Saturday, September 8, 2018

Cheryl Blossom #7

The Fairer Sex

Cheryl Blossom #7

A Tale of Two Also-Rans, part one:
The other girl at Archie’s high school

Had you quizzed me about the characters from the Archie Universe a year ago, I would possibly have gotten about 6 out of 10. I know the four majors: Archie, the perplexingly sought-after girl magnet boy next door; Veronica, the rich (and slightly snobbish) clothes hound brunette; Betty, the pure-at-heart, sweet blonde; and Jughead, the guy most likely to take a hamburger to prom. I might have mentioned Moose or Mr. Weatherbee but even with those additions I’d likely have forgotten the dark-haired guy with the crappy morals that was Archie’s foil (Reggie? Or was he the one on the Pussycats cartoon?) and that really homely lady teacher (Mrs. Crabtree? No? Gumby? Was it Mrs. Gumby, by gum!?!)…but yeah…maybe 4 out of ten is more accurate.

I would never have gotten Cheryl Blossom, the hot redhead with loaded parents and an identical twin brother Jason Blossom. She fell right off my radar.

But then came that Riverdale series. I watched the first episode on Netflix and became interested in it, but not interested enough to follow through. It looks great and that amazing hook of a story between the weirdly incestuous-vibing Blossom twins is something I definitely will be investigating. As soon as about four other Netflix series I am binging are complete.

Between the series and this Crapbox find, I think I now have a handle on Ms Blossom. Cheryl makes Veronica look modest when it comes to spending money and her exploits at using men make her one of the few tainted characters in the Archie universe. In fact, she’s not all that likeable and certainly not the sort you would expect to have a solo title all her own.

And as you will see in part two, I found a Marvel second stringer that shares some (not all) of the same traits as this Cheryl Blossom issue. Even though they are a couple of decades apart.

Let’s take a look at what I think about this title…

"Educating Cheryl!”
Writer – Dan Parent
Penciler – Dan Parent
Inker – Jon D’Agosting
Letterers – Bill Yoshida
Colorist – Barry Grossman
Editor – Victor Gorelick
Editor-in-Chief – Richard Goldwater
November 1997

That feels a little silly up there. The book contains three stories but only one has credits. I suppose the assumption we should draw is that all three stories carry the same credits regardless. 
Anyway, of the three Educating Cheryl! is the longest and leads off the book. Cheryl and unnamed brunette are going back to school at the prestigious Pembrooke Academy. The brunette is grouchy at having to go back. Cheryl tries to enlighten her about the perks of Pembrooke Academy.

Pembrooke amounts to the hoity-toity neighboring fictional community of Archie’s Riverdale. The Academy is typically used as a rival to Riverdale High School. So these students are all the stuck-up snobs from the richest part of the metroplex (except Veronica, whose dad makes her go to Riverdale High).

However, even though these kids represent the negative spoiled stereotypical 1%’ers, that doesn’t give Cheryl the right to state, in her glee at returning to school, that she can make them all her willing slaves. That’s very amoral of her, leading boys on just to use them for her selfish wants. 

Sadly enough, the boys all appear willing. As soon the two enter the school, a crowd of boys appear asking to carry Cheryl’s books and almost fighting for the opportunity. Unnamed brunette is approached by unnamed strawberry blonde and they both wonder aloud about how Cheryl pulls it off…

…which gives Cheryl the brilliant idea of setting up a “school for losers” (her words) to train the other girls in how to get boys to do their bidding. She asks the girls to come by her mansion after school that afternoon. What greets the girls is nothing short of astonishing in such a short time span…

I’ll admit to a gentle smirk at the thought that Cheryl’s accomplished all this in the span of just a hour or so. Her ambition and drive at tackling something so devious as getting her fellow female classmates to treat men as mere objects seems like such a misguided application of effort… I mean, there are kids starving in Africa, right?

But that isn’t the worst part. The worst part comes when the she tutors the girls on the contents of “Cheryl’s Rules.”

Alright, I’m going to admit to the fact that I’m binge-watching The Good Place on Netflix and everything Cheryl is throwing down here is morally and ethically questionable at best. Especially her three step plan for getting boys to do her bidding…

…which is basically a bunch of lying and leading people on while using some pheromone-laced sex-drive perfume. Okay, I’m assuming that last part, the story doesn’t really go into what the perfume is made of. The girls do follow Cheryl’s lead in learning how to strut down the school hallways as if on a fashion catwalk. And while the do, two startling things are revealed.

First thing is that Cheryl secretly videotaping them for a “How To..” video she plans on producing and selling WITHOUT the girls knowledge…

…and secondly that her more malicious male twin Jason has decided to get in on her action with a devious plan of his own. 

The story breaks here for a few Archie ads and some pages I’ll discuss in a bit. When we pick back up four pages later, we find Cheryl’s three friends already putting her lessons into practice with good results. Results that Cheryl is getting on camera.

Things are going swimmingly….UNTIL…Jason shows up with a surprise guest that throws a monkey wrench into everything. You see, Cheryl has a dirty little secret…

…and that secret is her unexplanable attraction to Seymour Flopsy, a nerdish bookworm who isn’t interested in her at all. And that trait drives Cheryl into a frenzy, causing her to literally chase him off panel to the chagrin of her adoring female classmates/Cheryl’s Rules students.

Hey gals! That guy will end up rich like Bill Gates and you’ll all be sorry. Except that all of you are already rich. Yeah, I got nothing. Hopefully Seymour will blossom (ha, no that’s not some kind of double entendre) later in life so he’s not looked down upon by every woman but Cheryl. Or his asexuality will change to something more akin to societal norms. Or he won’t and he’ll always have his love of technology.

