Comics – Romance 4Ever!

Writer: Dan Parent
Pencils: Jeff Shultz
Inks: Jim Amash
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: Jack Morelli
Original Publication: Archie and Me Comics Digest, No. 8
On-Sale Date: June 13, 2018
Length: 5

I’m sorry that this is late. It’s actually a substitution, due to various technical issues.

Archie, Kevin, Betty, and Veronica spot a film crew in front of someone’s house and wonder what’s going on. Veronica asks a camera operator. He says they’re filming a TV movie for the Hallstone Channel. It’s based on a book by Olivia Smithington-James. Betty and Veronica collectively lose their shit, because, as Veronica points out, that’s the pen name of “the one and only” Ms. Grundy.

Archie and the girls go into Ms. Grundy’s classroom (note: this issue came out during summer vacation). Archie (perhaps uncharacteristically) excitedly asks if Ms. Grundy’s still writing romance novels. Betty asks if they’re making a movie out of one of her books. Ms. Grundy happily confirms both. A footnote explains Ms. Grundy started writing romance novels in “the now-classic” Veronica #186 and tells the readers to check it out.

Okay, let’s take a pause from the story. Remember how, on the Introduction page for this blog, I explained “there is no continuity – until there is” and said there’s “the rare odd reference to an ancient story”? This is one of those instances. Veronica #186 was cover-dated March of 2008 and probably came out in late 2007. The story in question is an 11-pager called “Isn’t It Romantic?”, the lead story of that issue. It had mostly the same team as this story, except Parent did the pencils as well as the script, and Barry Grossman did the colors. Here’s the synopsis from Grand Comics Database: “A new romance author is very popular among the girls at Riverdale. Then a local bookstore advertises a book signing by the mysterious author only known as “GiGi”. But when looking for Miss Grundy, Veronica notices the unpublished novel’s text on Mr. Weatherbee’s computer and assumes he’s the author.” Apparently, for whatever reason, Parent decided to write a sequel to this “now-classic” story – and dragged it into current continuity as a result. (This isn’t the first time that this has been done; see my reviews of “Way Out West” and “Westward, Huh?“.)

On the Introduction page, I further wrote “Also, the characters’ years of birth have to, logically, increase by one every year, so they simply won’t have experienced things that the characters did, say, eighteen years ago. Technology, fashion, and entertainment are constantly changing, and so must the characters.”

Let’s assume the characters, as they are being published today, are in the summer vacation between their junior and senior years of high school. Veronica #186, therefore, would have been published around winter break in their first-grade year. Technology, fashion, and entertainment have changed tremendously for teens since then. In particular, technology has increased exponentially. We’ve gone through four new versions of Windows. YouTube went from 240p resolution to (theoretically) 8K and added 3D, 60 fps, 360-degree, and High Dynamic Range. Nintendo has gone through multiple handheld consoles. We went from the Wii to the Wii U to the Switch. We can pay using our cell phones. The PS3 slimmed down twice and then went away, and we’re now on the Pro version of the PS4. The Xbox 360 came out with new editions, only to go away and make way for the One and its new editions. 4K home theater projectors came out. Various sticks and other devices to watch streaming television came out. Blu-ray came out with an Ultra HD format for those that have 4K televisions. Cable is losing tons of customers and isn’t even on the radar of most of today’s teens, who prefer binge-watching shows on Netflix or watching sub-20-minute YouTube content created by their peers.

Then there’s Kindle Fire and the rise of the e-book. The point of all of this is it’s inconceivable that the Betty and Veronica of today would be at all interested in old Ms. Grundy’s Hallmark-worthy granny romance novels, not when they can go online and read fanfics or get cheap or even free original romance (of varying levels of heat) off Amazon. Hell, I used to hang out in a used bookstore in the mid-to-late-2000s, and I never once saw a teen girl buy a traditional romance novel; they were there for gaming tournaments.

But this is what Dan Parent’s going with in 2018, so let’s continue.

