Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Archie-the foundation

For simplicity's sake as we continue:

AD= Archie's Digest
ADD= Archie's Double Digest
BVD= Betty & Veronica Digest
BVDD= Betty & Veronica Double Digest
JFD= Jughead and Friends Digest
JDD= Jughead Double Digest
PGD= Pals-N-Gals Digest
PGDD= Pals-N-Gals Double Digest
TFRD= Tales From Riverdale Digest

DNL= Dynamic New Look

NRJC= New Reality of Jughead Continuity. This is my personal theory on the direction and recent history of the Archie universe. As time permits I'll post here about it so you can all be in on the truth.

2009 is also going to mark a turning point in the Archie universe. This summer Jon Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit took over as co-CEOs of Archie. Jon's father John L. and Nancy's father-in-law Louis were the creators and founders of Archie comics (along with another guy who was bought out at some point and whose family wasn't involved). Jon's half-brother Richard and Nancy's husband Michael had taken over from their fathers and had been running Archie for decades, and both died with in a year of each other over '07-08. Rather than sell the company Jon and Nancy stepped in to keep it in the family.

Jon has been a music promoter for a long time, and I think he's going to bring the snake-oil salesman vibe that promoters have to Archie. Sigh.

A digression: I have no doubt that the marriage is his first big project, and it seems to be working out. Just wait until the fall when Archie decides to take the other fork and proposes to Betty, and the publicity machine cranks up again as "all the Betty fans (like Stephen Colbert) get their wish". If I was a betting man, I'd say the story is going to end with Archie realizing that the important decisions a teen faces are all about college and jobs (a very strong theme in the first issue), and I'd further wager that Betty turns him down. Probably it will be related to her having a great career or some grand adventure in front of her, and isn't willing to give it up to stay with Archie in Riverdale.

Jon (I'm sure) is also behind the push to Archie digital comics, which I think have been very successful at the iTunes app store. He also talks a lot about turning Archie into a media powerhouse, which I find a bit alarming. I suspect he looks to Marvel for his model of a great comics/media company, and this breaks my heart.

Nancy is the beacon of hope for me. As co-CEO she can keep Jon in line (although he bought a large stake in the company this year, so he may have more power unless Nancy's husband left her his stake when he died), and she has spent the last 20 years teaching art in the New Jersey public school system. Her first big projects are all about using the Archie brand as a tool for childhood literacy, and creating an Archie product for high school fundraising (instead of chocolate almonds or whatever the poor fuckers in band have to sell). I like both these ideas more than Jon's proposed Archie TV show, feature film and new Archie's music.

Thankfully they both seem totally on board with not messing with the characters or the wholesome vibe, and have promised there will be no push to make the comics more mature or edgier (Jon said there would never be drugs or sex in an Archie comic).

The continued presence of Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick is also promising. Victor has been with Archie for 50 years, and I've suspected for a long time that the NRJC is his work, and will be his legacy to the world of Archie.

Off track again: Victor created many characters including Cheryl Blossom in the 1982, and was the man behind bringing her back in the "Love Showdown" story line from the 1994. This story brought Archie a ton of mainstream media attention, since Archie was supposed to finally choose between Betty and Veronica. Of course he didn't really, but the story did bring Cheryl back to regular character status. For some reason she's been banished after last year's election story (where readers chose her new boyfriend), with her family promptly moving back to Pembrooke one or two stories later. There seems to be some half-hearted attempt to create a rival gang with Cheryl and (her brother) Jason's friends in Pembrooke, but these stories are usually pretty weak and are occurring less and less. As far as I can tell George has only appeared once since he won the reader vote, and the story was about him and Cheryl realizing they didn't have much in common after all.

Victor has said recently that working at Archie now has much the same feel as it did in the late 60's and early 70's, a time when experimentation was encouraged and there was a greater push to have Archie projects beyond the comics. Without saying so, he seems to imply that the era of Richard and Michael was not particularly inspired.

Last summer, when the company was in upheaval, there were several meta stories that involved Victor interacting with the gang. The biggest one (Man of the Year) celebrated Victor's 50th anniversary with the company and was very good and well deserved. The other couple I remember involve Victor as editor encouraging writers to put Archie through more and more, and Archie pleading with Victor for a simple story where he doesn't have to fall down. At the time I wondered if Victor's increased presence was just due to his 50th, but it now seems this could have been some kind of political power play. Before Jon and Nancy stepped in, there was a lot of uncertainty at Archie, and it's been hinted that several stake holders simply wanted to sell to the highest bidder. These meta stories may have been a public way to establish his "turf", or they could have been a good-bye if he thought his time was limited depending on who bought the company. The fact that he supported the Jon/Nancy partnership is very encouraging.

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