Archie gets ex­per­i­men­tal

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS - By ANDREW A. SMITH

Avengers, the Fan­tas­tic Four, the De­fend­ers, the X-Men, Dark X-Men, The Or­der, He­roes For Hire, Or­a­cle Inc, Deep Six, Tthe Ca­bal and even the Il­lu­mi­nati!

His al­liances are also not con­fined to just the good guys – he has also teamed up with vil­lains such as Doc­tor Doom and Mag­neto in the past, and his last dal­liance with Cy­clops’ Un­canny X-Men team in the Avengers Vs X-Men event saw him be­com­ing one of the Phoenix Five, and leading At­lantis to war against Black Pan­ther’s home­land of Wakanda!

For­bid­den love

of win­ning her heart is prob­a­bly why some­one of his charisma and stature has re­mained love-less all these years.

He may have moved on from Sue al­ready, but the re­cent NamorEmma-Cy­clops love tri­an­gle did leave a bad taste in my mouth!

Movie-less King

THERE was a time when Archie Comics was fa­mous for be­ing rigidly con­ser­va­tive. Now it’s gain­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing the most ex­per­i­men­tal comics pub­lisher in Amer­ica.

Most of the com­pany’s pro­gres­sive ef­forts aren’t ob­vi­ous to the ca­sual ob­server. It has ag­gres­sively en­tered the dig­i­tal comics mar­ket, for ex­am­ple, with its own app and other in­no­va­tions. It’s qui­etly pur­su­ing projects for its li­brary of char­ac­ters in tele­vi­sion and movies, which won’t be ob­vi­ous un­til they come to fruition.

Other ef­forts have al­ready made a splash. For ex­am­ple, Archie Comics made na­tional head­lines in 2009 ex­plor­ing what would hap­pen if Riverdale’s favourite redhead mar­ried (al­ter­na­tively, in back-to-back sto­ries) ei­ther Veron­ica and Betty ( Archie is­sues #600#607). Writ­ten by movie pro­ducer Michael Us­lan, the sto­ries were so pop­u­lar that both are be­ing con­tin­ued in Life With Archie, a mag­a­zine-for­mat se­ries cre­ated just for that pur­pose. Those sto­ries are writ­ten and drawn by vet­er­ans of se­ri­ous su­per­hero books, so that Life With Archie is a good read for adults as well as Archie’s tra­di­tional mar­ket.

An­other head­line-buster was the ad­vent in 2010 of Kevin Keller, Riverdale’s first openly gay char­ac­ter. De­spite threats by some venues to stop sell­ing Archie Comics, the pub­lisher forged ahead. Even­tu­ally the furore died down and Keller is now one of the most pop­u­lar mem­bers of the Archie gang – and the star of his own solo book.

And just this month Archie Comics re­leased a trade pa­per­back col­lect­ing a coura­geous story that some­how went un­der the radar in 2010. Archie & Friends

reprints an in­ter­ra­cial ro­mance be­tween Archie and Va­lerie, the African-Amer­i­can gui­tarist in Josie & The Pussy­cats.

At the time the Archie-Va­lerie ro­mance was pre­sented as part of Archie’s on­go­ing story, but with the ro­mance un­able to con­tinue be­cause the high school­ers lived in dif­fer­ent towns. A 2012 se­quel – which I hope to see col­lected soon – ex­plored the idea of Archie and Va­lerie get­ting mar­ried, like the above­men­tioned Life With Archie sto­ries.

That, ob­vi­ously, was a “what if”, so whether Archie and Va­lerie are still an on-and-off-again cou­ple in “real” Riverdale is ques­tion­able.

Come to think of it, per­haps the lack of at­ten­tion the Archie-Va­lerie ro­mance stirred up is a good sign. In the early days of comics, pub­lish­ers were urged by South­ern dis­trib­u­tors to keep African-Amer­i­cans off the cov­ers. Even as late as 1966, when Marvel Comics in­tro­duced the Black Pan­ther, cre­ators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby de­cided to give the char­ac­ter a full face mask so his eth­nic­ity wasn’t im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous.

