Tagged: Riverdale

Ed Catto: Returning to Riverdale

Riverdale returns to the CW Wednesday night. The second season promises more of the guilty pleasures served up in this surprisingly fun take of the Archie gang. It’s been wicked fun and I’m encouraged that it’s such a big hit.

Archie has had success in media beyond comics before Riverdale. There was an Archie radio show in the 40s and 50s. It’s a tough one to sit through, even for an old-time radio buff like me. Filmation Studios provided year after year of Archie cartoons for Saturday mornings, starting with The Archie Show and continuing with many spin-offs and sequels. And there have been several TV and movie fits and starts over the years, most notably the early 90s Return to Riverdale.

I graduated from UNC’s Business School about that time, and although I would embark on a traditional marketing career, even then I was looking for a way to blend my traditional marketing skills with Geek Culture. It wasn’t until years later, when I co-founded Captain Action Enterprises and the Bonfire Agency, that I would successfully do it. So while I was interviewing with Lever Bros., P&G and Kraft for traditional MBA marketing jobs, I also arranged an interview with the Chairman of Archie Comics.

I was invited to Archie’s Mamaroneck headquarters. In hindsight, I now know that my interview was about ten years too early. In those days, few could envision how important the business of Geek Culture would become. But one of the big topics we discussed was all about making the brand bigger with a made-for-TV-movie called Return to Riverdale. There were a lot of hopes and dreams dashed as a result of that tepidly received show.

So it’s all the better that the new CW Riverdale series show is such a hit. I’ve enjoyed watching it so far. I was very surprised, when sorting through my pal Freddie’s comic collection (more on that here) to come across one particular letter in a tattered copy of Archie Annual #15 from 1963.

As you can see, one of the cast members of an Archie pilot engaged in a little promotion, combined with pleading for swag from the Archie Comics powers-that-be. Wayne Adams, the actor who would play Reggie, is almost in character.

It’s a crazy look back at how things were done in the early days of what would get labeled transmedia. Today folks would try to accomplish the same thing with a well-orchestrated mix of social media and PR.

Which Witch is Which?

Beyond the clique of Riverdale High’s most popular students, it’s been reported that Sabrina may be joining the gang on the small screen. I think that’s great. I’ve been enjoying the very creepy Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic series by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack, upon which the show is reportedly based.

I was introduced to this platinum beauty when she was cast as the “love interest” in what was essentially the Sugar, Sugar music video. We didn’t really call them music videos in those days but all the cool cartoons would feature chase scenes or spotlight songs within the framework of the larger cartoon. As I got older, it always seemed to me that all these quick-cut montages were an outgrowth of Richard Lester’s Hard Day’s Night.

Sabrina has had many incarnations over the years, but she debuted in Madhouse #22 along with her familiar Salem and her supporting cast. For years she was sort of a Bewitched type character with one foot in Archie’s neighborhood. She’d later leave the Archie style behind to become a stylized young girl and even an anime-esqe heroine. Sabrina was most widely seen in the long running ABC series starring Mellissa Joan Hart, of course.

But I’m really interested in Sabrina’s earlier walk on the wild side. In 1972, Archie Comics tepidly introduced the Red Circle line with a comic called Chilling Adventures in Sorcery as Told by Sabrina. Here Sabrina played the role of the spooky narrator. In comics, there is a rich and long tradition of horror hosts introducing macabre tales. During the first two issues, Sabrina would dutifully introduce watered down ghost stories. They were essentially EC comics by way of the Archie line’s house style.

By issue #3, it all changed. Each issue featured genuinely spooky stories, in the classic horror comics traditional, by top talents like Gray Morrow and Alex Toth. The Archie house style was thrown out the window, unfortunately along with Sabrina.

But the precedent was set. I’m leaving the lights on when CW does introduce this spooky Sabrina show.

Ed Catto: Will Eisner Week Ramp-Up

Will Eisner Week is almost upon us. It’s become a fantastic time for libraries, schools, colleges and bookstores to promote graphic novels. And this year will be all the more memorable as we’ll also be celebrating the centennial of Will Eisner’s birth.

(It’s the centennial of Jack Kirby’s birth as well, but we’ll save that for another column.)

As you probably know, Will Eisner was one of comics’ visionaries. While he may not have actually created the first graphic novel (I tend to side with Jim Steranko on that landmark), he is clearly one of the most important people in promoting graphic novels and comics to the general public.

He was an innovative artist and an impressive entrepreneur. Looking through the lens of today, I think his most enduring legacy is as a champion of creativity.

