Sunday, August 14, 2005

Woman Obsessed with Daughter's Archie Comic Book Collection

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Jackson now part of that alternative universe known as Riverdale High.

HOUSTON -- In what started as a step to encourage her daughter to read more has morphed into a full-out obsession with Archie, Jughead and the rest of the gang at Riverdale High.

"I literally can't wait until the next issue comes out," said Grethe Jackson, an occupational therapist at East Houston Therepeutic Recreational Center. "The stories are so riveting that I can't quit reading."

Jackson's husband, Ted, said he and his wife initially thought the comics would be a good way to prod their daughter, Brittany, 12, to read more. "The comics were a favorite of mine when I was young," he said. "My wife is from Germany and had never read them before, so I bought a copy for her to read first. She immediately liked the comic book, and that is when things started to spiral out of control."

Last month, Grethe began impersonating 12-year-olds in chat rooms under the nickname "Betty39," so she could talk about the stories and characters with other young people. "The other kids and I are so psyched at how Betty and Archie's relationship is progressing," she said.

Then she began arguing with her preacher over dark and questionable themes he believes he sees in the comics. "The characters are so scantily clad, especially Veronica," said Rev. Ernie Dalton of the First Houston Community Church. "Veronica is really materialistic, too, and all the characters thumb their noses at authority. Characters are constantly falling asleep in class and talking back. And Jughead clearly struggles with sloth and gluttony, but no one says anything to him about it. I can't believe this comic book has flown under the radar for the past 50 years."

Dalton said Jackson started contacting him by email and phone, telling him how edifying the books have been for her.

In a house full of dirty laundry and covered with dust, Grethe has begun writing a book, Finding the Path to Holiness in Archie Comics, her reply to Dalton and other "fundies," as she terms them. She has also started a Christian apologetics blog, based on the comic series. In addition, she started buying old issues of the comic book series off ebay and hording them, "just in case there is ever a book burning."

"My preacher just showing how backward and narrow fundamentalists are. What will the rest of the world say when they see how Christians are reacting to these comics. It's embarrassing," she said.

Striving to be a Higher Being