Archie’s Weird Mysteries: The Complete Series

| June 13, 2017

If you happen to like both Archie Comics and old B-movies, then the 1999-2000 animated series Archie’s Weird Mysteries is clearly for you. Sure, that’s an oddly specific demographic, but I found myself drawn to it, as I somehow met both these criteria. Admittedly, my interest in Archie Comics did not persist much following my teenage years, but my love of B-movies is still strong enough that I felt compelled to check out the series in its new DVD collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. I was, of course, accompanied in this endeavor by my equally monster movie-obsessed son, who clearly got far more out of the episodes we watched than I did!

Archie’s Weird Mysteries ran for 40 episodes, at first on PAX and then in syndication. The basic concept of the series is simply that each episode retells some tried-and-true horror story, only this time with the story being set in Riverdale. As such, you’ll see Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and the rest foregoing their usual school-related escapades to instead fend off body snatching potato monsters, sentient cars, vampires, ghosts, blobs, mutant alligators, phantoms, and the like. And each creature confrontation is, in itself, a lot of fun to watch!

“But why?” you might rightly ask. “What motivates these happenings in Riverdale?” Those are good questions, ones I kept coming back to while watching it with my son. To my mind, any excuse to throw a monster into a story is a good excuse, of course. Only I never became convinced that any of these supernatural happenings were justified by anything other than “why not?”

The DVD write-up informs me that the reason Riverdale’s become a hotbed for supernatural activity is due to some sort of physics lab experiment gone awry. The thing is, I didn’t see that in any of the episodes we watched, which included the first 7 or 8 straight episodes before we started bouncing around a bit. And this origin story certainly wasn’t the focus of the first episode as you’d expect, which is about an alien potato invading the Earth by creating potato-based doppelgangers of Archie’s friends. The series also suggests that these stories are being related by Archie himself in the school newspaper, and though that actually is shown a bit in the series, it’s such a minor part of the proceedings of any given episode that it too felt little shoehorned in.

If it sounds like I’m complaining a bit too much about what is ostensibly a kids’ cartoon, you’re absolutely right and I admit it. Your kids won’t notice or care and mine certainly didn’t—he LOVED it. But I, as a 32-year-old man, have seen the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series and even MTV’s Teen Wolf, in which groups of teens band together to battle an endless onslaught of horrors. Heck, even Scooby-Doo managed to clearly motivate the monsters, even in versions of that universe where monsters do exist. Archie’s Weird Mysteries seems to be playing at that Buffy model, but it never fully commits, which is sad, because it could have been something really great with a strong infusion of consistent Scooby-Doo-like teamwork from the Riverdale teens.

Instead, each new episode approaches the episode-specific threat as though the gang hasn’t faced off against countless monsters before it. And really, how much effort would it have taken to have Archie say something to the effect that he’s working on a story every now and again, or to have Jughead constantly lament that Riverdale just isn’t what it used to be? Archie’s Weird Mysteries was just that close to being a series that I, even as an adult, could really get into.

Still, ignoring the series’ glaring conceptual issues, each episode does what it does well enough and my son certainly enjoyed it immensely, being too young to care about the lack of clear motivation for the events. After all, the show is chock-a-block full of monsters, which was enough for him! Drawing inspiration from any number of films from The Blob (1958) to Christine (1983), it’s clear the series’ writers were fans of the source material for each story, or at least familiarized themselves with it really well beforehand. This made the individual episodes themselves a lot of fun to explore with my son, even if the series on the whole left something to be desired overall.

The complete series is now available from Mill Creek Entertainment in a 4-DVD set packed with a code to access a digital version of the series. While the set doesn’t include anything by way of series-specific special features, it does include bonus episodes of other cartoons released on DVD by Mill Creek that your kids might enjoy.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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