Archie guesses Ms. Grundy’s rich now, but she says it’s for television, and her publisher owns most of the rights (side rant: if you want to publish an original story, self-publish it; never go the traditional publishing route; the contracts have gotten worse, being horribly unfair to the writers, often taking away the copyright from them for life plus more and also often including “do not compete” clauses, meaning you couldn’t even write something else and self-publish it while under contract with a traditional publisher); she gets a small cut, and that’s it. Betty says that doesn’t seem fair (understatement of the year), since Ms. Grundy is doing the initial creative work. As Ms. Grundy wipes the chalkboard (um, no, it’s 2018; schools use dry-erase whiteboards), she claims, if the movie is a hit, she can renegotiate. How, pray tell, if your publisher owns most of the rights?

As the teens leave the classroom, Archie’s positively orgasmic over Ms. Grundy being “the Queen of Romance”. Betty just wishes Ms. Grundy would get all of the benefits that she deserves.

Later, Kevin comes by to inform Archie and an eager Betty that they’re filming a scene now, and the stars are Brock Kincaid from The Bold and the Bolder and Michelle DuBois from Hearts Ablaze. Betty brings up that the shows are cancelled (um, not true for the former). Kevin says they still have a cult following. Archie notices a “familiar” guy and asks Kevin for his name. Kevin says that’s Todd Blankly, the former host of the game show, What’s Your Problem? He plays the mayor of the town. Betty notices Ms. Grundy sharing a laugh with Todd.

Kevin and Betty start speculating they’re a couple, despite Ms. Grundy being decades older. Ms. Grundy invites the teens over. She explains the TV producers are letting her “advise a bit” on the set and introduces Todd. Kevin and Betty are all “wink, wink, nudge, nudge”, confusing Ms. Grundy. Archie says he’ll see her back in school. Um, so is this occurring during a school day or what? Anyway, Kevin tells…someone (Ms. Grundy? Betty?), “Now behave yourself!”

A few days later, at school, Archie asks Ms. Grundy if they’ve finished filming the movie. She says pretty much. Now that that’s over with, Veronica is eager to know about her elderly teacher’s sex life. Ms. Grundy puts Veronica in her place but then confirms it, saying the guy’s picking her up from school today. So how’d she get here? Anyway, an eager Veronica pulls Betty along, so they can watch the two lovers “in action”. Archie follows. It turns out that Ms. Grundy is dating the even younger Brock Kincaid. Veronica wants to be Ms. Grundy when she grows up. Betty exclaims “Wow! Way to work it, Ms. Grundy!”

So I guess the point of this story is, no matter the universe, Ms. Grundy likes ’em young? Whatever. The story’s okay but feels outdated.

Tune in next Wednesday!

Author: markmooreauthor

I love watching anime and superhero movies, and I love playing video games. I also write fan fiction and original fiction.

One thought on “Comics – Romance 4Ever!”

  1. Did you ever notice that it’s like little pocket universes exist even within the ‘main’ reality of the Archie multiverse? I’m not talking about those obvious sort of things where in some stories they might be superteens in their spare time. I mean, like there are these little sub-continuities within the ‘standard Riverdale’ stories where there’s a “Dan Parent Archieverse” and a “Bob Bolling Archieverse”.

    Aside from that, there’s a continuity reset point every year sometime during summer vacation. When school let out for the summer, they had just completed their junior year at Riverdale High… but in September somehow their junior year is beginning all over again. That makes any story that occurred before the most recent summer vacation began automatically suspect as to whether or not something similar occurred in the past of the current continuity. Like in the story “Isn’t It Romantic?”, Ms. Grundy’s authorial pseudonym is GiGi, but in the current story “Romance 4Ever!”, her pseudonym is Olivia Smithington-James. It’s unlikely that she just arbitrarily decided to change her pen-name, since “GiGi” in the former story is the name which propelled her to fame as a romance novelist — that’s her brand. Just as I’m sure you can find some other details of the story which can’t have occurred due to the passage of a decade between that story and this, only the sketchiest outline of events in the earlier story applies as a backstory to the new story. That’a a good example of where, even when some kind of continuity is specifically invoked by the inclusion of a footnote referring to an earlier story, it’s at best a sort of “wiggly continuity”.

    Due to the theme of the story, I suspect it was originally intended to appear in one of the digests published a month or so before Valentine’s Day, which explains why they’re all still attending classes at RHS in a story which came out in a digest published in June.

    Liked by 1 person

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