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Tuesday, July 21, 2015 

Vulture on Archie's modern irrelevance

NY's Vulture section recently interviewed Mark Waid and artist Fiona Staples fawned over Archie's drastic changes that haven't helped it by a longshot:
The resurgence of Archie Comics has been one of the most fascinating, unexpected developments in recent comics-industry history. As of just a few years ago, the company was an afterthought in the publishing world, cranking out cartoony, barely noticed tales about Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and the rest. But after a change in management in 2009, Archie Comics began crafting inventive new gimmicks for these 60-year-old archetypes. There was Afterlife With Archie, in which Archie becomes a zombie hunter; there was Archie vs. Predator, in which the Riverdale gang goes up against the alien menace from the Predator movies; and now the company is embarking on its riskiest gambit yet: a gimmick-free, straight-faced reboot of the Archie universe.

Starting with this week’s Archie No. 1, readers will get to see a brand-new take on Riverdale, in which all the classic characters are modern-day teenagers. Realistic comedy is the order of the day: All the characters look like normal humans, rather than the wacky caricatures they’d been in previous decades of Archie storytelling; their adventures are told with naturalistic dialogue, not stilted zingers. Making these characters relevant again (and doing so without coming across as pandering) is a challenge, but Archie Comics has enlisted two industry heavyweights to guide the effort.
What if it turns out this isn't? They've just given signs why this is actually a yawn-inducer: "realistic". They think today's youngsters only care about realism, and make the cartoonish character designs of the past out to be dinosaurs. This is exactly what's wrong with modern thinking - we have a certain segment out there that can't appreciate escapism as it was created. And what if it turns out they're still depicting the Kevin Keller character as gay, and acting like it's perfectly normal? Some realism that'll be, then. The only relevance this would have in that case is to Waid and Staples' politics.

They also don't consider that the company's been an afterthought for the same reason mainstream superhero comics became one: the soaring prices, dismal sales, forced political tales and failure to take up better marketing strategies. That's why there's no real resurgence, and rather than fascinating, their recent steps have been galling. And since when weren't the Archie characters modern-day? This is all a lot of hype and spin, another thing wrong with mainstream comics coverage. Waid answers the first query with:
What would you say to sell someone on an Archie story in 2015?
Mark Waid: That funny is timeless.
Only if it's written well. It's not like their past output hasn't had its share of misfired jokes. Somebody ought to tell Waid his viewpoints aren't timeless.
Mark, you’ve rebooted a number of titles during your career. How does crafting a reboot of Archie differ?
MW: There's less continuity to contend with, frankly. That's not to say there's not consistency in the Archie universe, but Archie's not built like Spider-Man and Superman — no one's going to rake me over the coals for accidentally contradicting some story told in 1967.​
Of course not. What we are going to take him to task for is any injection of politicized standings we find off-putting, and potentially unsuited for children.
What have you thought of Archie Comics' recent experiments, like the dual-timeline Archie tales and the Archie-as-zombie-fighter adventures of Afterlife With Archie?
MW: They're great. In fact, Afterlife With Archie is one of my favorite comics right now, as is Archie vs. Predator, a sequel to the oft-forgotten judicial review case Marbury v. Archie. All of them, as wild as they can get, keep the heart of Archie Andrews exactly where it needs to be — an extra-special accomplishment when you're fighting the Predator.
I don't see how the heart can be kept intact in stories where the tone is so dark, and not for children.
What's most liberating about doing an Archie story?
MW: ​That the characters are built with such elasticity that we can go from a broad slapstick ​moment of comedy to a heart-wrenching beat of romantic angst within the turn of a page.​
FS: Even though I'm terrified of doing a disservice to these characters, there is a kind of reckless glee in doing something brand-new with them. I'm very grateful for the chance to tell a different kind of story with the gang!
The publisher's already done a disservice to their product with the politics they've forced in over the past few years, and I don't see that changing with these two at the helm. Did they ever think that by toning down the cartoonish design, they're actually reducing the elasticity? There was nothing seriously wrong with their products up until the turn of the decade. And if they keep it up, as looks to be the case, then they've only sunk it further.

