Sorry Archie; Zombies, Predators, and Sharknados Happen

A Short Discussion of Archie, Sharknados, and the Big Question of “Why”

~by Scott Zaboem

A few weeks back, I attended a birthday party and overheard a conversation about Archie vs. Predator. Some long-time comic book readers were bewildered that such a crossover existed or perhaps they pondered who would read it. I let it slip that I had already purchased the first issue. The question posed to me was, “Why?” I understood this question. No one was asking me why I bought the issue or why I read Archie comics or any other misinterpretation I may have had. The question simply meant: Why does such a comic exist?

My answer was, “Archie has always done weird crossovers.” In retrospect, that was a wrong answer. Archie is a franchise which has been around for seventy years, and it has not always done weird crossovers. There was the odd Archie vs the Punisher and Archie Meets Kiss, but those are comparably recent titles. Most of the crossing had occurred with books that existed within the Archie continuity, like Josie and the Pussycats. Besides being inaccurate, my answer was evasive. I spoke without really trying to answer the question. I did not realize a correct answer until I read Archie vs Sharknado this week. Now I know why.

My correct answer: The mixing of Archie with horror tropes is an excellent use of a resource.

If you, gentle reader, will humor some backtracking, I first need to explain the need. There is an inherent problem in horror comics that must be fixed.

Horror comics are difficult. One should to establish characters before killing those characters. In the movies, the entire first act of a script can be devoted to establishing a cast of characters who will be killed one at a time in the second and third acts. It’s an even harder task when a comic book has about thirty pages in which to tell an entire story, showcase artwork, and sell Hostess Fruit Pies.

(In an earlier version of this article, I discussed how previous generations addressed this problem within their own horror comic traditions, but I erased all of that for wandering too far off topic. Ask me sometime about Groot and the “Night of the Comet Headed Man”.)

Archie comics have created a solution to at least part of the problem. In an Archie comic, the cast is already established before the book is even opened. There are seventy years of character establishment already accomplished. The reader knows the personalities and relationships of most of the cast, even if the reader is relatively new to the Archie franchise. A writer can use the residents of Riverdale in much the same way as a stock characters were used by acting troops in past centuries. These characters are the resource, and a few gusty comic creators are willing to gut those characters.

Example: In Archie vs. Sharknado, Mister Lodge dies horribly on Page 6. Six! If he were some new character we didn’t know, his death would have been forgettable, even crude. Yet, the effect here is very different. He is Mister Lodge, Verconica’s daddykins. If the writers had to establish him as a new character, he couldn’t have been killed with even half as much effect before Page 20.

This concept of placing “the gang” in horrific comedies extends to the other horror tropes that Archie is exploring. If Archie becomes a zombie in Afterlife with Archie, we have a sense of who he was before being reanimated. In Archie vs. Predator, the murder of Sabrina was particularly stressful even for a jaded old horror reader like myself. I am now two issues into Archie vs. Predator, and I don’t know if anyone is going to make it out alive. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is also an ongoing title right now and deserves mention and uses the Riverdale characters similarly, but that book works a little differently.

Just in case anyone else is wondering, the Archie vs. Sharknado one-shot comic book is pretty good. The artwork, penciled by Dan Parent, uses the simplistic character designs of the classic Archie which look very dated in 2015 but work well enough for expressing action and emotion. Where Parent excels is in plotting action sequences which are dynamic and easy to follow. The story by Anthony C. Ferrante has a lot of flat dialog, but it also features a few gags which I found to be laugh out loud funny. The action is over the top, but if the concept of a tornado filled with sharks that must be fought with chainsaws is okay with you, you won’t mind this either. The best features are the gorgeous cover art pieces printed on a very nice thick mat paper. My choice is the red cover by artists Hack and Steve O which features Archie and Jughead fighting for their lives on Archie’s old Model T Ford in a flooded road.

I review comics, stories, and movies using the Zaboem Scale of One Million Monkeys Banging Away on Typewriters. Out of the million monkeys working a million years it would take to produce a perfect piece of literature, this book could have been produced by 700,100 monkeys. This compares to the very close 700,000 monkeys that it would have taken to create Archie vs. Predator Issue #1, previously reviewed.

I am building up to a full review of the relaunched a very, very different Archie #1. Spoiler: I like it a lot.


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