Five Reasons to Read … Afterlife With Archie #1

Afterlife With Archie PanelMy Archie love has been well documented in the G3 space. However, I know there are plenty of comics readers who care as much about Riverdale as I do about zombies. Which is to say, not at all. But believe me, you don’t have to be a big fan of either to enjoy Afterlife With Archie #1, a new horror-themed series that knocked my socks off. “But E.,” you’re saying right now, “Give me one good reason to spend $2.99 on a comic about a bunch of goofy teenagers inhabiting a sanitized version of middle America.”

I’ll give you five.

Continue reading

E.’s Megacon Highlight Reel

If you’re ever suffering from a case of fan malaise, find the nearest comics/sci-fi/fantasy/anime convention and go. You won’t regret it.

As Megacon reminded me, there’s nothing quite like a con to reconnect a person with the joys of fandom. Spending a few days surrounded by happy people in costumes and talking to the creators who make Wednesdays special are two things that deserve spots on your bucket list.

Some highlights and observations: Continue reading

Far from Riverdale: ‘Criminal – The Last of the Innocent’

Criminal Last of the InnocentEd Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal: The Last of the Innocent has been described as the most messed up “Archie” reimagining ever published, and that assessment is catnip for readers who frequent Riverdale. But this widely praised arc, trade Vol. 6 in the Criminal noir series, is much more than an exercise in taking beloved archetypes to hell. Brubaker and Phillips have crafted a harrowing portrait of unhappy adulthood and the longing for youth’s fleeting golden moments. Continue reading

2012 Memorable Moment: Kevin and Clay Tie the Knot

Kevin Keller's weddingLife with Archie, the best soap opera in comics, has grabbed readers’ attention with storylines about unhappy marriages and separations, untimely deaths (Mrs. Grundy!) and characters ravaged by disease (Cheryl Blossom!). But there was at least one happy occasion in Riverdale in 2012 with war veteran Kevin Keller’s marriage to his boyfriend, Clay, in issue #16. It’s yet another example how Archie Comics has modernized, and fans have embraced the publisher’s first gay character since he arrived in 2010. Writer Paul Kupperberg handled the story just right, matter-of-factly showing Kevin and Clay as two people a loving relationship. I propose a toast.

G3 Gift Guide: Part E.

You could argue that every Wednesday is a holiday for those of us who get a weekly comic book fix. We play Santa Claus to ourselves, merrily leaving the LCS with a fresh stack and maybe a few … unplanned purchases that prompt our significant others to ask what the hell is up with these weird charges on our credit card statements.

But don’t we all have a few special items in mind that would bring joy to ourselves others? Because this is the season for giving, we’ve prepared our second annual G3 Gift Guide to inspire you and your loved ones. Continue reading

WTF? Hall of Fame: Archie and Betty’s Motel Scandal

Remember that time Archie and Betty checked into a motel cabin far from Riverdale, shed their clothes and spent a memorable night together in front of a crackling fire? And then Betty’s dad showed up in a rage just as Archie was putting his clothes back on, subjecting them to a lengthy diatribe about values and his daughter’s compromised honor? No? Then you’ve clearly missed the best story ever printed in an Archie comic. Continue reading

G3 Review: Archie #631

Archie #631
Written by Dan Parent
Art by Dan Parent, Rich Koslowski and Digikore Studios
Letters by Jack Morelli

Betty and Veronica who?

It takes quite a romance to make a love triangle that’s more than 70 years old seem irrelevant. But that’s precisely what happened when Archie and Josie and the Pussycats guitarist Valerie rocked each other’s world in 2010, making headlines as Archie Comics’ first interracial romance, ever. Continue reading

G3 Review: Life With Archie #16

Life With Archie #16
Written by Paul Kupperberg
Art by Fernando Ruiz, Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy, Al Milgrom, Bob Smith, Jack Morelli and Glenn Whitmore

This just in: Life With Archie is friggin’ awesome. Yes, I know the series is no longer new, but no matter how many times I read it, I’m surprised by just how juicy it is. Seeing Riverdale’s former teens as grownups who are grappling with real-life drama is fascinating. LWA has become the comic book version of the TV soap you don’t want to miss. Continue reading

Welcome Back, Kevin!

About two years ago, my son, now 11, popped the “What does ‘gay’ mean?” question. I answered plainly, and he made a little face. Not in an “I’m Pat Robertson way” but a “Gee, that’s … odd” way. We had a brief talk about it not being odd at all, and then — shiny object! — he went right back to his beloved PSP.

What does this have to do with comics? After introducing Kevin Keller last year, Archie Comics has given Riverdale’s first openly gay character his own series, which hit shelves last week. It’s a typically cute, zany Archie story about pie-eating contests and parade floats. It’s also about Kevin’s coming-out experience, and writer/artist Dan Parent handles it with humor and sensitivity. Continue reading

Fast Times at Riverdale High

I hadn’t intended to write about anything Archie-related again so soon, but when my friend Craig sent me this link, well, it had to happen. Canadian sketch comedy group The Cross Eyed Bear, with the help of donors from the Vancouver film industry, put together a brilliant, live-action movie trailer that imagines the Archie gang as live fast, die young types. Imagine Less than Zero plus Skins plus Archie’s Digest, and you’ve got the R-rated parody gem simply titled Riverdale. Reggie does coke, Jughead reveals his crush on Archie with disastrous results, and Moose is in a murderous rage over a Midge-Chuck hookup. It’s as genius as it is disturbing. You’ll never look at Dilton quite the same way again. I would totally pay money to see this fully-realized movie.

