Reboot Archie

RebootArchie

 

The Fans Of Archie Comics Facebook page is one of the BEST forums out there for discussing all things Archie!  Started by the great Adam Alamo, the FOACFB page has ballooned in a very short time to about six hundred members including many Archie artists both past and present. Its a great place to discuss the latest news and look at all types of Archie artwork both classic and new. If you enjoy Archie Comics, you need to like this page. Find it here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/Archiecomicfans/

 

One of my pals from the page, Shawn Brady, requested my take on the rebooted Archie. The request came while I was at San Diego Comic Con so I very quickly got this one out in between commissions. I’m happy with this as a drawing but I’m not sure how I feel about it as Archie. To me, he says Jimmy Olden much more than Archie. I just don’t find much fun in drawing the character in this way. It saps the fun of Archie when he’s drawn like a good-looking quasi-realistic ginger kid. It would be like Disney replacing their classic Mickey Mouse with a zoologically realistic representation of a mouse. It’s just not as cute, charming, interesting or as funny as classic Mickey. This has been one of my biggest problem with the Archie reboot.

Please note this isn’t the same as being critical of the art or writing being produced for the reboot. That’s a whole other topic of discussion. I’m instead questioning the wisdom to take Archie away from his more recognizable brand to something far more generic and far less interesting. Archie has moved away from humorous children’s comics and turned their line into teen-age soap operas, a genre that really hasn’t been viable for forty years! Is there a sustainable audience for this?

I admit I’m an occasional lurker over at John Byrne’s message board. His observations with the comic book industry and what it has done to itself are very interesting… and often, disheartening! Recently, Byrne posted this:

“I have been complaining for decades that we have taken a mass market product and turned it into something a potential customer has to make a conscious effort to seek out, and very often not in a convenient location.”

It seems this is what Archie is doing… going for that narrow niche market. I guess we’ll see how that works out.

 

Incidentally, the Byrne Forum can be perused here:

http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_topics.asp?FID=3&PN=1

 

 

 

 

 

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13 comments on “Reboot Archie”

  1. Andrew McDougall Reply

    “It zaps the fun out of Archie when he’s drawn like a good-looking quasi-realistic ginger kid. It would be like Disney replacing their classic Mickey Mouse with a zoologically realistic representation of a mouse. It’s just not as cute, charming, interesting or as funny as classic Mickey.”

    You are right on, Fernando!

    While I enjoy the occasional head-turning rendition of Archie (I thought Ramon Perez’s ‘Life with Archie’ cover was awesome for instance), my heart is with the style I’ve loved my whole life.
    That’s why I gobble up the artwork from you and Dan.
    It’s cute, charming, fun, nostalgic yet very fresh & simply makes me feel good.

    • fernando Reply

      You know, Andrew, when I was drawing the Life With Archie magazine, there were a bunch of variant covers on that series drawn by different artists and they all drew the Archie characters in their own styles. I thought a lot of them were pretty cool. It was different from how we were used to seeing the characters and it was fresh. I think the novelty of the variant covers and the different takes on the characters has been utterly crushed to death. Drawing Archie in a semi-realistic style is no longer an interesting variation when Archie is now drawn that way all the time. His look has become boring and generic. Worse still, Archie now looks like every other comic cookout there. It’s incredible to me that Archie Comics took a very distinct brand and completely stripped it of its uniqueness.
      A complaint I’ve had about the covers on the rebooted Archie series is that they tend to be very dull. A lot of them featured Archie sitting on the school steps with a guitar or looking at his cell phone. I guess kids today are able to relate to a pic of a guy looking at his cell phone but I just find that boring. Factor in the lifeless way the characters are drawn now and there is no reason for me to look at the book at all. I’ve often said I can look at a Bob Montana drawing of Archie just sitting and smiling and it will be funny. The character and the personality are enough to sell the humor and the narrative. Today’s generation of Archie artists will draw Archie sitting there smiling and he’s going to look like a random teenager sitting there. And it will be boring.
      I’m glad you’re in our corner, Andrew. Thanks as always for your support!

  2. Andrew McDougall Reply

    “It’s incredible to me that Archie Comics took a very distinct brand and completely stripped it of its uniqueness. A complaint I’ve had about the covers on the rebooted Archie series is that they tend to be very dull. A lot of them featured Archie sitting on the school steps with a guitar or looking at his cell phone. I guess kids today are able to relate to a pic of a guy looking at his cell phone but I just find that boring. Factor in the lifeless way the characters are drawn now and there is no reason for me to look at the book at all. ”
    Wow! You have got a way with words, Fernando!
    I totally agree with your sentiments.
    The way you draw Archie bursts with life, fun, humor and heart!

    • fernando Reply

      Ha! Thanks, Andrew.

