Writer(s): George Gladir and Kathleen Webb
Artist(s): Stan Goldberg, John Lowe (i), Barry Grossman (c), Jack Morelli (l)
Publisher: Archie Comics
It’s a mistake on the part of comic book fans to think that every issue has to be a major event. Sometimes it’s enough to spend time with congenial characters in a charming setting. Betty #168 offers its readers just that, a quiet moment away from maddening reality.
George Gladir’s “Friday Night Fever” is a paean to Friday night football in a small town. Trying to find a parking space. The conversations around the concession stands. Honoring former players at the Homecoming game. These are the moments that make up Fall Friday nights for a good portion of the country and Gladir totally captures their simple charm. Yes, he includes the Riverdale moments. Betty and Veronica argue over who will be Homecoming Queen. Veronica “batons” a straying Archie. But the real charm of “Friday Night Fever” is that it could happen Anywhere and to Anyone. This story more than most lets readers become part of the Archieverse.
“The Problem” is a more Riverdale specific story. Betty’s fed up with Archie and Adam’s quarreling, so Ethel offers a solution. Only it might be worse for Betty than the problem. This is a cute story that plays off on the human desire to have what’s not available.
Kathleen Webb scripts the issue’s last two stories. In “Who Knows Best?” Betty goes on a quest to find a healthy snack food. For this story to work readers have to accept that Betty isn’t quite as knowledgeable as she’s usually portrayed. But I’ll forgive that minor inconsistency, because the rest of the story works so well. Without being over the top with any of it, Webb gives readers a lesson on nutrition, shows the core personalities of Betty, Jughead, and Veronica so well a new reader would get them immediately, and ends with a sweet Mother-Daughter moment. Not bad for a five pager.
The final story, “Drawing on Experience” has Betty trying to write a horror story for a teen writing contest. It isn’t going well until her sister reminds her to “Write what you know.”
Aside from the fact that Webb didn’t identify Betty’s sister by name, this is a perfect little story. Every reader can relate to Betty’s problem. Who hasn’t faced a blank sheet of paper and developed writer’s block? The “Little Betty and Archie” tale within a tale disguises a solid piece of writing advice, making the moral go down easy. Maybe it’s because the teachers in my school are really pushing personal experience and writing this month, but it seems like this is a story that could be used in the classroom by teachers to help their writing students get started.
I haven’t mentioned the art this issue, mainly because it’s disappointing. Stan Goldberg and John Lowe had a real problem with profiles and proportions. They were just off. The main character in any story usually looks good, but supporting characters sometimes take on an odd appearance. And don’t even get me started on the horrible fashion faux pas in “Friday Night Fever”. Veronica is shown in one of the most hideously drawn outfits ever. The fact that an attractive variation of it shows up in “Drawing on Experience” just goes to show the difference a line makes. However, the art does come together in the last two stories. While “Little Betty and Archie” don’t have the charm of the Bob Bolling version, they do wander through some well-drawn backgrounds. Goldberg and Lowe tighten up on the art, giving the characters a neater appearance more in keeping with the classic look.
BettyBetty comic. But it is a good one and that’s all it needs to be.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!