Wednesday, October 5, 2016
New Book Wednesday Pick of the Week - 10/5/16: Archie Meets Ramones
Gabba Gabba Arch!
In the late Eighties, the Ramones saved my soul. My then-girlfriend had left for college and broke up with me long-distance, thus leaving me stranded without a prom date. I had car problems, I had high risk, high premium car insurance for being a dumb, defenseless 17-year-old male. So too did the Ramones, apparently, if you listen to Joey croon sardonically on the End of the Century album. I'd lost one job, then another one based upon a misunderstanding after I'd tried to be a hero and help a colleague, instead taking a bum rap for my troubles. Being that dumb, defenseless 17-year-old male, I got railroaded on a set of lies and ushered out. Said fabricated events inadvertently cost me a date with an old friend in school, someone I'd had a crush on and was thrilled to pieces her mother had set us up. Considering I was a longhaired grit, I took it as huge praise I'd won over the mother. Unfortunately, this person's mom had bought into the lies and subsequently forbade me from going out with her daughter without giving me a chance to defend myself, yadda yadda yadda, you get the picture. Senior year high school drama at its best.
Kinda sounds like a slice out of life of ol' Riverdale, doesn't it?
It was the Ramones who brought me out that rut every teenager goes through at some point, the doldrums that hang about like kudzu, the adolescent ball of confusion that persistently rolls and nips at the heels of threadbare Chucks or Vans checkerboard loafers. Hey, sorry for the outdated references, I'm old school. All those problems back then seemed like the weight of the world to a teenager, but sheesh, I'd kill to have those dilemmas again compared to my adult troubles. It's all relative, of course, but in retrospect, it's so silly I'd let all that static get to me so badly. Thus the Ramones were there for me when I needed them most. Three chord nirvana, no-frills punk rock with more omnipresent buzz than a pot convention. "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement," "Beat On the Brat," "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment," "We're a Happy Family," yeah, man...that's what was up.
Archie Comics today...dag, is there anything cooler than what these guys are cooking up? For eighty years, the ginger teen swinger has defined coolness in teen life, despite his everykid's klutziness. For each trend and each fad, Archie and his pals n' gals have been there, sporting them like comic book models, Veronica Lodge being the drawn and colored embodiment of Elle. The Riverdale gang has entered the new millennium not so much occupied with trying to keep up with a highly complicated, tech-based new frontier, but to redefine the characters for another generation of comics readers. Yet it's more than even that.
Archie 2.0 just may be twice as hip from his nutball, free-spirited exploits of the past. In modern day Riverdale, Archie's gone toe-to-toe against The Punisher and Predator, both hysterical mash-ups any comic reader should own. He's faced down a Sharknado. Arch, along with Jug, Reg, Betts and Ronnie have been catapulted into a zombie apocalypse, their distant comrade Sabrina, an unwitting pawn of Satan. Afterlife With Archie and The Chilling Tales of Sabrina are in the upper echelon of books in both contemporary comics and horror fiction. Even an alter form of Josie and the Pussycats have been reinvented as vampires in Afterlife, this being an indirect pre-launch of their new rock n' roll comic. The Married Life, where we got to explore dual paths as to what Archie's life would've been like with Veronica and Betty as his bride(s). Sheer brilliance. Then what can you say about Mark Waid's super-slick current rebrand of the original Archie series? If you're not down in Riverdale these days, you're just not down.
We all know Archie has a musician's soul and his friends have obligingly outfitted him with a backing band. The 1960s saw The Archies as both a cartoon band and transitory "recording artists." "Sugar Sugar," anyone? It's thus no surprise that Archie has already crossed guitar necks with Kiss in the past, a band thriving the same time period Archie Comics did during the 1970s and early Eighties. Now comes Archie Meets Ramones, yet another one of those books making you think at face-value, "WTF?" By now, though, one can expect the Archie Comics heads know their turf and better yet, their ever-changing demographic, one that has come to expect "WTF?" in Riverdale. As with everything else from the imprint lately, this proposal is a wild success.
It's too bad Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy aren't alive to witness their legacy. As with many bands and artists, death is often the "it" factor to gaining worldwide attention that may have been elusive to them in life. The Ramones fought harder than most for the meager success they enjoyed and only after they retired did the music world begin to see their value. Sports arenas made them outright posh by hijacking the trademark "Hey! Ho! Let's Go!" chant from "Blitzkrieg Bop," even if the Rock and Roll High School movie from 1979 still remains only a cult phenomenon. The filmmakers behind the adaptation of Stephen King's Pet Sematary did try their damnedest to break the Ramones, albeit it wasn't until the summer festival circuit on the Ramones' farewell tour when they finally did break.
I took the death of Joey Ramone brutally hard and Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy followed suit while I was building my career in music journalism. I felt an emptiness in my heart without having had the chance to interview those guys. By the time I finally got to sit with Marky Ramone, it was one of the greatest moments of my professional life--and music-listening life, at-that. Thus, I came to Archie Meets Ramones with instant flightiness and echoes of "I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You" reeling inside my giddy skull.
This one-shot story was written by Alex Segura (Silent City, Down the Darkest Street) and Matthew Rosenberg (We Can Never Go Home, Rocket Racoon) and art provided by Gisele Lagace. Well, funny enough, time capsule rules apply here as we go back to retro Archie and the gang trips into a fateful rock summit with the Ramones. The quick recap of the story is thus: The Archies have an epic fail at the Riverdale High Talent Contest and by enchantment of the comic gods (or was it Sabrina, hmmmmm...), they're whisked away to the old punk club, Max's Kansas City in New York circa 1976. Suffice it to say, it's up to Joey and the boys to restore the gang's sullied musical confidence on a cross-time journey that's pretty far out.
The Ramones are snide and sarcastic, but they send our Riverdale friends through a Ramones-based scavenger hunt in order to find their verve and ultimately, their way home again. For us old school readers, it does take a bit of getting used to the Archie crew presented as millennials while the time-honored adult populace such as Mr. Weatherbee, Pop Tate and Archie's parents are effectively us Gen X'ers. Archie's dad is the big Ramones fan, which is like a sucker punch if you've read the Archie books longer than 2010. Still, with everything to this story, apply suspension of belief and you'll have a blast.
How many tantrums between Ronnie and Betty will Archie and the Ramones have to weather? How many "I Wanna's..." will emit from the leather-clad punkers of yesteryear?
You'll have to read to find out. 1, 2, 3, 4!!!