“Creativity is easy. Originality is difficult. Relevance is a bitch”, this quote by Mark Rude, an author who published a comic book series called Passage in 2005 is very apt for the decision that Archie Comics took recently to bring back Archie Andrews from the dead (Pun Intended!).
Archie which was one of the most popular comic series among the youth had to bear the brunt of being irrelevant with the changing time and trends. The character of Archie, who made his debut back in 1941, was ‘killed’ earlier last year in the ‘Life with Archie’ 2014 issue; but now come 2015 has received a second chance at life with an all new series Archie #1, in a reincarnated avatar.
Taking inspiration from Andy Hardy movies, John Goldwater came up with the idea of filling the void of nurturing a teenage icon for the youth of the world in early 1940s and that’s how Archibald “Chick” Andrews was born. Archie Comics characters were created by publisher/editor John L Goldwater, written by Vic Bloom and drawn by Bob Montana. Before Archie, the publication was named as MLJ Magazines and used to produce superhero based comics but owing to the success of Archie, the company changed its name to Archie Comic Publications.
Over the years Archie has made successful attempts in catching the eye of the audience by introducing a love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica and in 2007 the characters got an image makeover, wherein from 2D characters, they got a hint of 3D elements added to the mix. As the Comics further evolved, it decided to come up with a gay character in 2010 in Veronica 202 called Kevin Keller. The character became such a hit that a reprint was ordered and Kevin got his solo series in 2011. Earlier, in 2010, ‘Life With Archie’ – the flagship series took shape – where Archie is shown in two parallel universes: one in which he is married to Betty and in another he’s Veronica’s beau. The makers also tried to dabble into zombie culture by launching the ‘Afterlife with Archie’ series in 2013, where zombie apocalypse sets in the town of Riverdale which also got a positive response from the critics.
But all of a sudden in 2014, the world bear witnessed the death of Archie by a gunshot in the ‘Life with Archie’ series. The reason behind this as revealed by Jon Goldwater, CEO of Archie Comics was, as quoted: “It was clear to me that Archie was moving down the path of irrelevancy. I really wanted to aim for the comic book shops and the real comic book reader and do a complete relaunch of Archie.”
And now come 2015 San Diego’s Comic Con event – the new and rejuvenated look of Archie and the gang was revealed and ever since has been attracting a lot of attention (both negatives and positives) from the readers as well as purists. But the one question that many have been left asking is: why did the makers kill Archie in the first place? Was it just a marketing gimmick so that they can generate more revenue? Or was there something more in the minds of the Archie Comic Publication?
Earlier too we have seen other comic characters like Peter Parker (Spiderman) and Magneto getting killed and then re-launched. We tried to understand the idea behind doing this stunt by asking few of the industry folks on their views and opinion about this re-introduction of Archie.
Independent Comic publisher and co-founder Kini Merch, Abhijeet Kini says: “I think it’s a complete departure from what the whole feel of Archie is. They have made it current to attract new young readers because I see a lot of comparisons with the look of Justin Bieber have been done but at the same time I feel as though they are losing out in a little bit of humor. I am not totally for it but then we will have to see how it will look overall in the comics as I haven’t read it yet.”
When asked if killing of Archie and introducing his revamped looks was a smart move he added: “I don’t know if it’s a smart move but it’s a move to keep it current. Archie has always experimented with looks so keeping to their experimental nature I think this is another step to a new direction. If I get a chance to read it, I will but I will not wait. There are comics that you wait for and there are comics that you don’t care; unfortunately this new look of Archie is not working out for me.”
Akshay Dhar who’s the founder of Meta Desi Comics had an opposite take on it. “I think it will take time for people to get used of it but I am enjoying it. I am positive towards it because both the writer, Mark Waid and artist, Fiona Staples are the people whose work I think is awesome and I never had a cause to complain till date and since they are on the comic I am sure they are going to be good. I have got the first one already but I haven’t got the time to read it but there’s only one out right now so I can’t really say much. I do like what they have done; I do like the approach, looking forward to reading more of it. It’s not easy to attract a new generation but they have done a good job.”
On his views on killing off Archie in the very first place, he exults: “I can’t really say about that like the particular choice on how to do it but they could have done a new alternate version like what we see in Superman, Batman which has multiple versions. But, having said that I do feel that the new book itself is good and they are getting Mark Waid to write, who tends to tell very positive stories and Fiona Staples who’s an excellent artist. Getting them on board was probably the best choice they have made.
I do kind of understand why they did it as now it’s a clean slate and there won’t be two versions running around. There will be some people who might be unhappy about it but personally I don’t think it’s a terrible thing because probably the most common thing with comics that last that long is that they kind of become stuck but when you start from the scratch it gives you the liberty to experiment.”
Tinkle Comics, Editor, Rajani Thindiath says: “My first reaction was ‘Who is this guy? This is not Archie!’ And then I wondered what they will do to Jughead and Hotdog, my favourite characters in the series. I took a look and liked the slightly wicked edge to Jughead. And, happy surprise from the artworks they have uploaded, Veronica and Betty will not be clones anymore!
So, my professional side pops in to wonder how this experiment will work. It is a daring move to take a classic and change the look so drastically. Since they are planning to go back to an edgier and funnier Archie/Jughead of old to celebrate the comics’ 75th anniversary, it is something to watch out for. It is not the first reboot in comics’ history, though at Tinkle we’ve seen a more gradual evolution of our characters to keep pace with our young readers.”
“It will be interesting to see what Waid and Staples will bring to the Archie series. From the few pages I’ve glimpsed, Archie seems to have evolved into a more complex character, in a layered script that is relatable to the readers of today,” she ends.