Posts Tagged ‘Archie Comics’

Read My Essay in Riverdale Avenue Books’ New Anthology, 1984 in the 21st Century

April 4, 2017


George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984 has been resonating with the world since its publication in 1949, and it’s become increasingly relevant these days with “alternative facts” and the bizarre doublethink that characterizations the current American presidential administration. To explore the impact and legacy of 1984 in these tumultuous times,  today Riverdale Avenue Books is publishing 1984 in the 21st Century, a new anthology with contributions from a variety of great writers, and I’m very excited to be a part of it. Most of the pieces in the book are thoughtful and compellin, and delve into important, serious issues of the day in fascinating ways.

My piece, meanwhile, is about an Archie comic book. I am nothing if not perpetually on brand.

I picked up 1984 as a young teenager because of an Archie comic. The story was “It’s 1984 at Riverdale High” and it centered on Mr. Weatherbee installing a new video security system in the school that allowed him to closely monitor all of his students and employees. Archie sensed Orwellian overtones, and took a stand against the system. Luckily for him, Mr. Weatherbee had purchased it on the cheap and the system didn’t last for long.

Archie mentioned Orwell’s novel repeatedly throughout the story, so when I saw 1984 at a bookstore a little while later, I decided to check it out. I figured if Archie liked it, it must be fun and cool and definitely appropriate for readers my age. It was not any of those things. But I loved it all the same, and the book was both illuminating and served as a gateway for me into more serious literature.

My essay digs into the original Archie comic that got me into 1984 as well as how such an Archie story was both an absolutely bizarre and extremely fitting avenue for Orwell’s dystopian themes. I also talk about the adaptability of the novel, and how it’s evergreen quality has kept it in the public discourse for decades. I hope you’ll check it out, as well as the rest of the excellent pieces in the book.

The e-book is available today through the Riverdale Avenue Books page as well as Amazon; the publication date corresponds with the day that Winston Smith began his illicit journal in the novel. And today only, you can get a free digital copy of the book on the Riverdale Avenue Books site by entering the code 1984FREE. A print  version of the book is coming soon, too. Please enjoy my weird little Archie story!

Women In Comic Statistics: DC and Marvel, November 2015 In Review

January 12, 2016


My latest “Gendercrunching” column is up at Bleeding Cool, and it was a busy month with coverage of six different publishers: DC and Marvel, as always, plus Boom!, Dynamite, Valiant, and Archie.

Both DC and Marvel’s overall percentage of female creators dropped and remain well below their past highs. DC had the higher overall total with 13.9% female creators while Marvel came in at 13.1%. Both are up from a year ago, but down from where they were just last summer.

We finished our bi-annual roundup of smaller publishers this month with a mix of good and bad. Boom!’s female representation was massive, as always, with 36.2% female creators overall. Meanwhile, Dynamite halved their percentage of female creators from six months ago, falling to 10.3%. Valiant grew from their past total but their numbers remain paltry at 6.3%. And finally, Archie had a great month with 17.9% female creators overall, huge gains from where they were just a year ago.

Head on over to Bleeding Cool for all of the “Gendercrunching” fun!

Women In Comics Statistics: DC And Marvel, May 2015 In Review

July 30, 2015


My latest “Gendercrunching” column went up last week on Bleeding Cool, but I’ve been slow to post it because I’ve been on vacation. Aw yeah, cottage in the summer! Except it’s been grey and cloudy all week. I read The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, though, and it’s GREAT. Check out that series, for sure. Anyway, I’m back momentarily and posting some stats!

DC topped Marvel handily thanks to “Convergence” and two female editors appearing in well over half of all of DC’s books. DC had 25.3% female creators overall, a huge but only momentary total. Things go back to normal in June, and the numbers will drop. Marvel came in at 12.2% female creators overall, a drop from April but a decent total relative to Marvel’s poor showings as of late.

I also stopped by four other, smaller publishers to see how they’re doing in terms of representation. Boom! was down but still tops among all nine publishers we looked at over the past two months with 30% female creators overall. Dynamite came in at 20.6%, a big jump for them and a really great number overall; the “Swords of Sorrow” event spearheaded by Gail Simone helped a lot. Valiant was the pits with 2.2% female creators, but Archie came in at 9.7%, low compared to most other publishers but their best total yet.

