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Friday, 29 July 2016 14:09 Jennifer Devore
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75 Years of Archie Comics: Betty & Veronica, American Girls

by

Jennifer Susannah Devore


To me, Betty and Veronica symbolize something that is so right about America, where two girls from completely different backgrounds can find each other and become the best of friends.

-Johnathan Goldwater, co-founder/publisher Archie Comics

 

 

Veronica Lodge has everything endless wealth can provide: a mansion, cars, travel and a trendsetter's wardrobe. She also possesses qualities generally unaffected by means: beauty, intelligence, self-confidence and a supportive family. One wonders, why is she at public school, rather than private? Mother and Father Lodge must raise a privileged child, without letting loose on the world an entitled adult.

Mr. Lodge thinks thatVeronica is exposed to a more diverse group of students and is hopefully developing some lasting friendships.

-Victor Gorelick, Archie Comics Co-President/Editor-in-Chief

Betty Cooper has everything endless sweetness can provide: loyal friends, a true heart, a clear conscience and altruistic intentions. She also possesses qualities generally unaffected by means: beauty, intelligence, self-confidence and a supportive family.

Old-fashioned, American pluck runs in Betty's family: working-class parents, an investigative-reporter sister, and a secret-agent brother. Old-fashioned, American success runs in Veronica's family: a self-made, multimillionaire father and a generous, elegant mother. Whether inner strength comes via nurture or nature, Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge are two girls not to cross. American rules state if you mess with the bull, you get the horns. Betty and Veronica are those horns.

Veronica, admittedly, takes her own sweet time doing the right thing: case in point, Betty & Veronica in Bad Boy Trouble (2007). Whilst she is unarguably the more difficult girl, running hot to cold, vindictive to protective, petulant to pleasing in the blink of a sapphire-blue eye, she always comes around, right to where Betty's been all along.

Individually, Betty and Veronica are enviable high school girls living, relatively, carefree lives in Riverdale, U.S.A.. Like any American town, trouble certainly exists; but here, it's surmountable, not by superpowers, but by self-assurance and, more importantly, the steely bonds of friendship. In a country and era without caste-systems or sumptuary laws, two girls of diametrical socioeconomic status find their BFF in each other. Betty is as welcome in the Lodge mansion as Veronica is in the Cooper abode … although, Veronica would always rather Betty came to her house.

Together, B&V are a spirited sword-and-shield vanquishing foes and deflecting any bad juju disrupting Riverdale's harmony. Whether Veronica is the victim of sartorial espionage or Betty is harassed by a malevolent newcomer, they are as forceful in response as a tornado catapulting cows across an Oklahoma prairie. With a glossy flip of the hair and pearly whites, they can set the world right. In comics, where duos are as ubiquitous as aliases, B&V stand tall and curvy amongst the greatest. Shaggy and Scooby, Batman and Robin, Snoopy and Woodstock, Ernie and Bert, Mickey and Minnie, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Betty and Veronica. Hard to imagine one without the other.

In 1941, America entered WWII, and met Archie and his girls in MLJ Magazines' Pep Comics #22. Archie Comics co-founder John Goldwater created Archie, Betty and Veronica, based on his own youthful experience of an evening with two sisters he had met out west”. The new characters attended Riverdale High under the auspices of Principal Weatherbee, Ms. Grundy and Mr. Flutesnoot. Classmates included Archie's best pal, Jughead Jones, Moose and his girlfriend Midge, and resident jerk, Reggie Mantle. Artist Bob Montana modeled R.H.S. after his alma mater in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

So, take two road-trip chicks, add happy school-days in New England and Archie is as American as summers on Cape Cod, tearful admission prices at Disneyland, Hallowe'en in Salem and a Starbucks addiction.

First introduced under MLJ Magazines - named for founders Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater - Archie Andrews proved affable enough to merit his own title: Archie #1 (November 1942). Archie stood center-stage, yet it was gorgeous tomboy Betty Cooper and vivacious jet-setter Veronica Lodge whom stole the show.

Archie may have put the company of the map … but for me it's always been about Betty and Veronica. Archie is the steak, Ronnie and Betts are the sizzle.

- Craig Yoe, cartoonist

Like many septuagenarians, B&V have evolved, mostly. The 1940s/1950s pitted Ronnie and Betts as harsh rivals. Vicious, shifty antics were de rigueur to win the heart of dopey Archie, happily out of his league, or really any male. Betty and Veronica #27 (July/August 1947) proffers multiple catfights over a lifeguard, a nerd with a speed boat, and a pair of nylons. Through mid-Century, they spar over Archie, pulling him in opposite directions, sometimes literally, and team up only when Archie's affections fall on another girl. Even in the '90s they launch a bikini-battle for beach business. In Wiener Wars, Betty and Veronica Spectacular #5 (1993) the girls learn sex sells.

