Drew: In 2011, Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats tweeted out 22 “story basics” she learned at Pixar. Every one of them is useful (and I encourage any storyteller to check them out, even if I cringe at how Coats’ list of lessons became “rules” as they were compiled by various bloggers), but #19 has always caught my eye because of how fickle audiences can be with coincidences. I suspect Coats is generally right, but I can’t help but think the magnitude of the coincidence is important, as well. Small coincidences that help characters get out of trouble (say, that the villain’s dropped weapon fell near enough to the hero to reverse the fortunes of their battle) would be more palatable than big coincidences that get them into it (say, that the dropped weapon landed on a button that began the self-destruct sequence on the ship just as it was hurtling towards the hero’s hometown). And, of course, these rules only apply when we’re concerned about verisimilitude — nobody ever complains about the outrageous coincidences in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon because those coincidences are precisely what make those cartoons so entertaining.
All of which is to say I think there are a few more variables in play than helpful/unhelpful in determining the success of a coincidence. Moreover, the specific profile of the coincidences in a narrative might help define it’s tone; an action thriller might allow for bigger, more unhelpful coincidences than would be appropriate in a parlor drama, for instance. In this way, a coincidence that strains credulity might not be a problem with the narrative so much as a sign that you’ve misjudged the tone of that narrative — different stories require different levels of credulity. As you may suspect, Archie 12 contains a few big coincidences that threw me for a loop, and while it would be easy to cry foul, the fact is that Archie has always been a bit cartoonier than I’ve been giving it credit for. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan and Drew are discussing Archie 9, originally released June 22nd, 2016.
Ryan: This last week, I helped my mother clean out her garage. To be fair, most of my help came in the form of going through boxes of my childhood things and deciding what was to go to Goodwill. There was an Archie Comics digest in almost every box. At this point, I’ve probably read more pages of Archie than any other book. I also found a Burger King Toy with Veronica in a convertible and my Gumby-style Betty doll. There was no Archie figurine in my things. That’s for a simple reason; I think he’s kind of a jerk. It’s not that he’s a bad guy, but he has never been my favorite. I love the rivalry/friendship between Betty and Veronica, but the love triangle element was never that interesting to me. Mainly because his unwillingness to choose between Betty and Veronica made him a compassion-free cad and turned them into doormats. Mark Waid and Veronica Fish present my favorite version of Archie, because they treat him and every other character in the story with empathy and humanity. In Archie 9, both the central conflict and the love triangle develop in a world where everyone is doing their best and there are no villains. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Archie 6, originally released February 17th, 2016.
Drew: My biggest frustration in dealing with teens is their lack of perspective. That’s probably my biggest frustration in dealing with adults, too, but teens are notorious for blowing things out of proportion. That tendency is exactly what makes teen dramas so volatile — everything is high-stakes for teens — but it’s easy for that volatility to alienate adult readers who know this could all be resolved if any of the characters just sat down to talk with one another. It’s important, then, to occasionally re-ground the stakes in a teen drama, giving readers of any age a relatable touchstone in between the more elaborate flights of fancy. That’s exactly what we get in Archie 6, as a miniature health emergency reminds everyone of what’s really important. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Ryan M. are discussing Archie 4, originally released November 25th, 2015.
Taylor: One of the hardest things about growing up is deciding who you want to be. While ultimately none of us can control what type of person we turn out to be (for really that’s in the eye of the beholder, no?), we try on many different guises as we grow into adulthood. Nowhere is the changing of who you are as easy, or as frequent, as high school. In high school you have the freedom to make your own decisions about what you’re going to do and what you’re going to wear that ultimately will make you into the person you wish to become. Keeping this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Archie would explore this topic given it setting and characters. But can this old comic perform new tricks when exploring this topic? Archie 4 dares to try and answer this question.
Today, Patrick and Ryan M. are discussing Archie 3, originally released September 30th, 2015.
Patrick: David Fincher’s adaptation of Fight Club surpasses the original Chuck Palahniuk novel in a lot of ways — chief among them is Fincher’s stylish filmmaking. Fincher is so cool behind the camera, and the gulf between the drudgery of the narrator’s everyday existence and the idyllic (if chaotic) world that Tyler Durden offers is wide enough to made Durden’s obviously bad ideas sound like great ones. That’s a tool that Palahniuk didn’t really have at his disposal — Tyler’s ideas seem much more ridiculous on the page without that veneer of cool to legitimize them. My favorite way that Fincher improves on Palahniuk’s story is in the meeting between the narrator and Tyler — up until this point, the audience is inundated with Edward Norton’s voice over, and an almost oppressive score from the Chemical Brothers. The film is also largely an extended montage until we meet Tyler, and the pacing of the scenes quicken right up to the point that they wind up next to each other on a plane. But the action, the narration, and the score all come to a screeching halt the second Tyler opens his mouth. He represents freedom from all the neurosis the narrator has been filling our head with since the moment the movie started. Tyler — both in the life of the narrator and in the film — is the ultimate disruptor. Archie 3 pulls a very similar trick, but who has the force of personality to be Archie’s Tyler Durden? Why, Veronica Lodge, of course. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and (Guest Writer) Ryan Mogge are discussing Archie 2, originally released August 19th, 2015.
Spencer: First issues are meant to sell a title to new readers. The creative team is putting their finest foot forward, introducing their characters, world, and the conflicts and themes they wish to explore, but the one thing first issues aren’t great at is showing how the creative team is going to tell their story from month to month. It often takes a few issues for readers to start to get a handle on a series’ format, and that’s very much the case with Archie. Mark Waid and Fiona Staples’ first issue wow-ed readers with its gorgeous, modern reinterpretation of Riverdale, but it’s issue 2 that gives us a clearer picture of just what kind of stories we can expect each month. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Archie 1, originally released July 9th, 2015.
Drew: Ah, the reboot. Comics have a long history of restarting characters from the beginning (or something resembling it), but new artists reimagining familiar characters can be seen everywhere, from Peter Pan to Macbeth. The recent popularity of rebooting movie franchises, however, has often smacked of a dearth of ideas. Reboots have all of the familiarity of sequels, but without any of the risk of putting characters in new situations. Or, at least, that’s the cynical attitude I tend to bring to reboots. Archie 1 proves to be surprisingly daring, even as it riffs on characters and situations that have been around for decades. Continue reading →