Friday, July 10, 2015

On The Shelf: Archie's new look

In the course of over 75 years, Archie has undergone changes in his physical appearance just twice, the latest being his current look, introduced in the relaunch of his long-running series.

Bob Montana & Vic Bloom's original concept had Archie Andrews, nicknamed "Chick", with buck teeth and looking like he stepped out of a failed casting call for Our Gang. That first episode, reprinted as the backup feature, explains how Archie's long time honey, Betty Cooper, had just arrived in Riverdale, with Archie as her "welcoming committee", for lack of a better description.

Of course, the ensuing years have been kinder to both characters and their circle of friends, but after 50-60 years of a house style that had fallen behind the times, Archie Comics decided that their core characters needed a more realistic 21st century makeover, mostly in order for the company to better compete with its competitors. As if their horror line hadn't already put them in that position.

Award winning writer Mark Waid, more associated with superheroes (i.e. The Fox, which he's co-writing with artist Dean Haspiel), sets up the new Archie with a fourth-wall breaking nod to Saved by the Bell, moreso than reality television, which I initially thought Waid was mocking. There is nothing to mock, however. Waid's 1st story arc begins with Archie & Betty having just split up, and the rest of the kids at Riverdale High making an effort to reunite them any way they can. Veronica Lodge isn't around, but that will change, as it's explained she & her family are moving in (debuting in issue 3) from out of town, so already the status quo has been shattered, and that's a good thing.

For years, Archie Comics have been low on the readers' priority list behind DC, Marvel, and other publishers. In the Silver & Bronze Ages, you could argue for Harvey & Gold Key being ahead of Archie with younger readers. Today, you'd substitute IDW, Boom, & Dynamite with their bazillion licensed titles, and it'd be the same thing. Waid, aided by artist Fiona Staples, better known for Image's Saga, is changing the perception.

The overall makeover will continue as previously noted with the relaunches of Jughead (by Chip Zdansky & Fiona Henderson) in October, and Betty & Veronica (by Adam Hughes), probably in the winter. Kevin Keller, whose series ended last year, will return online, and Archie, seeing the success DC's had with digital-first books, could follow suit if interest warrants.

Archie (2nd series) gets an A-.
Meanwhile, as the first story arc to Dark Circle's reboot of Black Hood wraps with this week's 5th issue, the series will be on a 2 month break before returning in October with a 1-shot by Howard Chaykin, which immediately is an artistic upgrade.
The first piece of big news coming out of the San Diego Comic-Con is the announcement that DC's Vertigo division will add 12 new books in the fall. The lineup, courtesy of Newsarama:


THE TWILIGHT CHILDREN #1 (Gilbert Hernandez, Darwyn Cooke)
SURVIVORS’ CLUB #1 (Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen, Ryan Kelly)
CLEAN ROOM #1 (Gail Simone, Jon Davis-Hunt)
ART OPS #1 (Shaun Simon, Michael Allred)


 UNFOLLOW #1 (Rob Williams, Mike Dowling)
 SLASH & BURN #1 (Si Spencer, Max Dunbar, Ande Parks)
 RED THORN #1 (David Baillie, Meghan Hetrick)
 JACKED #1 (Eric Kripke, John Higgins)


SHERIFF OF BAGHDAD #1 (Tom King, Mitch Gerads)
NEW ROMANCER #1 (Peter Milligan, Brett Parson)
LUCIFER #1 (Holly Black, Lee Garbett)
LAST GANG IN TOWN #1 (Simon Oliver, Rufus Dayglo)

Obviously, the relaunch of Lucifer coincides with the Fox series of the same name, which figures to relieve Minority Report after the first of the year, if not sooner. We'll have to wait & see when the solicits come down the next three months.


Samuel Wilson said...

I browsed through that reboot issue. If everything's supposed to be modern, how is it Jughead still has that whatchamacallit hat? That thing practically needs its own origin story now.

hobbyfan said...

It's been referred to as a beanie, as odd as that seems. It's as much a part of Jughead as the nickname itself (given name is Forsythe P. Jones). Maybe when his book relaunches in October, we'll learn about the hat.