Comics – Best Witches

BVFF15Writer: Francis Bonnet
Pencils: Dan Parent
Inks: Bob Smith
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: Jack Morelli
Original Publication: Betty and Veronica Friends Forever, No. 15 (Halloween Spectacular #1)
On-Sale Date: September 8, 2021
Length: 5 pages

I bet the numbering is a bit confusing to some of you, so here’s a brief history of the title. It started as an all-reprint title, reprinting new stories shortly after they’d appeared in the digests. This didn’t stop Archie Comics from slapping an “All-New” notice on the front covers. Each new issue had a big #1 on the front cover and a different subtitle, but the indicia includes the cumulative numbering in parentheses. Eventually, they started including new lead stories, but this is still mostly a reprint title. It’s sad that Archie Comics can’t seem to justify doing an ongoing all-new floppy title, but that’s where we’re at these days. I guess we should be grateful that we’re getting any new stories at all.

Betty and Veronica are browsing in a thrift store. Betty is impressed with the selection. They’re looking for Halloween costumes. Betty puts on a purple witch hat and suggests going as witches. Ronnie agrees. They purchase some stuff. When they leave the store, Betty puts the hat on Ronnie and says it looks good on her. Cheryl is standing outside and says nothing looks good on Ronnie.

Cheryl adds Ronnie never did have any fashion sense. Betty advises Ronnie to not let Cheryl get under her skin and to think only happy thoughts. Since Archie makes her happy, Ronnie wishes he was here. Archie is zapped in, holding a game controller. The girls are astonished. Archie is confused. He needs to get back, because he was about to win a video game. Ronnie wonders about the hat and wishes him back home to win his game. Archie is zapped away. Betty pulls out her cell phone and says Archie just texted: he’s back home and just beat his high score. Ronnie realizes the hat must be magic. She tells Betty to put on the rest of her witch costume, so they can “go have some Halloween fun”. They both put on their costumes. Betty’s doesn’t include a hat. Ronnie wishes for a flying broomstick (to look authentic), and they take off. Betty sits up front.

They fly by Pop’s. Jughead is standing outside, holding a burger. He’s so hungry, but the burger is so small. Ronnie wishes his burger was the size of a bus. Somehow, this doesn’t kill him. I don’t know if she’d heard his complaint or if it’s just a coincidence. Anyway, this will hold Jughead over until dessert. They come across Cheryl browsing clothes during an outdoor sale at a department store. Ronnie says she knows what wish that she’s going to make and then puts the hat on Betty’s head. Cheryl’s hair is turned green, which freaks her out when some random guy shows her her reflection in a handheld mirror that he conveniently has. So…Ronnie wished Cheryl’s hair green (even though we didn’t see her actually making the wish), but she had put the hat on Betty’s head immediately before that, so why did the wish come true? Anyway, Ronnie and Betty have a laugh over it, and Betty thinks this will be some sort of lesson for Cheryl about insulting others’ fashion sense. Cheryl angrily waves her fist at them as they fly away on a motherfucking flying broomstick. They go out to a grassy area. Ronnie notices Raj “filming” a movie with his cell phone. It’s a ghost movie starring Trev and Ginger. Who’s Trev? Trevor Brown is the younger brother of Valerie Brown of Josie and the Pussycats. He was introduced in Archie #631 (cover-dated May of 2012, released on March 28) and is (or at least was) a love interest for Betty.

Raj is worried over Ginger and Raj’s acting (since there’s no actual ghost for them to react to). Betty wishes a real ghost would show up to help them out. Ginger and Trev run away in terror. Raj loves their performance. Does he not see the motherfucking ghost chasing them? For some unexplained reason (hint: because it’s convenient for the plot), Betty and Ronnie are now standing on the ground. The ghost takes the hat off Betty’s head, and Ronnie realizes it’s not a friendly ghost. Betty suggests losing “him” in the woods. How does she know the ghost is male? Anyway, Ronnie criticizes Betty’s decision, bringing up scary movies.

Sure enough, the ghost corners them. The girls hug each other in fear. Sabrina shows up with a magic vacuum cleaner and sucks up the ghost. She also lamely (yet still somehow self-confidently) tries to cover up the supernatural elements for the sake of maintaining her “secret”, all while winking hard at the reader. Whether the rest of the gang knows Sabrina’s a witch varies from story to story. It’s never consistent, particularly when she openly uses her magic in front of the others in cover gags. They might be surprised. Maybe. Or they just smile. It’s dumb and absurd in a Filmation way. Cheryl shows up to complain about her hair. How did she know where to find them? Ronnie and Betty snicker. Sabrina is surprised.

This story was pretty dumb. Characters like Cheryl, Raj, and Sabrina behaved unrealistically.

Comics – Night School

Cheryl-Blossom-24
Writer: Holly G! (Holly Golightly)*
Pencils: Holly G!*
Inking: Jim Amash*
Lettering: Bill Yoshida*
Coloring: Barry Grossman*
Original Publication: Cheryl Blossom, No. 24
Cover Date: August, 1999
Length: 5 pages

*Only the lead story in the issue is credited. I assume the credits apply to all of the stories.

Although I have the original issue, I’m reviewing this story from the digital edition.

Cheryl is being interviewed on the beach by a reporter named Tanya (although this doesn’t become apparent until page 2) about her amazing, busy life. She’s a “teen on the go”, “expert in all summer sports” (she’s shown surfing, and the surfboard was designed by Angelie Meedan of Phoenix, Arizona), “creative mind” behind the popular teenzine Fresh (her outfit was designed by the same person), as well as “top teen model” in front of the camera. Two items of note: Cheryl has blue eyes in this story, and she wears reading glasses.

