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More Grumpiness Toward Variants: An Archie Edition

This morning, I was checking out stories at The Beat, and came across a preview for the latest issue of Jughead.

jughead_preview_trigger_variantsSomething about the image used in the header here drew me in–I’ve seen a couple things recently about Sabrina guest-starring or such, and I have a bit of a renewed interest there lately after seeing Melissa Joan Hart in God’s Not Dead 2 and a couple other things that cropped up in my Facebook newsfeed with her…like it being 20 years since the tv show!

I’ve never really considered Jughead to be a character who was interested in romance, so seeing this image of him with Sabrina, it’s a charming image, and got my curiosity.

But upon getting into the article/preview itself, I was "treated" to the first three images being three different covers for the issue.

Instant turn-off!

I hate that Archie got into the "variants game!" I’m sure they had been doing some here and there, but it was never so noticeable as it’s been the last year-plus with the "relaunch" of the various series. And aside from my usual complaints about variants, the very real anecdote from my own experience is having 1. been "interested in" checking out the new series (Archie #1) and 2. finding over 20 copies of the issue…and not one cover was the same. It was impossible to determine a "main" or "regular" or "standard" cover, because there were just simply too many covers, PERIOD.

Then there was the fact that they upped their pricing, jumping from being pretty much the "best value" to having nothing stand-out. It seemed that where Marvel and DC and the other "major publishers" were dealing in $2.99s and $3.99s and in-between… Archie was maintaining at $2.25 or $2.50. Any given issue would be better than DC/Marvel‘s best price, and thus a prime issue for impulse buying (and this is without even getting into the value of the digests!)

But at $3.99, a standard-size, standard-paper comic is NOT an "impulse" or "casual" buy for me, in general. There are the occasional exceptions, but those are quite rare!

And while it’s a matter for another post, in brief, I’ve held to my refusal to utilize Comixology directly for any digital comics purchases (even apparently avoiding a popular buy-1-get-1-free sale for Cyber Monday yesterday). (31 months now, I was NOT just mouthing off with an empty threat of quitting buying through them over dropping in-app purchasing on Apple devices!) But partially due to ill-will I hold toward Comixology, I’m wary of most digital comics purchasing, period. I’ve softened somewhat in that I’ll use the DC app (powered by/interacts with Comixology but allows in-app purchasing) and the IDW/TMNT one (does the same), but I’m not interested in umpteen different apps for buying digital comics, and I’m not going to buy digital comics on a website and then hassle with "translating" that into some sort of e-reader.

Additionally, while it’s great to have the option of locating a key back-issue or such through a publisher directly, it’s not feasible to me to buy individual issues from a publisher directly, unless they would offer free shipping. If I pay $3.99 for a comic and have to pay $3.99+ shipping and/or handling, you’ve DOUBLED the price of THAT ISSUE ALONE. I don’t like paying $4/issue, making it functionally an $8 issue does not begin to improve anything in my eyes. Even if the issue would be "free" the shipping cost still means I’m better off getting the issue(s) at a comic shop…assuming the shop has the issues stocked to begin with.


Perhaps I seem hypocritical in this, as I know that DC and Marvel and virtually every other publisher trades in ridiculous quantities of variants. In this case today, with the Jughead issue, what (I think) particularly set me off was the THREE covers. I can–will–do–mostly turn a blind eye to the existence of variants when there are "only 2" covers. I’ve been beaten into submission on those, and at least can often (yet NOT as often as I’d LIKE) tell which is the "main" cover and which is the variant and can flat-out IGNORE the variant.

But when there are 3 or more covers…it becomes that much MORE likely that I will be unable to get the cover that I actually want! If a shop orders 3-4 shelf copies and there are 2 covers, there’s a better chance there’ll be at least 1 copy of the cover that I am interested in over the others. 3 or more covers further dilutes this and makes it more likely that if I’m not THE first person getting a copy, there’ll be 2 or more copies of the issue, but NOT the cover that I actually want.

And that turns me off and fully discourages buying into the series or continuing with the series at all.

Given the easier availability of stuff from "the big two" and their content being what I’m primarily after, I also have to compromise more. When the smaller publishers or indie publishers pull those same "stunts," it’s a lot easier for me to be harsher and more pointed in my displeasure and avoid them entirely.

I have a nearly-30-year-history with Superman comics and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with Batman virtually on-par with both of those. Batman I’ve been very choosy on over the years, and even walked away from the Superman titles for over 3 years.

People love variants? Variants are essential to sales, to the continuation of a title? There’s no option to NOT deal in variants? They’re fun? They’re "bonus," or any other spin?

Fine–good on the publisher.

