After nearly 75 years, Archie’s announced something surprising for its core “Archie” monthly comic: a reboot.
News came earlier today that in 2015, Archie will renumber its core monthly title with an all-new #1. Accompanying this is a new creative team, writer Mark Waid (of “Flash” fame) and artist Fiona Staples, who’ll be retooling the title into what’s described as a more “modern” direction. As the New York Times notes,
Plans for the redheaded Romeo include a new look and an edgier tone, which will be introduced in 2015 when the Archie comic book is reset at No. 1 with a new creative team. The effort is timed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Archie, who was introduced in 1941, and coincides with plans for a television series on Fox and an apparel line from the fashion designer Marc Ecko.
The article notes the previously announced plans to expand the Archie characters into non-comics media, as well as sums up its recent revival efforts under new leadership.
Mark Waid gets cited in the article:
Mr. Waid said his primary goal was to return Archie to a modern audience, which included restoring the contemporary attitudes that the teenagers of Riverdale had lost.
“Over the years, some of the sharp edges have been sanded off,” he said. “They are kids, and they should act as kids.”
(Update) More details have arrived, via a press release stating it’ll feature an origin revamp:
ARCHIE #1, hitting next year from writer Mark Waid and artist Fiona Staples, will reenergize the story of Archie and his friends, presenting for the first time ever the origins of everyone’s favorite redheaded teen and his friends while showcasing the beginnings of the historic love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica.
The new series will focus on the strengths of the popular characters, their world and harken back to the comic’s humorous and edgier roots, said Archie Comics Publisher/CEO Jon Goldwater.
“The Archie characters aren’t in need of a tune-up, ‘shocking change,’ or revision. These characters have stood the test of time and resonate to this day – we’ve proven that over the last six years,” Goldwater said. “What ARCHIE #1 will do, though, is bring together two of the most talented creators in comics in Mark Waid and Fiona Staples and create a surprising and definitive take on Archie’s origin – a story that has never been. The book will bring back some of the bite of Archie’s original tales in a modern, forward-looking manner, while still retaining the character’s all-ages appeal. What better way to celebrate 75 years of Archie Andrews?”
(Update) Even more details have emerged, via Comic Book Resources interviewing Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater about all the changes.
Summing up my reactions to all this (which is a surprise to me):
For the past several years, Archie’s been modernizing its books to try to attract newer audiences. So far, the efforts have been successful in attracting attention, so I can see why they might finally want to apply this to their core title. “Archie” is one of two Riverdale-set “floppy” comics (excluding non-kid-friendly alternate title “Afterlife With Archie”) that they still produce—the other being the now-bimonthly “Betty and Veronica.” Sales for both floppy comics have slid dramatically for years; “Archie” in 2013 sold an average of 11,093 comics a month, numbers that’re abysmal even for modern comics standards. (If curious, “Betty and Veronica” did even worse in 2013, with an average of 8,680 a month sold.) While the digests are the core comic money-maker for Archie, sprucing up sales of the core title might not hurt.
Of course, cue the usual questions/other comments I’d have about this:
- I assume ultimately the goal is to get new readers, but will this title still include Archie’s traditional core audience, kids? Most of the attention for its books have seemed aimed at getting an older audience interested, but there’s still a huge amount of room for decent children’s comics.
- Presumably, the new Archie’s direction won’t be nearly as grim or dark as “Afterlife.” Though I do wonder if it’ll use any elements of successful books like “Life With Archie”? Adapting Moose’s direction from there would be interesting; maybe a story about him trying to reform, but facing stumbling blocks along the way? Plus, given real life incidents like NFL player Ray Rice’s arrest, Moose’s creepy jealous violence shtick is even less funny than it already was, and badly needs either updating or being disposed.
What’s going to happen to “Betty and Veronica?” Will it get a similar revamp? Cancelled?(Update) It sounds like “Betty and Veronica” will get a similar revamp, from remarks made by Goldwater. Also per Goldwater’s interview, the digests will stay in their traditional form, with new stories. The revamped look will apply just to the floppies.
- The article notes they’ll “act like kids,” so I assume less of a perfectionist tone from characters like Betty, or more clashes between the kids and their parents.
- Renumberings for long-running titles aren’t new for Archie. The late 80s saw long-running titles “Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica” and “Archie’s Pal Jughead” renumbered with new #1s, and the former losing the dated “Archie’s Girls” prefix.
- “Archie” is probably the highest-cover-numbered still-published mainstream American comic. Assuming the renumbering sticks (versus Archie pulling a Marvel), and assuming DC doesn’t renumber “Action”/”Detective,” that leaves the record-holder, Dell’s “Four Color Comics,” safe. I’m not sure what the current highest-numbered still-published American comic will become without Archie. “Journey into Mystery” is in the 600s at Marvel, though it’s had title changes and renumberings over its long run (mostly titled after its main star, Thor). At Marvel/DC, the longest runner without restarts or retitlings is the “Looney Tunes” comic (hitting issue #223 in February). At Archie, “Archie Comics Digest” will be their highest numbered book if continuing its usual numbering, hitting issue 259 in February.
- Gather the “shocking change” line is a jab at the likes of DC and Marvel. Wonder what this origin revision will consist of…Betty moving to Riverdale and meeting the gang for the first time, a la the actual first Archie story (1941’s “Pep” #22)? (Guess we’re ignoring “Little Archie.”)
- Finally, while I hope it boosts sales, I suspect “Archie”‘s sales slide is in part from the lousy business model floppy comics face these days—$4 for a ten-minute read?—and that the digests are a much better buy at only a dollar more.