Con­trast that to to­day, when Amer­ica’s most fa­mous white teenager can smooch it up with a black girl on the cover of Archie. To tell you the truth, the in­ter­ra­cial as­pect of it didn’t even oc­cur to me at the time – in­stead, I was won­der­ing just what this Archie kid has got go­ing that Betty, Veron­ica AND Va­lerie all find him ir­re­sistible. Lucky, lucky kid, that Archie.

I should warn that The Archies & Josie and the Pussy­cats – the ti­tle on the cover of the trade pa­per­back – is writ­ten and drawn in tra­di­tional Archie style, mean­ing some adults may find it too sim­plis­tic. Still, it’s by Archie vet­er­ans Dan Par­ent and Bill Galvan, which means it’s pretty en­ter­tain­ing.

So what else could Archie Comics do with their char­ac­ters that would shock us? Well, how about kill them?

Not all at once of course. In­stead, we’re watch­ing the gang strug­gle to sur­vive in that sud­denly pop­u­lar genre, the zom­bie apoca­lypse!

Af­ter­life With Archie – you have to give points for the pun – launched sev­eral months ago with the most shock­ing Archie sto­ry­line I’ve ever read (or imag­ined). In the first is­sue, Jug­head’s ca­nine buddy Hot Dog is run over by a car. Des­per­ate to bring his pal back to life, Juggie turns to Sab­rina the Teenage Witch, who does her best to re­store Hot Dog ... with hor­ri­ble re­sults.

That’s right, Hot Dog re­turns as a zom­bie. And promptly bites Jug­head. And all zom­bie fans know what comes next.

By is­sue #4, Jug­head had half-eaten an­other ma­jor char­ac­ter and in­fected half the town – in­clud­ing some lon­grun­ning char­ac­ters. Archie and the re­main­ing reg­u­lars took refuge in Lodge Man­sion, with its many high-tech de­fences. But the in­fec­tion had al­ready found its way in­side ...

Creeped out yet? Good! Be­cause this is a hor­ror ti­tle, and you’re sup­posed to be creeped out. And be­ing creeped out can be fun, even if the people be­ing threat­ened in the hor­ror story are char­ac­ters you’ve been in­vested in for many years. And, once again, Archie Comics has turned to su­per­hero vet­er­ans to craft a story at­trac­tive to adult read­ers – in this case, writer Roberto Aguir­reSa­casa ( Fan­tas­tic Four) and Eis­ner­win­ning artist Francesco Fran­cav­illa ( Bat­man).

And just to sweeten the pot, reprinted in the back of some is­sues of Af­ter­life With Archie are short sto­ries from the com­pany’s last stab at hor­ror books, Chill­ing Ad­ven­tures In Sor­cery (1972-75). That means the wel­come re­turn of sus­pense master­pieces by the likes of Gray Mor­row and Dick Gior­dano.

Archie is even try­ing its hand at su­per­heroes again, de­spite nu­mer­ous failed ef­forts in the past. But The Fox, by su­per­star writer Mark Waid ( Dare­devil, In­de­struc­tible Hulk) and un­ortho­dox artist Dean Haspiel, is re­ally quite a treat.

All this from a com­pany that for many years al­most sin­gle­hand­edly kept alive the much-loathed Comics Code of Amer­ica, which for decades re­duced all Amer­i­can comics to an al­most pre-school level. In those days, Archie Comics was syn­ony­mous with static lack of change.

But to­day? When you in­voke the old cartoon theme song Ev­ery­thing’s Archie, it will bring a smile or two. From ro­mance to su­per­hero to hor­ror, ev­ery­thing re­ally is Archie – and it’s darn good. – McClatchy-Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Looks like he’ll never de­cide: Life with archie is an on­go­ing mag­a­zine telling two dif­fer­ent what-if sto­ries — one with archie mar­ried to Veron­ica, and one with archie mar­ried to betty.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.