I Luvz Me Some Gender-Bender Archie / Archina

Rule 63 of the Internet:"There is always a female version of a male character (and vice versa).”

Rule 63 is usually the province of parody and fan-fic, but every now and then a major company experiments with alternate gender versions of their characters.

Archie #636 “The Great Switcheroo” is their latest example of this variant [1] and a top notch job it is with script by Tania del Rio, pencils by Gisele Lagace, and inks by Rich Koslowski.

Plotwise it’s a light story, but hey, who reads Archie comics for their plots?  It’s the characterization that’s all the fun, especially when they take the gang out of their normal regular environment and put them thru ch-ch-ch-changes.

Del Rio’s script is really well done, and unlike previous efforts where characters merely assumed the outer appearance of the opposite sex while maintaining their actual gender identity, or else camped it up by playing to opposite sex stereotypes, “The Great Switcheroo” actually puts a lot of time and thought into exactly how switching the gender of all the characters would affect the expressions of their core personalities.

All the characters remain the same at their most basic level, but the manner in which their personalities are expressed is significantly different.  Freed from their established gender roles, the characters are allowed to act out in new and interesting ways.  What’s astonishing (and a big credit to del Rio and Lagace) is how effortlessly the old familiar characters segue into their new roles.

Lagace quite easily feminized / masculinized [2] most of the characters’ appearances but the interesting changes come in how she depicts their personalities manifesting themselves in these new forms.

Ronnie comes across a lot more insecure than Veronica, much too quickly trying to buy his way into Archina’s heart[3].  Billy is the school’s top athlete, something Betty is never allowed to aspire to.   J.J.’s ever-logical view of life comes across as surprisingly supportive, not cynical like Jughead’s.  Regina is no less of a mischief maker but a lot more fun than Reggie.

And Archina hizherownsef is freed of performance anxiety and, no longer having to live up to expectations (cultural, familial, or self-imposed), reveals the truly appealing kid who has been carrying this comics line for 70+ years.

The story ends with a standard Okay-Salem-put-everything-back-the-way-it-was scene[4] but leaves us hungry for more.

And why not?  Archie Comics already has not one, not two, but three alternate Archie timelines going in which he’s married to Veronica / Betty / Valerie / Kevin[5], why not one where the characters have swapped chromosomes?[6]

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[1]  Archie Comics has done this at least once in the past with “The Other Side” in Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals #13 (Summer 1960) though IIRC there’s also a late 40s/early 50s female Archie story as well, nor are we counting the numerous times Archie appeared in drag, or for that matter the time Betty disguised herself as a male to sexually assault her female classmates…

[2]  Even down to the supporting cast, such as Mr. Grundy, Ms Weatherbee, and Haute Dog.  Though a couple of characters have required significant changes for story purposes:  Archina’s mom looks nothing like Archie’s dad, Mouse is Midge-size, and while we haven’t met Mrs. Lodge yet, I’m wondering how they’d handle the ‘stache…

[3]  Bet you thought I was gonna write “pants”.

[4]  In case you couldn’t guess, Sabrina’s magical cat is responsible for the gender-bending.  Look, you’re buying Dilton Doiley’s quantum realities, you can buy some booga-booga from Sabrina.

[5]  Jes’ shinin’ ya on, but be honest, you were about ready to Google this to find out for sure, right?

[6]  At the very least give us a full length graphic novel with these characters.

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