Maddy & Anya review the first two episodes of The CW’s new teen drama Riverdale comparing it to the comics.
I must have encountered Archie Comics while I was still young and innocent before the brassy hell we knew as high school — and military high school at that – before I began my ten-year abstinence from reading comic books. I can’t remember a time when Archie and his pals and gals weren’t on my radar somewhere (though the blip was probably dim and small. One of those deals where I knew something but didn’t know I knew it.)
The Archie posse was one of a bunch of similar groups that were sprinkled throughout the media in the years immediately before and after the Second World War. But the genre was born decades earlier, in the 1920s when the younger set began to be identified as a consumer group with few bucks in their pockets. The fictional teens got a boost from a series of movies starring Mickey Rooney as the lovable Andy Hardy, and then came the comics featuring guys and gals with names like Candy, Binky, Corliss Archer, Henry Aldrich, Patsy Walker. True confession: I once, briefly contributed to the Patsy scene. Way more fun than high school.
These stories, which might have been mistaken for sitcoms on a dark night, featured slightly cartoonish but attractive adolescents romping their way through high school and related activities – dances, games – and having disagreements with both peer groups and authority figures These squabbles weren’t serious and did not seem likely to put the teens on the path to juvie. Detention was all they had to worry about.
They were no respecters of media boundaries, these scamps. Some had radio shows back when network broadcasts were major sources of light entertainment. and young master Aldrich appeared in a series of movies. Most perished when comics were attacked by the political and muckraking witch hunters of the 50s and early 60s.
But not Archie. He continued to appear wherever there was a decent comic book store from his war-era debut straight on through to the present. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that he and his crew are on the tv. Yep, there they are in a weekly show titled Riverdale, Thursday evenings on the CW.
I could never identify with the comics’ Archie, who seem to have his friends, male and female alike, grafted to his hip. I was a loner (with a uniform). But Marifran was pretty much a typical teen who hung out with kids I didn’t know and did teenage things. (She also went on dates with me. I don’t think I wore my uniform.) The CW Archie doesn’t reflect my adolescence, which was to be expected, but it’s nothing like Marifran’, either.
This Riverdale is a series saturated in angst and gloom and the video Archie is involved in stuff the comics Archie would never have heard of, including an improper relationship with a teacher. Tch! So Riverdale’s world mirrors ours. It ain’t a barrel of laughs, but It’s well-enough done to merit another look. Maybe.
Let’s hop on back 40,000 years into the past and watch a fellow named Urg make marks on a cave wall with a piece of flint. We happen to know that Urg has only recently learned that he can make these marks and he is now in the process of finding a use for them. Hey, listen… he’s now making sounds. Could they be words? Can they give us a clue as what he thinks he’s doing?
URG: Ar-chee! Jug-heed! Ann-tee-loop!
And now we fire up our time traveling whatsis and behold! – we find ourselves in the pages of a comic book. The panel we’re in shows those Riverdale High funsters Archie and Jughead strolling down a sunny street. Nearby, enjoying a snack of grass, is an antelope.
ARCHIE: Hey Jug! Isn’t that an antelope?
JUGHEAD: Sure looks like one. Wonder why the artist put that in!
Okay, half turn to the left or right, depending on your political preference, and we find ourselves in the real world – that is, the world we happen to inhabit. We’ve just snuck through a back door into this week’s topic (and yes, maybe I’m being generous in calling what follows a “topic.”) In one sentence, here we go:
Technology always precedes art.
That’s really all I have to say, but I’ll expend a bit more band width anyway.
Remember Urg? He found that he could put scratches on the cave wall and then discovered that these scratches could be pictures and suddenly he was an artist! Time rushed forward and Urg’s descendants put Urg-like scratches into clay tablets and then people had both pictures and writing and then later descendants of Urg invented paint and canvas and various kinds of printing inclluding high speed presses driven by steam and photography and radio and television and silicon chips and the bank width I’m expending…
Urg sure had a lot of descendants and a number of them, maybe without realizing exactly what they were doing, put gadgetry devised by someone else to expressing themselves and amusing their neighbors and pretty soon, there stood Disneyland. And much, much more.