Tanya asks Cheryl how she handles such an exciting life. Cheryl’s wearing a bikini (designed by Jessica Lung of Colorado Springs, Colorado) and apparently some kind of transparent plastic covering over most of her body (probably for UV protection). She’s also wearing, presumably, sunglasses, but, unlike Tanya’s and Priscilla’s, they appear clear. Anyway, Cheryl says she prioritizes her life to get the most out of it. School comes first. She’s finished all of her exams, so now she can enjoy the beach without a care. Priscilla happily reminds “Cheryl dear” of the Geography final that she missed and has to make up tomorrow. Cheryl freaks out and runs off to study. Priscilla confirms Tanya was right about Cheryl being a “teen on the go”.

Cheryl trips over Dilton, apologizes, and explains her rush. Dilton lets her know of a “spectacular” way to study when “time is in question”. That’s…odd wording. Wouldn’t “time is of the essence” make more sense? Anyway, Dilton tells Cheryl to tape her notes and then play them on her headphones while she sleeps, and her brain will retain the information for her test. Yeah, no, that’s bullshit. Cheryl, however, calls Dilton a genius, kisses him on the cheek, thanks him, and runs off. Dilton lets out an orgasmic Moose-like “Duh!”

Later that night, in her bedroom, a sleepy Cheryl sits at her desk and dictates notes into her tape recorder. She’s also drinking Zip Soda, which I guess is the Archieverse equivalent of Jolt Cola. She puts on her headphones and gets ready to “hit the hay”. She admits that she’s so sleepy that she’s getting clumsy. She accidentally knocks the tape recorder and a tape off her desk. The tape recorder opens, and her tape of notes pops out. She accidentally puts a tape of makeover tips into the recorder (a knockoff of the Sony Walkman). She gets into her bed and gets down to “some serious studying”, promptly falling asleep. Cute details: Sugar on Cheryl’s bed in the background and the continuation of Cheryl’s bedroom having windows that span an entire wall.

The next morning, Cheryl triumphantly enters the classroom and announces her arrival to Ms. Hampton, declaring herself “fresh and ready to go”. Cheryl’s outfit is by Chandra Ewing of Sierra Vista, Arizona. Ms. Hampton greets Cheryl and tells her that her make-up test is on her desk. Wait, why is Ms. Hampton Cheryl’s Geography teacher? The last time that we saw her (six issues ago), she was giving out one of those take-care-of-an-egg parenting assignments. Granted, my sixth-grade math and science classes were taught by the same guy, my high school Drama class was taught by a chorus teacher, and my TV Production class was taught by an English teacher, so I guess it’s not that strange.

The next day, Cheryl is sitting at an outdoor cafe and having a drink. Sugar is with her, sitting in her own chair and drinking from a bowl. Cheryl’s outfit is by Alyssa Galella of Wilton, Connecticut. Dilton comes by and asks her how the test went. Cheryl (her eye color suddenly green before reverting to blue) says terrible. She explains her fuck-up and says, when she was taking her test, she “went on automatic” and “couldn’t control” what she was writing, so she wrote a bunch of makeup and beauty tips on her test paper. That’s such bullshit. Anyway, Cheryl says Ms. Hampton flunked her but then points her out and says she kept her test paper for her personal makeover.

This story was pretty dumb. Shit like this is just scientifically impossible. Also, does Cheryl flunking her Geography test mean she flunked the class and has to go to summer school? Somehow, I doubt this will be brought up in future issues.

Comics – Stellar Behavior

Cheryl-Blossom-24
Writer: Holly G! (Holly Golightly)*
Pencils: Holly G!*
Inking: Jim Amash*
Lettering: Bill Yoshida*
Coloring: Barry Grossman*
Original Publication: Cheryl Blossom, No. 24
Cover Date: August, 1999
Length: 5 pages

*Only the lead story in the issue is credited. I assume the credits apply to all of the stories.

Although I have the original issue, I’m reviewing this story from the digital edition.

Before the story starts, the panel containing the title includes some artwork of Cheryl as Princess Leia and Jason as Han Solo. Yeah. So it seems Riverdale wasn’t the first to toy with the idea of an incestuous relationship between Cheryl and Jason.

Cheryl walks into Jason’s bedroom, wearing a swimsuit (designed by Allie Lewin of Chevy Chase, Maryland) and holding a bag and a towel. Jason’s on his bed, playing with toys. She asks him if he gonna drive her to the beach. Why is Cheryl relying on Jason for transportation? She can drive. If her car’s in the shop, Jamie could drive her. Jason claims Cheryl is jealous, because he gets to host the premiere party of a Star Wars knockoff. Let’s see. Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace premiered on May 16, 1999, in Los Angeles. Seems about right, except the previous story ended on June 8. Anyway, Cheryl makes fun of the geek. Jason calls Cheryl a “Sugar Girls‘ geek”. And, yeah, there’s an apostrophe there for no reason. Cheryl drags Jason away.

Soon, at the beach, Cheryl is hanging out with Priscilla. Priscilla says Jason has been “strutting around like a peacock”. Cheryl says it’s just because he’s president of the fan club of that Star Wars knockoff. I seriously doubt that’s gonna help Jason get laid, but he does get some attention. Cheryl says they picked him to host the movie’s opening party tonight, which will be televised. Priscilla asks if this world is big enough for two famous Blossoms. Um, Cheryl is famous. Jason is a geek. Anyway, Cheryl doesn’t give a shit. By the way, she has blue eyes in this story.

