Archie’s Latest Headline Grabbers: Death and Politics
Two recent Archie storylines have gotten them some press outside of the traditional comic sources.
The first uses President Obama and Wannabe Palin to make some kind of point about appropriate and inappropriate campaign strategies — but I think it was really just to get an interview at The Huffington Post. The two-part story runs in Archie #616 (out now) and #617 (due February 8 — quite a wait!).
The variant cover (shown below portrays the politicos as superheroes, with the Archie cast in their heroic alter identities as well. It’s a choice that plays into the stereotype of comics as one genre instead of a medium, although it’s not the first time a battle between the two politicians has been expressed in larger-than-life terms.
The story itself, by Alex Simmons, Dan Parent, and Rich Koslowski, is notably wordy for a typical Archie comic. Archie, pushed by Veronica, and Reggie, backed by psychological manipulator Trula Twyst, are running against each other for student body president. The implications are unpleasant, as the guys appear to be pushed around by the scheming and devious women, who use photos of their candidates with the better-known figures to imply false endorsements.
They clearly expect this story to attract new customers, which it why it’s weird that the characters are so badly introduced and so little explained. I know most people get Archie and Veronica, but Betty’s almost nowhere to be seen, and the little-known Trula deserves more of an introduction. Everyone comes off badly — spineless Archie, evil Veronica, stupid classmates swayed by a picture instead of positions, and most of all, the guest stars, who consider the whole thing worth dropping everything and coming to Riverdale to set the record straight. I suppose it’s a sadly accurate view of how politics today are conducted, and I expect the second issue to make a more idealistic statement about how things should be.
Coming up next week is Life With Archie #6, which managed to make the New York Times for killing Miss Grundy (who had recently married Principal Weatherbee). The cause? Cancer. This alternate-universe magazine series is getting lots of attention for introducing into the Archie universe all those things that don’t fit in the regular stories: broken relationships, struggles with money, and other kinds of general unpleasantness. (Mr. Lodge, particularly, is a two-dimensional tyrant.)
The adult comments at the Times hate the idea of such “real-world” concerns in escapist comics, but teens seem to be enjoying the trauma. After all, compared to the kinds of events they watch on shows such as Gossip Girl and Glee — teen pregnancies, struggles with coming out, drugs, sex, families broken and reformed — this is still relatively tame. The Archie publishing company considers the magazine for “older readers“, but that is contradicted by them putting pictures of teen stars on the cover under the flimsiest of premises. You can see a preview of this issue online.