Bizarro Back Issues: Remember That Time Four Jugheads Fought Morgan Le Fay In The Future? (1991)
Over the past few years, I've been completely thrilled by the new approach that Archie Comics has taken with their characters. The Life With Archie series, the introduction of Kevin Keller, crossovers with Glee and KISS, it's all been interesting to see, and pretty entertaining to read. But it's not the first time Archie has tried to shake things up.
No, there was a time, that magical time we look back on as the '90s, where Archie was throwing its characters into new and different genres to see what worked, and the end result was a bunch of truly bizarre stories. Like, say, the second time that Jughead traveled through time to fight Morgan Le Fay. Because what better nemesis for Archie's Pal Jughead than King Arthur's half-sister?It all happened in Jughead's Time Police #6, a time traveling epic from writer Rich Margopoulos and artist Gene Colan. Yes, that Gene Colan. Tomb of Dracula Gene Colan. I know, I was surprised too.
For those of you who have never read it, Jughead's Time Police was a product of the same strange era that started with the abominable New Archies and gave us books like Archie 3000 -- in which the same old stories about Archie's car breaking down on the way to a date with Veronica at the prom were replaced with stories about Archie's robot jet car breaking down on the way to the space prom -- and the truly amazing Archie's Weird Mysteries, in which Riverdale was constantly plagued by Draculas and Wolfmans. Thanks to his sleepy-eyed nonchalance around everything that wasn't a hamburger, Jughead was a pretty good foil to bounce this stuff off of, so he was right in the center of it.
Time Police, though, is amazingly weird. The premise is that a mysterious benefactor gives Jughead a version of his crown -- or "beanie," as they insist on calling it -- that gives him the ability to telepathically travel through time. So naturally, he was recruited by Archie's 29th-century descendant, January McAndrews, to join up with the organization that went around the time-stream solving paradoxes. This is maybe the best part of the whole thing, in that it gave us a full-on romance between Jughead and a girl who looked exactly like Archie and allowed for the flourishing of subtext, the likes of which had never been seen before. Even beyond that, though, it was still Timecop with Jughead in the Jean-Claude Van Damme role, and that's a premise that's more or less scientifically designed to appeal to me.
Even though it's not mentioned at all in the actual comic, this is the final issue of Time Police, which means two things: 1) Margopoulos and Colan have a lot to cram in to wrap up the book's ongoing plot threads and still get their story in there, and 2) all bets are off in terms of sheer craziness. Thus, we jump right in with January showing up to pull Jughead away from a sandwich. Clearly things are pretty dire:
Right, remember the Time Beanie that allows Jug to think his way through the fourth dimension? It turns out that January just found it one day in the Jughead Wing of the Riverdale Museum and decided that obviously she should go back in time and give it to him so that he could be a Timecop. The thing is, they don't know who gave it to him, but since I've already used the word "paradox" in this column, you can probably guess how all that's going to end up.
Incidentally, this conversation takes place in Pickens Park, which has become one of the established locations of Riverdale -- it's popped up recently in the pages of Life With Archie. What those books don't mention, though, is that the legendary colonel that it's named for is actually a clone of Jughead from the future who went back in time to fight in the Civil War. Now you know... the rest of the story.
Anyway, Jug and Jan pop back to the 29th Century, where Jughead goes to the Time-Techs and tells them to invent a thought-activated device that looks like his hat, then pops another hundred years past that and picks it up once they're done figuring out how to do it. With that done, he and Jan then disappear back to before the series started, traveling in what appears to be some kind of Time Fart so that they can themselves be the Mysterious Benefactor:
With that, the driving mystery of the series -- well, the mystery that they occasionally talk about between gags about Marco Polo and the secret origin of spaghetti -- has been resolved, and we're only six pages in. So how to fill the rest of the book?
By having Morgan le Fay, fell sorceress, bane of Camelot and arch-nemesis of Forsythe Pendleton Jones III, break out of time prison.
One would think that keeping prisoners from using technology that could make them look like members of the police force would be the first, maybe the second thing the guards would do, but here we are, and there she goes.
To her credit, Morgan has a downright sinister plan for vengeance: Going back to the Little Archie and straight up killing Jughead as a child. Or at least, the version of that plan that you can do in an Archie comic in the '90s:
In case you've been fooled by Hollywood propaganda like Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxas into thinking that Morgan le Fay wasn't 100% evil, consider this: She not only put a little kid into temporal stasis, she straight up stole a bite of his pie. That is cold, y'all. Cold as ice.
It's only a moment before Jughead and January show up to stop whatever she has planned for Li'l J, but since they have the ability to time travel via mental command, I don't really get why it even takes them that long. Shouldn't they have popped in instantly, fully prepared to deal with whatever evil machinations Morgan had in store for them? It might be nitpicking, but it sticks out since every other part of this story is so flawlessly logical.
Unfortunately, they're ill-prepared. January doesn't even get a sentence out before Morgan zaps her into stasis and turns her "Lightning Ring" onto Jughead, seemingly vaporizing him on the spot. What she doesn't realize as she's gloating, though, is that Jughead was able to teleport out at the last minute, thanks to lightning reflexes that he honed by...
Huh. You'd think they would've gone with something that had to do with Jug's defining characteristic, like flipping impossibly tall stacks of pancakes, or eating an ice cream cone before even a single drop melted. But nope. Juggling. Which he continues to do as he walks down the street to illustrate his point for the reader.
The comic continues to not live up to its potential as Jughead reaveals his plan: Assembling a Council of Cross-Time Jugheads to deal with Morgan. Except that instead of picking, like, Young Jughead, Adult Jughead, and Grizzled Cybernetic Postapocalyptic Riverdale Jughead (you know, like that one episode of Dexter's Lab), he just gets himself from a span of about three months. And for some reason, Colan decides to make them look like they're halfway done painting their faces for the Gathering of the Juggalos:
Even his plan is pretty lackluster. You'd think assembling a team of Jugheads (Jugshead?) would lead to them doing something that only four Jugheads could do, like eating an impossibly huge burger. Instead, Jughead Prime just uses his past selves as cannon fodder to attract Morgan's fire, which has got to be the worst plan anyone has ever come up with. He literally had infinite time to come up with this, and did not think it through at all.
I will say, though, their dodging would make the Hawkeye Initiative proud:
Mark it down, folks: May, 1991: First appearance of twerking in comics.
Eventually, the Jugshead provide enough of a distraction that Jughead Prime can pie Morgan right in the face, which is all it takes to end her time-spanning evil forever. She goes back to time prison, January returns to the 29th century, and Jughead goes back to Pop's for a meatball sub and, to my knowledge, never mentions to Archie that he was totally dating his descendant for a summer.
Probably for the best.