Later that night, Jason is pissed that their mom made him take Cheryl. Cheryl is pissed, too, because she’s missing a Party of Five knockoff. Um, she does know how to program a VCR, doesn’t she? Anyway, they’re riding in a white limo, not Cheryl’s red one. When they arrive at the premiere, Jason is amazed at the size of the crowd. So…did they go to L.A., or is the story pretending a major sci-fi film is having its premiere in Riverdale or Pembrooke?

Cheryl looks at the costumed geeks and calls them “a bunch of wackos”. Jason has a costume waiting for him backstage. The director has rigged it up, so Jason “flies” onto the stage, which apparently the knockoff version of Stormtroopers are known to do.

Cheryl is impressed by the “ritzy” dressing room. Jason’s full of himself, so Cheryl reminds him that he’s just announcing a movie opening. Wait, that’s it? I thought he was hosting a party after the premiere. Maybe both are true? Who knows? Jason is excited to find his costume and changes into it. Cheryl doesn’t give a shit.

Jason gets a ten-minute notice, so he takes his place backstage, and Cheryl accompanies him…for some reason. Cheryl is amazed at the size of the crowd out there, and Jason suddenly feels “oogie”. He runs off to the restroom, and Cheryl laughs. The tech guy arrives and asks where Jason is. Cheryl explains. She also says she’s his sister for no particular reason. The tech guy says she’ll have to go on for him. Um, yeah, no, that’s bullshit. He tells her to put on the spare costume that he just happens to have with him, and he’ll fit her into the flying harness. Cheryl agrees to all of this, I guess just because there’s a huge crowd.

Meanwhile, Jason’s washing his face in the restroom (at some weird standalone sink that looks more like a water fountain or birdbath) and wondering how Cheryl gets in front of an audience. He pulls himself together for the sake of the film and marches out, resolute.

He can’t find his flying harness, though, and is shocked to see Cheryl flying around over the stage. A pissed Jason has the tech guy “wire” him up for flying. I guess there’s also a second flying harness on hand? Once Jason gets out there, he and Cheryl get into a slapping fight and argue. The crowd loves it.

This story was okay. Jason being a sci-fi geek comes out of nowhere, though.

Comics – He-Mail

Cheryl-Blossom-24
Writer: Holly G! (Holly Golightly)
Pencils: Holly G!
Inking: Jim Amash
Lettering: Bill Yoshida
Coloring: Barry Grossman
Original Publication: Cheryl Blossom, No. 24
Cover Date: August, 1999
Length: 11 pages

Although I have the original issue, I’m reviewing this story from the digital edition.

Cheryl is sitting at her computer and is delighted to discover she’s gotten a new e-mail from “him”. Cheryl’s outfit is by Tiffany Deobald of Kindersley, Sash, Canada.

She gets up and dances throughout the mansion. Jason, who’s reading a comic book somewhere, believes Cheryl’s “totally gone wacko”. Cheryl confirms she’s “wacko in love”.

Jason makes fun of her, and Cheryl welcomes it and hugs him, which grosses him out. Cheryl’s in love, but she’s not sure with who. She was matched with a young man from Riverdale High by an “on-line pen pal program” hosted by Pembrooke and Riverdale schools. They’ve been “exchanging e-mail”. Jason laughs at for “using a dating service”, but an angry Cheryl corrects him. By the way, Cheryl’s eye color switches between blue and green in this story.

The idea behind the program is they “get to know each other without everyday details getting in the way”. Her “e-mail buddy” admires her mind, which explains why she’s in love. Oh, we learn Cheryl is 3 minutes older than Jason.

Cheryl says Jason just doesn’t “understand the romance that burns in a girl’s heart”. She leaves, bothering Jason no longer with her “intriguing life”. Jason doesn’t give a shit.

Cheryl goes to her bedroom and lies on her bed. It looks like she has a Hello Kitty pillow or stuffed toy. Sugar is on the bed as well, holding a bone with a blue ribbon on it (similar to the blue bow in her hair). We get this absolute gem of a thought from Cheryl: “Jason is as romantic as a shaven hamster! Why do I bother sharing my deep and complicated self with him?” She hears a mail notification on her laptop. It’s her “cyber-sweetie”. We learn Cheryl’s user name is “Red Rose”, and her mystery man’s user name is “Megabyte”. He asks her what she’s doing on June 8th, because he wants her to go to the Riverdale Prom with him. Oh, I realize the layout of Cheryl’s bedroom changes in, like, every story, but now it seems her bedroom wall is a series of windows that overlook the beach. So the Blossom mansion is beachfront property?

Cheryl debates whether meeting him will blow the romance, but his letters are “so wonderful”, and he’s “obviously smitten with [her] genius mind”. She’s gonna give him “a load of the rest of the Blossom bundle”. She wonders if it’s Archie, Reggie (he looks good in a tux), or Jughead (she’s disgusted). This is “just too romantic to resist”.

On the night of the prom, Cheryl’s all made up, much to the exhaustion of two of her maids. Cheryl’s hair was designed by Jennifer Shin of Fountain Valley, California.

In his last e-mail (which Cheryl had printed out), her mystery man suggested they wear red roses (in honor of her e-mail name), so they can recognize each other. She picks a rose from an arrangement and puts it in her hair. Then she tells Cheri (one of the maids, I guess) to tell Jamie to pull the red limo around front. She goes to meet her “Internet Romeo”.

At Riverdale High School, Veronica and Betty notice the limo arrive. Betty says it’s longer than Ronnie’s swimming pool. They’re shocked and horrified when Cheryl gets out. Why? Granted, this red limo is missing the various blossoms seen previously, but surely Betty and Ronnie recognize Cheryl’s limo by now. Anyway, Ronnie and Betty possessively grab hold of Archie, their shared prom date, but Cheryl notices he’s not wearing a red rose and declares “Archie’s safe tonight!” She goes into the gym and notices Jughead’s wearing a daisy, and “Reg” is wearing a carnation.