      Y’know… when I first started at Archie, there were several things that were stressed that I needed to get right in the artwork. Above all else were the character likenesses. We were very specifically told to look at Dan DeCarlo… and to a lesser extent Stan Goldberg, but primarily DeCarlo… and draw like him! We were also told to push the humor and make our pages and covers FUN and INTERESTING. I look at a lot of today’s Archie covers and they are devoid of any humor or narrative quality of any kind. They’re mostly “snapshots” of Archie sitting on a bench looking… “cool”… I guess… or Archie sitting in his car.
      To be honest, towards the end of my run, a lot of us were directed along these lines too. I wasn’t a big fan of my final covers and if you peruse them, you’ll see A LOT of repeated themes… Archie smiling at the reader while flanked by Betty and Veronica. As often as possible, we were urged to include a dog because Archie was convinced that covers with animals on them sell better. There were very few gags, dialogue or story on the covers I know Archie wanted to get a lot of mileage out of these covers in that the wanted the cover image to be universal enough that they could use it over and over. Hey! Once its paid for, it’s FREE!
      I wonder though what… if anything… their current cover artists are told or what direction they are given.

  3. Dennis Reply

    Yep. Jimmy Olsen!! That’s exactly what I thought when I first saw “New” Archie. It’ll last all of 3 or 4 years, because that’s all the shelf-life these things have. Targeting the comic shop audience?! Well, it must just be that they’re so desperate that they’ve completely lost their minds. Sure, I guess… why not aim squarely at not only the most fickle of fair-weather fans, but the exact same audience that has steadfastly refused to touch ACP’s product with a ten-foot pole for the last four decades?

    The owners clearly have absolutely no understanding of the intrinsic appeal of the their intellectual properties. They *should* be looking for other avenues of distribution, creating stand-alone books and teaming up with Scholastic Books to get them in schools (that’s where their real audience lives).

    The best thing that could probably happen is that ACP implodes under it’s own heavy gravity, and lets some smarter and wiser comics publisher like IDW, Fantagraphics, or Dark Horse pick up the pieces and carry on.

  4. fernando Reply

    The July sales numbers are out and the rebooted Betty & Veronica #1 sold a little over 70,000 copies. In today’s market that’s a good, solid number. I’m sure however its a disappointment around the Archie offices. Archie #1 sold 100K copies and this was expected to beat that. It didn’t… and its being bogged down by a gross number of variant covers and Adam Hughes’ hefty price tag. The profitability of this book is not going to be what everyone expects! B&V #1 received very mixed reviews so we’ll see what #2 does… especially if there is one of those notorious lengthy delays in between issues.

    July’s issue of Archie sold about 15K copies which puts it on a par with its previous two issues. It’s a bit too soon to say that book has found its level but its definitely not experience the “Summer Surge” most comic books get.

    Clearly the bloom is off of the reboot. Now we’ll see going forward what happens when a reboot is no longer the reboot… Based on my final conversations with the Archer higher-ups, EVERYTHING hinged on the success of the reboot and … God help us!… the Riverdale TV show. There was no Plan B.

  5. Dennis Reply

    Oh, yeah. RIVERDALE. Don’t know what’s planned to air on other channels opposite in the same time slot, but unless they come up with some super-stinkers, it’s likely to be crushed. People just aren’t going to watch a show called Riverdale, even those that are somehow aware of the comic book connection… “Riverdale” does not have the recognition factor of a “Gotham” (or even a “Smallville”) among viewers in the age demographic they want to capture. It won’t play for that generation like the DC shows, Gotham, Flash, Arrow, or Supergirl.

    • fernando Reply

      To be very candid, I think Riverdale has a decent shot.

      This has nothing to do with the quality of the show, the casting, or the revealed plot tidbits we’ve heard so far. In fact, some of my inside contacts who’ve seen the pilot tell me its not very good. Still, I remain quasi-optimistic about the show’s chances. I’ll predict right now that if the show manages to stay afloat, the girl playing Veronica will be the break out star.

      The best thing that ever happened to Riverdale was that Fox passed on it. If the show had been picked up by Fox, it would’ve aired three or four episodes and unless it was a runaway hit, it would’ve been cancelled and we never would’ve heard of it again. Fox historically has shown an itchy trigger finger for new shows. (Rest in peace, Firefly! You deserved better!) The CW has far, far more tolerance for its shows. It also has a very low threshold for an acceptable audience. I’ve been an irregular viewer of the Flash which has made me watch more of the CW’s line-up than I ever have. I’ve barely heard of most of the non-comic book shows on that channel. Not only do I not hear any buzz about them, I don’t know anyone personally who watches anything on the CW’s line-up. Maybe I need to hang out with more high school kids.

      The bottom line I guess is that Riverdale doesn’t have to be a huge hit or attract a giant audience to tread water on the CW. It can limp along for three or four years which would be enough to generate some sort of dvd sales. Maybe a few other licensing deals will come along too.