Friday Favorite: Cheryl Blossom

I'd hate me, too.

Veronica Lodge has the sassy, rich vixen role on lock most of the time, but whenever bombshell Cheryl Blossom sashays into Riverdale, it is Game Over. Even worse for Miss Lodge’s considerable ego, Cheryl knows she is hot with her red hair, dangerous curves, and short skirts — and she flaunts her assets with no apology. It’s quite a feat to make Betty and Veronica look plain.

Loving Betty (and I do) is politically correct, but Cheryl is really my favorite Archie Comics female character. She’s a brash bad girl, and something about that always appealed to me as a reserved type who wore Keds instead of Candie’s (the “fast girl” shoes of the late ’70s and early ’80s).

Plenty went over my head when I was in elementary school, but looking back, I’m struck by what a sexual character Cheryl is in the relatively tame Archie universe. I mean, in her very first comics appearance, she comes thisclose to taking off the top half of her tiny bikini on a public beach — just for kicks! This sends poor Betty into a hyperventilating panic. Continue reading

Betty and Veronica, Reinterpreted

I’m out and proud about my longtime affection for Archie Comics, and I really don’t care that it’s the geek equivalent of loving “Facts of Life” reruns. Deal with it!

Anyway, it’s worth noting that those classic characters continue to be a source of inspiration for illustrators everywhere. When I saw Stuart Immonen’s stylish, modern take on Betty and Veronica below, I decided that he should draw every B&V comic book from here on out:

Stuart Immonen's B and V

The Immonen piece sent me on a hunt for other alternative/updated tributes to the first ladies of Riverdale, and while some were a little scary, quite a few were fantastic. I loved Luis Escobar’s drawing below, which strongly suggests that Mary Jane Watson is going to give Veronica Lodge the beatdown while Betty and Gwen Stacy look on.

Another standout was Mike Wieringo’s interpretation. There’s a hard edge to it, and a whole lot going on with their facial expressions and body language. A whole lot.

Mike Wieringo's Mean Girls B and V

Al Rio, who makes everything look sexy, created a semi-naughty homage to the frenemies that tiptoes right up to the line without going over it. It’s a cheeky drawing for sure, one that reflects a lot of reader fantasies we aren’t going get into here.

Al Rio's PG-13 B and V

2010 Memorable Moment: Riverdale Modernizes

 

Teenage Dream!

You really have to be a longtime Archie fan to appreciate how big of a deal this is, because as societal progress goes, interracial romance is so 1980. But Archie kissing Josie and the Pussycats’ Valerie — on the front of the book, no less — is a leap forward for the more leisurely paced Riverdale. There was more smooching and canoodling within, and even Betty and Veronica declared that the two seemed to be in love. Later in the year, Veronica flipped for the new boy in town, cutie pie Kevin Keller. Unfortunately for Ronnie, Kevin’s gay, and openly so. Kevin proved to be such a popular character that he’s returning this year in his own mini-series. Yay, progress!

Archie: The Gateway Comic

Last month, DC Women Kicking Ass posted an excellent piece about encouraging more female comic book readership. There were several good suggestions, but #4 leaped out at me: “Look to Archie.”

“Girls still read Archie because it’s accessible, and because their parents probably read Archie when they were growing up, too.”

If you're feelin' like a pimp, Archie, go and brush your shoulders off...

I know this is true, because Archie comics were my gateway to geekery back in the late 1970s. I treasured those books, and my 6-year-old daughter, C., is following suit. A few years ago, my mom started bugging me to get my childhood crap out of her house, so I began bringing pieces of my old Archie comics collection home. C. rummaged through those boxes of comics and got hooked on the Riverdale gang’s retro adventures. Now, whenever we duck into my LCS on the way to her gymnastics class, she emerges with at least one Betty & Veronica — and maybe a Tiny Titans for good measure.

I’m happy that she gets so much enjoyment (and reading practice) with these books. It’s also been, well, interesting to re-read classic Archie stories from my adult point of view. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

1. Despite the fact that it’s an old-fashioned comic, most Archie plotlines are all about raging hormones. Some of the bathing suits and plunging necklines Betty and Veronica wore in the ’70s were way sexy, and while wearing said getups, they were often being trailed by a pack of (literally) panting males. Clearly, a lot went over my head when I was 8. The next time you’re in the supermarket, flip through an Archie comic and tell me Reggie and Veronica haven’t totally gotten to third base.

