Thursday, March 20, 2014

On The Shelf: Archie Comics changes the status quo----or can it?

In comics history, there have been a few classic romantic triangles.

There's Popeye fighting with Bluto over the attention & affections of Olive Oyl. It made for great theatre in many of the classic shorts, but has been downplayed in recent incarnations.

And, then, over in sugary-sweet Riverdale, you have Archie, forever torn between Betty and Veronica. However, Archie Comics is putting that trio at risk, just for the sake of a few extra bucks and readers.

It was announced at the New York Comic-Con last year that the company would send Betty Cooper, the blonde girl-next-door, and heiress Veronica Lodge, out of town and away from Archie Andrews for an undetermined amount of time.

Writer-filmmaker Michael Uslan, better known for the "Batman" & "Swamp Thing" movies in the 80's & 90's, had previously crafted the "Married Life" story arc in Archie that was spun into the current Life With Archie (2nd series), helmed presently by DC Comics vet Paul Kupperberg. Now, he's been tasked to shake things up in the "real" world of  Archie and his friends, beginning in June. The idea is to send Betty & Veronica out of the country, with two exchange students, I believe, replacing them as Archie's romantic interests.

I'm sorry, but this ain't gonna work. As I noted above, this is just another grab at boosting sales. Besides, when Veronica was granted her own solo series in 1990, she was traveling the world on her own. In other words, it's been there, done that. In addition, Newsday reported that Girls creator Lena Dunham is being brought in to do a short-flight story arc next year that will satirize the mushrooming popularity of reality TV, and, yep, Betty & Veronica play a part in that story arc, which means that Archie Comics has already torpedoed their much-ballyhooed plans to break the girls away from Archie in the long term. They claim the "Farewell" arc in Betty & Veronica isn't an alternate reality, a hoax, or anything like that.

Here's the problem. Comics fans already are up in arms over the fact that DC broke up Superman and Lois Lane 2 1/2 years ago to start the New 52 Universe. Marvel split up Spider-Man (Peter Parker) and Mary Jane Watson, and in today's books, both Lois & Mary Jane have new boyfriends, for however long that lasts. It's filed under, "if it's not broken, why fix it?". Thankfully, Marvel readers have solace in the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip, where MJ & Peter are still happily married, and that's despite the fact that co-creator Stan Lee allowed for a brief "One More Day"-type arc to appear a few years ago, perhaps to appease Joe Quesada, who was the editorial dork who approved "One More Day".

Given all that we know about Archie Comics' plans going forward, Betty & Veronica will be back home in Riverdale in time for Christmas.

Meanwhile, another filmmaker has announced his latest comics project.

Kevin Smith is working with both Dynamite & DC for a 6 issue crossover pairing Batman & Green Hornet, this one set in the continuity of the Batman TV show, and will carry the Batman '66 logo. The two iconic heroes will again meet Colonel Gumm, who was played by Roger C. Carmel on TV, but now Gumm has been promoted, in his own mind, anyway, to General, as Smith attempts to make Gumm more of a credible threat. Good luck with that. DC & Dynamite will co-publish the miniseries, with covers by no less than Alex Ross. Michael Allred, who's been doing covers for Batman '66, is doing variant covers for collectors. The miniseries will be released online first, then go to print in June. Will it be worth the $4 cover price? Yep.

Also at DC, Dan DiDio's fanboy admiration for Jack Kirby takes root again, as The Forever People return in June, this time with Infinity Man sharing cover billing. Keith Giffen will co-write and draw. Giffen mimicked Kirby's artistic style on some of his early works, but he & DiDio didn't exactly hit big with their last Kirby revival, OMAC, which was cancelled after 8 issues, matching the original series' output in the 70's. DiDio took himself off writing the current Phantom Stranger series, and his track record as a writer has not been that good. You've been warned.

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