      The mid-season premiere can be a mixed bag. On one hand, Riverdale is going to launch when there’s very little competition. On the other hand, though, Riverdale is also launching when very few people are watching TV. I know up at the Archie offices, they were praying for a much-coveted Monday night slot. Unfortunately for Archie, that’s exactly where Supergirl landed! The CW is investing way too much to upset the Supergirl applecart. If Riverdale gets planted on a Friday night slot… Ouch! That might make this show’s uphill climb a little too steep. A Friday night scheduling might be a lethal blow!

      Now all this being said… as I’ve said elsewhere… I don’t understand how this show being hit (if it becomes one) translates into increased sales for the comics. The comics might see a little bump from curious fans of the show, but even if the show is a runaway gangbusters hit, any fan of it who decides to give the comics a shot is in for a huge disappointment. The two products are just too different! The Riverdale of the TV show is NOT the Riverdale of the comics. I really don’t get it. To me, it’s very, very poor brand management and incredible desperation.

  6. Dennis Reply

    Well, not the Riverdale of the classic Archie Comics, nor of the current ones. It’s a given that ACP will do a tie-in comic if it manages to stay on-air for more than a couple of months.

    Or depending on which way the wind is blowing, it might be some hybrid of elements from the TV series and New Riverdale comics that comprises the next phase of ACP’s lineup — as the New Riverdale sales continue to weaken, we could see another (who knows) “Archie NOW” type relaunch (“New! Improved!! NOW with more RIVERDALEish-ness!!”). Of course it won’t work. The TV shows and movies, no matter HOW popular, *never* result in a mass influx of new readers for comics. Yet, publishers *never* seem to learn from this, and continue to incorporate elements from foreign media into their comic books, AS IF somehow it’s going to help goose sales. Business as usual.

    • fernando Reply

      There’s a line I read somewhere… Its not a word for word quote, but the gist is there… “If Disney can’t turn the Avengers into a successful comic book, Archie Comics isn’t going to do it with Riverdale.”

      I’m not quite THAT pessimistic but the quote does underscore the disconnect between film properties and comic book sales. It just hasn’t panned out. Regardless, as I continue to hear, Archie Comics is pinning ALL of their hopes on this TV show bailing them out of their financial problems.

      Oo-Fahhh!!

  7. Dennis Reply

    I should note that the current situation vis-a-vis media adaptations and comic book sales wasn’t always the case. When comic books could still be called a mass medium (and there was less competition with various media for youth-oriented entertainment), comic sales did indeed benefit from a synergy that exposure through other media gained for the characters. This was true from the 1940s through the early 1970s, with sales of all superhero comics (but especially Batman) spiking for a brief year or so from 1966-67, and for Archie Comics, the period of 1968-1973, when their characters enjoyed national exposure from the Filmation and Hanna-Barbera cartoons on television. It’s no coincidence that those same time frames caused a bunch of bandwagon-jumping as other publishers all sought to take a bite out of those respective genres. Since the late 1980s when comic books became a closeted medium of collectors and fans dominated by the direct comic shop market distribution system, it’s quite a different story — especially as that shift in the audience coincided with the continuing rise of competing forms of entertainment like VHS tapes, video games, DVDs, the internet, and finally smartphones and social media.

    • fernando Reply

      I totally agree, Dennis, that film/ TV adaptations once upon a time certainly did boost the property’s comic book counterpart. I’ve always read that Batman was on the verge of cancellation before the 1966 TV show saved that franchise and I’d read similar things about Superman circa the 1978 Christopher Reeve film. In Marvel: The Unauthorized Biography… which I whole heartedly recommend… the author describes how Marvel’s owner Martin Goodman never imagined that his properties would be worth anything and he sold the rights left and right at garage sale prices very directly leading up to the complicated situation Disney, Sony and Fox find themselves in today.

      I also agree that for any film adaptation to help its comic source material, that source material needs to be far more readily available than it is today. I’ve long lamented that the two big crippling factors facing comics today is 1. Poor quality (That’s a whole other discussion!) and 2. Poor, poor, poor distribution! Comics just aren’t everywhere like they used to be. Frustratingly enough, this is where Archie Comics has a little bit of an edge with their digest distribution. Rather than embrace and capitalize on that however, they throw that venue on auto-pilot while they chase the phantom windmills of the ever-shrinking direct sales market. I always add… I love my comic shops, Folks, but I don’t see many new ones pop up and last!

  8. Daniel Reply

    Gotta say Fernando, it’s a sad truth. Not just for Archie bit in general many artists I’ve seen are either drawing like another popular artist or in the same boring stiff quasi realistic art style . There is no true originality . I mean yes everyone starts off modeling after artists they have learned to draw from and are influenced by that but eventually develop their own distinct style. Neal Adams was influenced by jubert but his work was unique. Romita at first mimicked ditko when he was drawing for amazing Spider-Man ,but eventually branched off and formed his own art style. In my opinion , if Archie wants to maintain their fan base they should keep all of their classic books with the same classic art style that people have come to know and love and also have anorher division of Archie that is more realistic and status quo so the company appeals to niche markets but could still be found at your local supermarket by the Sudoku puzzles and other magazines

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