Archie Comics Writer/ Mark Waid Artist/ Fiona Staples
The sun’s high and bright. Billowy Simpsons intro looking clouds in the sky. Riding around in the woods on the cool-ass red BMX knock off my mom won at the grocery store. Meeting the guys down in Eric’s basement for some Dungeons & Dragons and heavy metal videos we taped off Much Music. Biking into town to pick up some comic books. Relaxing in the grass at the lighthouse.
This is mostly how I remember the good times of growing up. Summers in town of Dalhousie, NB (no relation to the university, for cripes sake) were the best for exploring. There wasn’t anywhere we couldn’t go with our bikes. My house was backed up to the side of a “mountain” and there we’re pretty cool trails. One of them, after a pretty arduous ride, would come out behind the high school and also connected to a path to what we called “Dalhousie Mountain.” It wasn’t much of a mountain, but it had a wicked view of Charlo, the neighbouring village, the Baie des Chaleurs and it’s beautiful water. You could see Heron Island further out in the bay and the rolling hills of the province of Quebec on the other side. Oh, and the thermal plant and it’s towering smoke stacks perpetually puffing white smoke way up into the atmosphere! I wonder if I will notice the missing chimneys when I go up to visit in September. They we’re always in everyone’s peripheral vision, wherever in the region we would find ourselves, given the sheer hight of them. The plant is now long closed and being torn down as we speak. The town raffled off the chance for someone to win the opportunity to press the button that will knock those twin stacks down. I heard they didn’t use the right kind/amount of explosives and when the moment of truth arrived, the chimneys didn’t budge. They sure don’t build’em like they used to, but they’ll probably, finally, be gone when I get there. Time will tell.
Summer was a time of adventure and comic books were a big part that for me. These easily transported me to another place, but as much as I loved reading superhero stuff, I have to give credit where it’s due. Archie comics were, to a certain degree, an introduction to comics and played a constant part in my life. I’ll also not forget to mention Harvey classics like Hot Stuff the Little Devil, Casper the Friendly Ghost and that bastard Richie Rich the Poor Little Rich Boy; friggin’ asshole. Boo-friggin’-hoo! At least Richie was nice and shared with his friends, unlike his dick of a cousin Reggie Van Dough, Jr.
They were right at face level on the spinner rack at all the stores from as early as I can remember. Then there was the lounging about, swimming in the ocean and more biking over at my aunt Lilianne’s A-frame cottage for hours, days and weeks on end. Aunt Lil had stacks of Archie Comics Digests strewn about the place. There were some in the main room, in the kitchen, the bedrooms and of course, the bathroom. I remember her telling me “Grouille-toi” through the wool blanket “door” of the can as I hurriedly tried to finish reading the latest day in the life of Archie Andrews before being done “dropping my pet mud-snake at the vet.”
Archie and the gang were kids, “just like us” and went to school and the beach like my friends and I did. The digests contained a tonne of short stories following Archie and Jughead’s misadventures in dating and eating respectively. Betty and Veronica were gorgeous teenage best friends and we’re complete opposites. The cast was pretty complete with nerds and jocks and everyone in between. It was good fun, good reading. Semi-educational and palatable for all ages, it was a perfect, easy to understand beginner comic book. I eventually moved fully into superhero and “adult” comics (like Heavy Metal back then and nowadays East of West and Saga) and Archie books have taken to the wayside for many years now.
I have long thought that Archie Comics, as publishers, are sort of a one trick pony. They sell Archie and Archie acessories and that’s it. They do it very well, but if you’ve read one Archie, Betty & Veronica or Jughead Jones Double Digest once, you’ve read them a thousand times. It all becomes the same after a while. They are in school. They are shopping. They are at the beach. The Archies are playing a gig at the school dance. Reggie is a douche. Repeat.
In spite of all that, Archie Comics have tried to remain relevant and with the times. In a bid to diversify the cast, the comics now feature many “supporting cast” characters (some of them with their own titles) like Kevin, who is gay and Harper, the first character with a disability in an Archie Comic. They’ve also printed some neat storylines like Archie vs. The Punisher and Archie vs. Predator, but even with all the updates to the brand, I could never really bring myself to care.
In 2013 is when they once again got my attention. I don’t know if it’s because of the popularity of the Walking Dead comics and TV show or what, but they put out Afterlife With Archie #1, the first “adult” Archie comic. The now obvious marketability of zombies has brought a zombie apocalypse to Riverdale and all is well in the world. Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with art by Francesco Francavilla, they’ve hit the perfect horror tone we never knew we wanted to see in an Archie Comic.
Hamburger, Jughead’s lovable dog, gets hit by a car and dies. Jug, grief stricken, carries his best friend’s corpse to Sabrina, the teenage witch’s house. He plead with her to do something, anything to give Hamburger life. Using a poweful spell, against her aunts’ warnings about black magic, she manages to bring him back, but something is very wrong. All hell breaks loose and eventually the survivors barricade themselves up at the Lodge mansion. All this on Halloween of course, so Betty is dressed as a naughty nurse and Veronica is cosplaying as Vampirella because, of course she would be. Pulp horror at it’s finest. The Sabrina spin-off is good, too. It’s unfortunate the issues for both titles are constantly sporadic in regards to their release dates.
Now comes a new monthly Archie comic by Mark Waid. This guy is all over the place and in the best of ways. I recently read and reviewed his comic, Strange Fruit #1, for a little blog called rockandrolljunkie.com (they’re a big deal, look it up!) and I truely believe that he cannot write a bad story. Fiona Staples is doing the art on this series and she’s a force to be reckoned with. Her art and knack for visual storytelling in the super popular series Saga, by Image Comics, has proved she is in a league with the best of them.
This is a retelling of the Archie Andrew story, but in present day. Betty and Archie have been neighbours since forever. At the moment, they are the talk of the school because they had been the perfect power couple for years, that is, until they broke up a few weeks ago; Because of the “lipstick incident”. Don’t ask. Both swore not to talk about it ever again.
Their friends decide, since it’s the end of the school year, to throw a homecoming dance with a ballot box for voting for the homecoming king and queen. They also secretly campaign to get everyone to vote for Archie and Betty, because they “belong together”. Jughead wishes everyone would all just leave Arch and Betts alone, but that’s not going to happen.
The first issue is presented in chapters that nicely present the new feel. From the “post-break-up” introduction into the “school dance scheming by fellow friends” middle part followed up with the “Archie goes from school A/V guy to the hit of the school dance, onstage with the band”, this book is breathing new life into Archie Comics. Do Archie and Betty get back together? Not my place to say, but after the dance Archie walks by a billboard that reads: “Coming soon to transform Riverdale: Lodge Industries – Changing your town from the ground up!” I was wondering where Veronica was. I suppose we’ll soon find out now that Archie #2 is currently out in comic stores everywhere.
Great for all ages, Mark Waid and Fiona Staples have great comic on their hands. – RENE
(Rene LeClair is an avid comic book reader and works at Comic Hunter in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, spreading the word to all who love comics as well. He is also a fantastic musician who currently plays with a great band called FEAR AGENT. Rene has been at his music for years, including stints with Longtimers, Four Frames, and the amazing Dead City Rebels. At the Comic Hunter (Moncton/Charlottetown) they easily have the biggest selection in the Maritimes for all your nerdy needs. They specialize in comic books w/ over 250k back issues, an immense library of graphic novels as well as a seemingly endless selection of board/card games. Whether you find yourself that side of Quebec or not, they’ll ship anywhere. Visit their website and contact them here.)