Yesterday, I was at my local Barnes and Noble, in Westport, Connecticut for one of my periodic browses. Checking out the new releases. Seeing what’s current in biography (mostly TV personalities, most of whom are completely unknown to me). Non-fiction. Essays and criticism. Mystery. And a look through the Graphic Novel section (all the way in the back, next to the bathrooms). DC. Marvel. Dark Horse. IDW. All the major publishers and a lot of minor ones represented with collected editions and original GNs, as well as a sizeable number of books about comics, like my friend Bob Greenberger’s The Essential Superman Encyclopedia.

But no Archie Comics collections.

No Archie Marries… , or Archie Americana, or Archie, The Very Best of Dan DeCarlo. And, most disappointing, no Archie: The Married Life, Volume 1 or Volume 2. Needless to say, as the writer of the Life With Archie monthly magazine (nominated for a 2011 Eisner Award as Best Publication for Young Adults…not that it’s relevant to the topic at hand; I just like saying it) from which these 300-plus page tomes are assembled, I was disappointed by its absence. Barnes and Noble in general, and this one in particular, carries Life With Archie on its magazine rack with the rest of a very good selection of comic books, displaying it right up front, on the middle rack at eye-level with your average kid, with a goodly number of copies available for purchase.

But no Archie Comics collections in the Graphic Novel section.

With a silent “I don’t get no respect!” I headed to the checkout, passing the Humor section along the way. Since B&N shelves comic strip collections (Peanuts, Dick Tracy, and the like) in Humor–alongside Woody Allen, Penn Gillette, and Fran Lebowitz–I paused to give the shelves a quick scan.

And that’s where I found Archie: The Married Life. One copy of Volume 1. Three copies of Volume 2. Several other Archie collections were scattered about the section, including Archie Meets Kiss and, right next to my books, a copy of The Very Best of Archie Comics.

I sighed out loud, which attracted the attention of a passing B&N employee, who asked if she could help me find anything in particular.

“Who shelves the Humor section?” I said.

“I do,” she said. “Is there something you’re looking for?”

“I’m just curious,” I said, taking one of the Archie: The Married Life books off the shelf. “Why is this here, in humor, instead of with the comic book graphic novels?”

“Well, it’s Archie,” she replied brightly. “They’re funny.”

“This one isn’t. It’s more of a soap opera thing, like Archie meets Melrose Place. The characters are all grown-up and married.”

“Okay,” she said, wondering why I was telling her this.

“I mean,” I said quickly, already sorry myself that I had started the conversation, “I’m just saying, the stories deal with stuff like the death of Miss Grundy, marital problems, financial difficulties, the characters facing the reality of growing up, health problems, stuff like that. It’s not funny.”

“Okay,” she said again. “Wait…Miss Grundy is dead?”

“In this storyline, yeah. She got sick and died.”

“That’s so sad.”

“Right! That’s my point. These aren’t funny Archie stories. I mean, there’s humor in them, but the stories are basically just as serious as any of the graphic novels in that section.”

“I loved Miss Grundy when I used to read Archie Comics when I was a kid. Why would anyone want to kill her?”

“Well, because people like her. Killing a character only has an effect on readers if they care about that character.”

She shook her head and said again, “That’s so sad.”

“Anyway…anyone looking for this would probably check the Graphic Novel section for it because it’s a comic book, not a humor strip…”

She shrugged and said, “We classify Archies as humor. Anyway, you found it, didn’t you?”

“Well, only by accident…”

“Okay. Anyway, what difference does it make?”

“Well, I wrote the stories and I just thought…”

But I stopped in mid-sentence as her eyes narrowed and focused on me with a white-hot glare of hatred.

You,” she snapped, “killed Miss Grundy?”

“Uhh…yeah, I did.” I thought about trying to explain to her the concept of alternate universes, that while Miss Grundy had died in the Life With Archie continuity, she was alive and well in the regular teenaged Archiverse, but I sensed that would be meaningless to her. So instead I went for a joke, hoping to lighten the mood, “But she pulled a knife on me first. It was self-defense.”

“That’s not funny,” she growled. She turned and stomped off, leaving me helplessly holding the wrongly shelved copy of Archie: The Married Life.

“I know,” I said to nobody. “That was kind of my point.”

Tags: , , ,

3 Comments on I Am Not Amused

  1. Bob Buethe says:

    Now that’s funny!

    Honestly, though, I never understood the logic of killing off a character that people like. I can understand it in a stand-alone novel or movie; it has an emotional impact, and you’re never going to see any of the characters again after the story ends. But in an ongoing series, I don’t see what it accomplishes other than to turn away readers who liked that character (or maybe bring back a few former readers who hated the character). Of course, this doesn’t apply to Miss Grundy, since she’s still alive and well in the mainstream Archie titles. But as a general principle, I don’t get the point.

  2. Peter says:

    I thought Barnes and Noble varied the content of their Humor section by store, but the stock of yours looks a lot like mine. They must just ship everyone the same stuff. How bland.

    And yeah, I’ve seen Archie: The Married Life in the Humor section of every Barnes and Noble I’ve been in. Some guy in a building somewhere must send detailed notes en masse as to where every single book is to be placed, so your beef is with him, whoever he is. Or her.

  3. I simply want to tell you that I am just newbie to blogging and honestly savored this web site. Almost certainly I’m going to bookmark your blog . You certainly have great well written articles. Thanks a lot for sharing with us your webpage.

Leave a Reply