Come and get your all American hot dogs, boys!

- Betty, in stars-and-stripes bikini

However, starting with Betty and Veronica #179 (1970), B&V began earnestly contemplating social responsibility. The cover shows more message than midriff as the girls paint protest signs. Archie began highlighting women's liberation, civil rights and ecology, all while keeping B&V sassy and stylish. That style is a timeline of American fashion-zeitgeist.

It started in the 1940s with Old Hollywood couture. Marlene Dietrich and Jane Russell could have modeled for the chiseled jaws, tiny waists and shoulder pads drawn by Archie artists Bill Vigoda, Al Fagaly, Irv Novick and Samm Schwartz.

By the 1950s/1960s, a bouncier Betty and Veronica took shape under Bob Montana. In concert with fellow artists George Frese and Harry Lucey, the girls softened considerably after the 1940s hard-dame look. The post-War curves were softer, but all the more intense, perhaps because Harry Lucey drew the girls nude. (Note: B&V were drawn nude; Lucey did not draw in the nude. Ha!) Like Disney artists studying fawns and rabbits to best mimic nature, Lucey's method produced more natural looking figures, not to mention a treat for inkers. Betty became more Marilyn Monroe, Veronica more Bettie Page.

As the 1960s progressed, so did Archie's art department, adding Dan DeCarlo. Today, if you need to pick B&V out of police lineup, you'll point out the DeCarlo Girls. Under his pen, they became the iconic, comic book characters most recognized: less Hollywood glam, more TV animation, the medium most identifiable with '60s readers. Veronica was still a bombshell, but better suited to pizza at Pop Tate's, rather than descending the spiral staircase in Sunset Blvd. Betty was still a stunner, but better suited to her part-time gig at the garage, rather than enticing libidinous Nazis for bombing codes.

DeCarlo introduced us to all-American girls whom could live next door, depending on your neighborhood. They were, after all, high school girls, not forty-year-old leading ladies. DeCarlo drew the lion's share in the '60s/'70s; but the visions of Dan Parent, Al Hartley, Fernando Ruiz and Jeff Schulz escorted them all the way into the 2000s with verve and attitude.

As with Dietrich and Russell in the '40s, Jennie Garth and Yasmine Bleeth could have served as B&V models through the bubble gum '80s/'90s: approachable, California beach beauties. By the hipper mid-'90s, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Rose McGowan could have served: pretty faces and Pacific Northwest funk via artists Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz.

In the 21stC., Betty and Veronica are their own women, no longer props or prizes for Archie. Maybe they learned self-value from Hermione Granger, Agent Carter, Taylor Swift and 2 Broke Girls. They still compete for Archie, but won't catfight over him today, shredding their clothes as in A Ripping Good Time, Betty and Veronica #158 (1969) … wait, 2 Broke Girls would totally catfight.

In 2015, Archie Comics published New Look” Archie #1, with a new writer: Mark Waid (Daredevil). Waid has the Herculean task of simultaneously keeping B&V contemporary and historic. A 2015 interview with Comic Book Resources unearthed Waid's reverence for Archie.

... to approach long-standing franchises with enough respect for its history … it's a huge responsibility … but that makes it sound like grim drudgework, and this is wholly the opposite. This is a blast.

- Mark Waid, Archie Comics

2016 presents Waid with vastly different social cues than those for former writers like Bob Bolling, George Gladir and Kathleen Webb. Regardless of era, Ronnie and Betts' tale remains, simply, enduring friendship … and cuteness.

That cuteness is now in the hands of artists Fiona Staples (Saga) and Annie Wu (Hawkeye). Realistic with a digital hue, “New Look” B&V are more human than cartoon. Traditional Look” titles are still published, but as Archie Digests. However they are drawn, new or traditional, sporting debutante gowns or jeans and baby-tees, Betty and Veronica are an American standard.

On Archie's 75th, in a culture that calls foul with the swiftness of Jughead on a plate of burgers, Archie has one mission: treat our American girls with respect and keep them cute.


 

Contributor bio: Jennifer Susannah Devore lives at the beach, loves Disneyland, watches too much Netflix and is currently prowling the con-floor buying anything Hello Kitty. She authors the 18thC. historical-fiction series Savannah of Williamsburg, the contemporary-fiction The Darlings of Orange County and covers WC/SDCC for GoodToBeAGeek with her BFF Betty.

