Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Archie continues to bewilder me

I’m about eight years late to the party but I picked up and read Archie Comics’ Road to Riverdale. It was a sampler for their New Riverdale line, the first issues of five of the books. And it obviously was done to help promote the Riverdale TV show. (Which I have never watched but I understand critics love to savage it)

I had heard of the New Riverdale line, a reimagining of Archie and his world with more realistic artwork and more continuity-based storylines. And, while not inappropriate, aimed at an older audience.

And it wasn’t quite what I expected. As opposed to being Archie as a serious drama (which isn’t actually unknown), it was more of a denser, wackier look but with a heavy emphasis on character development. Honestly, it felt like a post-Buffy the Vampire Slayer Archie, self aware but room for feels.

I find Archie weird. Before I was old enough to not be embarrassed to read it, I thought of Archie as simplistic, repetitive and reactionary. And, frankly, a lot of that is true. Archie has been going since the 1940s and has been almost always aimed at a younger audience.

At the same time, Archie has been constantly reinventing itself. I don’t even know if Archie Comics itself knows how creators have worked on the franchise. And it’s been addressing social issues for decades.

What muddies the water is the fact that they are constantly reprinting stuff from all over their catalog. So you can find different messages, sometimes in the same magazine.

To be fair, you can point to any long running franchise. Batman has been many things. However, Bruce and his merry band of vigilantes have been allowed to change and adjust. The lack of continuity and constant reprints means Archie Comics  keeps the values dissonance constantly churning. There is good stuff but they keep burying it.

Which might be part of the point of New Riverdale.

Heck, it got me to read the first volume of Archie. Which I did enjoy but found almost bipolar. We have moments like Archie’s bumbling destroying the entire Lodge mansion contrasted with Betty’s angry tears at Archie freaking out over her makeover.

From what I understand, the New Riverdale has ended. Perhaps that has to happen. When you actually create a story where the characters develop and change, endings make sense.

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