Archie gets ahead of SDCC with big announcements, eclectic releases

By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

Most movie, TV and comics companies are keeping their powder dry for Nerd Christmas, otherwise known as Comic-Con International: San Diego (July 20-23). But Archie Comics has anticipated the show with a number of announcements and collections that should be mentioned before getting buried in the SDCC news.

Copyright Archie Comics 

Jughead: The Hunger begins as an ongoing horror title at Archie Comics in October. Art by Francesco Francavilla.

HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF

Jughead fans appreciate that he is an iconoclast, someone who charts his own path and doesn’t follow the pack. This is manifested primarily by his overriding appetite for hamburgers (and disinterest in just about everything else).

But what if Juggie’s burgermania became a hunger … for people?

That was the premise of Jughead: The Hunger, a recent one-shot in which our favorite beanie-wearing teenager became a werewolf. Oops, spoiler, we actually don’t know that right away, but honestly, if you had to pick one of the Riverdale gang as an insatiable flesh-eating monster, I’m guessing we’d all go with Jughead. (Sorry, Reggie!)

And if there’s a werewolf, there must be a werewolf hunter. In the tradition of Buffy Summers, Riverdale has its own resident slayer in the person of Betty Cooper. (Sorry, Veronica!)

Anyway, that one-shot must have hit the cash register just right, because Jughead: The Hunger will become an ongoing title, with the first issue arriving Oct. 25. Writer Frank Tieri will continue on lupine duty, but artists Pat and Tim Kennedy replace Michael Walsh for the new series.

“We told you if you made Jughead: The Hunger a hit we'd make more – and since you more than held up your end of the bargain – here we are,” Tieri said in a press release. “Fans can expect more of everything they loved about the one-shot now as we expand our universe – more werewolf Juggie, more bad*** Betty, more conflicted Archie and more twists and turns than you can shake a severed arm at.”

Needless to say, this is not to be confused with Afterlife with Archie, where Jughead is a zombie.

 

Copyright Archie Comics

Harley and Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica #1 pits the bad girls of Gotham City against the good(ish) girls of Riverdale. Art by Amanda Conner.

UPTOWN GIRLS

For a small town with an indefinite location, Riverdale has always gotten a lot of famous guests, from The Punisher to The Predator. But that goes up a notch Oct. 4, when Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica #1 arrives.

That’s Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, of course, two of the most dangerous (and gorgeous) denizens of Gotham City’s criminal underground. They take an interest when B&V plan to drain a swamp to build a new college campus. Ivy, as usual, takes exception to the death of plant life.

With writer Paul Dini (Harley Quinn, Batman: The Animated Series) as one of the creators, I think it’s safe to say that hi-jinks (and mayhem) will ensue.

Dini will be joined by co-writer Marc Andreyko (Wonder Woman ‘77) and artist Laura Braga (DC Bombshells). Amanda Conner (Power Girl) provides the cover, with a variant by Adam Hughes (Betty & Veronica).

DC Entertainment Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras said in a press release, “Two of comics’ coolest villains paired with two of comics’ hottest icons are what cross-publisher team-ups were made for.”

That’s pretty hard to argue with, whether you’re a DC Comics fan or an Archie Comics fan. Nor would I ever argue with Betty, Harley, Ivy or Veronica. About anything.

 

Copyright Archie Comics

Josie and the Pussycats Volume One collects the first five issues of the funny and subversive title. Art by Audrey Mok.

ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?

I sometimes jokingly refer to Josie and the Pussycats as “the Archie title that dares to be dirty!” But that really is a joke – while Josie and manager Alan M. have had a (chaste) sex scene, and double entendres can drop at any time, it’s not really a book whose focus is on prurience.

It is, instead, something unique. You could call it “the comic book that breaks all the comic book rules,” or better still, “a clever and honest look at three twentysomething girls trying to become a rock stars that still remembers to be funny.”

I mentioned the sex scene, right? Turns out that, while Josie had stars in her eyes, Alan saw it as a one-night stand. Ouch! That’s a hard lesson learned, one that hits everyone at one point of another.

But it’s not one that’s often seen in comic books. In fact, everything about this book is pretty subversive.

Writers Marguerite Bennett (DC Bombshells, Batwoman) and Cameron DeOrdio gamely show off some of Josie’s warts as well. Josie may be the titular star, but her overweening ambition has made her, on more than one occasion, a lousy friend. Showing our hero at her worst, and confidently expecting that we will root for her anyway, shows impressive skill.

Sure, Josie has vowed to turn over a new leaf, which the hero must do. But, also in defiance of comics tradition, she can't do it overnight. Josie occasionally lapses, and Valerie and Melody are there to remind her (and us) that Josie has a serious character flaw that she's trying to correct. Again, this is a refreshing rejection of time-honored tropes.

In addition to all this boundary-breaking, there’s fourth-wall breaking, too. Dimbulb Melody – who often falls into a fugue state where she is insanely brilliant and insightful – sometimes alerts her baffled bandmates to an upcoming plot twist, or how many pages they have left to wrap up their adventure. Clearly she knows she’s in a comic book, but being ditzy Melody, not all of the time.

Which is fascinating from a structural viewpoint. But more than that, Josie is funny. Sometimes it’s belly-laugh funny, sometimes it’s wacky-madcap funny, but just as often it’s rueful, “oh, man, I’ve been there” funny. But funny.

You can see for yourself with Josie and the Pussycats Vol. 1, which collects the first five issues and is on sale now.

TWO TICKETS TO PARADISE

Archie has released two other excellent collections, neither of which is anything like the offerings above, or each other.

* In the Black Hood: The Bullet’s Kiss trade paperback, writer Duane Swiercyznksi takes a shopworn superhero name from the past and gives us a thoroughly modern noir character – a damaged Philadelphia cop who sometimes fights crime (and his fellow officers) while so high on painkillers that you can almost believe the things he does. The Black Hood falls somewhere on the scale between superhero and Sam Spade, and may not be a hero at all.

* I said that Riverdale gets a lot famous guests, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the recent Archie Crossover Collection trade paperback. The lead story is the recent Archie Meets The Ramones, which is so rock savvy that it is one reason why co-writer Alex Segura has been awarded an ongoing book about the gang’s efforts to become a band, The Archies (coming Oct. 4). The rest of the book is filled with various old-school Archie stories featuring Lady Gaga, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Strahan and George Takei.

SUGAR, SUGAR

So yes, the San Diego Comic-Con is certain to have a lot of announcements that will eat up the headlines for the next few weeks. But Archie Comics has gone out of its way to remind you it’s still your candy girl.

OK, I’ve pushed this music theme too far, haven’t I?

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Whatever happened to the Betty and Veronica book written by Lena Dunham?

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