With that in mind, I want to talk about three comic series that are fun, creative and imbedded with bit of Will Eisner’s enduring spirit (no pun intended) whispering to every reader.

And because we all live in the real world, let’s take note that there’s even a little more that’s impressive. While creatively inspired, each of these series is well packaged but still, comparatively, affordable.

There’s been a lot of frustration lately with the prices of the big two publisher’s comics. On one hand, Marvel is still charging $3.99 for comics but discontinuing the inclusion of digital versions. They will instead be offering snippets of longer stories that they hope fans will be interested in buying. Thus far, reaction to being served what essentially are ‘promo ads’ instead of content has not been positive.

On the other hand, DC Comics, despite a recent public declaration to hold their line at $2.99, is more frequently charging $3.99 a comic. And the comics that are still $2.99 are published twice month, so that’s really setting back fans $5.98 to keep up.

One can argue that these monthly prices are less important as fans migrate to enjoying trade paperback collections and digital versions. But it is all the more impressive when “smaller” publishers can offer great comics on better paper and charge only $2.99. And that’s exactly the case with these three series:

Television’s Riverdale has been generating a lot of buzz on the CW. The various Archie titles are lot of fun too. I just gave the new Jughead title a try for the first time and I’m glad I did.
This gorgeous pink cover caught my eye, but the story inside was fun and fresh and made me hungry for more. This comic, like many of the new Archie titles, offers fans a main story and a reprint back-up story, complete with an introduction to the classic tale from the series’ writer.

Also of note, and this is where we get to the Eisner part, writer Ryan North employs a clever new technique. Jughead, as narrator, provides a little extra narration at the bottom of each page. It’s snarky and surprising. This innovation is just like eating potato chips, once you start you just want more.

I’ve talked about Brian K. Vaughn’s and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls here before. But I what I really love most about the latest issue is the cover. It is striking, clever and courageous. The image is intriguing and the colors stand out from everything else on the racks. Special bonus points to the creators for having the conviction to wrap the cover design around to the back cover.

It’s this boldness and creativity that, to me, is the embodiment of Will Eisner’s vision.

Moonshine is a fantastic Image series that’s a mash-up of horror stories and Bonnie and Clyde. I wasn’t clamoring for such a mash up, but I’m so glad that Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso created it. These two are masters of their crafts at the peak of their games. And together, they have that Lennon/McCartney vibe that to which, as a reader, you’re just elated to have a ringside seat. I missed the first few issues so I started with issue #4. But you know what? That didn’t diminish my enjoyment one bit. I just snagged issues 2, 3 and 5 at Comics For Collectors in Ithaca last weekend (we were in town for the fabulous Chili Cook-Off) and I’m so glad I did.

My planned March efforts won’t be as creative as these three series, but they will be fun. I’ll be celebrating Will Eisner Week locally and leading a presentation at the local library followed by a screening the next night of the Eisner documentary. If you’re in the Finger Lakes region, stop by!

And during Will Eisner Week – and beyond – treat yourself to some creative and contemporary comics.

 

Ed Catto: Elasticity of Geek Culture

Every college freshman learns about price elasticity in Economics 101. Price elasticity simply means that consumers will be more accepting of price changes for some products than for others. And as I’ve been watching the CW’s new Riverdale television series, I’m translating this economic concept to Geek Culture. Specifically, I’m mesmerized how some fans embrace changes to pop culture properties with a Geek Culture Elasticity and others just can’t embrace changes.

Long-time Archie fans – he is, after all, celebrating his 75th anniversary this year – are wrapping their heads around this latest television incarnation. The new Riverdale show is a steamy and creepy manifestation of beloved characters that ostensibly represent Americana. Unlike their traditional comic counterparts, these versions of the characters were driven by dark and base motivations that are a part of real people (albeit gorgeous and glamorous versions of real people).

I really liked the show. But then again – I like Gotham and that’s not really like the traditional Batman comic books, and I like the current Silver Surfer comics, and they aren’t like the traditional Silver Surfer comic books either.

We should be used to twisted versions of the Archie gang by now. Long ago, the publisher realized the characters had great elasticity and created Lil’ Archie, miniature versions of the teenagers. More recently, the various Archie comics have been boldly publishing non-traditional versions of their characters in series like Afterlife With Archie (the zombie version), The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (creepy Gaimen-esque witch stories) and Life with Archie (The Archie gang grows up and becomes thirtysomething).

The entire line of Archie comics was recently refreshed with Mark Waid’s new Archie series. Jughead, Adam Hughes’ Betty and Veronica and the new Josie and Pussycats soon followed. Long-time Archie writer (for former Marvel editor-in-chief) Tom DeFalco just started up Reggie and Me in the same universe.

