Bizarro Back Issues: Cheryl Blossom Exists In Defiance Of God And Man (1995)
As we approach the end of 2015, I thought it would be a nice time to head back into the archives and find a good story about New Year's Eve and all the good tidings that go with it. There aren't as many as there are for Christmas or Halloween But there's a funny thing about going to look for holiday stories. Sometimes, you find a story about Auld Acquaintances, resolutions, countdowns and all that stuff.
And sometimes, you find a story that takes an inexplicable second act twist into mud-wrestling and then reveals that Cheryl Blossom exists in defiance of God Himself. Which, if we're being honest, wasn't actually all that surprising.
The story in question is 1995's "It's Their Miserable Lives" by Bill Golliher and Sean Murphy, and if you're looking to read it yourself, it was recently reprinted as part of the Pep Digital line as part of a collection called Betty & Veronica's New Year's Resolutions. Unfortunately, most of that book is devoted to stories built around just general self-improvement, but this one... this one takes things in a little bit of a different direction.
It opens normally enough, with Cheryl inviting Archie and the gang over to her house for a New Year's party, which basically just amounts to her friends from the prestigious Pembroke Academy standing around and mocking the "townies" for being so poor that they have to attend public school.
So this is where the mud-wrestling comes in.
I wish there was more to it than that, but there really isn't. Veronica just shows up Family Guy style with a, "Hey, remember the time you and Archie wrestled Cheryl and Jason?" and we cut to a completely different story --- Dan DeCarlo and Frank Doyle's "Fall Guys" from 1983 --- but with big thought bubble lines drawn around the pages to awkwardly indicate that we are in a flashback.
Also, in terms of outfit, tight Namor briefs and a cowboy hat are Peak Reggie Mantle.
That story is confusing enough on its own, to the point where the whole wrestling thing doesn't even come close to being explained. It's just thrown out in panel two that Betty and Archie have challenged the Blossom twins to a wrestling match, and no further elaboration is offered until Reggie and Veronica decide to trick them into throwing down in a mud pit in a vacant lot next to Reggie's house.
Seriously. That's the entire premise of the story.
"You don't get it, Cheryl. This isn't a mud pit. It's an operating table. And I'm the surgeon."
- Betty Cooper
Given that it's a story that climaxes with Betty and Archie doing MMA in a mud pit, you could be forgiven for thinking that this would be the strangest part of the story. You would be wrong. It's not until we return from the "flashback" and Cheryl kicks Archie and the gang out after Jughead does an unflattering (but accurate) impression of her that the story really goes off the rails.
Because that's when the angel shows up.
As much as I'm used to stuff like Jingles and Sugarplum showing up around Christmas time, and as much as the title of this story made an It's a Wonderful Life homage inevitable, I wasn't really expecting for an actual messenger from God to show up and start badgering Cheryl Blossom into being a better person. And yet, here we are, where that is exactly what happens.
You might think you have the basics, given that the plot of Wonderful Life, one of modern pop culture's earliest What Ifs, has been recycled and filtered through comics roughly eight million times, but again, you would be wrong. See, there's a weird bit of Cheryl's real-life publication history at play here. As you might already know, Cheryl was introduced in the early '80s as a bit of a spoiler for the classic Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle, but before long, her aggressive pursuit of Riverdale's favorite son allegedly saw her deemed "too sexual" for a kids' comic, and she was shipped off to Pembroke for about a decade.
The result of this is that you can't really do a story about what happens if Cheryl's not around to screw around with everyone's life, because we've already got a ton of stories like that. So instead, we get a story where Cheryl's unnamed Angel --- I'm guessing he's not one of the big ones like Michael or Uriel, otherwise Cheryl would be smote with a flaming sword and booted from Riverdale and into the depeths of Hell --- drives a heavenly motorcycle into an alternate timeline to show Cheryl a future that would have been going to have happened had she not returned in the past! That's not even possible to express with grammar! That's the future perfect contrafactual subjunctive past perfect continuous!
That is not how grammar works or how It's A Wonderful Life works!
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that everyone would have been going to have had a perfectly fine future without Cheryl. Betty's a supermodel who's engaged to European royalty, Archie's a moustachioed executive married to Veronica, and Jughead has been elected mayor, thanks to policies that apparently include tax breaks for restaurants and snack food manufacturers and brought plenty of hamburger-based jobs to the economy. Riverdale is thriving, everyone involved is doing well for themselves, and Cheryl is nowhere to be seen.
In other words, things are perfect, and everyone would be better off without her, which is why the angel's real purpose in paying her a visit was to get her to leave by appealing to her better nature. Alas, Cheryl just doesn't have a better nature to appeal to.
Yes: After actual divine intervention designed to send Cheryl into exile from the paradise that is Riverdale, she not only refuses to leave, but glories in the fact that she will be raining misery down on her fellow teens and destroying their lives in the process. Happy New Year from Cheryl Blossom, everybody! Now suffer!
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