That “much, much more” might be a problem, unless it isn’t. Cinematic technology can put spectacular images on the screen and if we have a toy, we humans will play with it. (I saw a planet explode just the other day.) And all those explosions and chases can serve the story that contains them, but on another level, they’re spectacle. What I fear is that the spectacle is overwhelming drama and theme and the other stuff that can be put on screens and so we’re collectively losing valuable gifts the ancients knew about, things like catharsis and empathy. Am I tilting at windmills? Maybe. Probably.
The exploding planet happened in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I’ll certainly see the next episode in the Star Wars franchise.
For rent: Secret laboratory. Ideal for mad scientists, superheroes and their posses.
Now, about those posses: time was when superheroes operated pretty much alone, or with a sidekick, who could be anyone from the original Green Lantern’s cab driving Doiby Dickles to Batman’s intrepid though preadolescent Robin. Oh, there were other continuing characters in your basic superhero saga – think Jimmy Olsen and Commissioner Gordon – but when it came to doing the daring deeds the folk in the costumes usually flew solo.
Then things evolved and –
Almost certainly, a lot more people will see Supergirl on television this week than ever read one of the Maid of Might’s comic books. She’s plenty super – give her that – and as bonuses, attractive and charmiing, but she doesn’t fight evil by herself. No, she’s allied with a brainy group of colleagues who hang their doctorates in a secret lab. And if we scan the videoscape, we see that Supergirl has peers. The other two television title characters most like their comic book inspirations, Arrow and the Flash, also have lab-dwelling cohorts who can always be depended on to have the information the good guy/girl needs.
Structurally, the three shows – Supergirl, Arrow, and Flash – are virtually identical. And, again structurally, they’re pretty close to Archie Andrews, that teenage scamp, and the gang at Riverdale High. The biggest difference is that the Riversiders have no laboratory, but nobody’s perfect.
There’s a lot to be said for adding pals to the superheroic landscape. They give the hero someone to talk with, thus allowing readers/audience to eavesdrop on vital exposition (though sidekicks can do this, too, and if you don’t believe me, ask Dr. Watson.) Supporting players can also provide story opportunities. And they can add texture and variety to scenes. And the occasional comic relief. And, by their interactions with the chief evil-queller, they can add depth to that individual’s psyche. But mostly they can serve the same function as those stool pigeons and confidential informants served in the old private eye and cop shows, the scruffies who always knew what the word on the street was: they can quickly and efficiently supply data that enables the hero to get to the exciting part, usually a confrontation.
Finally, the pals and gals give the hero what seems to be absolutely necessary: a family. It’s usually a surrogate family, to be sure, and it may not be much like your family, but it has a familial dynamic and it allows the audience to experience, by proxy, what might be missing from their real lives: a secure knowledge that there are people who can counted on, who will always forgive you and have your back. And such nearests and dearests have to hang out somewhere, so why not a secret laboratory?
And while they’re there, they can supply the location of that master fiend, the one with the purple death ray and the really atrocious table manners.
We are a community. We are fans, enthusiasts, historians, role players and practitioners of one of America’s true native art forms… and a member of our community needs a helping hand.
Over these many years, most of us here at ComicMix have worked with Norm Breyfogle. He’s best known for his work on Batman, although (since this is my column today) my favorite of his work was on Eclipse Comics’ Prime. He also co-created the award-winning Archie: The Married Life with our pal Michael Uslan and has tons of credits as an A-list comics artist.
Norm suffered a major stroke. He’s still with us, thankfully, but he’s paralyzed on his left side – of course, he’s left-handed. Norm spent a week in intensive care, which tapped out his savings, and he’s got months ahead of him in a nursing home getting physical therapy. It’s too early to tell if he’ll ever be able to draw again; my guess is, right now he’d settle for being able to walk again.