There have always been twisted Archie versions percolating about. One of my favorite stories in recent years was Brubaker and Phillip’s The Last of the Innocent series from 2011. Doppelgangers of Archie and his gang were thrust into their very own crime noir story. It was deliciously wicked.

But taking a step back and looking at the entire Geek Culture landscape, it’s easy to see that while some fans welcome changes, others are furious.

Kelly Thompson is the writer of Marvel’s new Hawkeye series, and has some thoughts about fan outrage that illustrates some fans’ In-elasticity when it comes to beloved to icons. In the Marvel Comics mythology, the original Hawkeye, Clint Barton, has been very comfortable with sharing his heroic mantle with a young upstart, Kate Bishop. And this new series puts Kate center stage as Hawkeye.

Thompson recently told a story on Graphic Policy’s BlogTalkRadio about how one fan was outraged that “Hawkeye wasn’t a dude anymore.” And this fan claimed to be the greatest Hawkeye fan, which seems incongruous when you realize that Kate Bishop has been Hawkeye in the ongoing comics universe for over a decade.

It’s easy for some fans to shake their fists in rage when creators, or corporations, change or alter their characters. And it’s just as easy for other fans to embrace new takes on old characters, like a female Captain Marvel or a black Captain America.

It’s not just the lunkheads who have trouble with changes. That’s too simplistic an analysis.

The proof is in the sales numbers. Many retailers, as well as fans, feel that Marvel has pushed the pendulum of change too far, and these wide swings have resulted in softer sales. The Marvel heroes might not have the Geek Elasticity that senior management had planned on.

Longtime fans tend to take change in stride. They are confident that any character reboot will eventually bounce back. They don’t get upset when Captain America is revealed to be an evil double agent because they’d seen it before and they know that the status quo will eventually bounce back.

I am also impressed how Geek Culture can easily keep track of all the different versions of their favorite characters.

For example, Flash fans know the Flash’s pre-Crisis mythology, his post Crisis-mythology, his new 52 mythology, his television mythology and his Rebirth mythology. And if you don’t know what all those terms means – don’t worry. You may be better off.

A big character like Batman can support many versions.
Batman is dark and brooding and in the movies, while his television is young and growing while his comic book self, ostensibly his true self is… well, I guess that changes a lot too.

Pop Culture today gets more complicated than ever, some versions, like the video game mythologies offer another take on the characters. The popular Batman: Arkham video game series, by Rocksteady has created its own darker version of Batman and his villains. Developers Rock Steady and WB Games Montreal has cleverly invited longtime Batman contributors like Paul Dini and Kevin Conroy to lend their creative talents to these efforts, further blurring the lines.

You know, it’s always been this way. Back in the in the 30s and the 40s a big hero had two competing mythologies that were both tops in their respective media.

  • The Shadow of the pulp novels was a mysterious crime fighter, with dark mysterious history, many identities and an intricate organization full of nuanced operatives.
  • The radio adventures of the character featured a ubiquitous millionaire playboy, who was often quite bumbling and less-than-competent. And when he assumed the identity of the Shadow, he became invisible.
  • The Shadow Comics confused things even more. In those comics he looked like the pulp version of the Shadow, but became invisible like the radio version. And then the comics introduced new characters not in the pulps or the radio show. Most memorable was Valda Rune. She was an enthralling femme fatale. I hope either Dynamite Entertainment or pulpmaster Will Murray will revive her very soon!

But nobody seemed to have an issue with enjoying two, or three, versions of a top heroic character like the Shadow. Maybe fans were more comfortable with the Elasticity of Pop Culture Icons back then. Or maybe they were better at just keeping it all in perspective.

And when it comes to the Archie, Veronica and gang in Riverdale…hey, who really knows who they are in high school?

Mindy Newell: Have A Coke And A Snark

I watched the second episode of Riverdale mainly because there wasn’t anything else on that interested me, and secondly because I wanted to give it another chance. I admit to having a negative disposition towards the show – the premiere, if you recall, elicited an unenthusiastic response from me. So let me start with what I liked…

Ummm…Hmmm…

Nope. Sorry. Aside from the twisting of an American icon into something dark and twisted – hey, did Zack Snyder have anything to do with the production? – small things just kept aggravating me. Like Archie’s hair bothers me. Hey, for 76 years (the first appearance of Archie, Betty, and Veronica was in Pep Comics, cover-dated December 1941) the guy has been a true “carrot-top,” his coloring closer to Damien Lewis (Homeland, Billions), but Mr. Apa’s hair – and I grant you, the kid has some terrific head of hair on him – is a dark chestnut, as if a henna rinse was applied to his brunette locks… and not all of it took.

