Jinx, a new graphic novel from Archie, is taking a classic concept and updating it for a modern, teenage, female audience.
"If you read the original Li'l Jinx comic strips, you'll recognize this character and her supporting cast," said the graphic novel's author, J. Torres. "But we wanted to bring Jinx back as a teenager and appeal to the tween and teen demographic."
The book, which is being released this week, features art by well-known superhero and genre comics artist Rick Burchett. But Jinx will feature art and story that is aimed toward a different audience than more traditional comic books — even a demographic that is unique to the Archie line."The difference between how we're reaching the demographics of the regular Archie books and Jinx is that Jinx is meant to be a little more realistic," Torres said. "Not realistic in say the Degrassi vein, but more like an iCarly. Somewhere in the middle of the two. It's still fun and a little bit goofy and a little bit over the top, but tackling some more serious issues and modern-day subject matter."
The original Li'l Jinx comic, which featured the high-spirited title character getting into misadventures with friends, has been around since the 1940's. But that Jinx was portrayed as a little girl, and this new Jinx graphic novel has her growing up and hanging out with teenage versions of Greg, Charlie, Roz and Gigi."If you read the original Li'l Jinx comic stirp, you'll recognize these names," Torres said. "These are the neighborhood kids, the kids she went to school with, the kids she played little league baseball with and went camping and all that kind of kids stuff, and now they're all going to high school for the first time. So they're all freshmen."
Part of the "realistic" nature of the comics will be the changes Jinx faces when she starts high school.
"Jinx is a tomboy," Torres said. "She's a little sporty. She's always played sports with the boys and kept up with the best of them. But then she goes to high school, and things start to change. There's a bit of segregation in the athletics department, between the boys and the girls. And then her friends are being pulled apart by other cliques and activities, and so everything she knew before, as far as her little gang was concerned and their dynamics, kind of changes when they get to high school."That's the set-up of the new Jinx," Torres said. "New school, some new friends and some new sort of guidelines and new rules that sort of govern who you are as a clique, how you are with friends, how male-female relationships sort of change, gender roles, and that kind of thing."
The writer said he thinks it's important to reach out to teen and tween girls with comic books like Jinx. "It's important for our survival," he said. "It's important for the comic book industry as a whole to show that comics are for everybody, all ages, all interests — not just the genre fans and the so-called aging fanboys like me. There are kids out there that are not interested in Batman comics or even the genre stuff from the indie publishers.
"Somebody's got to make comics for other readers, and that's what I've been doing for the last decade or so," he said. "And I've seen a lot of success, in part thanks to librarians and educators embracing the medium and using it in the classroom and stocking them in the libraries. It's of the upmost importance."
Torres is probably best known among comic book readers as the writer of DC's Teen Titans Go! and graphic novels like Oni's Lola: A Ghost Story. But he's also been active in screenwriting for animation and television. In 2006, Torres wrote for the Degrassi: The Next Generation television series, and worked on animated shows like Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi and League of Super Evil.That led to some writing work for Archie comics, and eventually to the total revamp of Jinx, although Torres admits one of the attractions of the project was getting to work with Rick Burchett.
"I've been a huge fan of Rick's for the longest time," Torres said. "I loved his stuff on Batman, and when I was told he was drawing this, I was shocked that I would get the chance to share a credit box with him.
"People who are familiar with his superhero stuff will be a bit surprised with the look of Jinx," Torres said. "If you look at his other work and you look at Jinx, you just see how diverse this guy is and how talented he is at different styles."
The book is being offered in both soft-cover and hard-cover editions, so educators and librarians have a more sturdy option for their shelves. And Torres said the decision to relaunch Jinx in a book was related to reaching this unique demographic. "I believe the younger generation of comic book readers are more used to the trade paperback and the graphic novel format than the floppies," he said. "It also has a lot to do with teachers and librarians. I think there's still a little bit of a stigma to that floppy format, because it's seen as less literary than a bound book."Torres said he wrote the comic so that different audiences could enjoy the book, and he thinks even the traditionally male audience of comic readers should check it out. "I know there are guys out there like me who like reading about teenagers, whether they're the Teen Titans or the Legion or possibly even something like Jinx or the Archies," he said. "So I hope there's something there that can be enjoyed by more than just the teens and tweens we're targeting. I guess it depends on your tastes.
"It's a slice-of-life comedy," he said. "So if you enjoy that kind of story, you'll like this. And of course, all of us who are 18 and up, we've been through the situations that Jinx and her friends are going through in high school in the book."