Bizarro Back Issues: And Then There Was The Time Dilton Doiley Was Possessed By A Sentient Jean Jacket (2006)
Last week, when ComicsAlliance launched its poll to determine our readers' favorite Archie character --- and I'm happy to announce that Jughead Jones has taken a considerable lead, narrowly beating Randolph The Kid Who Likes Anime --- I tried to mention a few things about the characters that the average reader might not know. Veronica, for instance, had a storyline where she was revealed to be the prophesied destroyer of all vampires, which is a good thing to know even if it doesn't tip the voting scales in her favor.
But there was one piece of the Riverdale puzzle that I thought I should probably elaborate on: That time that resident nerd Dilton Doiley was possessed by a sentient jean jacket. And believe it or not, it's somehow way weirder than it sounds.
It happened back in 2006 in the pages of Tales From Riverdale Digest #25, and it's worth noting that this particular issue was part of a creative upswing for Archie that led directly to where they are now. I mean, to be perfectly honest, the early 2000s were a pretty rough time for Archie. The stories had fallen into a rut that left them feeling super formulaic even by the standards of a company that mostly relied on the same four plots for about 60 years of comic books, and while there would be a creative renaissance just over the horizon that would be driven by bizarre mass media crossovers and an alternate future, it wasn't quite there yet.
But even through all of that, Tales From Riverdale was a must-read. It was the weird book, the one that was focused on the bizarre corners of the Archie Universe, and that led to some pretty great stories. The most well known by far is probably "Civil Chores," in which Archie did a pretty amazing parody of Marvel's Civil War event that involved Archie going "on strike" until his allowance was raised, and Jughead turning against him because there's no money for burgers to borrow if Archie gets cut off, which ended up being one of the first Archie storylines to continue for more than one issue. Truly, it was the greatest event of the era.
And right after that, we had "Denim," written and drawn by Fernando Ruiz.
There is no way that you can convince me that this story was made for any reason other than someone realizing that writing the word "denim" in the Venom logo would be absolutely hilarious, but the in-story reason for all this is that Dilton's upset about not being able to find a date. He's just not that much of a hit with the ladies, and while no one in Riverdale could ever hope to match Archie's inexplicable success, what's really upsetting is that he's not even doing as well as the hated one, Reggie Mantle.
And really, if that rotten little jerk can get a date, there's no reason that Dilton shouldn't be able to find love, too. His only real problem, after all, is that he lacks Reggie's all-consuming confidence, but there's a way to fix that.
So! Quiz time. How is Dilton going to build up his confidence! Is he going to ask Betty for advice on how to approach girls? Is he going to take up a martial art? Is he, perhaps, just going to face his fear of rejection head-on and ask one of his classmates to go for a burger at Pop's?
No, of course not. He's going to do science to a DNA sample from Reggie that he has because he was trying to make clones of everyone a few months ago.
For the record, Archie Double Digest #173 is not currently available digitally, so someone should probably get on that.
Dilton's plan here is to use the sample to make a sort of synthetic Reggie musk (literally the worst phrase I have ever written), thereby taking advantage of the pheromones that somehow make up for Reggie's personality, which I think we can agree is the dirt worst. And this, my friends, is a concept that Ruiz apparently thought was best explained to the book's younger readers with a panel of horny bears.
The thing is, the cells don't end up forming some kind of cologne. Instead, they congeal into some kind of... symbiote, which leaps out of the petri dish and right into Dilton's face. And the next day, well, he has a brand new jacket.
Now, here's my one nitpick with what is otherwise a flawless and perfectly logical story: That's clearly leather, right? I mean, it's never actually referred to outside of the title as actually being denim, but even a black jean jacket wouldn't have the shiny blue highlights that we see here, right? I suppose calling the story "Leather" wouldn't have really gotten the joke across, and would've maybe carried a different connotation about Dilton's romantic woes.
While the main problem with the jacket is that it just makes Dilton act like Reggie, it eventually turns out that it's also taking him over against his will, and when he goes to Archie and Jughead for help, no one is quite sure how to get that thing off of him.
It's almost to the point where Dilton's going to have to go find the nearest church bell and climb up there to take care of it himself, but then, there is hope. Betty and Veronica show up and discover that Archie has been two-timing them yet again, and when they launch into a screaming match right there on the street in front of God and everybody, it has an unexpected effect on the Denim:
That's right, y'all: Betty and Veronica's screaming is exactly as loud and forceful as a church bell and/or sonic cannon invented by Reed Richards.
The first round of screaming only stuns the jacket, but in order to help his friend, Archie starts confessing to all manner of two-timing, and B&V turn the full force of their anger onto him, inadvertently blasting the Reggie Symbiote right off of Dilton's body and into a nearby sewer.
And listen, I'm not saying that the rebooted Archie universe could use more horrifying semi-sentient blobs made from Reggie Musk, but I'm not not saying it, either.