*A reprint from the Official 2016 Comic-Con Int'l Souvenir Book, editor Gary Sassaman*

 

 

 

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Tuesday, 21 July 2015 00:00 Jennifer Devore
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Reform, Relapse and What She Wore: 75 Years of Catwoman Chic

 

by

Jennifer Susannah Devore

Jennifer Susannah Devore, SDCC Souvenir Book #5, Catwoman

 

They say a little black dress is a timeless classic. We say a little patent-leather jumpsuit with a mask and a whip beats that.

-Suzan Colón, Catwoman: The Life and Times of a Feline Fatale

 

Simply because the night includes midnight Parkour and pilfering, doesn't mean a girl should look homeless, even if she is. Confident yet wary, the youngest Selina Kyle yet, of FOX's Gotham, sprightly portrayed by Camren Bicondova, has perfectly honed the hip, desperately-casual style of Millennial America (designed by Lisa Padovani): storm colours in leather and wool, jeans, hoodies and knee-boots. Although, oddly, like Star Wars, Gotham seems set in the future and a long, long time ago, thus explaining Selina's futuristic/vintage steampunk goggles and 1930s, Marion Davies curls.

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Friday, 25 July 2014 11:45 Jennifer Devore
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In case you didn't pick up a copy at San Diego Comic-Con, never made it to Comic-Con, or never intended on going, but love reading JennyPop's work ... voila! Reprinted from the official 2014 SDCC Souvenir Book. Enjoy!


Am I Mortal? You Are Now: 20 Years of Hellboy, and Counting

by

Jennifer Susannah Devore

Here, Sheldon. I pulled the new Hellboy for you. It's mind-blowing!

-Stuart Bloom, The Big Bang Theory

Being human is a pain in the ass: heart-shattering emotion, physical limitations, that unrelenting shoulder-tap called mortality. Any wonder the knell of immortality, even human-hybrid versions, is so alluring? Not simply a fantasy world of superheroes keeping it tight and right, the mass appeal is a micro-fantasy of vicarious athanasia, preternatural strength and invulnerability: forever swinging on that top branch. Sure, weakness abounds, even for the eternal: religious vestiges, beheadings, spells, Kryptonite, wooden stakes, domestic beer. Still, ruination-odds are worth the eternity-payoff. Conversely, what a quandary it is when immortals bemoan their gifts, even forfeiting them to join the Muggle world. Who knew pancakes, cigars and television were so bewitching?

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Tuesday, 23 July 2013 10:23 Jennifer Devore
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So, for those whom did not make it to San Diego Comic-Con this year, or did and unwisely tossed your official Souvenir Guide, my odd wordsmithing made it into the book once again! This year's is a favourite thus far: article and Souvenir Guide in toto.

Sandman, the cover art commemorating twenty-five years of Neil Gaiman's Gothic oeuvre, has hit my radar anew, having not read it since the glorious, gloomy, gringy Nineties. After reading the Sandman articles and delighting in the accompanying gorgeous and ghoulish artwork, The Annotated Sandman has made my very particular birthday and Christmas lists: as there are multiple volumes, it is worthy of both.

For now, enjoy a posting here of Bartbarians at the Gate: 20 Years of Bongo on the Digital Frontier.

 

Bartbarians at the Gate: 20 Years of Bongo on the Digital Frontier

By Jennifer Susannah Devore

 

‘Cause he’s an old [comic junkie] and he don’t know what to do.

Should he hang on to the old, should he grab on to the new?

He’s an old [comic junkie], this new life is just a bust.

He ain't trying to change nobody, he's just trying real hard to adjust.

-David Bellamy

November spawned an empire. Like an impatient, petulant newborn, Bongo Entertainment spewed forth, squealing and sliding into our arms like a greased up Spiderpig. Present in the room for the birth were Radioactive Man, Bart Simpson, Itchy & Scratchy and, naturally, The Simpsons. Waiting in the hallway, anxious friends and family would queue up for years to administer the requisite welcome-slap on the bum: Bender, Comic Book Guy, Leela, Professor Frink, Ralph Wiggum, Fry, Li’l Homer, Zoidberg, Maggie, Poochie, Mr. Burns, Akbar & Jeff, all the denizens of Treehouse of Horror and dozens more.

“Welcome to the world of print comics, you magnificent bastard!” the masses cried outside the gates. “It’s about time!”

