Posts Tagged ‘Archie’

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 Comics Statistics: DC And Marvel, November 2014 In Review

February 2, 2015


My latest “Gendercrunching” column is up over at Bleeding Cool, and it was yet another subpar month for both publishers.

DC’s overall percentage of female creators rose to 9.8%, but that’s still well below their regular average despite a particularly strong month for female writers and artists. Marvel topped them with 10.8% overall, but that’s not a particularly good total either; Marvel’s been on a skid for some time after spending several months in the 14% range last year.

We also visited four other publishers. Boom! led everyone else by far with a whopping 36% female creators overall, with Dynamite coming in second with a decent 14.3%. Not only did Dynamite top DC and Marvel, they’ve more than quadrupled their female representation since the last time we ran their stats. Archie trailed far behind with a paltry 2.7%, while Avatar brought up the rear with an abysmal 0%.

Head on over to Bleeding Cool for more details and 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.

Wonder Woman Via Dan DeCarlo Via Bill Walko

July 25, 2012

This went up on The Line it is Drawn more than a month ago, but I just found it and loved it so I’m going to post it now.  The theme for this edition of TLIID was re-imagining a character as if they had been designed by a different creator.  Bill Walko got famed Archie artist Dan DeCarlo designing Wonder Woman and created this fantastic piece:

Walko based the art on pin-up pieces DeCarlo would do with Betty, Veronica, and the other Riverdale gals based on fashion suggestions sent in by readers.  Walko incorporated looks from various Wonder Woman incarnations over the years, but in that classic Archie style.  You can read more about Walko’s process at his website.

I really dig this piece.  It’s so much fun, plus Wonder Woman and Archies are two of my favourite things ever.  When I was a kid, I had a stack of Archie digests as tall as I was.  They really need to do some Archie/DC crossovers.  I know they’ve done some Marvel ones over the years, and I suppose they had that Tiny Titans/Lil’ Archie crossover a while back that was pretty classy, but I want to see Batman or Superman in Riverdale!!  Or the gang taking a trip to Gotham or Metropolis.  I’d be all over that!! 

Anyway, Bill Malko is super cool!!  Check out his site and enjoy his classy art.  He did a Donna Troy/Deanna Troi piece a little while ago that was pretty great too AND he’s got a webcomic.

New Li’l Jinx Stories in Life with Archie

January 13, 2011

If you, like me, had a stack of Archie digests nearly as tall as yourself when you were a kid, you are doubtlessly familiar with Li’l Jinx.  She was the little blonde girl who had a story or strip in pretty much every digest book, alongside other non-main Archie characters like “Josie and the Pussycats” and “That Wilkins Boy”.  Here is a rare cover appearance from Li’l Jinx and the gang:

There’s Jinx, standing next to Greg, with Charley Hawse (aka. Fat Charley… they actually called him that, and often), with Gigi and Russ and Roz back by the tree.  The only regular character not featured is Li’l Jinx’s dad, who you can see in this strip:

I have NO recollection of Li’l Jinx’s mom… did she ever appear in the stories?  I really don’t remember a mother at all.

Anyway, Archie is bringing back Li’l Jinx… but now she’s just Jinx, and she’s a teenager.  Comic Book Resources reports that J. Torres is writing and Rick Burchett is drawin an ongoing feature starting in Life with Archie #7 this February.

And it sounds fun… Torres had this to say about the classic Li’l Jinx stories:

Most of the humor of the original strips came from the conflicts between the cast members. It was like ‘Cheers’ for little kids with its put-down comedy.

Which is a pretty accurate description of the comics I used to read (and still do… an Archie digest is always a good time)… I’m glad Torres is keeping that aspect of the old stories.  He is, of course, updating Jinx, but is retaining her rebellious roots.  He describes one of his early stories as:

Jinx is pissed that there aren’t any team sports for girls at her new school. So, she tries out for football.

Which totally sounds like something the old Jinx would do.

It’s always good to have another female character on the stands, and Li’l Jinx is an old favourite of mine so I’m doubly jazzed she’s being brought back… hopefully the new stories are as fun as the old!!

Here’s a look at the new Jinx, and the updated, older gang:

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