by Paul Kupperberg
It's funny the path my life and career have taken me. Well, okay, the "life" part's more sad than funny (and its relevance to this guest blog nonexistent, and, hey, thanks for the slot, Keith!) so I'll move on. It all boils down to finding myself in places I never expected to be, doing things I hadn't really thought I'd ever do. I mean this mostly in a good way, and mostly in the career part of my life. (I kid; life may be weird, but it's mostly fun.)
I got into comics in 1975 writing mostly superhero stories. Aquaman, the Atom, and the Doom Patrol to start, Superman and Batman, later on; I also did some horror stories, a bit of war, even a romance story or two, but costumed and superheroes were my bread and butter. I wrote probably 400 to 500 of them between 1975 and 1995 when my writing career hit a brick wall (cushioned, fortunately, by the airbag of a day job as editor at DC Comics) that took a number of years to recover.
But when it did, slowly but surely, I discovered I was no longer a bread-and-butter superhero comic book writer. I had, somehow, morphed into a humor comics writer. Known for my runs on Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, the Doom Patrol, Checkmate, and Vigilante (the last one particularly grim-and-gritty, ending with the title character's suicide), I was suddenly writing funny stories starring the Flintstones, the Jetsons, I.M. Weasel, Johnny Bravo, Ed, Edd & Eddy, and Scooby Doo for DC's Cartoon Network line of comics.
Post-DC Comics day-job, I also started writing for Bongo's Bart Simpson Comics, and, beginning this Wednesday, September 8, I proudly add Archie Andrews and the rest of the Riverdale gang to that roster. That's when my first issue of Life With Archie: The Married Life Magazine #2 hits the comic shops (and, a week or two later, the magazine racks at such outlets as Toys 'R Us and Wal-Mart)!
If you follow these things even a little, you probably heard about last year's "Archie Marries Betty" and "Archie Marries Veronica" imaginary stories that ran in Archie #600-605 (and has since been collected in handy dandy graphic novel format). The story, in which Archie ponders the "roads not taken" and imagines what being married, some six or seven years in the future, to both of the two women in his life (though not at the same time) would be like. The issues sold like hot cakes and received a lot of press, so the company wisely decided to continue the series, conceived and written by Michael Uslan (one-time DC Comics assistant editor and writer, now Hollywood producer of such films as the Batman franchise and The Spirit) as an ongoing series.
Michael's schedule being what it is, he wasn't able to commit to writing 48 pages a month of comic book scripts, so another would take over from Michael after he wrote the debut issue.
I can't tell you why, with only half a dozen Archie humor short stories under my belt (Archie has to get Mrs. Lodge's dog from the groomer to the dog show without getting dirty! Jughead tricks his friends into doing his work for him! Moose inadvertently rallies the town behind environmental issues with his "strong, silent-type" routine, when he's really just too shy to talk to reporters!), I was tapped for the assignment.
Maybe it was because I was the new kid on the block and had the least preconceived notions about the characters; I hadn't spent the last two or five or 30 years writing the gag strip and was able to see the characters with the type of objectivity needed to make this work. Because Life With Archie: The Married Life is, after all, a very different kind of thing for Archie Comics (and not just for the 64-page magazine format, either). It is, to my knowledge (and no one has contradicted me yet!), the first ever regular Archie title to feature ongoing continuity, versus the regular format of several short (or even book-length), unrelated stories per issue.
And the continuity is key to The Married Life! Though I never shy away from a good gag (or even several bad ones), The Married Life isn't about the gags. It's about the ongoing struggles of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie, and the rest of the gang as they face life beyond college, in the real world. This is no longer "Fast Times at Riverdale High"; it's "Archie" meets Melrose Place with all the drama and, yes, soap opera that might entail. (You say "soap opera" like it's a bad thing...and it is, but only if badly done!) Oh, we're still rated "PG," but these characters are being put through as many paces as the stars of any prime time drama you care to watch!
I'm currently finishing up the seventh issue. In these first issues, I've dealt with love, hate, betrayal, loyalty, death, and marriage. I've set up some of the most beloved characters in comics to do and have done to them stuff that I'll bet never crossed your mind as an 11-year old reading an issue of Archie's Pals and Gals. Some of it is even as startling and moving as anything I might have been able to do in a serious melodrama, like my run on Vigilante.
Life With Archie: The Married Life is being penciled by yet another superhero comics veteran, Norm Breyfogle, known for a long and prestigious run on DC's Batman, and inked by Joe Rubinstein and Andrew Pepoy, two more superhero vets.
But life, as I've already indicated, is funny that way. It's taken me from serious superhero comic book writer to funny comic book writer, and now, with Life With Archie: The Married Life, I seem to be drifting to a point somewhere in between the two. A little bit funny. A little bit sad. But too much fun to write...and the kind of thing that leads me to wonder just what's going to be coming for me next. And, I hope, leaving you wondering just what's going to happen next to Mr. Weatherbee and Svenson. (Seriously!)
Life With Archie: The Married Life by Paul Kupperberg, Norm Breyfogle, et al, is published monthly by Archie Comic Publications.
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Next up: Nancy Holder.