Like a great many comics freelancers, Norm had no insurance. I won’t get into the comics industry politics behind that; this isn’t the time for that. But needing insurance and being able to afford it are two different things, and I know from personal experience that for a guy Norm’s age – he’s 54 – adequate health insurance can run over fifteen grand a year, and that doesn’t count pre-existing conditions and that assumes your health record doesn’t make coverage impossible no matter what the price. I won’t get into the health care politics at this time either.
So I am asking you to help a good guy out. Yes, there are a lot of comics people who have found themselves in this position, and I know nobody wants to play pick-and-choose under such circumstances. You’ve got to take it one person at a time, one day at a time.
There’s a website called YouCaring.com that helps raise money online for people in Norm’s unfortunate situation. They’re trying to raise $200,000; as of this writing (Tuesday night), they’ve raised $26,000. That’s a good start. But if you’ve got an extra ten or twenty bucks, right now this would be the perfect home. The link is http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/legendary-batman-artist-norm-breyfogle-stroke-fund/281723; click on it and do a solid for a real good guy. And tell your friends.
Please don’t look at this as a guilt-trip. Lots of folks have the desire to help but not the financial wherewithal. And, of course, tomorrow is Christmas and with gifts, family functions, office parties and the like we’re all kind of tapped out. But if you’ve got something – anything – to help Norm out, please give it a thought.
The Tweeks would not exist without Archie. These were our first comics and we loved them. We still love them. Archie taught us to love comics and teen drama. So this week we talk all about Archie and make a case for the few kids out there who haven’t read Archie for whatever reason to get on it. We also review Afterlife with Archie (we admit, we were afraid to read it!) and Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty.
September 27 & 28, we attended Long Beach Comic Con for the first time. It was our first smaller-sized con and we LOVED it! It was so easy and fun. We really were able to enjoy the art, the cosplay, and hear about new comics. We also learned how to draw The Simpsons, got the scoop on Afterlife with Archie, played Star Wars laser tag, and maybe did a bit of fangirl shopping on the floor.
The iconic comic book character, beloved by millions around the globe for over 70 years, will sacrifice himself heroically while saving the life of a friend in the pages of July’s LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36, the final issue in the flash-forward series, which spotlights Archie’s adventures after high school and college.
“We’ve been building up to this moment since we launched LIFE WITH ARCHIE five years ago, and knew that any book that was telling the story of Archie’s life as an adult had to also show his final moment,” said Archie Comics Publisher/Co-CEO Jon Goldwater. “Archie has and always will represent the best in all of us—he’s a hero, good-hearted, humble and inherently honorable. This story is going to inspire a wide range of reactions because we all feel so close to Archie. Fans will laugh, cry, jump off the edge of their seats and hopefully understand why this comic will go down as one of the most important moments in Archie’s entire history. It’s the biggest story we’ve ever done, and we’re supremely proud of it.”
The story will be available in multiple formats, including an extra-large magazine-size LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36, two comic-sized issues—LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36 and #37—and a trade paperback collecting the entire story, written by regular LIFE WITH ARCHIE writer Paul Kupperberg, with art by Pat & Tim Kennedy and Fernando Ruiz.
While LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36 shows readers Archie’s final moments, #37 leaps a year into the future, showcasing how the remaining members of the Riverdale gang—including Jughead, Betty & Veronica and Reggie—have honored the legacy of their dear friend. Both stories will be collected in the double-sized LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36 magazine and upcoming trade paperback.
In addition to the acclaimed regular LIFE WITH ARCHIE creative team, the two comic book issues—sold exclusively at comic shops in July—will feature a pantheon of artistic luminaries contributing covers to the historic issue, including Francesco Francavilla, Fiona Staples, Ramon Perez, Walt Simonson, Jill Thompson, Mike Allred, Cliff Chiang, Adam Hughes, Tommy Lee Edwards and Alex Ross.
No word yet as to whether Archie will be coming back in six months as a cyborg, an alien, a black man in a suit of armor, or a teenag– never mind.
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