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Friday, November 22, 2013 

Variety thinks Archie should get bloody

Variety recent wrote about the Archie publishers turning to storytelling with bloodletting:
In a scene from the second issue of “Afterlife with Archie,” due out Wednesday, an undead Jughead (more on that in a bit) chomps into the neck of Big Ethel, the awkward teen who has long nursed a crush on him. Blood flows. Flesh is eaten. Given these new circumstances, Ethel probably wishes the two had never met.
I wish the inmate staffers who climbed so far up the ladder to take over the asylum had never succeeded. But alas, they did.
The appeal of the red-headed high-school kid and pals like Jughead, Betty and Veronica has long been found in their unchanging innocence. No matter what the tenor of the times, life in their home, Riverdale U.S.A., remains more or less idyllic. Yes, fashions and accessories come and go, but Archie’s most pressing concern is usually whether to date Betty or Veronica, not fending off a member of the undead. As comic-book publishers seek to stay relevant in changing times, however, nothing is sacred.

“What we are trying to do, in addition to touting the great books we’ve put out in the market for kids, is also to expand the reach, and reach out to older fans of Archie who may have outgrown the traditional stories, but feel a sort of kinship to the brand,” explained Jon Goldwater, chief executive of Archie Comic Publications in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Why should they feel kinship with this? What makes them think those allegedly outgrown readers specifically want horror thriller elements and not some decent adventure in a fantastic alien world across the galaxy? Shame they turn to that lazy cliche that they must keep relevancy, even at the cost of sensible values.
Longtime fans should not be overly alarmed. “Afterlife” is just one series among many, and most of the comics continue to feature Archie, Dilton and Mr. Weatherbee in their better-known guises. Goldwater is admant that Archie will never be depicted in sexual scenes, taking drugs, or in moments of similar debauchery. “We are always going to keep the integrity of the characters,” he said. “That’s unbreakable.”
But violence - even if not the most graphic - is allowed. I fail to see his point. They already crossed the integrity line with how they depict Kevin Keller and the metaphor for the Occupy movement, so this is supremely laughable.
But Archie’s appearance in a comic that is graphically more sophisticated than the original and in a plot that hews closer to gory flicks like “Pet Sematary” or “Evil Dead” than “Happy Days” is more the rule than the exeception in 2013. Comic-book publishers have begun to tilt less at kids and more at the adults who grew up reading comics and have returned to them as a result of Hollywood’s fascination with movies based on characters that were once childhood favorites. At Time Warner’s DC Entertainment, for example, Batman and Catwoman have been depicted in flagrante delicto, for instance, in comic-book pages, while some fights between heroes and villians have resulted in limbs and heads being severed form torsos.

There will be blood. But not buckets of it. “In general, in all my comics, I always try to go for a mood rather than a graphic form of fear. I like to spook people out rather than disgust them with some gruesome rendition of spilling guts,” said Francesco Francavilla, the “Afterlife” artist. “If something graphic happens, it’s in silhouette or ‘off screen.’ I let the reader figure things out if they want to. If my moody art unsettles the reader, then my job is done.”
Okay, so it's not as gory as they might make it out to be. But all the same, would Variety just come off it already? What's so sophisticated about gore? And despite what they say, few grownup readers are coming back to the mainstream comics they grew up with, and fewer moviegoers care to follow suit. What they're citing here is just what's alienated many readers, and the whole notion that swarms of people are obsessed with horror thrillers and nothing else is ridiculous, yet that's what they must think is factual, and want us to think the same.

Just because Afterlife is a thriller title doesn't mean anybody's going to view it as anything other than something for arrested adolescents. Funny thing is how they admit this is only selling about 50,000 copies, yet act like what would be unintentional comedy in the movie industry is something to celebrate here.
“So many comic-book publishers are very, very conservative about what they are publishing, for fear of diminishing the potential for movie properties,” said Aguirre-Sacasa, but the company has supported his vision of “a hardcore horror book where members of the main cast are dying in every issue.” Why? The heart of the story, he said, is pure Archie: The characters “are still basically trying to be decent and good in a world that is now evil and monstrous.”
Is he jesting? How can he be so oblivious to the new reality? Comics publishers stopped being "conservative" long, long ago, in part because they don't market the comics to outsiders anymore, if they ever had to start with, and Variety themselves admit it even between the puff-piecing. The reality is that the movies can take a conservative angle, while the comics publishers and their staffs all but do whatever they like, the miserable sales returns notwithstanding. They're practically counting on the public not caring and coming close to legitimizing negative sentiments about comics. Yet they never consider that what they do in the comics can sooner or later take a toll on licensed merchandise to boot, and less people care to buy those either as a result of what they're doing back in the comics. It will eventually affect Archie products too, I figure.

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The new series is obviously unsuitable for children, and it will only alienate adults, since the "appeal of (Archie comics) has long been found in their unchanging innocence." And fans of the "zombie apocalypse" genre are "arrested adolescents" who wouldn't touch an Archie comic with a ten-foot pole, anyway.

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