Vulture on Archie's modern irrelevance
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.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.
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.
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?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 Waid: That funny is timeless.
Mark, you’ve rebooted a number of titles during your career. How does crafting a reboot of Archie differ?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.
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.
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?I don't see how the heart can be kept intact in stories where the tone is so dark, and not for children.
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.
What's most liberating about doing an Archie story?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.
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!