KC COLUMN: THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT!

KC Carlson & friend

KC Carlson & friend


by KC Carlson

SUNSHINE!

Archie #1 cover by Mike Norton

Archie #1 cover by Mike Norton


On Monday, I got a quick three-minute sneak peak of the new Archie #1 by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples. (Thanks, Bob!) The skies had opened up into a miserable downpour while I sat in Westfield Comics’ westside store turning the pages faster than Jughead eats burgers. When — suddenly — everything became crystal clear. This comic book was great! (Not that I had any doubts…)

If Archie #1 was a song, it would be “The Coolest Song In The World” this week on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. And while you might think that might be pushing things a bit, Archie #1 is rock ’n’ roll, of a sort. For several pages of the comic we are shown — definitively for the first time ever — that Archie can rock with the best of them and is actually (after a minor bit of nerves) an awesome rock guitarist!

It’s a measure of the power of the great storytelling and cartooning of both Mark and Fiona that I actually heard music in my head while reading this sequence (and not “Sugar Sugar”!).

That’s not all! The characters in this new comic are teens of today. Full of heartbreak and pride and hormonal angst and just not-knowing-what-the-hell-anything-means-anymore! And yet, somehow eerily, they’re still the Archie characters that many of us have known since we were six. Now, like then, they are teaching us important life lessons (when we’re not paying any attention), as well as reminding us oldsters about good (and bad) times from our youth. Man, I hope today’s kids embrace it for the special gift it is.

There’s still great humor in the series. Mark knows the quirky personalities inside and out and is putting them all though more of a wringer that we’re used to seeing, but that’s good, too. Fiona’s interpretations of the familiar characters are both instantly recognizable and remarkably revealing. And, man — did she nail Betty! Check out the panel where a “furious w/Archie” Betty is reacting to Archie playing a bum guitar note. That’s everything you need to know about her character in a single panel.

Don’t touch my guitar! Archie rocks your world: From Archie #1. Art by Fiona Staples.

Don’t touch my guitar! Archie rocks your world: From Archie #1. Art by Fiona Staples.


Probably the funniest thing about this first issue is that Mark and Fiona are retelling a variation of the very first (loose) Archie story arc from the first few stories from 1941. (The very first story from Pep Comics #22 is also helpfully reprinted in this first issue.) Obviously, there’s a lot more going on this time around than in those early stories, but the basic backstory/plot is the same. The millionaire Lodge family is moving to Riverdale, and everybody at Riverdale High is going crazy wondering what new student Veronica Lodge will be like. Spoiler: Don’t hold your breath! She doesn’t even appear in #1!

It’s also nice to be gently reminded that the glue that holds the Archie Universe together isn’t necessarily the redhead. (Although the literal glue has a cameo in #1!) It’s the laconic/sardonic guy with the funny hat, who, despite having his eyes closed constantly, sees everything so clearly. And you thought he just liked to eat… That guy’s new book is just around the corner… Can’t wait.

Archie #1 cover by Fiona Staples

Archie #1 cover by Fiona Staples


And dont wait! The first printing of Archie #1 (regular cover) has reportedly already sold out at the distributor level — before it went on sale! A second printing is already in the works. Archie #1 is on sale in comic shops today!

BTW, this is important to Archie #1: #lipstickincident . Have fun!

A SECRET WARS STORY SO SECRET THAT FEW REMEMBER IT

I had a few spare hours over the July 4th weekend to dive into the the comics archives, still woefully unsorted after our major move cross-country (now almost 3 years ago). I won’t bore you with the frustration of discovering a run of, say, 6 to 10 issues missing from a box they should have been in, and knowing that they got jammed into a different box (of over 450) and kicking myself for not notating that on the box. Stupid… stupid…

What If? #114

What If? #114


Anyway, found a particular timely treasure that I thought I’d share with you. It’s pictured above – What If v.2 #114, cover dated Nov. 1998. As you can see by the description of its contents on the cover (Secret Wars: 25 Years Later), it’s somewhat timely considering Marvel’s current publishing schedule. It’s written by Jay Faerber, pencilled by Gregg Schigiel, and inked and edited, respectively, by my old DC pals Jose Marzan Jr. and Frank Pittarese.