Am I being silly? Yeah, perhaps. After all, the original Barry Allen, a.k.a., the Flash, has blonde hair and blue eyes, and Grant Gustin, who plays him on TV, has light brown hair and eyes. But Mr. Gustin and his supporting characters are so well written, the show is so engaging, that holding fast and true to their comic book driver license pictures and ID’s becomes secondary to the viewer – at least this viewer.

And although Lili Reinhart and Camilla Mendes do honor the looks of their four-color progenitors (Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, respectively), I’m not feeling them. In my mind, I keep substituting Kristen Bell and Charisma Carpenter (as they were back in the day on those other teenagers-in-high-school-hell) for Ms. Reinhart and Ms. Mendes. This is not to impugn the talent of either of the later two; there just hasn’t been any there yet to separate them from any other starlet.

As for Case Cott’s Kevin Keller – can he do anything else besides drool over some other male character? Sheesh, how one-dimensional can you get? Okay, we get it, he’s gay. Jesus, enough already with the tokenism. (Tell us how you really feel, Mindy.)

The only character I find intriguing at all is Forsyth Pendleton Jones, a.k.a. Jughead, which is ironic, because he has always been the least interesting character to me in the comics. Played by Cole Sprouse, Jughead is the guy just standing off from the center of activity, the one who marches to the beat of a different drum, the neo-beatnik, the observer. He’s the type girls’ parents really warn them about (as opposed to Betty’s mother cautioning her about Archie). Im-not-so-ho, if the show is to succeed, it needs to hitch its wagon to Jughead Jones.

Right now, the Super Bowl pregame show is on. I am really, really, really rootin’ for the Atlanta Falcons, if only to wipe that smug smile off of Tom Brady. I know the guy is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, but there’s always been something about him that irks me, and always has. And it doesn’t have anything to do with Deflate-gate, or even Brady’s support of Il Trumpci. (Yeah, “Make America Great Again,” you poor, poor multi-millionaire.) So, Go, Falcons!!!

Great commercial on right now with “Oh, My!” George Takei. (I think it was for Pizza Hut.) The other commercial I want to see is the Stranger Things Season 2 teaser trailer.

There’s another premiere following tonight’s game. I read the New York Times review, and here’s piece of it, by Neil Genzlinger:

“Until the Trump presidency became a reality, the main order of business in any review of  24: Legacy would have been to assess whether the franchise is still viable without Jack Bauer, Kiefer Sutherland’s memorable counterterrorism operative, as its lead character. Now, though, and especially given the events of the past week, it’s the show’s chosen villains, not its hero, who demand attention.

“That’s because a good number of them speak in foreign accents, and some embody President Trump’s bogyman of the moment, the radical Muslim terrorist.

The premiere was filmed back when it seemed unlikely that Mr. Trump would be elected – it was screened in New York on November 7 – but the opening moments play as if they were scripted to support the immigration restrictions he imposed last week. The series grows considerably more layered as it goes along, with the panoply of villains encompassing a variety of demographics, yet the choice of a bin Laden surrogate as the starting point is sure to reignite the debate over the demonization of Muslims that “24” has encountered before.”

And Coca-Cola just had a beautiful commercial – men, women, and children of different ethnicities, religions, and colors singing America the Beautiful.

If that bastard in the White House and his band of malevolent goons are watching –

Have a Coke on me.

Dennis O’Neil: Teen Angst

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.

Mike Gold: Archie Gets Laid!

FIRST SPOILER ALERT: This week’s column is going to reveal all sorts of dark, nasty, sinister and provocative stuff about the new Riverdale series on The CW. If you haven’t seen the show and you intend to do so and you’re not going to be illegally downloading it, you might want to avoid the considerable amount of wit and wisdom that follows.

SECOND SPOILER ALERT: The aforementioned wit and wisdom will implant an image in your brain that you may never be able to get rid of. You have been warned!

Archie Andrews has sex with Miss Grundy in the back seat of a Volkswagen.

I guess I should applaud any 75-year old dude who gets to have sex with his high school teacher. And maybe I do, except that Geraldine Grundy did commit statutory rape. Then again, Archie’s probably tired of being harassed by Waldo Weatherbee and if he knew Waldo has the hots for Geraldine, he might have been indulging in an act of revenge.