Not finding a guy with a red rose, Cheryl goes outside, guessing maybe someone was playing a joke on her. Then a guy behind her, holding a red rose, asks about the red rose in her hair. Cheryl is excited, but then she turns around and is heartbroken to see who it is: Dilton Doiley. Ditto for Dilton upon seeing Cheryl. They’re both in disbelief. Apparently, Dilton found Cheryl’s e-mails “deep, intelligent and sensitive”.

He calls her arrogant. She calls him an “undergrown Einstein”. He calls her brain a “sterile classroom”, and he calls her a “spoiled brat”. She calls him an “egghead”. They stare at each other for a while longer and then burst out laughing. Cheryl remembers the phrase, “You can’t judge a book by its cover!”

Dilton gives Cheryl the rose. She thanks him. I don’t know where she puts it after they go inside. Archie is surprised to see Cheryl and Dilton together. An upset Reggie is his usual obnoxious self around Cheryl. Cheryl tells him to fuck off. Cheryl and Dilton dance together.

This story was pretty nice. I bet you never thought you’d see Cheryl and Dilton as a couple.

Extras

In the middle of the story is a page of Cheryl fan art (with entries from Rachel Williams of Jamaica; Felisha Thomas of Carson, California; Kristie Breitwiser of Hinvella, Georgia; and Daniella Farah of Northbrook, Illinois).

After the story is a 1-page Archie story titled “Hurry Flurry” and a 1-page Cheryl story titled “Pup Art”. The latter story is credited to Holly G! and Jim Amash. Cheryl’s outfit is by Bethany Sellers of China-Spring, Texas. Cheryl carries Sugar into the art gallery, because “every educated young lady should learn about art”. A security guard stops her, because no pets are allowed. According to Cheryl, Sugar is no pet; she’s a purebred Pomeranian. He doesn’t make an exception. Cheryl has an idea. She takes out her cell phone, calls Jamie, and tells her to bring her hairdresser to the front of the art gallery. Might this be Rene? Anyway, Cheryl sneaks Sugar into the art gallery in her hair. Cheryl looks at a painting and tells Sugar to look at the use of color. The security guard is confused. Cute story.

Comics – Dog Gone

Cheryl-Blossom-21
Writer: Holly G! (Holly Golightly)*
Pencils: Holly G!*
Inking: Rudy Lapick*
Lettering: Bill Yoshida*
Coloring: Barry Grossman*
Original Publication: Cheryl Blossom, No. 21
Cover Date: April, 1999
Length: 5 pages

*Only the lead story in the issue is credited. I assume the credits apply to all of the stories.

Although I have the original issue, I’m reviewing this story from the digital edition.

Penelope is on the phone with a friend or relative named Sophie and talking about how Cheryl is just thrilled with her new puppy, Sugar Blossom. She says Cheryl is so responsible now. Cheryl grooms the pup, makes her gourmet meals, and even paints her little toenails. The pup is the center of Cheryl’s universe. Penelope doesn’t mind, because Cheryl seems so happy and is having more fun with Sugar Blossom than “any of her other pet projects” (whatever those are). The captions and panel layout on this page are a bit confusing. It took me a while to figure out in which order to read them.

Today, Cheryl and Sugar are going to Riverdale to see someone named Gigi for a fitting of matching outfits. Jamie drives them there. Gigi asks “Mademoiselle Cheryl” what she thinks of the black-and-white outfits, which have the initials “CB” and “SB” on them, respectively. A delighted Cheryl says the outfits are “too cute”, and Sugar gives out a “Yip!” of agreement. During her fitting, Cheryl calls her outfit “stunning”. Unfortunately, Sugar walks over to the open French doors that form the back entrance of Gigi’s Fashion Studio, gets curious, and runs outside.

Cheryl has green eyes in this story, though the intensity of it varies by panel, appearing almost blue at times. Anyway, Cheryl asks Sugar what it thinks but can’t find it. Gigi realizes what happened (exclaiming “Mon Dieu!”) and tells Cheryl. Cheryl freaks out and runs outside, calling for Sugar. Betty and Veronica are walking by and wonder what’s going on.

Betty asks Cheryl what’s wrong. Ronnie makes fun of Cheryl. A panicking Cheryl starts crying and explains her puppy is lost. We learn explicitly that Sugar is female. Ronnie is stunned and asks “Puppy?” It’s unclear why. Is she stunned to learn Cheryl has a puppy, or is she stunned to learn Cheryl’s freaking out over a puppy? Anyway, while Ronnie folds her arms and looks away with a scowl, Betty gently puts her hands on Cheryl’s shoulders and tells her to calm down, because freaking out is not going to find her puppy. Cheryl sniffles and admits Betty’s right. She says she’s too panicked to think and asks Betty what she should do. Betty asks her where she was last. Cheryl tells her and adds she and Sugar “do everything together”. Ronnie yawns. Cheryl adds she and Sugar are “so much alike”. Betty asks herself, if she was Cheryl, what she would do in Riverdale.

Betty and Ronnie both guess Archie (that is hilariously sexual). The three girls find Archie and run over to him. Cheryl asks Archie if he’s seen her puppy and gives him a description (reddish fur and “a lovely jeweled dog collar”). Archie just saw her at Pop’s and runs there. Cheryl runs after him, but Betty enters Pop’s first. Cheryl is happy to see her Sugar Blossom. Ronnie notes Sugar is “just like her owner”. Sugar is lapping water out of a glass on the floor while admired by two dogs (one of which might be Jughead’s Hot Dog). A distressed Pop thinks his shop is “going to the dogs”.