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Monday, 03 December 2012 15:13 Jennifer Devore
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So, it really is the little things. Of course, being cited by TIME magazine isn't exactly "little", my pretties! Charlie Brown, it appears, is making a ... no, TIME Entertainment journalist Graeme McMillan says don't call it a comeback. Charlie Brown is having a great revival and, apparently, the Peanuts tribute I scribed for the  2010 San Diego Comic-Con Souvenir Book, First Beagle on the Moon, made the grade as "Peanuts source material". Ah, being a dork pays off, it seems.

Is it déclassée to be so obviously excited about such a thing? Peut-être, but as Kevin Meaney sings, "I don't care! I don't caaaare! I. Don't. Care. I don't care!"

Want to read the original article? Voila!

 

 

 

 

 
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 15:15 Jennifer Devore
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For all you poor mooks whom did not make it to San Diego Comic-Con 2012, or did and possibly lost, tossed or neglected your coveted Official Souvenir Book, unaware of the gems contained therein, I feel sad that you missed out on my Tarzan article. You should feel bad; it was good enough to garner me a personal invitation to meet the one, the only Dr. Jane Goodall! Where? A banquet in Tarzana, of course! (Long-time readers might recall my Disney methods used to inspire the finished product.) Well, no worries, jelly beans! There’s still time to mend your silly ways. Swing on over to my tree, grab a Sailor Jerry Banana Hammock and read my article here!

Photo: Twisted Pair Photography

 

That Other Jane: 100 Years of Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, Heartbreaker

by Jennifer Susannah Devore

 

"I was so jealous. I thought she was a wimp. I was sure I’d have been a better mate. " -that other Jane … Goodall

Photo: JSDevore

Herein lies the innate appeal of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. Be he an object of affection, admiration or competition, Tarzan falls neatly into the untidy world of animal instinct, feral existentialism and personal authority: a Lord Greystoke of the Flies, if you will.

Burroughs composed an enduring theme and a permanence of characters spawning not only a succession of film and television iterations, but also serial books and eventually comics, penned not by Burroughs himself, but a veritable jungle encampment of devotees. From Dell Comics' cheerful adventure yarns of the 1940s, which featured a ripped, yet stick-thin version of Tarzan, to Psychology Press' Ways of Being Male: representing Masculinities in Children's Literature and Film by John Stephens to George of the Jungle, Tarzan has been a centenary of topic. Scholars may argue a garden of reasons why the jungle Brit in the loincloth has remained ever so popular; but the reader's heartbeat will tell you unequivocally there exists solely one answer. Stimulation.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2012 11:52 Jennifer Devore
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Cheers, babies! It's me, Miss Hannah Hart, ghostdame of the Hotel del Coronado and it's June! You know what that means? Summer is mere days away and San Diego Comic-Con 2012 is a mere month away!

No one is more excited than Yours Truly ... well, okay. I imagine there are some nibbling their fingernails a tad more than I. After all, part of the appeal of our Comic-Con is that it's in glorious San Diego. I get to live here year round, kids, haunting my dilly of a Hotel Del. If you're zinging your way here for the Con and it's your first time in San Diego, we welcome you, one and all! Need some priceless, insider tips on all the SDCC how-tos? Check the SDCC Expert for Baby's First Comic-Con.

Yep, 'tis no place in Cali quite like San Diego. Even the dearly departed Godfather of Comic Books, Richard Alf, knew that! Sunnier than San Francisco, cheaper than Santa Barbara, friendlier than L.A. and cleaner than Anaheim, why wouldn't we welcome the world? Whilst you're in town, may I heartily suggest Nerdcore Night at famed The Ruby Room in Hillcrest?

If you're still looking for a hotel, I feel true pity, ya mooks. Whilst an average $560.00-$730.00/night seems lofty at my Hotel del Coronado, it's a regal steal compared to some of the fleabag dumps near the airport: real slimy, 1-star m-m-m-motels charging upwards of $569.00/night during the week of SDCC!!! That should be criminal. It's easily extortion and trust me, I lived in Beantown during Prohibition. I know all about mob behavior. If you have a room at all, huzzah for you!

In celebration of the upcoming convention, I thought it would be fun to share an article from the 2010 Comic-Con Souvenir Book. Written by my pally Jennifer Susannah Devore, it's a contemplative and philosophical look at Charles Schulz and the then-60th anniversary of Peanuts. (As a side note, Jenny's just learned she's being published once again in this year's 2012 Souvenir Book with a retrospective of 100 years of Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs and a nod to Dr. Jane Goodall ... zowie, does that gorilla girl hold a grudge!

The First Beagle on the Moon

by Jennifer Susannah Devore

(Reprinted from the 2010 official Comic-Con Souvenir Book)

I think I could learn to love you, Judy, if your batting average was a little higher.