Also then again… in the Riverdale television series Archie has been established as a sophomore. That puts him at the age of 15 or 16, and if Archie really is your “typical teen-ager” if given the opportunity he’d have sex with a plot of warm mud. And a tip of Waldo’s toupee to Lenny Bruce for providing me with that lovely illusion.

I’ll assume they’re setting up a storyline wherein Miss Grundy gets busted for statutory rape and Archie is left trying to explain the situation to his sundry objets d’ amour. And he’s got a lot of them: Veronica Lodge, Cheryl Blossom, Betty Cooper (in fact, she’s the one in love with Archie, a love that has been unrequited since before the attack on Pearl Harbor), and – I’m guessing here –Josie McCoy of Pussycats fame.

And, since I have your attention, shouldn’t the Pussycats trade-in their little kitty-ears for pink knit caps? C’mon, get on the bandwagon, ladies!

The Riverdale teevee series has been well received by critics and either loved or hated by Archie comics fans. It’s not your father’s Archie. It’s not your grandfather’s Archie. But it absolutely is Archie if said universe were to have been created today – and if it were not done as a comedy.

As every critic has pointed out, Riverdale is very much in the vein of The CW’s stereotypical programming. It’s a romantic thriller with all sorts of dark nooks and crannies. Archie Comics have done these types of stories before, particularly in the recent Life With Archie and Afterlife With Archie series. In fact, the latter was (or is, depending on if they’ll ever continue the series) written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the creative director for Archie Comics and the writer/executive producer of Riverdale. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the sundry Archie characters have been so well established that they make the transition from comedy to melodrama with ease.

I enjoyed the Riverdale pilot, which is noteworthy in that I am far, far removed from The CW’s target audience. Of course there is a lot of set-up in that first episode, and Jughead was barely in it outside of his role as narrator. Much of the comic relief falls to Kevin Keller, which works nicely. As for Hiram Lodge being the show’s Gordon Gekko, leaving his wife Hermione to try to renew her relationship with a now-divorced Fred Andrews and thereby complicating the Veronica/Archie side of the romantic polygon, then Riverdale might not be your cup of tea.

Actually, reread that last sentence and remember my opening bit about the Volkswagen. If you can’t handle those truths, then Riverdale certainly is not for you. But I’ll be watching it, at least until I walk away muttering about what’s wrong with these kids today.

Mindy Newell: Utopia, Dystopia, Death…and Riverdale

Sir John Hurt died a few days ago. One of Great Britain’s finest actors, his rise started with his turn as Robert Rich, a courtier and lawyer in Henry VIII’s court, in Fred Zimmerman’s A Man for All Seasons. The movie, based upon Robert Bolt’s play about the fall of, British Lord Chancellor Thomas More, could be considered a science fiction story as it deals with a perfectly harmonious island society that was nowhere to be found in More’s 16th century – or in the 21st, for that matter.

Sir John, in his long and brilliant career, was no stranger to our brand of cultural pop geekdom. Besides his outstanding turn as the War Doctor on the 50th anniversary special Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor – he recreated the War Doctor on four sets of audio plays for Big Finish; three are already out, and the fourth is debuting next month (and thanks to editor Mike Gold for the info) his filmography includes Alien; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts 1 and 25; Snowpiercer; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; V for Vendetta; and 1984.

I am struck with irony. Sir John rose to prominence in a movie about the man who coined the term “Utopia,” and later starred as the protagonist – Winston Smith – in the film adaptation of 1984, the classic, definitive novel of a dystopian society. Dystopian being, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, “[a]n imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one; the opposite of utopia” – just in case you needed to look it up. Which I doubt.

But here’s why I am “struck with irony,” and I quote from Friday’s (January 27) New York Times in “Why ‘1984’ is a 2017 Must-Read,” by the Times critic Michicko Kakutani:

1984 shot to No. 1 on Amazon’s best-seller list this week after Kellyanne Conway, an advisor to President Trump, described demonstrative falsehoods told by the White House press secretary Sean Spicer – regarding the size of inaugural crowds – as ‘alternative facts’. It was a phrase chillingly reminiscent, for many readers, of the Ministry of Truth’s efforts in ‘1984’ at ‘reality control’. To Big Brother and the Party, Orwell wrote, ‘the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresies of heresy was common sense’. Regardless of the facts, ‘Big Brother is omnipotent’ and ‘the Party is infallible’.”

Sir John died the same day the article appeared.