2. Archie and Co. always seem to be ambling past someone’s house, which is plausible until they wind up in front of Veronica’s mansion. Veronica is supposed to be the richest girl in Riverdale, maybe the entire region. So how is it that the Lodge estate is right up the street from Jughead’s working-class neighborhood? There are some fine houses within a mile or two of my subdivision, but none of them qualify as a millionaire’s retreat. Another thing: Given how much Mr. Lodge loathes Archie, why is he sending his daughter to the same public high school he attends?

3. While the stories in the main Archie books are standard (prom, love triangle, pool party), my old Little Archie digests are full of life-or-death scenarios. The following took place in just one of my old issues — and I’ve made nothing up:

  • Little Betty is abducted, bound and gagged, and left in an attic by some bank robbers hiding out near her summer camp. Little Veronica leads a search-and-rescue party.
  • Little Archie is in a terrifying car accident with Betty’s older brother, Chick, behind the wheel.
  • Little Archie helps foil two burglars who attempt to steal one Mr. Lodge’s priceless artifacts. (Shouldn’t this act alone have earned Archie years of goodwill?)
  • Little Archie saves the life of a bongo-playing Martian who must drink ammonia (wink) to survive.

Now that I’m a joyless grown-up, these stories seem equal parts ridiculous and slightly unnerving. However, reading some of those comics also reminded me of why I loved Archie so much when I was growing up. After all, comic books are all about fantasy, and Riverdale’s simplicity is appealing to young children. There’s no oppressive continuity to reckon with. All you need to know is that Archie is everyteen, Betty and Veronica are frenemies, Jughead has a binge-eating problem, and Reggie is an asshole.

By the way, how awesome is this?

Riverdale, Uncloseted

Dreamy!

Man, Archie Comics are all about the progressive plot developments lately. Riverdale not only gave a shout-out to interracial dating this week via Archie #608, but also announced the arrival of its first openly gay character. And no, it isn’t Jughead. Or Mr. Weatherbee.

Veronica Lodge’s milkshake has been bringing all the boys to the yard for more than half a century, but chiseled cutie Kevin Keller, who will make his debut in Veronica #202 in September, does not like her In That Way. (Seriously, Veronica. The boy is gorgeous, polite and has perfect hair. Of course he’s not straight. Didn’t you see Clueless?) After Veronica’s flirting reaches epic levels, Kevin matter-of-factly tells Jughead (!) that he’s gay, so his indifference isn’t necessarily a slam against the town’s richest keyboard player.

Yeah, this development would have been way more awesome in 1991. But late as it may be, the addition of an openly gay, male character is major for an Archie comic book. From what I can tell, Kevin seems to be perfectly comfortable with being out, and there’s no Very Special Issue drama attached to his sexuality.

I’m sure somebody has their knickers in a twist about this, but I can’t see why. Archie Comics’ vision of adolescence is generally so sanitized you could clean your kitchen counters with it. It’s not like anybody’s gonna be cavorting in a hot tub, though I’d be pleasantly surprised if the editors showed Kevin occasionally going on a regular date, just like everybody else at Riverdale High.

While it’s usually extremely satisfying to see Karma kick Veronica in the ass, I feel a little badly for her this time around. Kevin Keller is easily one of the most crush-worthy boys to land in Riverdale, so his … unavailability is really gonna sting. On the other hand, some chap in Miss Grundy’s 3rd period geometry class just might have the best year ever — and we are so not mad at him.

Change Comes To Riverdale!

Meow!

When word got out last spring that Archie had gotten off the fence and proposed to Veronica, news outlets and old fans went nuts. But as far as I’m concerned, the solicitation for Archie #608 — which suggests young Mr. Andrews has been swapping more than guitar licks with Valerie, the African-American member of Josie & the Pussycats — blows that event out of the water. Here’s a sampling of the reaction from some friends, who are all jaded media types:

“Oh, wow. Wow. That’s awesome.”

“Whaaaat?!”

“Damn!”

I realize that we’re a decade into the 21st Century and that interracial romance isn’t earth-shattering in real life or the pages of, say, Vertigo and Marvel. But while I have a great deal of affection for Archie Comics, they’re not exactly known for being ahead of the curve. So even if the cover of Archie #608 is selling us a bill of goods — “Gee, Valerie. The power went out, and in the dark, I thought you were Midge! My bad.” — it’s a big deal to see such an old-fashioned brand tipping a hat to modern times through its lead character. Not convinced? Just read Dwayne McDuffie’s account of a failed attempt in the early 1990s to have Betty date a black guy. That’s early ‘90s, not ‘70s.

Archie doesn’t get a lot of love from comic book geeks, but I’m not going to front: Before I discovered superheroes, the Riverdale gang served as my ambassadors to the world of comics. Even now, I’ll occasionally grab a Betty & Veronica Digest in the grocery store checkout line “for my daughter.” But while Archie’s predictability never bothered me, I did have moments of wondering why Chuck and Nancy seemed to be the only minorities at Riverdale High, and if there was some unspoken rule that they could only date each other.

In any case, Archie and Valerie’s kiss has shifted Riverdale’s paradigm, and it’s about time. Who knows? In another 20 years, Jughead might come out of his beanie-filled closet. You’re not fooling anybody, son.