Overview

Life with Archie

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Over the years, as the market and audience for comic books has changed, publishers have continually reinvented themselves in an effort to stay fresh and appealing. Whether it is through changing formats from “floppies” to trade paperbacks, re-imagining the characters or importing fresh creative teams, every major company has seen its share of change in the quest to maintain a place in today’s media market. 

Archie Comic Publications has been one of the most consistent companies, traditionally using a uniform “house style” through all of their titles. The Archie line is also one of the most affordable series of books on the market today (comics are 32 pages for $2.25, Digests are 96 pages at $2.39 and Double Digests weigh in at $3.59 for 192 pages). Most titles are long running (usually in the triple digits), with only a few exceptions (such as Jughead & Friends Digest and Tales From Riverdale Digest, both of which were essentially re-launches, replacing Jughead With Archie Digest and Laugh Digest). Occasional changes have occurred in the Archie line but generally, consistency has served the publisher well, as Archie Comics are the one comic that still sees frequent mainstream exposure in checkout lanes.   

Recently however, the publishers of Archie have been experimenting with some new ideas, trying to keep the delicate balance between providing a consistent product while simultaneously generating new interest in their titles.

In late 2003, Archie Comics announced that Sabrina the Teenage Witch was receiving a “Manga Makeover.” This bold move of abandoning the publisher’s house style saw Archie Comics recruit Tania del Rio as the new writer and artist beginning with issue #58. Fusing the Archie style with del Rio’s own award winning manga artwork provided a fresh look for the title – as well as a look that has proven to be popular with Sabrina’s young (and primarily female) young audience.

“The response [for Manga Sabrina] has been generally positive,” explains Alex Segura Jr,
Public Relations Coordinator for Archie Comic Publications. “Most of the people that have given the book a solid chance come back pleased with the direction Tania has taken.”

In light of this success, the “Manga Makeover” formula is also being applied to the Josie and the Pussycats property. Beginning this June in Tales From Riverdale Digest #3, the team of del Rio (writer), Chris Lie (penciller) and Andrew Pepoy (inks) take control of the pop trio’s career.

Another interesting makeover has come from the pages of Betty & Veronica Spectacular. As of this past February’s issue #66, the comic adopted a modified format, featuring covers inspired by the look and design of women’s and teen magazines. The comic still features tales starring the duo, but has also added new features, such as personality quizzes, advice columns and fashion pages.

Even as Archie Comics Publications looks for new ways to present classic characters, the creators are also busy reviving dormant properties. Earlier this month, the Free Comic Book Day edition of Betty and Veronica featured the return to Riverdale of classic character, Katy Keene. The story primarily focused on Katy landing a job at Dazzle Magazine, but in the timeless tradition, reader designed fashions were worked into the story. Segura mentioned that the “reaction has been good” regarding Keene’s return, as “a lot of people grew up reading the adventures of Katy Keene.” While no immediate plans are in the work for the character, Segura admitted that the model’s name has been tossed around the halls of Archie Comic Publications a bit.

In a similar vein, Archie Comics Publications recently announced the return of a long forgotten, cult-favorite character – Bingo Wilkin. Bingo, star of That Wilkin Boy, a title that ran sporadically between 1969 and 1982, tended more towards the sensibilities and styles of his time than the other Archie titles did. Now sans long hair and bellbottoms, Bingo is arriving in Riverdale through the pages of August’s Jughead and Friends #5. In past stories, both Jughead and Bingo have had a supporting cast member named Uncle Herman. The new story, which Segura describes as “a fun nod to long-time fans, and an enjoyable tale for newcomers,” reveals That Wilkin Boy and Riverdale’s burger fanatic share a family connection.

While the teens of Riverdale and beyond will likely always be the bread and butter of Archie Comic Publications, another of the company’s long running success stories is that of Sonic the Hedgehog. Based on the video game, the title has already enjoyed a 12 year, 149 issue run. This past week, ACP announced a small expansion of the line, with the launch of Sonic X in August. Based on the Saturday morning cartoon, each issue of the 4-issue mini-series will feature a self-contained adventure.

To the eyes of many comic book collectors and aficionados, Archie Comics may lack the constant exposure of DC and Marvel, or the cutting edge reputation of some independent publishers. What Archie Comic Publications has done however, is create a steady body of work spanning close to seventy years. Even as the company experiments with new approaches to its classic characters, the publisher hasn’t lost sight of its most important ingredient to success. As Segura explains, the goal of every Archie Comic Publication story is “to tell great stories for all-ages - the great tradition of Archie Comics.”

- Fletch Adams

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