guess the apocalypse brings out the best in some of us. Go know.

Performed by Aubrey Sitterson and Jed Dougherty, Archie Vs. The World is a fun romp solidly — but more violently — in the tradition of the classic Archie comics. If I have one fault with the story it’s that Archie doesn’t really complete his mission. He makes a great start, and we can infer Archie conquers evil. Of course, it’s always swell to see Reggie Mantle get what he’s deserved ever since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. But the story is far from complete… at least as of this point in our real time.

Archie Comics has not had to reboot their line in order to pull off any of these stories. These different storylines exist simultaneously and their various creative crews can revisit them whenever they can convince their editors it’s a good idea to do so. By and large, they only reach for the now-overworked multiverse gambit when they do crossovers, and that — to their complete credit — is fairly infrequent.

An aside: I liked the stories in Action Comics #1051. It was a sequel to DC’s “big events” of 2022, but it wasn’t a reboot and there’s a lot of fine talent in that issue. It’s the idea that Superman is now just another vaunted red-S that is completely un-special and lost in a Yankee Stadium filled with Supermen, Superwoman, Superkids, and Superpets that annoys me. I prefer the dude as a unique solo act.

I enjoyed Archie Vs. The World. In fact, I dropped John Ostrander a note telling him this should have been a Wasteland story – and he countered with a plot idea that really should be a “Wasteland” story. I was disappointed when Archie Vs. The World ended just as things got very, very interesting, and I hope Sitterson and Dougherty get a chance to do the full story. It would make for a great collected edition.

Of course, Archie Andrews is no Mel Gibson, although that would be ironic. But the Mel approach would result in an entirely different Archie, and I’m not sure the world can handle that one.