I should also point out that I had incomplete numbers for Archie when the May “Gendercrunching” first went up. I didn’t know that the digests had new stories, and I missed the Dark Circle books and a Dark Horse crossover; all dumb mistakes on my part. Again, my apologies to Archie. Everything has been updated to reflect their entire line.

Head on over to Bleeding Cool for all of the “Gendercrunching” stats fun!

Have Some Spooky Halloween Fun With Afterlife With Archie And The Comics Code Authority!

October 31, 2014


It’s Halloween today, and what better time to do some spooky reading about the history of comic books? Just in time for the creepiest day of the year, I’ve got a review of the first volume of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s Afterlife with Archie up over at the Los Angeles Review of Books. I look at the zombie-filled series as the death knell of the Comics Code Authority, the content guide first introduced in 1954 to counter accusations that comic books were leading to juvenile delinquency.

When the code was being developed, Archie Comics’ publisher John L. Goldwater was heavily involved and patterned parts of the code on Archie’s own in house guidelines. For decades, Archie Comics clung to the code, publishing harmless and unobjectionable family friendly comics, but recently Archie left the Comics Code behind. Now, free of its limitations, Archie is going to town with a variety of titles in an assortment of new and more mature genres.

Afterlife with Archie is a gleeful celebration of everything the Comics Code stood against. The code banned horror and bloodshed, and Afterlife with Archie revels in it. The code promoted respecting one’s parents, and Afterlife with Archie has a character kill his zombified father. The code expressly forbade depictions of the undead, and Afterlife with Archie blew past that one the moment that the series was first conceived. Plus, it’s a fantastic comic book!

Head on over to the Los Angeles Review of Books for my full essay. It’s a spooktacular way to spend your Halloween!

Women In Comics Statistics: DC And Marvel, May 2014 In Review

July 25, 2014


The May 2014 “Gendercrunching” column is up over at Bleeding Cool, and DC took the top spot for the sixth straight month, just barely edging out Marvel for the higher percentage of female creators.

DC fell to 11.8% female creators overall, and after a solid gain from April, Marvel rose to 11.7% female creators. Given recent trends, DC’s streak might get broken with the June report.

We also look at four smaller publishers: Archie, Avatar, Zenescope, and Valiant. Of the four, Zenescope is the only publisher with a decent female presence, and their representation is very uneven. The rest have very few women at all, including one publisher without a single female creator at any level of comic production.

Head on over to Bleeding Cool for all of the “Gendercrunching” fun, and check out their Comic-Con news coverage while you’re there!

Women In Comics Statistics: DC And Marvel, May 2013 In Review

July 30, 2013


The monthly stats for May 2013 are up over at Bleeding Cool, and Marvel’s now beaten DC for the higher percentage of female creators for a year straight.  Marvel had 13.2% female creators overall, while DC trailed behind at 11.8%.

We also popped by four other publishers, finishing our tour around the top-selling publishers.  All told, we looked at twelve publishers over the past few months, including DC and Marvel, and we ended with Dynamite, Archie, Aspen, and Avatar.  Most of their numbers were quite terrible, unfortunately.

Head on over to Bleeding Cool for all of the stats fun!

The Gender Problem In Archie Comics OR The Girls All Look The Same

October 3, 2012

Continuing my recent birthday related posts, I also got Archie: The Best of Harry Lucey, Volume One, and it’s fantastic.  Harry Lucey drew Archie comics in the 1950s and 1960s, and he’s my favourite Archie artist by far.  I used to get the digests all the time when I was a kid, and the old reprinted Lucey stories were always my favourites.  Part of it was that I loved the cornball humour of those old stories, but the art was just great.  Lucey is the definitive Archie artist to me.