This story was lovely. As a pet owner, I would be devastated if any of them went missing, so Cheryl’s freakout is totally relatable. Ronnie was a useless bitch, but it’s really nice that Betty was much more understanding (perhaps because she has a pet cat) and decided to help Cheryl. I also love how this story continues from the previous one. This entire issue felt cohesive. I’d like to see more of this type of storytelling.

Comics – Puppy Love

Cheryl-Blossom-21
Writer: Holly G! (Holly Golightly)*
Pencils: Holly G!*
Inking: Rudy Lapick*
Lettering: Bill Yoshida*
Coloring: Barry Grossman*
Original Publication: Cheryl Blossom, No. 21
Cover Date: April, 1999
Length: 6 pages

*Only the lead story in the issue is credited. I assume the credits apply to all of the stories.

Although I have the original issue, I’m reviewing this story from the digital edition.

A 6-page story? Wow, we haven’t seen that in a while.

Cheryl is reading a music magazine while sitting at her drawing table in her bedroom.

At least, I think it’s her bedroom. I don’t see a bed, but there’s another desk with a computer. The door consists mostly of glass windows, and the wall is decorated with posters of women. Maybe this is meant to be her home office for when she’s working on her fashion designs for Fresh.

Penelope knocks on the door and asks Cheryl if she’s working on her “little fashion magazine”. That’s condescending. She wants to take a peek, but then Cheryl starts crying loudly, startling her. Cheryl has blue eyes in this story.

Penelope is concerned that Cheryl is sick, but Cheryl is upset, because she read the Sugar Girls found a new replacement for her, so now she has no chance of regaining her “rock star status”. She then literally exclaims “Wah!” Penelope tries to comfort Cheryl and says she and Clifford both agree she’s much too young for a serious musical career. Cheryl says the Sugar Girls picked her and tries to convince her mother that her money had nothing to do with it – but isn’t at all convincing. Oh, Penelope wears reading glasses.

Cheryl says the Sugar Girls saw her talent, and now her “star is dimmed by the mere reason of youth”. Penelope tries to assure her daughter that there’ll be many other opportunities knocking on her door. She suggests work as a distraction for her disappointment. Cheryl says fashion seems meaningless to her now and adds “It’s just clothes!” A worried Penelope has never seen Cheryl this distraught before. She suggests relaxing with a nice soak in the tub. Penelope goes out, telling Cheryl that she’ll check in on her when she gets back.

Penelope goes out and buys a dress and jewelry for Cheryl in hopes of cheering her up. Jamie is her chauffeur, so I guess she’s the Blossom family’s chauffeur, not just specifically Cheryl’s. Jamie suggests Penelope get Cheryl something that she can care for, so she’ll have something other than her own self to think about.

Back at the Blossom mansion, a maid points out that Cheryl has been in the bath for over 2 hours and suggests drying off. Cheryl doesn’t see the point. Penelope arrives with a box with holes in the lid. She opens the box, and something jumps into the bathtub, splashing Cheryl.

Cheryl’s scared, but then a cute Pomeranian puppy pokes its head out of the water and lets out a “Yip!” of delight, smiling at Cheryl. Cheryl grins and picks up the puppy. Penelope is happy that her “baby” is smiling again and thinks the puppy made Cheryl forget “that whole Sugar fiasco”. An overjoyed Cheryl hugs the puppy and, of course, names it Sugar Blossom. The two of them instantly bond.

This story was lovely. It’s interesting to see Cheryl (realistically) be so depressed regarding the implosion of her singing career, and it’s adorable to see Cheryl being genuinely delighted to have a pet. It’s also worth noting this is the first short story of any real consequence in this series, since it introduces a new member of the Blossom family. All of the previous short stories have basically been filler in between the “important”, longer stories. This story deals with the aftermath of the lead story. I like that.

Comics – 3 Goes Into 3…!

Archie-Double-Digest-333Writer: Dan Parent
Pencils: Dan Parent
Inking: Jim Amash
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: Jack Morelli
Original Publication: Archie Jumbo Comics Digest, No. 333
On-Sale Date: September 7, 2022
Length: 5

This doesn’t seem to be a story. An unseen narrator talks about triangles while we see a bunch of triangles, hearts, and disembodied heads. This is about love triangles, you see. The Archie, Betty, and Veronica triangle is “the most well known in Riverdale”.

Other triangles include, Betty, Adam, Trev; Reggie, Eliza, Harper; Moose, Midge, Reggie; and Kevin, Devin, Paul. These are equilateral triangles, since the three sides are equal.

However, Archie, Betty, and Veronica form a scalene (or isosceles) triangle – with Archie always being the weakest.

Add Cheryl, and it becomes a rectangle or trapezoid. Add Valerie for a pentagon and Midge for a hexagon. Wait, Midge? Since when does Archie date Midge?

It turns out that Jughead is the one narrating this shit to…someone…while on his way to Pop’s. He talks about the circle, which he calls “simple, yet perfect”. The only triangles that he deals with are slices of pepperoni pizza.

Well…that was incredibly lazy. Seriously, nothing even really happened. No character except Jughead actually appeared, and he just talked about how the teen relationships in Riverdale are absurdly complex.

By the way, if you don’t know some of these characters’ names, don’t worry. They barely get any amount of time in the stories as it is. Archie Comics seems to love to introduce a bunch of new characters and then barely do anything with them.

Comics – Sugarworld

Cheryl-Blossom-21
Writer: Holly G! (Holly Golightly)
Pencils: Holly G!
Inking: Rudy Lapick
Lettering: Bill Yoshida
Coloring: Barry Grossman
Original Publication: Cheryl Blossom, No. 21
Cover Date: April, 1999
Length: 11 pages

Although I have the original issue, I’m reviewing this story from the digital edition.