There was another article in the Times, on Saturday, Jan 28, this one by Alexandra Alter, “Fears for the Future Prompt a Boon for Dystopian Classics,” in which the journalist wrote that sales have “also risen for [Orwell’s] Animal Farm, as well as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here. She also notes that last weekend, at the Women’s March in D.C. (and, I add, around the country and the world, including Antarctica), signs were everywhere referencing Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The book, which was written 32 years ago, has never been out of print – Ms. Alter notes that it in 2016 sales were up 30%, that it is in its 52nd printing, and that “Ms. Atwood’s publisher has reprinted 100,000 copies in the last three months to meet a spike in demand.”

In other news, Mary Tyler Moore died two days before John Hurt, on Wednesday, January 25. You young ‘uns may not remember, unless you catch reruns, but Ms. Moore starred on The Dick Van Dyke Show Laura Petrie, wife of Van Dyke’s Rob. She broke the mold of the then current (1960s) suburban housewives on television sitcoms; her Laura was well-read (she often had a book in her hand) talented (she was a dancer), fashion-forward (when Laura started wearing Capris, every housewife in America started wearing the cropped pants), daring (she dyed her hair blonde), and sexy (there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Rob and Laura closed the door to their bedroom for a reason.) And she and Rob had fights, too.

Then, in 1970, she broke the mold again, starring as single woman Mary Richards “making it on her own” working in the newsroom of a small television network in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Originally Mary Richards was going to be divorced, but there are two reasons that didn’t happen: divorced women were still an anathema to network execs in 1970, and there was actual fear that the audience would think that Laura Petrie had divorced Rob, and which would totally kill the show before it even got started. So the suits decided that Mary Richards had broken off her engagement. Along with a stellar cast that included Ed Asner as her boss Lou Grant, Valerie Harper as her best friend Rhoda Morgenstern, Ted Knight as the dimwit anchorman Ted Baxter, Betty White as devious, superficial Sue Ann Nivens, Cloris Leachman as neighbor Phyllis Lindstrom, Georgia Engle as Georgette Franklin, Ted Baxter’s ditzy yet smart girlfriend, and Gavin MacLeod as news writer Murray Slaughter, The Mary Tyler Moore Show won 29 Emmys and three Golden Globes, along with too many honors to mention.

And though the network chickened out of allowing Mary to be divorced, along the way there were plenty of separations, divorces, living together, and, yes, marriages. But Mary Richards ended the show as she started – single and living alone.

Journalist and television anchor Jane Pauley, writing in the New York Times on Thursday, January 26, noted that the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show started several years before two words, ‘and women,’ were inserted into an F.C.C. affirmative action clause pertaining to television station hiring. That might have helped women like me get a job, but Mary Richards may already have opened as many doors; she had made a woman in the newsroom seem normal.”

And speaking of death – one that occurs off-screen but will drive the plot of the show’s first season – I watched the premiere of Riverdale on Thursday night.

So far, not crazy over it.

Here are my texts to editor Mike about it:

“I thought it sucked.”

“That was the only funny part, if you’re an Archie fan. Lots of very weird scenarios running through this dirty mind.” (Regarding the scene between Archie and Miss Grundy doing the dance of the two-backed snake in the car.)

“Trying too hard.”

“Betty and Veronica instant friends? Ronnie would definitely not feel any guilt right away.” (Regarding getting it on with Archie.)

“Just seemed like it was plotted from one of those computer programs on how to write a screenplay.”

“Dialogue seemed false.”

“Best one was Ronnie’s mother.”

“Well, maybe next week will be better. Some of Buffy’s first season sucked, too.”

“I love Archie, too.”

“Trying too hard to be Twin Peaks.”

“Too hard.”

“Gonna eat dinner.”

Wait.

That one was about my growling stomach, not Riverdale.

 

Tweeks: Riverdale Cast Interviews

As you know, Anya is a huge fan of the Archie comics (those were her comics gateway drug) and she also fangirls hard over CW teen dramas, so Riverdale, premiering on The CW January 26, 2017, is kind of a big deal.

It’s a dark, film noir, take on the characters from Archie comics written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Greg Berlanti. In the pilot, Cheryl Blossom’s twin brother is murdered and they need to find out why. Jughead narrates the show and there’s of course a love triangle between Betty/Veronica/Archie. But there’s also a music component with Archie starting a band that seems to clash with Josie and the Pussycats.

At Comic-Con, Anya was able to sit down with the cast to ask about the show and here’s the interview. There are some really great bits in there. Like K.J. Aga (Archie) has a cute New Zealand accent and Luke Perry (Fred Andrews) is totally what you’d expect of the guy who played Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills. And speaking of actors on old shows we love, Cole Sprouse (Jughead) talks about why he returned to acting for this role and proves to be a total comic nerd.

