Another kerfluffle we haven’t really had a chance to investigate is the Archie redesign. Basically the other day Archie announced they would be trying a LIMITED experiment with an updated look for the Riverdale gang, one designed by artist Stephen Butler. The Wall Street Journal investigates with an article whose title is taken from a Newsarama poster:Gee Whiz! ‘Archie’ Gets a New Look; Does Betty Resemble an Olsen Twin? Sadly we don’t make enough money to subscribe to the WSJ, but we can quote the lede:

After 65 years, Archie, Betty, Veronica and friends are, for better or worse, growing up.

The publisher of “Archie” comics plans to experiment with changing the way the characters look to make them appear more sophisticated, and the news has already drawn heat from loyalists in Web forums who have seen the new incarnations.

Reaction around the web has best been summed up as the blog cliche, mouth throwing up.

Now we like Butler just fine — we may have even hired him back when we worked at Disney, or something. Archie made a tryout page of Butler’s pencils available to us, but stressed that they were not perfect — the girls are too thin. But it is the look they were going for.

Archie Page

Click for a larger version.

Now, we don’t know how Archie sales are these days, or whether the franchise has any appeal to today’s younglings. Certainly, the romantic misadventures of high school students in comic form have great appeal. (*cough* manga *cough*). This tryout page is a little more manga-esque than the cover more widely circulated, but the storytelling has nothing to do with manga. Certainly it’s clean, comforting cartooning. Will it appeal to kids? It’s only a four issue test, so we’ll all be watching closely.


  1. Actually, when I was the age of the Archie demographic, I was pretty faithfully addicted to MAD Magazine – and this sample page looks pretty much like what I’d see in MAD every month. Not bad!

  2. I think it looks okay for a short run thing. In fact I’d love to see a Bizarro World treatment to Archie. Lots of different cartoonists doing tributes/variations on the classic characters. But it would be foolish to permenantly redesign them because they are such recognizable icons.

  3. This is sad for me on a personal nostlagia level, a la Loonatics, I’ll agree. But I say that only for sentimental reasons. If the kiddies today aren’t buying, more power to ’em in changing the designs, in my opinion. Gotta follow the $$$ to stay afloat…even cultural icons.

    (Bugs Bunny, on the other hand, is sacred. The LT characetrs could’ve been repackaged without that horrible “Disaster Duck” crap, or whatever. I suspect – anecdotally mind you – that the decades-old Archie house style could NOT be repackaged to be alluring to today’s kids, essentially mini-adults.)

    Hey, does anyone else remember a live-action, made-for TV movie, circa 1989, in which a grown-up Archie attends his high school reunion, and Veronica tries to seduce him? Or was this one of Primate’s adolescent fever dreams?

  4. I’ve been having my own reaction by posting my favorite Dan DeCarlo stuff on my blog this week. In reflection, while this page isn’t the same as the house style we’ve seen for years, it’s still has the very light rendering/cartoon style we love, but with more detail in the clothes, hair styles, and backgrounds. The page of art looks more promising than the cover that’s been floated around.

    As far as the appeal of Archie – I introduced my 9 year old sister-in-law to Archie this summer, and she loves it.

  5. Stephen Butler’s a really great artist – I think his storytelling is top notch and he’s done some really great stuff over at Disney Adventures Magazine – I’m glad they’re giving him some good press and a fun job over at Archie!

  6. I think this is fine work, and I applaud the company for taking chances and trying new things.

    It’s simply not true that there has only been one style employed at Archie, and it doesn’t require much effort to spot the different artists’ work, even without credits, just as you can tell a Bob McKimson Bugs Bunny from a Chuck Jones version.

    But I agree with Dave R that there should be a monster Archie anthology where a wide variety of artists could take a stab at the characters…. what a Christmas that would be.

  7. Well Gene Colan drew Jughead for a few years in the 1990s, Kurt Schaffenberger drew Archie for a year, Chic Stone for many many years, etc. (and of course Harry Lucey started out drawing superheroes at DC and Archie). Al Milgrom is current inking there. So it’s not that unusual for superhero artists to go Archie.

    Sales have slipped drasticaly on the digests – but all the digests are still selling well over 100,000 – that of course is outside the direct market.

  8. To answer Primate’s question, yes, that movie exists. I know nothing about it beyond that, and for what passes as my sanity that’s likely for the best.

    I am likely the wrong demographic to comment accurately on this; there was an extremely short period as a kid, maybe at age 11, when I bought LAUGH DIGEST off the racks at the supermarket. My question, as it is whenever these sorts of publicity stunts are tried, is: beyond the “scandal,” what else is the company doing to get the word out to those they hope to gain as customers? Cultural commentators notwithstanding, will there be ads in TEEN VOGUE or whatever is the forum of choice for tween girls? (I apologize for my ignorance, as I am not and never have been a tween girl.) It’s the same question I’m waiting to hear the answer on from DC re: Minx.

    Barring some sustained, intelligent push on Archie’s part, I expect this to have the shelf-life of ARCHIE 3000.

  9. While it’s not true that all of the Digests are still selling over 100,000 (someone over at the DC Boards posted some of the Statement of Ownership numbers earlier this year, which should be the 2006 SoA primarily reflecting 2005 sales — while Betty and Veronica Double Digest averaged 111,871, their single Digest averaged 66,885), they certainly have maintained strong sales relative to the superhero books. To put that in context, if B&VDD had sold that many -in the direct market- in October, it would’ve been the #2 direct market periodical in unit sales, and #1 in dollar volume.

    It’s not the first time Archie’s done style experiments, and I doubt it’ll be the last.

  10. If Primate is still following these posts (and even if he’s not), the movie he’s thinking of is 1990’s To Riverdale and Back Again (Retitled Return to Riverdale for its video release). I think it ran only once on NBC – I have it on tape here, somewhere – and it was kind of a cross between the comic characters and Thirtysomething. Jughead was a single dad. Veronica had a bunch of failed marriages behind her. Big Ethel became a supermodel.

    And Betty Cooper (as played by Lauren Holly) was still hot.

    Back on topic, put me on the list for that Worlds of Archie anthology. (Wouldn’t you love to see Tony Millionaire’s interpretation? Or Peter Bagge’s? Or…)

  11. Is this the same goofy Archie with a different art style, or is the whole thing being reworked? I mean, will Jughead still be eating hamburgers and whatnot? I’d don’t mind new page layouts, new art styles, but if you change it too much, it won’t be Archie anymore, right?

  12. I wonder how many of the people who’ve whined about these changes elsewhere actually _buy_ Archie comics now.