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Ask Chris #21: The Bruce Wayne Girlfriend Trauma Algorithm and Archie’s Most Terrifying Comics

Here at ComicsAlliance, we value our readership and are always open to what the masses of Internet readers have to say. That’s why we’ve given Senior Writer Chris Sims the punishment pleasure of stepping into the grand tradition of the Answer Man as he responds to your reader questions!

Q: If I were to start dating Bruce Wayne, how long would it take before I would be killed/ kidnapped/ etc.?charpalnaut

A: Despite the fact that he’s a handsome, rich, dedicated career-oriented bachelor, Bruce Wayne hasn’t really had anything even remotely resembling luck in the dating department, mostly because — as you point out — his girlfriends tend to keep kidnapped and/or murdered, occasionally going so far as to be kidnapped by shadowy organizations that fake their deaths, give them plastic surgery to look completely different, and then end up being turned into cyborg super-spies.

I’d say it’s the primary risk of dating Batman, but it’s less of a risk and more of an absolute guarantee. It’s going to happen. Should you decide that he’s worth the risk, however — and having seen that dude’s abs, I would totally support that decision — there are ways of delaying the inevitable.The first thing you need to know is that being a normal, successful young lady is the absolute worst possible thing you could do. Seriously, if you’re a sharp, witty, well-adjusted career woman, you’re going to find yourself on the wrong end of a super-villain within six months, tops. The best case scenario here is that you’re either going to be sacrificed to a cult of RenFaire Draculas like socialite/law student Julie Madison…

…or menaced with a branding iron by a one-man Gathering of the Juggalos, like Silver St. Cloud:

Either way, you should probably go ahead and get used to the idea of being tied up (and not in the fun “yes, that is a batrope in my utility belt, but I am also happy to see you” sort of way), so I’d recommend reading up on knots well in advance. And keep in mind, that’s not the worst thing that ever happened to Silver St. Cloud. She later had to appear in a Kevin Smith comic.

As counterintuitive as it might seem if you’re trying to land a romance with the world’s greatest crimefighter, you’ll have way better luck if you take up a career in the exciting world of thematic crime!

It’s Gotham City’s fastest-growing industry!

From what I’ve read, the best way to go about this is probably being the alluring daughter of an immortal, genocidal mastermind. Like most, long-distance romances, it’s pretty tough and doomed to fail from the start, but the times you’re together are intense and exceptionally shirtless, and you get to spend the rest of your time hanging out with ninjas and wearing kicky Emma Peel catsuits. Of course, if your father’s an immortal, genocidal mastermind, that presents its own set of kidnapping and murder-related problems, mostly revolving around the fact that he will occasionally attempt to kidnap and murder you.

If you come from more humble beginnings, though, you can still make it work. Just get yourself some skintight vinyl and a decade’s worth of training in gymnastics and karate (and only karate), then hit the town and just cold start stealing stuff. Things will probably start out slow — I’d refer to it less as dating and more as sustained rooftop flirtation — but eventually, you’ll be getting Bat-makeouts all over the dang place.

Just keep in mind that this in no way will keep Batman Girlfriend Trauma from happening, and once it does show up, it’ll be in the form of something monumentally ludicrous, like getting your entire heart cut out, which will somehow not be fatal. Kind of a pain, though.

You know, now that I actually write this all out — and without even getting to Vesper Fairchild, who took three bullets in the back just to drop Batman into prison for two weeks in a story nobody remembers a decade later — I’m starting to think that maybe the Guaranteed Batman Girlfriend Trauma isn’t worth it. I mean, yeah, he’s Batman, but what can he possibly have to offer that could outweigh that?

Ah, right. You win again, Shirtless Batman. You win again.


Q: I was wondering if you have any knowledge of a series of scary or slightly scary Betty Cooper stories from the late 1970′s? I have a vague memory of reading some — something with zombie-ish characters and/or something about toxic green goop in the sewers? Perhaps they were just scary to me, I was a little kid. Eve, via email

A: I’m not familiar with those particular stories, but I can pretty much guarantee you that they were published in “Life With Archie.”