What we’re really looking forward to on Riverdale is that strong feminist vibe in this version. Well, at least that’s what Camila Mendes (Veronica), Lili Reinhard (Betty), Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl Blossom) and Ashleigh Murray (Josie) seem to be saying. There’s a lot about the pressure to be perfect and topics that will really speak to teen girls today.

Watch the press table interviews and the trailer and tell us what you think!

 

Mindy Newell: Girlfriends

betty & veronica hughesVeronica Lodge: “Bring it on, Blondie. Bring it on!”

Betty Cooper: “Oh, it’s brung! It’s brung!”

Betty & Veronica #1 • Adam Hughes, Writer & Artist • Archie Comics, 2016

So I finally got a chance to read through my stack of comics, and the one that elicited the most positive reaction, the one that left me incredibly eager to read the next issue, the one that left the biggest impact on me was…

Betty & Veronica #1, by Adam Hughes.

Like so many others, I have loved those two iconic frenemies since I was a kid, which is mmpph years ago now. Sometimes I was Team Betty Cooper, and other times I was Team Veronica Lodge – there were times when I thought that Betty was just too good for her own good I and wanted her to pull off some nasty stunt to get back at Veronica… but then again, every time it seemed that Veronica’s nose was permanently up her own damned stuck-up ass, the girl would reveal her heart of 24-carat gold. I never really got the yearning both girls had for Archie; redheads have never done it for me. Besides, he was all too often incredibly mean to Betty, dumping her the minute Veronica waved her finger, and, at best, seemed to treat her like a pair of well-worn sneakers, the kind you put on when your feet are aching and tired after a long day at work.

Betty & Veronica #1Veronica’s adoration of young Mr. Andrews was a complete mystery to me, except that having a thing for the son of an ordinary “Joe” was possibly some kind of rebound complex against her rich-as-Croesus parents, especially her father. Although I seem to remember reading a story in which Mr. Lodge said he and his wife sent their daughter to the Riverdale public school system instead of to some private school so that she would grow up with an appreciation and awareness that not everyone in the world was wealthy – or something like that. Was there such a story? To be honest, I’m not sure – maybe it’s just an idea that I made up in my head to explain what the hell the Lodges were doing in Main Street, U.S.A., instead of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Then again, the only Riverdale that I knew was a leafy and wealthy conclave just north of Manhattan that was a pretty exclusive area, boasting the might-as-well-be-private Horace Mann Public School and the absolutely private Riverdale Country School, both which, if I may digress for just a moment, offer a superb education…

But to get back to and finish the original thought of the above paragraph, if Daddy Lodge wanted daughter Ronnie to mix with the peasants, then why did he object to her going out with one? Of course, there are peasants and there are peasants, he might say. He didn’t seem to object so much to Reggie, did he?

Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica was first published by Archie Comics in March 1950, although Betty made her first appearance in Pep Comics #22 (1941) and Veronica four issues later. Although friends, their adventures pretty much revolved around the girls’ rivalry for Archie. Hannah Rosin, who authored a recent article about the blonde and the raven-haired teenagers for Smithsonian Magazine (“Why Betty and Veronica Are the Real Stars of Riverdale,” July 2016) noted:

If the comic were a field guide to teenagedom, what did Betty and Veronica teach these girls? At best they are complementary archetypes, saucy and sweet, like Ginger and Mary Ann. At worst they are poison to the developing female mind. For decades, all those two ever did was “accidentally” spill lemonade on each other’s dresses. The duo conveyed that being an American teenage girl meant being a boy-crazy aspiring pinup who hated her best friend.”

It’s a good point, but I guess I never got the complete message. I never felt “boy-crazy,” although I had my fair share of crushes (which, like most crushes, were never really acted upon) and I don’t remember ever actually “hating” my best friend over a boy – sure, there were girls I was jealous of, but that was because I thought they were “prettier” or “more popular” than me, the two usually going hand-in-hand, and they were never girls I would say I was friends with, anyway. There was one girl who thought I deliberately stole her boyfriend, but I didn’t even know he was dating her when he asked me out to make her mad after they had had a fight, and was it my fault that he ended up liking me better than her? I only found out about this teenage guerre des coeurs (“war of hearts”) after the fact, when her crowd ganged up on me one day after school, called me all sorts of horrid names, warned me that “you’ll be sorry,” and sent me home crying. But that’s another story….

But I did love those fashion pinups, Ms. Rosin, the ones that were basically splash pages of Betty and/or Veronica in “different looks” – sometimes it was for “Fun In The Sun” with the girls modeling bathing suits (classic pinup, although rated “G”) and sometimes it was “Haute Couture,” featuring Betty in the latest fashions. Other times the page(s) would feature Betty and/or Veronica in different hairstyles – Betty with a short, chic pixie cut or Veronica in a pony tail a la Betty or both in “updos.”

