By Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service
Jan. 25, 2011 -- Archie Comics has been making a lot of headlines lately, none bigger than the two recent stories of the Riverdale redhead’s “what if” marriages to Betty and Veronica. Somebody at Abrams ComicArts recognized them for their historical importance, and collected them in the gorgeous hardback Archie Marries … ($24.95).
These 2010 stories, as most folks know by now, followed Archie Andrews as he traveled up (not down) Memory Lane, exploring what would happen if he married spoiled, gorgeous, filthy rich Veronica Lodge after college or sweet, devoted, wholesome Betty Cooper. The results aren’t necessarily “happily ever after” in either case – and the stories caused an explosion of attention outside Riverdale city limits.
“I wanted to let the world know that these comic books are still being published, that Archie is still relevant,” said Michael Uslan, executive producer of the Batman movies, who came up with the idea and wrote the stories, in Archie Marries … . “But what we did not anticipate was the firestorm that erupted in the worldwide media. I’m not just talking about the United States and Canada. I’m talking about Kenya, India, Australia, England. The story just seemed to register with fans everywhere; that was something we never did anticipate.”
The issues were “a tremendous boost,” said Archie Editor-in-Chief and Co-publisher Victor Gorelick, who has been with the company for more than 50 years. “In all the years I’ve been at Archie, we’ve never had that much exposure, or that much attention. [Not] even when Archie was on television, when the cartoons came out. This is really big. … We’re getting mail, letters from people who haven’t read Archie in 30 years and they find out Archie’s getting married and they want to know what’s going on.”
Author Uslan and editor Gorelick were abetted on Archie Marries … by veteran Archie artist Stan Goldberg (whom Uslan refers to as “a legend”), letterer Jack Morelli, inker Bob Smith, colorist Glenn Whitmore and CEO Jon Goldwater. Archie Marries … contains interviews with all seven, along with other goodies and supplementary material – including a comic book tucked in the back cover reprinting five significant “love triangle” stories from 1949 to 1965. The main part of the book reprints the two wedding stories from Archie #600-605, plus an epilogue from Archie #606, on high-quality, glossy paper.
Which is to take nothing from the outside of Archie Marries … . The book is slip-cased, with hearts die-cut from front and back allowing views of the two weddings. Of course, which wedding you consider front or back will be determined by whether you prefer Betty or Veronica.
“I always wanted to show both sides,” Uslan said. “Showing Archie just marrying one of the two would have cheated at least half of every generation of Archie readers.”
Meanwhile, Life with Archie magazine, which continues both Archie Marries … stories, is such a success that it will increase to 80 pages. Plus, Gorelick said, Archie will launch a second magazine, Veronica & Betty. That book will follow the girls as they travel from country to country as exchange students, as well as the foreign students who take their place in Riverdale.
“You’ll see some new characters, new romances, new hi-jinx,” Gorelick said. “It’ll make things interesting for the regular Archie crew.”
Add that to upcoming return of forgotten characters like Jinx and Katy Keene, and one wonders where all this sudden excitement at Archie comes from. Not only did Archie Marries … make headlines, but so did the introduction of Kevin Keller (the first openly gay teen in Riverdale), an interracial romance (between Archie and Valerie) and even Pres. Obama and Sarah Palin visiting Riverdale.
Gorelick shrugs the question off.
“For over 70 years Archie has been keeping up with the times,” he said. “A lot of the new things that you see are just in keeping with the position of Archie Comics, of keeping current, just like we always keep current with fashion, with what our readers like to watch on TV, see in a movie, what kind of fads … and other things our readers are interested in. … We fall in line with attitudes, and things like that, that’s very important as far as creating a storyline. So when you see the characters we come up with, that’s all part of our Archie Comics credo.”
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at firstname.lastname@example.org.