This is the beginning of a new era for Cheryl Blossom. There’s a new writer/artist: Holly K. Golightly (better known as Holly G!). It was her stories that really made me fall in love with Cheryl. You can see her artwork right away on the front cover (whereas Dan DeCarlo drew the covers for Dan Parent’s run on the title), assisted by longtime Archie artist Henry Scarpelli.

Also, Rudy Lapick is back as the inker, having previously inked the stories in two of the miniseries.

The indicia indicates new issues were not released in January or July, meaning this issue likely came out in February, making it the first issue of 1999. Musically, the Britney Spears era had only recently begun – with the “…Baby One More Time” single released on September 28 of the previous year and the …Baby One More Time album released on January 12. I’ll have more to say about the music scene in a bit, since this story is all about music from this particular moment in history.

Anyway, let’s get into it:

Cheryl is reading a music magazine (in her dad’s study, for whatever reason) and is like “Holy fucking shit!” at what she reads. Her dad asks about it, and Cheryl tries to downplay her reaction as just being to news that the new CD by Backstreet Boys knockoffs has been delayed.

Clifford asks her if she doesn’t think there are more important things to fret over. She agrees but is silently relieved that she didn’t let on about what really got her psyched: an audition for a new Sugar Girl after Ginger Sugar leaves the band.

Okay, I admit I wasn’t a Spice Girls fan. I had heard “Wannabe“, of course (it was inescapable), but I was never really interested in the band. I’ve always been late getting into music. I first got into 1980s music during the mid-1990s, and I started checking out 1990s music later. Only now am I taking an interest in current music.

Anyway, the Spice Girls were fucking huge. I cannot overstate this. They were everywhere. In doing research, I was surprised to discover they had basically kicked off the girl group craze (surprising, considering the existence of the Bangles, the Go-Go’s, and Bananarama). Apparently, before that, the general feeling was both males and females would be intimidated by girl groups. The Spice Girls changed that in 1996 (and spawned numerous copycat groups as a result as record labels searched for “the next Spice Girls”). Unlike previous girl groups, whose members went for a homogenous look and whose music was primarily bought by males, they focused on a female audience with an unabashed “Girl Power” fierceness and rejected a homogenous group identity in favor of their five distinct personalities and styles, which encouraged fans to identify with one member or another. And they were a massive hit. Like, seriously. Spice became the best-selling album by a girl group of all time. They followed up on that success with Spiceworld in 1997 (1998 for U.S. wide release) and the Spice World movie. They are the second-best-selling British group of all time, behind only the Beatles. They are the best-selling girl group of all time, claiming in excess of 100,000,000 album sales. The second-best-selling girl group of all time, the Supremes, claims only 50,000,000-100,000,000 album sales, and they had 29 albums. The Spice Girls beat their record with only 3 albums. Geri Halliwell announced her departure from the group (through her solicitor) on May 31, 1998; it was a shock and became one of the biggest entertainment news stories of the year, making entertainment news headlines the world over.

Yeah, this issue actually came out around 8-9 months after Ginger’s departure, but the story is treating it as a current event. This isn’t the only time that Archie Comics has been behind the times and treated something old as something current (or even the most extreme example of it), but I actually don’t blame Holly for using it for her story. After all, she had just taken over the title, and there really wasn’t any other comparable situation in the world of music. Plus Cheryl being a replacement for Ginger (another redhead) was too perfect to not do anything with. In real life, the Spice Girls never added a replacement member; they simply continued on as a quartet. But let’s see where this story goes.

So Cheryl plots to audition in secret. I guess she hopes to convince her dad to let her join the group after the fact? By the way, Cheryl has blue eyes in this story.

It turns out that the auditions start today at 4:00 PM. That’s certainly not much advance notice. A panicking Cheryl calls for the car.

Soon, Cheryl is arriving at the Sugar Girls’ very own studio, the Sugar Factory, in her red limousine (covered with blossoms and inscribed with her signature). We’re introduced to Cheryl’s chauffeur, Jamie, a young woman with short brown hair. Cheryl has Jamie let her off here, so she can make her “big entrance”, convinced that her “elite beauty will part that sea of plain Janes”.

Before we move on, I have to ask: What the fuck? The Spice Girls are a distinctly British group. Even this fictional version is British, judging by a phrase used by one of its members. So why the fuck is their recording studio within driving distance of Cheryl’s house? And don’t say “Because Cheryl is the protagonist.” This is a common problem in Archie Comics: a lot of stuff involving famous people unrealistically happens within the main characters’ stomping grounds, solely so they don’t have to travel far. So, yeah, the “world search” for the new member of a British girl group is happening in Pembrooke or Riverdale.

A local news reporter is covering the event and is excited when “our very own Cheryl Blossom” gets out of the limo. The four remaining Sugar Girls are watching Cheryl from a second-floor window of the Sugar Factory. They’ve got the same nicknames as the Spice Girls (and conveniently refer to each other by those names). They’re already impressed by Cheryl: she’s “totally phat” and “definitely has the Sugar style”. I mean, really, I’m not that impressed by Cheryl’s weird multi-colored coat, but the blue boots are nice.

I’m already noticing a change in the panel layouts compared to Dan Parent. There are more double and even quadruple panels (as well as small insert panels).

Scary has their manager, Marvin, bring Cheryl up here. Marvin seems to be a stand-in for the Spice Girls’ real-life manager, Simon Fuller. Cheryl is not surprised to be summoned.