During the ’70s, comics in general saw a surge in popularity for horror-related titles, spurred on both by the loosening of the comics code that allowed for super-hero characters like Ghost Rider and the arrival of magazines like “Eerie” and “Creepy” that sought to get back to the high points of the ’50s EC titles. Archie was no exception, and so from 1971 to 1979, “Life With Archie,” which had previously been just another standard comedy title (albeit one that saw Archie get recast as the super-hero “Pureheart the Powerful” and the Bond-esque “Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.”) became the comic where Archie and his friends were almost killed every issue, usually through encounters with the supernatural.

Betty, as Riverdale’s icon of purity and sweetness, was often at the forefront of these stories, dealing with both supernatural threats and more mundane ones, like the time she was abducted and tied up (which seems to be the theme of this week’s column) by her extremely sketchy new neighbors:

There’s definitely at least one story that takes place in the sewer — #178 — although the danger there seems to be from drowning in a sudden flood rather than anything toxic. As for whether or not the stories were actually as scary as you remember, well, like I said, I haven’t read them, so I don’t know.

But I can assure you that the ones I have read are terrifying.

“Life With Archie” #160 is mostly known for the cover story, which features a main story where Betty and Veronica are almost burned alive when one of Mr. Lodge’s buildings catches fire, but it also features a backup in which a mysterious green box was unearthed at a construction site and, when open, emitted an invisible “Aura of Satan” (!) that promptly started melting peoples’ faces off.

I feel like I should point out here that twenty years before this story was published, the people at Archie Comics had been the ones leading the charge to implement the Comics Code, which was built around the express purpose of keeping things exactly like this out of the hands of impressionable youngsters.

The facemeltings eventually cease when Archie shoots the box with a speargun from a helicopter (really), but in the creepiest moment of the story, nothing’s ever explained or resolved. They just close up the box, bury it, and go on with their lives like the mailman didn’t just get killed by what they’re pretty sure was the Devil.

Five issues later, there’s a story where Veronica is held at knifepoint by a crook Mr. Lodge hires to do some woodcarving, and while that’s nowhere near as terrifying as, you know, Satan, it does have what is quite possibly my favorite opening caption in comics history:

Light flashes off a razor’s edge as the surgical steel waves slowly back and forth like the sinister head of a deadly cobra! Archie and Mr. Lodge freeze in their tracks! Veronica stiffens in fear! Everybody’s got something to lose in this chilling stalemate!

So rest assured, Eve: Your childhood memories are correct. And awesome.


And now, a few quick answers:

Q: I just found out that FOX’s “Human Target” is based on a DC Comic. Do you have any opinion on that comic? Worth reading? ZeppoMarxist

A: Absolutely! The Peter Milligan series was probably the best Vertigo book on the stands when it was coming out, and sadly, one of the most underappreciated, and it had absolutely gorgeous art by guys like Javier Pulido and Cliff Chiang.

It also has almost nothing to do with the TV show. In the comic, Christopher Chance uses makeup and plastic surgery to become a perfect double of the person he’s trying to protect, acting as a decoy, and consequently losing his own identity every time he “becomes” someone else. There are points in the series where no one — not Chance, not the supporting cast, not even the reader — is sure who he really is, but the end result is an extremely complex and rewarding book about the nature of identity. I think the TV show got the earliest stories reprinted (Milligan did a mini-series and an original graphic novel before the ongoing) I highly recommend it, even though it does suffer from the lack of Chi McBride.

Q: Can cows get drunk? What about cow people like Bova? LiterateKnits

A: I am amazed that it’s taken 21 of these columns before someone asked me about Bova. Anyway, the answer is yes: Both cows and cow people can get drunk. In fact, if you give a cow enough vodka and Kahlua, its milk will come out as a White Russian, although you need to bring your own ice.

Q: On the subject of manga, to you prefer it to be right-to-left (preserving the original art) or left-to-right (creating greater flow for English readers)? Marcus, via email

A: For things like page orientation and layout, I prefer things to be as close to their original format as possible. That way people don’t suddenly become left-handed.


Q:
You suggested that Luke Cage asking Dr. Doom “Where’s my money, honey?” might be the best panel in Marvel Comics history. This made me wonder what’s the best panel in all comics history?
Charles, via Email

A:

From “Godzilla vs. Barkley” #1 (1993) by Mike Baron and Jeff Butler.

That’s all for this week, but if you’ve got a question you’d like answered, put it on Twitter with the tag #AskChris or send an email to comicsalliance@gmail.com with [Ask Chris] in the subject line!

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