Books

New art, serialized plot startle fans of Archie Comics

You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind -- and apparently you don't mess with Archie Andrews and the gang.

In December, Archie Comics announced that a new "dynamic art style" was coming for its classic characters.

Fans were not pleased, managing editor Victor Gorelick says. "Most of the readers were `How can you give them this new look?'" Gorelick said. "'I've read Archie all my life and now you're changing him.'"

But the largely negative reaction stemmed from a misunderstanding, Gorelick said in a phone interview from Archie Comics' offices in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

"People thought we were going to change the entire line, which wasn't so," he said. The change, coming in May's "Betty & Veronica Double Digest" No. 151, applies only to a four-part story running in that title.

While Gorelick doesn't rule out the new look eventually showing up elsewhere, there is no plan for sweeping changes in the classic Archie look set by artist Dan DeCarlo more than 40 years ago.

The story in "Betty & Veronica Double Digest" finds Veronica smitten with a new guy in town. "He's kind of a tough guy, rides a motorcycle, a bit of a rebel," Gorelick said.

The serialized story -- a change from Archie's usual short reads -- and the accompanying new art style are meant to attract a slightly older readership, Gorelick said.

"Most of our readers are between 7 and 12 or 13 years old, and mostly girls. Once these girls finish reading Archie Comics, they'll usually go on to chapter books and a little bit more detailed stories. We want to try to keep that audience a little bit longer. So we're trying out this new look and seeing what the response is going to be."

The longer story also offers an opportunity for Archie Comics to enter the booming graphic-novel market by eventually gathering the story into a single book.

Though the story, titled "Bad Boy Trouble," is more involved than usual, there's nothing inappropriate for young girls, Gorelick said -- "nothing out of the Archie code of decency, so to speak."

The art is by Steven Butler, who has worked for several years on Archie Comics' "Sonic the Hedgehog" but had never before drawn Archie and friends.

"The guidelines basically were to make them more realistic, more of a romance-style comic," Butler said.

That job was more challenging with some characters than others -- Jughead, for example, with his long nose and crown.

"It would be kind of hard to do Jughead without that nose and without that hat," Butler said. His version of Jughead includes a slightly larger hat, tilted more to one side, and a goatee. Plus, Butler said, "I gave him a kind of a Bob Hope nose."

Butler hopes readers will give the new look a chance. "I look at the negativity as something that spurs me on to do even better work to prove to them that I'm not just hacking this stuff out, that I really do care about what I'm doing."

  Comments