I guess someone took her coat on her way upstairs. Anyway, the girls hit it off. Cheryl is put in the recording booth to see if she has “the Sugar sound”. Why not just sing in front of the others? Anyway, I guess Cheryl’s singing has improved, since they find her “not bad”. Sporty can help her with her dance moves.

Cheryl’s tryout went “fairly well”. She’s “a tad rough around the edges”, but they can give her “the ‘Sugar’ polish” that she needs. Cheryl is surprised and overjoyed. So overjoyed, in fact, that she actually exclaims “Squeal!!” So that’s it? They hire Cheryl without seeing any more people? The crowd outside is gonna be pissed. Marvin says they have to work out “the small stuff”, like her salary, starting date, and age. Cheryl hadn’t considered that last detail, so she decides to lie (rather unconvincingly, but they buy it, anyway) and say she’s 20. How could Cheryl have not considered this before? Wouldn’t the notification of the audition in the paper have specified an age requirement? Anyway, Marvin dubs Cheryl “Sugar Blossom”, and Cheryl is overjoyed. Um, no, that’s bullshit. There are contracts to sign, and Cheryl would have to provide a form of identification. There’s no way that “it’s set” (as Marvin says) just based on everyone’s say-so. Besides, Cheryl is a well-known celebrity in her own right. Remember the Beach House series that she hosted last summer? Everyone in America knows who she is. And they’d know her series ended, because the new school year started.

Anyway, it seems Cheryl is still a minor; otherwise, it would make no sense for her to lie about her age. Again, assuming she’s just on the cusp of turning 18 (which she probably isn’t, because she could have just went with that, but let’s use that for the sake of discussion), then she would have turned 16 (and thus been eligible to drive) roughly two years earlier, around the time that issue #1 of this ongoing series came out. Yeah, that would mean all of the Specials and miniseries came out before the “driving window”. I wonder if we should still consider them to be in continuity at this point – or just the ongoing series.

Back at the Blossom mansion, Clifford is watching TV while wondering what Cheryl is up to, because the house is “quite quiet”. The reporter from earlier comes on and announces the first Sugar Girls press conference. Clifford is vaguely aware that Cheryl likes the band. He’s shocked to see Cheryl on TV. She’s sitting in the middle with the band at a table. She cheerfully exclaims “Blossom Power!”, but Sporty elbows her and corrects her that it’s “Girl Power!” Sugar Blossom is introduced to the world by her nickname. Clifford flips his shit when he learns her alleged age.

Thirty minutes later, the group is in a dressing room, changing clothes for their next TV appearance, a knockoff of The Rosie O’Donnell Show. Marvin gives them a 10-minute reminder. Baby compliments Cheryl’s outfit but says she looks “way younger than 20”. Cheryl nervously bullshits about her habits. Why didn’t she say she was 18? Marvin tells them that it’s showtime.

The girls walk out on the stage cheering “Girl Power!!” Rosie questions “the new sugar cube in the bowl”. Cheryl gushes about her “dream come true”. Apparently, it’s been only 3.5 hours since Cheryl’s been made part of the group. No way could they go from acceptance to a press conference to a booked TV appearance that quickly. Anyway, Rosie jokingly says Cheryl is 13 years old, and Cheryl nervously insists she’s 20. How has no one informed the group that Cheryl isn’t 20 by this point?

They go to questions from the audience. Somehow, Clifford had managed to get into the studio audience and publicly busts Cheryl (and humiliates her).

The next morning, an upset Cheryl is having eggs benedict for breakfast. Jason tells her to stop pouting. Cheryl complains. Clifford tells Cheryl to “stop picking on” Jason. He tells Cheryl that she’s still famous; she headlined the Entertainment section of the newspaper. Jason is surprised. Cheryl is excited. Clifford shows them. There’s a photo of Clifford angrily pulling a crying Cheryl away by the wrist. The headline reads “Cheryl Blossom’s Sweet Taste of Success Ruined by ‘Sugar’ Daddy!” Jason laughs. Cheryl finds it humiliating.

This story was pretty dumb. I know that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the new writer, but it really does feel like something that Dan Parent would have written: a highly improbable “instant fame” story where Cheryl is her own hinderance. Really, what the fuck was Cheryl’s plan? The group members were literally some of the biggest pop culture icons of the 1990s. There was no way that Cheryl was going to keep any of this quiet.

This really deserved to be an issue-length story – or even an ongoing storyline. Drop the age requirement. Have Cheryl’s parents be open to her becoming a pop singer and assign her a private tutor as other underage celebrities get. As it is, Cheryl just comes off as extremely stupid and short-sighted.

It’s a shame, because this really is almost the only time in history that this storyline could have been done (except maybe ripping off Pussycat Girls Present: The Search for the Next Doll in 2007). Girl groups aren’t really a thing in the West anymore. The focus is more on individual pop singers and occasional collaborations between them.

So what happened to the group in real life? They released their third album, Forever, in late 2000 and went on hiatus in December of that year after sales didn’t measure up to their previous two albums. They first reunited in 2007, and Ginger has been a part of all of their reunions. So it looks like Cheryl might not have missed out on much.

Extras

In the middle of the story is a page of Cheryl fan art (with entries from Arthur Bryan of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Cheri Scott of Hartselle, Alabama; Kelsey Fenton of Prince George, British Columbia, Canada; Lindsay Kurty of Pittsford, New York; and Lynn Coleman of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania).

After the story is a 1-page Cheryl illustration titled “Cheryl Blossom Festival Fashion”.

Comics – The Dresser

Cheryl-Blossom-20
Writer: Dan Parent*
Pencils: Dan Parent*
Inking: Jon D’Agostino*
Lettering: Bill Yoshida*
Coloring: Barry Grossman*
Original Publication: Cheryl Blossom, No. 20
Cover Date: March, 1999
Length: 5 pages

*Only the lead story in the issue is credited. I assume the credits apply to all of the stories.

