Tim Hanley acknowledges that the title of his BETTY AND VERONICA: The Leading Ladies of Riverdale isn’t always accurate: for a lot of their history the girls have been supporting characters in Archie’s life, either prizes for him to win or plot obstacles (can he take them both to the same dance without either girl catching on?); progress away from that was often two steps forward, three steps backward (as might be expected from books created by men in their fifties, the women’s liberation era was particularly painful). At the same time, the need to create lots of stories within a limited fromula led to increasing emphasis on them being capable, and to their friendship becoming more important than their rivalry over Archie.
Hanley looks at how the girls’ stories has adapted to the many trends of Archie’s long history: the spy and superhero era (Betty became Superteen), writer/artist Al Hartley putting lots of Christian themes in the books (the point at which Good Christian Girl Betty began stealing some of the spotlight from Veronica), the rise of specialty comics stores (surprisingly good for them as the effects on the comics market led to their books outselling Archie’s), 21st century variations such as Life With Archie and Afterlife With Archie and the various attempts to bring them to other media (including a radio show, lots of TV cartoons and most recently the hit Riverdale). I’ve never been an Archie fan, but I still found this one fascinating.
Listening to the soundtrack of Six: The Musical (What If Henry VIII’s Wives Were a Spice Girls-Like Pop Group?) and realizing how little I really know about the women prompted me to check out THE WIVES OF HENRY VIII by Antonia Fraser from the library. Fraser does a good job showing there’s more to the women than their stereotypes (Betrayed Wife, Sexy Temptress, Good Woman, etc.). Anne Boleyn, for example, was just as interested in religion as Catherine of Aragon, though less devout and considerably more Protestant (a view that often put her at odds with her husband); Catherine Parr wrote a couple of religious texts herself. Fraser does well detailing the tangled scheming and political maneuvering around not only Henry’s marriages but the proposed marriages for children Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, as well as on some of the mundane details (no sooner did the royal decorator replace Catherine of Aragon’s symbols with Anne’s than he had to start over replacing Anne’s logo with Jane Seymour’s). She also makes clear that Henry was seen even at the time as an outlier, one monarch quipping he’d marry off his sister to Henry if only she had a second neck. Very good.
#SFWApro. Covers by Bill Vigoda (top) and Brittney Williams, all rights remain with current holders.