-"Just Keep Laughing", pre-Peanuts Charles M. Schulz

Charles M. Schulz did not create a mere comic strip, a cast of characters to be listed on high school drama department playbills for eons to come; like all sustainable strips, the Writer-Artist-Creator gave us a neighborhood: a safe place where loyalty, security, friendship and a comfortable sense of continuity and familiarity are still unfailingly there for us. The Peanuts gang has been that other group of our friends, always ready to hang with us at a moment's notice and at regularly scheduled mornings, especially Sundays. Similar to Shakespearean figures, the Peanuts gang has also been, as any psychologist with an ounce of humor and levity will tell you, a microcosm of humanity. A bevy of neuroses, borderline personalities, leaders and followers, Schulz, like the good Bard, nailed it all straight on the round-headed noggin. The psychology of Peanuts, not to drain the comic pool only to replace it with academia, pervades each and every "illustrated laughing square".

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    In this chapter from the exploits of Wolverine, the hirsute superhero returns to thwart the apocalyptic plans of supervillain Nathaniel Essex. But with Wolverine's healing abilities waning, he'll need the help of a female clone created from his DNA.
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    During the Japanese occupation of China in World War II, a courageous railroad worker with extensive knowledge of the train system leads a band of resistance fighters bent on disrupting Japan's war effort and stealing food for the starving populace.
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    In the next installment of the DC Super Hero Girls, Super Hero High is facing off against Korugar Academy in the Intergalactic Games but Lena Luthor takes advantage of the gathering of Supers to enact her villainous plan.

Meet Miss JennyPop

Jennifer Susannah Devore

Jenny Pop is the acclaimed Author of the Savannah of Williamsburg series of books and The Darlings of Orange County. In addition, Jen is a prolific consumer of media and pop culture. Never leaving the house without her journal and fave Waterman pen, an old-fashioned, analog book (usually Hunter S. Thompson) and a fresh coat of lipstick, she is constantly on the hunt for fun, espresso, animation  and comics of any kind and always ready for an impromptu day at Disneyland.  JennyPop.net is a natural extension of  Jen's World; so, spend some time visiting. You'll have fun, she promises!

Meet The Darlings

The Darlings of Orange County

The sexy, cashmere beaches of southern California aren't always what they seem. The dirty little secret here is what it takes to survive. Everyone has a trick up their silk sleeve. Liz Lemon meets Parker Posey, Veronica Darling is smart enough to know what it takes and is willing to soil her soul to bring Hollywood to the California Riviera. The Darlings of Orange County is a salacious, hilarious, harrowing romp chock full of eco-terrorism, horse-racing scandals, weed deals and the obligatory lipstick-lesbian affair that inevitably leads to murder. It all climaxes in a white-knuckled, glitzy, celebrity-stacked Laguna Beach Film Premiere that spells success for Veronica Darling and trouble for her friends and family.

Meet Miss Savannah Squirrel

Savannah Prudence Squirrel

Savannah Prudence Squirrel

Meet Miss Savannah of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Equal parts Amelia Earhart, Lucy Honeychurch, Scarlett O'Hara and Miss Piggy, Savannah is a scholar, adventurer and a lady. Moreover, she is a pebble in the silver-buckled shoe of injustice and with her best pals she is not a squirrel to challenge. She carries  the Magna Carta in one paw and the latest Parisian silk bag in her other. Whether fighting to end slavery, arguing for freedom of the press or scheming to end a duel, Miss Savannah does so with wit and persistence. Read more to meet her best friends and accomplices: Ichabod Wolfgang and Dante Marcus Pritchen. Prepare to also meet pirates, a Venetian fox and an Irish gull, The Commodore!

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Meet Miss Hannah

Hannah Hart, ghost dame of the Hotel del Coronado

Hannah Hart, ghost dame of the Hotel del Coronado

So, here's the low down, all you Joes and Janes ... I'm Hannah Hart, dead girl. Don't fret, it's actually a sweet dish being dead. Having perished in 1934 in a terrifically vicious accessories incident with actress Ida Lupino, I reside where I died: San Diego's gorgeous Hotel del Coronado. It ain't a bad gig at all, really! Great weather, swanky guests (not to mention a few fellow ghosties), amazing amenities, my own private turret overlooking the sea and all the java juice and giggle water I can handle; plus, these bartenders know how to make a Planter's Punch like nobody's business! See, I've been waiting for this Internet thing forever ... now, instead of slamming doors and moving lamps, I get to wag my tongue all I like at goodtobeageek.com

Abyssinia, kids!