Just when it seemed the "Occupy" movement had hit most major cities, the demonstrators are going one step further, taking the cause to Riverdale within the pages of an Archie comic book.
It's the latest effort by Archie Comics to infuse its titles with real-world social issues, from politics to gay marriage. This time, the kids at Riverdale High School take sides after a group of protestors start a local "Occupy Riverdale" movement.
"Archie and Jughead run into the protest on their way to school," writer Alex Segura told Newsarama of the comic's story. "They discover that new kid Andy Martinez is one of the more vocal members of Occupy Riverdale. Word spreads quickly at Riverdale High, and the gang take sides while Archie is left to decide where he stands."
According to the folks at Archie, including potentially controversial issues in the fictional world of Archie is just an attempt to reflect the real world.
"Jon Goldwater, our CEO, has made a concentrated effort to have Riverdale and the world surrounding Archie and his friends reflect reality," Segura said. "The comics remain true to their roots and are all-ages and funny, but having the stories reflect today makes them that much more relatable. The financial crisis, how people have responded to it and the Occupy movement specifically are big parts of everyone’s lives – it’s all over the news. It’d be kind of silly to think no one in Riverdale is affected."
And Segura said there will be even more attempts in coming issues.
"[Archie execs] really want Riverdale to reflect the world today, and make Archie and his friends feel more of the moment, so you can expect to see more along the lines of Kevin’s wedding, Occupy Riverdale and so on, definitely," Segura said, then hinted there will be announcements about major storylines soon. "We’ve got a story that’ll top Archie Meets Kiss as far as just…'wow' factor. I can’t really tease it any more than that. It’s going to be big."
But even Archie CEO Jon Goldwater has admitted, in response to questions about the gay marriage comic, that the stories may be less of a reflection of current reality and more of a "hope" for what reality can become. "It's an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday," he said.
This "idealized" — yet social-issue-filled — version of Archie seemed to start in 2010, when President Barack Obama and politician Sarah Palin were featured on the cover of Archie #616. That issue featured the two opponents sharing a milkshake. And the gay marriage comic didn't even mention the controversy over the issue. "Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone," Goldwater said.
But even that "safe place" will be disrupted by the "Occupy Riverdale" issue, as Segura will portray some of the controversy involved. Even Betty and Veronica — two characters whose most heated battles in the past involved wanting the same boyfriend — will turn their differences toward economic issues.
"It’s not surprising that Veronica – who’s one of the richest girls in town – is siding with her father against Occupy," Segura said. "On the flipside, Betty sees a lot of her own family’s financial struggles being voiced by the Occupy protesters, so she eventually gravitates toward them."
Yet Segura emphasized that there's still plenty of humor, even among the anger associated with the "Occupy" movement. "I think Archie – while being a humor strip – can still reflect a wide range of emotions and reactions," he said. "The story does begin with anger. The protesters are mad. The people who don’t agree with the protest are angry. But there’s still plenty of room for humor and levity, and the story progresses toward a funny and – I think – down-to-earth resolution."
While it's obvious that Archie gets a lot of publicity out of the types of issues it's been tackling in its comics, Segura said the genesis of the "Occupy Riverdale" was actually spawned by a comment in response to the gay marriage issue.
"Someone mentioned it in response to the Kevin Keller wedding, kind of in a 'Huh, what will you do next? Occupy Riverdale?' And it stuck!" he said. "You see Archie serve as the viewpoint character, and we see him grapple with both sides of the issue and come to a conclusion of his own."
And the writer said that although he's not an Occupy protestor himself, he has tried to represent the movement realistically. "My direct interaction with Occupy Wall Street is limited – but I have followed the news and done a fair amount of research," he said. "I have a friend who started his own, mini-Occupy in his hometown. So, we’ve talked a bit about the issues so many people are facing and what’s driven people to embrace the Occupy movement. All that being said, this is still an Archie comic. The main goals are to entertain, which I hope we achieve!"
The issue will be drawn by Gisele Legace, who does an adult webcomic called Menage a 3, and also co-created Penny & Aggie. "Gisele’s great! Her artwork is dynamic, lovely and she’s an excellent storyteller," Segura said. "I’ve been really lucky with the artists I’ve gotten to work with at Archie, from Bill Galvan, Dan Parent to the great variants by Jill Thompson and Francesco Francavilla. Gisele is a rising star, and I’m a big fan of her work."
Legace will get to draw a lot of Archie characters for the issue, as more than just the usual, limited Archie gang show up for the protest. "This issue features a lot of guest stars, including Kevin, Sabrina and a few surprises," Segura said. "I don’t want to reveal who takes which side so early, since that’s a big part of what makes the issue fun to read."
And that's what Segura wanted readers to know — that while the Occupy movement may be a hot-button topic, the issue is meant to be fun. "It’s an Archie comic! It’ll be fun and feature the amazing art of Gisele," he said. "It touches on an issue anyone can relate to in some way and features some of the most beloved characters in comics. What more do you want?"