Thursday, July 24, 2014

Archie Gets Mature

I was busy dealing with some other weird comic book news last week, which caused me to miss chiming in about “The Death of Archie.”

That’s not too much of a big deal, because there isn’t much to say.

My wife is the Archie expert in the family, having a couple short boxes in the comic room, a few thousand page specials laying about her reading piles, and several giant bins full of digests in the attic.

It didn’t affect her because the death happened in an alternate universe she wasn’t following.

That universe, and the idea that there are multiple Archieverses, was covered on The Big Bang Theory, meaning that far more people than will ever read this blog heard about it. However, for those that don’t know, stories were published in a “What If” style with Archie Marrying Betty in one timeline and Veronica in another.  My Wife didn’t care for the wedding stories and we didn’t buy Life with Archie: The Married Life that followed both story strands.  It was written by the Weekly World News’s Paul Kupperberg, which lead me to check out the original stories in the first place.

Dilton was a scientist in these tales who actively tracked the different time streams of the Archie characters.  The rest of the comic showed the Riverdale Gang dealing with typical, adult, real world problems.

I do not read comic books to see people dealing with typical, adult, real world problems.  I read comic books for fantasy escapism from my own typical, adult, real world problems.

That universe’s (or those twin universes’) Archie died heroically saving newly elected senator (and break out diversity character) Kevin Keller from an assassin.  The aftermath issue just released ended the series.

I see the whole exercise as if it were a Batman story about what happened after he gunned down a bunch of street criminals with an Uzi.  Just like shooting bad guys to death would make Bruce Wayne no longer be Batman, finally choosing Betty or Veronica would violate one of the main character traits of Archie.  That indecision isn’t a Hamlet like character flaw in his case. He’s in high school; he shouldn’t have to make a lifelong choice.

There was a “mature” Archie title that I did enjoy, after hopping on the band wagon late.

I bought Afterlife with Archie as a goof to add to my vacation reading pile.  I was expecting it to be an odd and silly mash up; similar to the famous 1994 Archie Meets the Punisher.

Instead I ended up with the greatest horror comic I’ve ever seen.

Man, when they finally dropped the Comics Code that Archie Comics pushed for all those years ago, they dropped it well.

Afterlife with Archie brought a zombie apocalypse to Riverdale courtesy of writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla.

The two areas that made it as amazing as it was were Planning and Execution


The idea started with a gag cover for Life with Archie number 23. (Drawn by Francavilla) This is opposed to other comic companies out there who dove head first into the current popular zombie trend with giant crossovers, or miniseries, ignoring the fact that in worlds where resurrection, the undead, extra dimensional realms and most mythological beings were common place, zombies shouldn’t be much of a big deal.

Archie started with one image.

After a while of that image festering, the story congealed into a tale where the zombies infected a much more normal, perhaps idealized, world.

There are many previously existing alternate Archie-verses.  However, a majority of them (the spy one, the superhero one, the cave man one, the future one) are basically cookie cutter copies of the regular characters and settings with a twist. 

Afterlife with Archie used more realistic art, and a much darker setting.

They built that dark setting starting from all the standard Archie components, though.

That brings up the appropriately named-

All the elements of a standard Archie comic are here.

Archie’s loyalty to friends and family inspiring him to go beyond his the freewheeling undependable image he projects.

Betty and Veronica’s constant competition covering over the fact they really are best friends.

The relationships, bonds, and idiosyncrasies of all the characters.

There was even a flashback to Lil’ Archie times to add extra mileage to one of the most heroic, yet heartbreaking scenes in the yarn.

The source of the problem itself also came from existing Archie continuity, as Riverdale has its own supernatural resident- Sabrina the Teenaged Witch.

To prevent a simple solution, she was removed from the tale early on, supplying the first truly horrific scene.

The accuracy of the Archie continuity is one of the key elements in making this a fantastic tale of terror.

In any horror movie (or book or comic) the writer has a few opening moments to attempt to get the viewer (or reader) to care about the characters that are about to be put through all manner of indescribable awfulness.

Archie started 1941, giving Aguirre-Sacasa over seventy years of caring about these characters to work on the readers.  He certainly milked it for all it was worth.  In some cases it was tweaked to darker areas but all of it was based on the history of the beloved characters, as he proceeded to turn some of them into monstrous beasties!

That brings me what might be a spoiler, except that it’s featured on the many covers of issue one, and the pre series Issue 23 as well. (I’m sure the Illuminati had a hand in that numbering.)

The first old friend turned into a terrifying horror, was Jughead.  He’s probably my favorite character, but I’ve no qualms with the decision, in fact it made perfect sense.

He’s the lightest and silliest character in the Archieverse.  His rapid transition from tragic victim, to unstoppable flesh eating fiend was the perfect way to set the tone for the rest of the series.

Other triumphs and tragedies built from there, yielding adventure and terror that are well worth experiencing for yourselves.

The next arc started yesterday and we get to find out what happened to Sabrina.  There are too many awesome variant covers in this series to buy individual issues though. I’ll have to impatiently wait for the trade.


longbow said...

Sometimes it feels good to just be on the sidelines of life. I think I wouldn't know which way to run or recognize who was trying to tackle me if I stepped onto the field.

..multiple Archieverses... the mind boggles.

Jeff McGinley said...

"Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose." Haldane...or maybe Eddington.
I guess it goes double for Archieverses.

Thanx for sharing!