This particular story was published in 1998, but the original Secret Wars took place over 1984-1985, which would make the current Secret Wars right around 30 years after the original. So, not an exact correlation with the current project, but, you know — close enough for rock ’n roll.

In this story, the original Secret Wars heroes (and villains) never returned from Battleworld and were stuck there for 25 years. It’s revealed that over the years the hostilities between the heroes and villains has ceased, and after a time, people started coupling up and (*cough*) having children. Because what else is there to do…

Here’s your handy checklist of the players:

Thor + the Enchantress = Balder

Captain America + Rogue = Crusader (Sarah)

Wolverine + Storm = Torrent (Kendall)

Hawkeye + She-Hulk = Mustang (CJ)

Human Torch + the Wasp = Firefly (Matthew)

Doctor Doom + the Enchantress = Malefactor (Vincent)

Molecule Man + Volcana = Tucker Reese

Absorbing Man + Titania = Trudy Creel

Wrecker + ??? = guy who fights Mustang

the Lizard + ??? = “Lizard-thing”

You can tell who the major characters of the story are — they have actual superhero or villain names.

You’ll note that the Enchantress bore both Vincent Von Doom (the elder brother) and Balder before disappearing — creating the thematic central plot of the opposing half-brothers and their ongoing conflict. There weren’t enough super-powered women on Battleworld back then to go around to be mothers for everybody. Enchantress does not appear in this story, and it is unclear what her exact fate was.

Obviously, there’s not enough room in this single-issue story to get too deep into the backgrounds of the opposing kids, who are brought together by Vincent Von Doom. It’s also interesting to note that the original Secret Wars characters are mostly (with a couple of exceptions) pushed to the background here, as the intent of the story is to showcase the super-powered sons and daughters.

The Secret Wars kids in action! Art by Gregg Schigiel and Jose Marzan Jr.

The Secret Wars kids in action! Art by Gregg Schigiel and Jose Marzan Jr.


These other Secret Wars characters are said to have died (many have memorial statues): Reed Richards, Bulldozer, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), Dr. Octopus, Cyclops, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Magneto, and (apparently — the Hulk says so) Kang the Conqueror.

Other characters from the original Secret Wars are not doing so well. Spider-Man is being slowly consumed by the Venom symbiote. James “Rhodey” Rhodes is either missing or dead, as Professor X is now in the Iron Man armor (which eliminates the need for a wheelchair). Ultron is mentioned in passing as having trained Vincent Von Doom, and Klaw is visible (but not identified) in a fight scene or two. It is also mentioned that the Hulk has disappeared years ago and not been seen since. Not mentioned at all: Colossus, Nightcrawler, Lockheed, and the Thing. (Who I believe gets left out because he had an extended non-What If? Battleworld adventure in his own title before ending up back on Earth. Not that that should matter in a What If story, but I obviously enjoy over-explaining everything — so there you go.)

There are more characters (and info!) than actual plot in this 32-page story, but it’s an intriguing enough premise to possibly warrant future adventures. BUT… this was also the last issue of Volume 2 of What If, and the series and concept went away for several years, until revived as yearly groupings of individual issues adapting the “What If?” concept to recent “event” titles and storylines.

Considering that it was the last issue of a very long run of a not-very-high-profile Marvel series, it’s not really surprising that no one that I showed this issue to over the last few days had ever heard of (or remembered) it. I’m guessing that not so many people actually bought it. I was surprised to find it myself. It’s an issue that I apparently bought and then filed it away without ever reading it. Kind of a fun thing to re-discover in the midst of the current hoopla at Marvel these days. Things were so much simpler back then.

Surprised that Jonathan Hickman (or somebody) didn’t revive this concept for this massive 2015 go-round of the Secret Wars saga. Of course, there’s still time…

(so to speak)…

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KC CARLSON: Been reading Archie Comics since the early 1960s. Read my first ones under a tree, by a lake, with a big glass of lemonade, in the middle of summer. Which is where you should be reading this new #1. What perfect timing!

WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. I’m talking about you, Reggie!

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