But always, and always, no matter what, Betty and Veronica were friends, real friends, who always and always came through for each other. Yeah, they got on each other’s nerves, yeah, they would attack and solve problems in their own ways, and yeah, sometimes they would swear that the friendship was over for good! But it never has been and it never will be, because Betty and Veronica are forever. My daughter Alix read them, and so does the next generation of my family, my 16-year-old niece Isabel. That’s because, as Hannah Rosin said in her piece: “The idea that Betty and Veronica truly cared about boring old Archie was always comically implausible. The real chemistry, and all the fun, happened between the two girls.”

After it was announced in 2014 that the writer and creator Lena Dunham was writing a Betty and Veronica mini-series, some fans suggested to her that she make the girls lesbians. I think I understand why that would be important and an interesting, um, twist on the two teenagers, and in the right hands it could be an absolutely terrific story, but I also think it would work better outside the established Archie universe, the way that the zombie apocalyptic Afterlife with Archie is or Archie Marries Veronica/Betty was, if only because I also think it’s super important for girls (and women) to know that sisterhood is, indeed, powerful for all girls and women, and that possible to have a wo-mance while still desiring men as sexual partners. (See Dunham’s Girls or Sarah Jessica Parker’s Sex and The City.)

But maybe I’m just being an old fuddy-duddy the way some Star Trek or Star Wars fans are, resenting and rejecting any change in canon. Like making Hikaru Sulu gay, which I thought was terrific, although some others did not.

I’ll have to think about that.

Right now, as Adam Hughes has written, the girls on the outs. I mean waaaaay outs. It’s over the effort to save Pop’s Choklit Shoppe, which is about to bought out by the evil Starbucks Kweekwegs Koffee, “that big chain from out West,” Pop tells the kids. Betty is immediately on it:

We cannot let this happen! We will not be frightened by some big, dumb corporation and their gaspacho tactics.” (I think she means Gestapo. Good one, Adam!) “If we allow this to happen, what’s next? Where will it end? Trendy eateries, fast-food franchises…Riverdale will become just another highway stop for truckers, holiday drivers and…and tourists! If we give in now Riverdale will just become like any other town. It won’t be special anymore. Not even for us. The big corporations will win…the tourists will win. If we let Pop’s close down, then the tourists already won.”

So Betty Cooper is organizing a drive to raise money so that Pop can pay off the mortgage on his Shoppe and tell Kweekwegs Koffee to go to hell, while Veronica Lodge is just tagging along, too busy sitting on her ass and texting and tweeting or whatever the hell she’s doing to say or do anything.

And then Betty finds out that Kweekwegs Koffee is owned by Lodge Industries.

The girlfriends face off.

And the world holds its breath…

Supergirl Flies To Archie’s House

supergirl

If you are one of the confused masses who have been wondering why Supergirl was on CBS and not on the CW, stop wondering. Everybody decided the CBS thing was a mistake, and Supergirl will be joining Arrow, The Flash and probably Legends of Tomorrow on the mini-network next season. Which is this fall. Still confused? Hey, Jake, it’s Chinatown.

Aside from her DC comrades, Supergirl won’t be alone.  She will be joining Archie, Veronica, Jughead, Kevin and Betty in a new series, Riverdale, which is based upon the current crop of rebooted Archie titles. Yep, the CW is the official comics network.

In addition to their four-color roots, Supergirl and Riverdale have something in common with Arrow and the rest. All are produced by Greg Berlanti, a man so successful he could get a show based upon a can of singing worms on the CW. It should be noted that CBS owns a piece of the CW, and Warner Bros. – owner of Supergirl, Green Arrow, The Flash, and the sundry Legends of Tomorrow – owns the rest, outside of a sliver owned by WGN. Unless WGN sold off to finance their own new superstation shows.

It should also be noted that Supergirl was CBS’s #1 rated new series for the last season, although its audience share has dropped off noticeably. However, it’s big on DVRs, where people zip through the commercials. The show had one of the highest license fees for a new program, so, in addition to moving to the CW, Supergirl is also moving production from Los Angeles to Vancouver, a less expensive venue and the home to the other DC teevee shows. So I guess everybody is happy.

The episode where The Flash visited Supergirl and friends did quite well, and the move (both to the CW and to Vancouver) should make future ratings-boosting crossovers more available,

No word yet on when the new season starts.