I have been cartooning since I was a kid. I hilariously failed my dad, a terrific painter himself back in his youth as a “protégé” at landscape water colour art. This inability and my lack of patience to learn the rules of fine art made me take up cartooning. I was charmed by the differing aesthetic of each comic and the cleverness of being able to portray serious content in a hysterical funny or whacky way.
This week I shall be talking about the second publication that inspired me to draw.
Archie comics was the first comic that gave kids who were coming- off age, an insight to the American teen life. I slowly had transitioned into reading Archie at the age of 12.
It showed the Indian kids a different culture where high school dating was a norm, the normality of a heterogeneous gang of guys and girls, hanging out at the local diner, casual clothes and lockers at school and even the vanity of a cheerleader.
What really made the comic stand out
Archie comics have come a long way since the first publication in the 1930’s to achieve a cult status. It presents us with multiple well written, relatable characters. Each reader can choose their favourite as they manage to represent different types of individuals in behaviour, interests and even ethnicity. This coupled with strikingly unique illustrations and simplistically fun storyline played a major factor for its success.
Today, both Archie and Sabrina the teenage witch have their own live-action show produced by Netflix which enjoy a commendable success irrespective of the change to the dark genre.
This alone is a testament that proves the sheer brilliance of the character build-up.
As a cartoonist myself, I can empathize with the creators that this was achieved over many years of consistency, evolution and fresh thoughts. Well, this 2 part article itself is a manifestation of how different inspirations over the years helped me to take up cartooning as profession and start my own online store.
My favourite characters
The characters and plot need no introduction. While Archie is the main protagonist, even the supporting characters enjoy its own stardom that the publication has spinoff comics like “Jughead” and “Betty and Veronica”.
As an awkward teenager, reading Betty and Veronica comics gave me those naive, cheap thrills of potentially growing up to be like the characters. I fancied their clothing, hairstyles and even the strong individualistic personalities of the girls. However my certain contentment was met with exasperation by my then teen brother. My inconsiderate favouritism towards the Betty and Veronica comics over the original Archie Comics resulted in having more number of the former at home.
Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina were the popular spin-offs that often did not have a collaborated plot with the original ensemble. The former were a recurring cast on the 70’s animated version of Scooby Doo- Where are you? It always makes me euphoric to know that the Archie and Scooby-Doo existed in the same universe!
The other characters that stood out for me were Reggie, Cheryl and Midge.
The ultimate faceoff- Betty OR Veronica
Two best friends, dating the same guy- every Archie fan wondered upon who he would finally choose. Their irreconcilable characters divided the readers for the same.
Betty seemed like no-brainer winner to me. She was the ideal and empathetic teenager who excelled at almost everything she did. Often I would think of how she was too good even for the main protagonist. My hopeless teenage attempts in becoming relatively like her made me admire her even more. Of course, it is only in a parallel universe that I am anything like her!
I was left heartbroken and vexed when Archie finally chose to marry Veronica. I wasn’t the only one. I remember a segment which aired on MTV India back then discussing the same. Later on, I was cynically overjoyed by the backlash the publication received for this plot that they released a parallel ending where Archie marries Betty. Finally, the right match!
More than just a comic
Archie comics are definitely timeless. It wasn’t just the comic strips that managed to pull us into a fantasy American culture. I also endlessly gawked at the eye-popping graphical ads of candies and merchandise which were unavailable or even unheard of, back here.
Decades back, the old and second hand prints were usually shipped from US to India which made it slightly more expensive than the India based Tinkle. Before the internet took over, nothing really existed like Archie comics before which showed the teens another part of the world that spending those extra bucks, even for the poorly bound copies were no big deal.
And now as a grown up, this is one comic book I still buy each time I visit the local book store!