Although I have the original issue, I’m reviewing this story from the digital edition.

Cheryl and Priscilla are at a fancy auction. Cheryl talks of her love of them. Priscilla says all of this stuff belonged to a very aristocratic family. She also says “this” house was rumored to be haunted. Is the auction being held in the house? Anyway, Cheryl is intrigued. The next item up for bid is an antique dresser, which Cheryl finds awesome.

Cheryl immediately bids $5,000, which Priscilla finds crazy. Cheryl wins.

Later, at home, Cheryl runs to the door in excitement when her dresser from the Blake estate arrives. Jason believes the place is haunted and doesn’t even wanna be near the dresser, which Cheryl finds beautiful.

That night, while Cheryl’s asleep, the dresser’s top drawer opens, waking her.

Cheryl gets out of bed and shuts it, but it opens again. She guesses it’s probably just loose and decides to fix it tomorrow. She hopes that’s what it is. In this panel, Cheryl clearly has blue eyes.

The next night, before going to bed, Cheryl exposits about how the repairman said nothing’s wrong with the drawer. Later, the top drawer opens, and Cheryl’s clothes are thrown out. Cheryl gets up, scared. But then she figures it’s her asshole brother Jason’s doing.

Cheryl runs down the hall, screaming for Jason. Penelope pokes her head out of her bedroom and tells Cheryl to shut the fuck up. She tells Cheryl that Jason is staying at their cousin’s house tonight. Cheryl is now “officially” scared. And she clearly has blue eyes.

Cheryl goes back to bed and hides under her cover with her flashlight. She hears noises, shines her flashlight, and sees her silk nightgown moving across the floor. She thinks it’s “a spirit or some kind of evil creature of the night” before realizing it’s her own clothing. Still, it is moving on its own, seemingly.

Cheryl picks up her nightgown and discovers a squirrel underneath. She investigates and discovers a hollow compartment behind the drawers in her dresser. It’s full of leaves and nuts; the squirrel has been living in it. The commotion brings Penelope and Clifford to her room. An amused Cheryl holds up the squirrel and explains. Penelope finds it cute. Cheryl explains she thought the dresser was haunted. Clifford screams in horror. Cheryl asks him what’s wrong. He found the price tag that Cheryl had left on the dresser. Do auction sales come with price tags that list the final bids? Somehow, I doubt it. Still, Cheryl’s worried.

This story was pretty fun. Not much to it.

And that’s the end of Dan Parent’s run on Cheryl’s solo title. He’s been with the title since the beginning, writing from Cheryl Blossom Special #1 (and even cowriting various stories before that) and drawing from issue #4 of the ongoing title. Both he and inker Jon D’Agostino (who has been with the ongoing title since the beginning) are leaving.

Overall, I’d say Parent did a decent job of bringing Cheryl Blossom, a character created in 1982 and largely written by Frank Doyle, into the 1990s and modernizing her, even if some of her newer stories haven’t aged well, and even if the writing wasn’t always the best.

Dan Parent has returned to the character of Cheryl Blossom in the years since, of course, but, for now, we say farewell and await the new writer.

Comics – Wooden It Be Nice?

World-of-BV-Digest-18
Writer: Ron Robbins
Pencils: Jeff Shultz
Inks: Jim Amash
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: Jack Morelli
Original Publication: World of Betty and Veronica Jumbo Comics Digest, No. 18
On-Sale Date: August 31, 2022
Length: 5 pages

Oh, great, that Ron Robbins guy is the writer. I hope this story is better than that other one.

The gang is at Riverdale’s Fall Carnival. Cheryl seems to be with Reggie (at least, for one panel). Are they dating again? Veronica is walking arm-in-arm with Archie, leaving Betty to have to carry a stuffed donkey (foreshadowing!) that someone won as a prize. Ronnie is having lots of fun. Archie agrees and offers to help Betty, who grunts. Ronnie insists she’s fine and wants to ride the Ferris wheel. Betty complains to Cheryl about Archie and Ronnie, but it’s unclear who she wants to carry stuff. It’s interesting that Betty is bitching about one BFF to her other BFF.

Toni tries to warn Betty about a basketball heading right for her head. Too late, though. Betty gets knocked unconscious.

Then…she has a dream. Great. Betty is Pinocchio. She recognizes Cheryl, who’s Candle Wick. She helps Betty to her feet. Betty freaks out when she realizes she’s made of wood.

Candle Wick suggests scamming two boys (Reggie and…Chuck, I think) out of some cotton candy. Jughead, the Talking Cricket, arrives and admonishes Betty. Betty says she was only going along with Candle Wick. Both girls start turning into donkeys.

Sabrina, the Fairy with Turquoise Platinum Blonde Hair, poofs in. Betty recognizes her as Sabrina. Sabrina admonishes her. Betty just wants to be back at the Riverdale Carnival…in Archie’s arms. Sabrina taps Betty on the hat twice with her wand, and a poof of smoke envelopes her.

Betty wakes up. Archie asks her if she’s okay. He tells her what happened and offers a hand. Cheryl looks shocked/concerned. Archie offers to carry Betty. Cheryl happily follows them. The others trail behind, Ronnie stuck carrying the donkey. Archie notes the stars and tells Betty to make a wish. Betty tells him that it’s already come true.

This story was pretty cute. Not a whole lot to it, but it’s worth noting, when Betty dreams of herself as Pinocchio, she dreams of Cheryl, not Veronica, as Candle Wick. This is significant, because, in the original story, Candlewick is Pinocchio’s best friend.