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Doesn't matter what cast changes or artwork styles it goes through, Archie will still be an obscure comic magazine that silently runs in the background behind the flashiness of other companies.

...come to think of it, have you ever read Archie before?

I read Archie comics when I was seven or eight. Back then, they were simple, unpretentious, and entertaining.

The art style was not realistic. Neither was the artwork in Scooby-Doo or The Flintstones.

There were no gay characters. Or overtly heterosexual characters, either. Back then, comics were read by kids who were too young for any discussion of sex, of any kind. Archie and Reggie never intended to do any more with the girls than go out on dates with them.

For that matter, even the "serious adventure" comics were tame by today's standards. The rich playboys (Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark) and the swinging teenagers (like Johnny Storm) took their girlfriends to restaurants and theaters, not to motels.

And comic book sales back then dwarfed those of today's best sellers.

Weirdly enough, I am starting to read back issues of Archie, lately. I'm rather digging the whole Betty/Archie/Veronica love triangle and I even like the Married Life series..., at least until the ending with the political messaging and Archie dying as a martyr for gay rights (and yet his shooter was actually black, which is surprising, given Archie's recent political correctness).

Like Anonymous said, I rather appreciate the simplicity and unpretentious ness, and reading characters who really aren't total screw-ups like every single Big Two superhero has become. However, I can understand-though-don't-endorse why Archie is doing what it's doing currently. My only concerns are the horror parodies and the politics, but all I can is ignore it as best I can. It's not the characters' fault that they're being run by borderline fools at the moment.

Or to play on Drag's point, Archie, at least recently, was the King of the Hill of comics, just doing its own thing quietly and without the problems of a South Park or Family Guy or Simpsons. Wish they could go back to that, so they don't have to be beholden to the Wizards, CBRs, Bleeding Cools and the other hype-hack outfits that are running comics into the ground, in addition to the comic publishers' already questionable decisions.

Anonymous:

That's because they were cheap in price, not in quality.

In the Silver Age, comic books had a cover price of twelve cents; it increased to fifteen some time around 1968. Annuals or Specials were twenty-five cents. That's pocket change now, but back then, most customers were preteen kids with an allowance of fifty cents or so a week. So the cost of a comic was a significant percentage of the buyer's income. More so than a $3.99 comic being bought by a young adult today.

Additionally, comics back then were bought by kids who actually read them. Today, sales are inflated by speculators buying them as an investment, and by collectors and investors buying multiple copies.

I was never a huge Archie fan, but the politically correct nose dive they've taken in recent years is disappointing. What they're trying to passing off as Archie today... isn't Archie. People recognized it worldwide because the characters were drawn in the style of Dan DeCarlo, who created their definitive look. I'm sure he's rolling in his grave now. By changing it, they lose their identity and have become just like every other generic comic on the stands these days.

They say they're doing this for Millenials.... ha. How many of them actually read comics, when they have FAcebook, Twitter, Instagram, their iPhones and other ways of distracting them? How many of them actually know that Archie was inspired by the Andy Hardy movies with Mickey Rooney?

Indeed, Carl. Dan Parent does a decent enough job aping DeCarlo's masterful style..., until we see side profiles, then it's all uncanny valley to me. Creepy. I want to try to read DeCarlo's Cheryl Blossom work, as he clearly had fun drawing her.

As for the distracting aspect, also indeed. (I'm currently learning that the hard way with this girl I fancy, loves her smartphone way too much.) And it's rather depressing that you're right: I know how Andy Hardy is, but ask your average Millenial. Would love to see how they'd react, then cry hard.

As for DeCarlo, now reading on the copyright lawsuit he and Archie did over Josie of Josie and the Pussycats... and ruled against him a week before his death, too:

https://web.archive.org/web/19960101-re_/http://www.tcj.com/aa02ws/n_decarlo.html

Not quite as bad as the clusterfark that was the Ken Penders lawsuit, though, depressing, nevertheless.

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