However, a panel in the book reminded me of an article I read a few years ago by Ronald Glasberg called “The Archie Code: A Study in Sexual Stereotyping as Reflective of a Basic Dilemma in American Society” (you can get it at this link if you have access to some sort of academic library system, but if you don’t you’re probably hosed).  Glasberg makes lots of interesting points about Archie comics and gender, but the one that’s always stuck with me is that female characters are drawn exactly alike.  Thus, Archie comics suggest that women are interchangeable, which is not a great message about women, to say the least.  Let’s take a look at that panel:

Their faces are exactly the same.  If you switched their hair, you wouldn’t even notice a difference.  Betty and Veronica have the exact same features.  Sure, their personalities are different, but visually they are absolutely interchangeable apart from their hair.  Everything else is identical.

And it’s not just Betty and Veronica… this is true of most female Archie characters.  Midge, Josie (of the Pussycats), and Sabrina (the teenage witch) all have the same facial layout.  Cheryl Blossom also has that basic face, just tarted up a bit.  Nancy and Valerie, who are black characters, fit the mould with a darker skin colour as the only difference.   Even the moms follow this pattern.  Mrs. Andrews and Mrs. Cooper are often just a slightly fuller, slightly lined version of this generic face.

The only time women break this pattern is if they are undesirable or outside of the social order in some way.  Miss Grundy, Miss Haggly, and Miss Beazly all look different from the norm and from each other, but they’re unmarried spinsters.  Similarly, Big Ethel is drawn differently from the Betty and Veronica norm, strictly to illustrate that she’s undesirable.  She’s only different to highlight her negative characteristics.

Now, let’s look at the boys.  Each male character has their own distinctive look.  Dilton and Big Moose are completely different.  So too are Mr. Andrews and Mr. Lodge.  Mr. Weatherbee and Pop Tate are easy to tell apart as well, even though they share the same rotund shape.

The same is true for the main characters.  Take a look at Archie:

His face has a round shape, his nose is rounded, and his eyebrows are thick.  Now look at Reggie:

His face is squarer, his nose is more angular, and his eyebrows are thin.  If you took Archie’s hair and freckles and put them on Reggie’s face, you wouldn’t have Archie.  You’d have Reggie very clearly pretending to be Archie, probably as part of some scheme to get a date with Veronica.  The same goes for putting Reggie’s hair on Archie’s face.  It just wouldn’t look right.

Jughead, of course, is even more distinctive:

Long face, long nose, eyes closed most of the time.  He’s not even in the same ballpark as Archie and Reggie.  Those two are the male characters with the most in common, facially, but they are very clearly distinct.

Another story in the Lucey book really shows off this interchangeability of female characters.  Archie takes Veronica out scuba diving, trying to get some alone time with her.  The conniving Reggie figures that everyone looks the same in scuba gear, so he enlists Betty to help him pull a switch.  They’ll put on scuba gear and go break up Archie and Veronica underwater, and neither will know the difference.  Reggie will get to be with Veronica and Betty will get to be with Archie, and they won’t know about the swap until they come up.

Of course, the plan doesn’t go smoothly and Reggie and Betty break up a different couple.  Once the masks come off, the guy Betty ends up with clearly isn’t Archie or Reggie:

But if the text didn’t tell me that the blonde Reggie ends up with wasn’t Betty, I’d have been hard pressed to know, apart from her slightly different hairstyle:

The implication that men are all different, individual beings while women are essentially interchangeable isn’t particularly good.  Nor is the message that women who are outside of the norm must be undesirable.  I love Archie comics, and of course the creators aren’t sinister, misogynist fiends, but it’s good to be aware of the messages that comics send, even unintentionally.

This interchangeability of female characters continues today, too, even in that weird new style they tried a few years ago.  Betty and Veronica are barely different, and you could swap their hair easily and no one would notice:

I think it says a lot about our society, and the comic book community especially, that it’s normal for men to look a range of ways but women have to look all the same.  Most comic artists can draw a spectrum of male shapes, sizes, and faces, but few artists’ female characters are more than just slight variations on one core figure.  Maybe if we made women actual characters more often, instead of love interests and derivative sidekicks, and invested as much in them as we do males, then a more nuanced approach to how women are depicted would follow.

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