05th Aug2019

Archie Comics: Old & New

by Chris Cummings

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I wasn’t somebody who grew up reading, or even knowing about, the Archie Comics stuff. I don’t even know if it was available here in the UK when I was a kid. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started checking out some of the terrific bumper editions of old Archie comics, the stacked Omnibus editions that are out there in great numbers. I was immediately charmed by the stories, the characters and the wholesome feel to Archie Comics. I quickly moved on to the new Archie series that started back in 2015, and found myself becoming a big fan. Since then, we’ve seen lots of new Archie books released, we’ve seen spin-off series’ such as Jughead, Betty & Veronica, Josie & The Pussycats, Reggie & Me and more, and they each offer a similar tone but a very entertaining and relatable story that feels both modern, contemporary and traditional.

Since the debut and resulting popularity of the Netflix show Riverdale, a show based on the Archie Comics world, the love for Archie has only increased more and more. Riverdale, for my money, is a blast, and it’s resulted in people checking out the new book series, the Riverdale comics, and the old Archie Comics from throughout the years. It’s a great thing to see. These characters have withstood the test of time through the reinvented books and stories that have been told. Riverdale has brought them into the consciousness of modern society even more than before, with people less familiar with Archie Comics finding themselves becoming fans due to the doorway that the television show has opened up for them.

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There’s very little quite like Archie. It began back in the 1940s, and was a hugely popular and widely produced series. It became part of Americana, part of the pop-culture fabric of America, and it lasted a long time. In 2015 the new Archie books were launched. A new look, a new tone and feel, and characters and locations more suited to modern-day readers, the new Archie Comics had enough of the old-school elements to let you know you were still reading Archie, but enough fresh content to push it forward into the modern age. I don’t necessarily know how diehard fans of Archie feel about the new series, but I personally am a big fan of it. I’m a fan of it all. There’s room for all kinds of Archie, right?
All kinds of Archie? Well, that leads me to the terrific, odd and brilliant titles to come out of the Archie-verse. Archie versus Predator, Afterlife with Archie, Vampironica, Jughead: The Hunger… these, and others like them, take Archie and Friends into places of a more supernatural nature. They range from creepy and horrific to genuinely funny. I’m very fond of these books. There’s something about taking something that’s fairly traditional or “normal” and throwing into a fantastical or horrific world, and that’s what these titles do. Afterlife, especially, has been a favourite of mine. Archie, Jughead and the rest of the gang in a zombie apocalypse situation? Count me in!

The new Archie series itself is astonishing stuff. The storytelling and updated characters are wonderful, yet there is still plenty of the charm and antics that made us fall in love with Archie Comics to begin with. The relationships between the characters hasn’t really changed all that much, but the world itself is modern, with that essential retro style, and it feels much more relatable and contemporary, a stylish comedy coming-of-age series that has a wide appeal. I think these books have really turned around the Archie Comics popularity and introduced many people to the world, while also giving old fans something new to sink their teeth into. The same can be said for the spin-offs like Jughead and Betty & Veronica, that just wander the edges of the existing narrative with their own personal stories, giving extra focus to those specific characters, something we might not get otherwise. Something great about that is, also, the fact that you kinda don’t need to have read everything to understand one of these things. You could, in theory, just pick up Jughead: Volume 1 and read it, enjoy it and continue with that series, without really delving into the others. I’m not sure I’d personally WANT to do that, but I could, and so could you.

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So, what drew me to Archie Comics in the first place? Here in the UK, Archie has never been anywhere near as big of a deal as it is in the USA. Sure, I’d heard about Archie, but growing up I was reading UK kids comics like the Beano and Dandy comics. Archie just wasn’t on my radar, or in the newsagents, back then. I first read Archie in one of those stacked omnibus editions full of hundreds of Archie comic strips, and the old-school charm, the humour, the silliness, and the ease of it all just pulled me in. It was nostalgic, even though I hadn’t previously read it, it was heart-warming, and simple and a lot of fun. From there I went on to read more of the old books and then grabbed the new Archie series when it hit the shelves in 2015. I was immediately a fan of that too, and thought it looked great and was an easy and thoroughly enjoyable read. I love the old strips and the new books equally, and can’t choose one over the other. I urge you, non-Archie fan out there, to give one of these things a shot, because truly, these books have SO much to offer, regardless of your age, gender, background or interests. Into horror? There’s something here. Into geeky stuff? There’s something here. Into drama and comedy? Like I said, there’s pretty much something for everyone in the growing and diverse Archie-verse.

Thanks to the folks at Turnaround UK for the chance to check out many of the new titles recently. Keep your eyes peeled for reviews of those in the future.

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