Whatever, guys! He’s a one-note, throwaway character.

The other girls realize WHY Cheryl can’t resist Seymour in just a few moments. 

With that knowledge under their belts, Cheryl’s posse decides they must get Cheryl to come to her senses. The unnamed brunette leads the pack…

Which works, allowing Cheryl to throw off the tempting lures of geek boy. Unfortunately, in her giddiness, Cheryl let’s it drop that the girls have been on camera this entire time.

Which causes them to turn on our title character. Cue up a funny chase scene at the end, please…

And we’re done. If the other two stories in this book follow this pattern (hint: they kinda do) what we have are comeuppance stories where our protagonist has many unlikeable characteristics. Due to these moral failings, she will attempt things that feed her egocentric and narcissistic tendencies with limited success until the ending where she gets her karmic just desserts….You KNOW! For kids!

I’ll clue you in right here: I enjoyed the Cheryl stories more than I like to admit. It’s fun to watch someone’s struggle when you really hope they will fall flat on their face. Take this next example…

"What a Doll!”
Writer – Dan Parent
Penciler – Dan Parent
Inker – Jon D’Agosting
Letterers – Bill Yoshida
Colorist – Barry Grossman
Editor – Victor Gorelick

We begin our tale with Cheryl lying at home watching the Archie equivalent of the Home Shopping Network or QVC. She notices a high priced doll for sale and her only thought is that the doll isn’t as attractive as she is.

With a tiny bit of goading from her twin, Cheryl hatches a scheme to get MORE rich by selling dolls in her likeness. She rushes out to the local Pembrooke toy company (every town has one, right?) and commissions a likeness of herself.

Love that the guy making the dolls instantly sizes up Cheryl enough to make that final dig before exiting our story. Days later the doll arrives, but all is not quite well with it.

In any other book Cheryl’s brother would be the heel everyone hates, yet here he’s the guy we root for, hoping he gets in a good dig. I have to commend the Archie comic group for producing what appears to be a very subversive type of book. 

Cheryl tries again to get a doll that looks like her, only this time…

…Note that the problem with the doll has Jason “quacking up”. Yeah, you see me doing that? That horrible joke there? I did it. Me.

But the third time is the charm. With doll in hand, Cheryl gets time selling a mini version of herself on the HSN in the Archie-verse. All is going swimmingly until…

…Cheryl’s doll loses her head. Followed quickly by Cheryl losing hers as well. It isn’t the disaster we think it is though, because….

The doll’s unexpected property make it a massive success with kids.

So much so that Cheryl is able to sell them at a huge markup. I’m sorry, there’s no way any parent should pay $300 for a doll whose head pops off so their kid can play with it for an hour of two. Just…No.

And I can see that I would make a fine addition to the Archie writing staff. Gentlemen, I submit my resume and my “quacking up” joke from above. I’ll expect a call any time now.

Our final little ditty from issue seven starts below.

"Wedding Blitz!”
Writer – Dan Parent
Penciler – Dan Parent
Inker – Jon D’Agosting
Letterers – Bill Yoshida
Colorist – Barry Grossman
Editor – Victor Gorelick

We begin with Cheryl talking with her…I’m gonna guess Hispanic housekeeper…about how bored she is toward the end of Summer. You know what I was never when I was on Summer break at her age? Bored. Because I was working my ass off schlepping groceries. Get a job you freeloading 1%’er.

That’s kind of what the tale is angling for. After a break in the fourth wall by the housekeeper (golden by the way!), Cheryl gets the idea of holding a celebrity wedding at her family’s ritzy inn for publicity.

Soon, a coked up Cheryl (I mean, you can tell. Look at those eyes!) has the two celebrities who play on the soap and are ACTUALLY in love in real life, coming to the inn for an ACTUAL (and televised) wedding. All this will become important later. 

Jeebus! Look at how hard she’s tweaking in that last panel!

Cheryl, ever the narcissist, throws on some hot duds and we can see already that she is going to make this entire affair all about herself.

Which goes over too well, because Hank the actor decides Cheryl looks too good to pass up on, follows her to a secluded room and…

…sexually assaults her. I don’t remember my Archie comics from back in the day having quite this much unexpected harassment and groping. I must have blanked out whenever violations like this happened. Anyway, Hank molests Cheryl until she pushes him away…

…and we learn Hank is only marrying for the money he will get from the publicity, which kind of mirrors Cheryl’s motivation to throw this whole shin-dig and I guess is supposed to show that she should act in a more moral fashion.

Maybe she will. Later.

Because first up is taking the camera that was pointed at the pair of them during the unwanted man-handling and using it to break-up the on-air wedding in real time.

And about that “being moral later”? Nope. Cheryl is just happy to have her face in the magazines and tabloids. She cares nothing for Barbara’s true feelings or how hurt she must be to find out the man she was about to marry was a total dirtbag. In fact, she isn’t shown consoling or even talking to her. Cheryl only cares about Cheryl.

And that’s the issue. There are two single page add-ins: Cheryl’s guide to fashion…

…and ways our artist knows to draw Cheryl’s hair.

In all, I found the book a bit more snarky than I expected with a much less morally sound protagonist. The tales all ended with bad deeds getting punished, which make them acceptable under Archie standards, but who even knew that an Archie book might feature an unsavory character front and center. I enjoyed this more than I should have, however I think it’s because by the 1990’s there was quite a bit of subversion creeping into the Archie titles.

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