But I am an actual real-life example (particularly when calling stuff out in posts like this or comments on Twitter) of someone who is NOT happy with variants, does NOT enjoy them, for whom the chase and ‘game’ of variants is NOT fun, and who WILL flat-out drop a series…and has "dropped" ENTIRE PUBLISHERS over "variants" shenanigans (Valiant and Boom! Studios).

I get that many will complain but buy anyway. I get that I myself will make rare, occasional one-time/case-by-case exceptions. But as a general rule, I’m quick to drop or continue to just not buy stuff over seemingly insignificant things like variants.

Hey, the publisher is selling or banking on selling multiple copies of an issue to people.

SURELY one of those makes up for not selling any copy to me at all.

Archie #605 [Review]

Will You Marry Me? part 6 of 6 – Archie Marries Betty: “Happily Ever After”

Script: Michael Uslan
Pencils: Stan Goldberg
Inks: Bob Smith
Letters: Jack Morelli
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Managing Editor: Mike Pellerito
Editor/Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics

I bought into the hype from two angles. One…it was Archie #600…and the title had gotten there legitimately. No reboots or restarts and funky number-playing across multiple series that were intentionally made distinct for the purposes of renumbering, mistake or otherwise. Two…it was the story of Archie FINALLY choosing one of the girls, and doing the right thing by her. He was choosing Veronica, for better or worse (I’ve always rooted for Betty). So imagine my surprise when the story swerved at the end of Chapter 3, showing that instead of 6 issues of Archie marrying/being married to Veronica, we were actually getting two 3-parters under the banner of “__ of 6.”

Also of note is the title of the story. I’d initially thought it was “Archie Marries Veronica” based on the cover; but as said above, obviously that changed halfway through. This issue states on the cover “Archie Marries Betty” and the chapter title, as well as the “Part 6 of 6.” Inside the issue, however, we find an ad for the graphic novel Archie in “Will You Marry Me?” billed as “The complete 6-issue story arc!” at the top of the page. There’s also the fact of that ad existing–here, in the final issue of the story, the company is trying to get the reader to order the collected volume of the story they’re holding. Sure, I expected this–I bought these single issues despite knowing full well there’d be a collected edition–I had to wait for that edition on the recent Freshman Year arc, and if they collected that I knew they’d collect this. Still…the Archie books being what they are, chances are that many people buy just a random issue here and there, and so would not have all 6 chapters.

“Gripey” as that may sound, it’s not much of a gripe. This is a decent conclusion to a decent story. Why it’s not “great” is that it’s something that can’t truly matter long-term in the Archie comics without radically altering the status quo and the nature of the series. This puts me in mind of the silver-age Superman stories focusing on one of many alternate Earths; such as the one with the “Super Sons” or any where Superman actually married Lois. So, this is an “imaginary story” within the Archie universe. And as has been said of these “imaginary stories”… “Aren’t they all?”

Archie and Betty have returned to Riverdale after their year away…both to teach at the high school. They reunite with old friends, and discover a number of other changes. Jughead and Midge are married (and Jughead bought Pop’s as Pop was retiring); Moose is calm and mature…and Reggie and Veronica just got engaged. The story follows the young couple dealing with these events, and then the birth of their twins, Veronica and Reggie’s wedding, as well as life afterward–dealing with “grown-up stuff” in the form of juggling work, the kids, and some sort of social life. And then the story ends on the reverse note the 6-parter opened with…perfectly fitting.

The story is fairly simplistic and formulaic, of course. There’s some drama, but nothing that’s really drawn-out (if it were, I could imagine this one issue getting stretched to 6 issues itself!). There’s a lot of character stuff and forward momentum, and even time for that ending. While hardly complex–and certainly not apologetic about the means by which the story was achieved and then left behind–I really don’t feel cheated nor let down. Heck, this story is one that would make a great tv mini-series of sorts…basically do a pair of movies that make the one big movie. One movie for each of the girls as the bride of Archie. It’d be great if the story was “timeless,” but there are some elements thrown in that date the story–including a reference to “stimulus money,” which firmly roots this in the present. Aside from those references, though, the story is fairly timeless, not actually giving any hard dates for things…just a walk on Memory Lane.

The art is standard Archie style; none of the “New Look” stuff (good as those stories are). The only real complaint I have with the art is the cover–something about Archie’s proportions seems “off” a bit, and overall, he doesn’t look quite right, and I’m not sure why.

I don’t recommend specifically seeking this issue out if you haven’t either been following since #600, or #603. However, if you’re at all a fan of Archie, Betty, and/or Veronica…I highly recommend considering the graphic novel.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

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