‘The New Archies’ Are An Abomination In The Sight Of Man
I think the record will back me up here when I say that I’m a pretty big fan of Archie Comics. I can assure you that my love for Riverdale and its typical teens is as devout and true as any that you’ll find, but like a lot of my obsessions, it’s tempered with one element that I absolutely hate. And in Archie’s case, it’s the kind of burning, all-consuming hatred and revulsion that I usually reserve for things like racism, or Lucy Lane.
And that is the mercifully short-lived reboot, 1988’s The New Archies.It’s not that I’m an Archie purist or anything — or at least, not in this regard. I’ve talked before about how I’m not a big fan of Little Archie because of how it runs counter to the very simple premise of teenage hijinks, but as long as that’s in place, I’m pretty much good to go. Jughead’s Time Police, in which Archie’s pal has to travel through time with Archie’s descendant, January McAndrews, fixing paradoxes that threaten the time-stream? Yes, please. Archie’s Weird Mysteries, where the gang has to protect Riverdale from supernatural threats with the help of a bootleg Vincent Price, and Veronica found out she was the “Ender” of the vampire race spoken of in prophecy? I’ll take it. I even like its far more pedestrian spin-off, Archie’s Mysteries, where the gang learned about forensics as the hilariously named “Teen Scene Investigators.”
The New Archies, though… ugh. I hate ’em. I have hated them from the moment I saw them, and continue to hate them when they’re reprinted in the digests, even if I can’t really tell you exactly why I have such strong feelings. It’s like an instinctual thing, where something about those designs goes directly to my primitive lizard brain and makes me want to destroy it forever.
That said, I think we can all agree that there is a truly staggering level of shameless commercialism in play here. Don’t get me wrong, Archie jumping on the zeitgeist isn’t exactly new, nor is it always a bad thing. A huge part of the company’s current success has come from striving to become more relevant to a modern audience, and there are stories from the past that are based entirely on jumping on a trend that turned out pretty great…
…even if they did so more-or-less by accident. Sometimes, seeing Jughead with a mohawk in the mosh-pit at Club Chaos is its own reward.
This particular Riverdalean abomination, however, has no such redeeming qualities. For those lucky enough to not be familiar with it, The New Archies was created as a Saturday morning cartoon, and may in fact reign as one of the worst of the decade. Rather than just translating characters that had naturally changed over time to television, The New Archies were “updated” in a way that was almost certainly dictated by committee in the most soulless and utterly pointless ways possible. Pop Tate’s for example, was no longer the “Chock’lit Shoppe,” it was a “Video Cafe.”
I have no idea what a “video cafe” is, but I can pretty much guarantee you that it was the result of someone asking “what do kids like these days? Video games? Music videos? Videos. They like videos.” and then heading out for lunch. Here’s the intro, if you’ve ever wanted to watch something that manages to combine both Archie and skateboards and still make me want to just barf everywhere.
One interesting thing about the show — to me, anyway, I’m pretty sure the rest of you faded out when I started talking about how I have incredibly strong feelings about an Archie book that ran for 22 issues in the ’80s — was that the voices on the cartoon were mostly done by actual teenagers, including one with the truly incredible name “Sunny Thrasher,” who played Veronica. Unfortunately, rather than giving things a sense of likable sincerity like those old Charlie Brown specials, The New Archies just tended to be kind of terrible.
Also, to its credit, the show did attempt to add a little diversity to Riverdale. The only problem was that this attempt was limited to two characters, one of whom was just a Player 2 version of Dilton called Eugene. Who also tended to be kind of terrible.
Which brings us to the worst sin committed by the show: the designs. These things are so rooted in the late ’80s that it makes the fashions of Saved By The Bell look like timeless classics by comparison. Admittedly, you can’t blame that entirely on the show itself. That was a pretty grim time, and putting Betty into a pair of oversized pink overalls probably seemed like a halfway decent idea, especially if you compare it to whatever fever dream led to the creation of the “video cafe.”
The others, though… You’ve already witnessed the horrors of the Archmullet above, but Veronica is just horrifying. Check this out, but please note that this is a panel from a comic book, and not an actual yearbook photograph of ComicsAlliance contributor Bethany Fong:
I don’t even know where to start with this hot mess. She looks like the wardrobe department from Clarissa Explains It All threw up on her.
And the worst of it is that while the TV show was all over the map with stories of alien invaders and children dreading their eventual lives after marriage, the stories in the comics were exactly the same plots that were featured in the other Archie books. The only difference is that they were done up with those awful designs. I mentioned above that the changes were ultimately pointless, and that’s really what it comes down to. It’s like an off-model ripoff of Archie that was somehow also published by Archie and then put on television.
The opening story of The New Archies #1, for instance, involves Archie and Betty trying to win a dance contest and Reggie trying to foil them with a dose of itching powder. If not for the matching Adidas tracksuits and moonwalking, two things I generally support, that story could have happened in any Archie comic in the last 70 years — and if we’re all honest with each other here, it probably did, four or five times. So what’s the point of the update to video cafes and mullets? Why? Why?!
I guess what I’m getting at here is that it’s
monumentally wretched and should be excised from the history of mankind so that we may never repeat our mistake not very good.