Thursday, December 4, 2008

Comics in the Wild: Archie and the gang go to college

When I go home to El Paso for a visit, I tend to spend a fair amount of time in the garage. I've never known the family garage to be anything but crowded with cardboard boxes, random furniture and stacks of half-assembled things that long ago outlived their usefulness.

I've contributed to the mess in the past by leaving behind a couple of boxes and a trunk filled with what I now recognize as being mostly just a bunch of crap. Still, it doesn't keep me from scrounging, looking for some half-remembered book or toy, and sometimes I come across something I'd completely forgotten about.

That's the case with this March 1989 issue of Nova Quarterly.

Back then I was starting my sophomore year at the University of Texas at El Paso, and somehow got my hands on a copy of the alumni magazine (I was already working at the school paper, so it was probably floating around). As I might have mentioned once or twice, I've been a fan of comics for a long time, and this is the only copy of the alumni magazine I've ever saved.

So how did Archie and the gang end up sweating it out in the West Texas desert? It turned out that Tom Moore, who wrote and drew Archie off and on from 1953 to 1988, had attended UTEP back in the day and had been called back into duty for a cover to go along with the profile on him featured inside.

After a little Internet poking (not as dirty as it sounds!), I found out that Moore is still working — doing freelance work and teaching computer graphic art at the El Paso Community College — and living in the Lower Valley area, which is the same neighborhood I'm from!

For those of you who might not be steeped in UTEP lore, here's some translation of what's going on in this cover:

• UTEP, of course, is the University of Texas at El Paso; is there any other university whose abbreviated name can be pronounced as a single word? Seriously, I'm curious.

• Betty may, just may, be drunk.

• "... my last trip to Bhutan!" The buildings on the UTEP campus are designed to look like Bhutanese architecture. The story goes that the wife of a past university president saw an article on Bhutan in an issue of National Geographic and was so taken with it she suggested the new campus be built in the same style. It's the only campus in the nation with this type of architecture.

• Archie's wearing a sweatshirt sporting the image of UTEP's mascot, Paydirt Pete (UTEP is home to the Miners). By the way, if the weather is warm enough for Veronica to wear a skirt, it's too damn hot in El Paso for a sweatshirt. Archie is about to combust.

• The Comics Code of the West is a neat touch; El Paso is as far west as you can go in Texas.

• Because, yes, it actually does get hot enough for the sun to radiate squiggly black lines.

• Just for the record: I'm totally a Betty man. Even if she does dress like Mork.


Scott said...

I went to two schools that can abbreviate into a single word: Eastern New Mexico University and the University of North Texas.

And the Flaming Carrot's catchphrase is the University of Texas' abbreviation...

Maxo said...

Ut! Is good!

Kyle said...

Actually, I think the Bhutanese architecture was because the first university president's wife saw an article about Bhutan in National Geographic or some such magazine. Which just makes the whole decision even stranger if you ask me. But not as strange as going for Betty. Veronica's h-h-h-o-o-o-t.

Maxo said...

Gah! You're right — they're going to retroactively revoke my student orientation guide privileges. That was mostly just a bright orange T-shirt, so it actually works out.

Thanks for the heads up, Kylito — consider it corrected!

But sorry, man — there's just something about the good girls that's just ... just so ... y'know what I mean? It's Betty all the way!