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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When I reviewed these comic books back in November, I didn't know that Betty and Veronica Spectacular was on the chopping block. In light of recent efforts from the fan community to save the title, this seems like an apt time to run that several months old review.

Betty and Veronica Spectacular #84

Today's column isn't so much a review of Betty and Veronica Spectacular #84 and #85 [$2.25 each] as a suggestion to Archie Comics about an exciting transformation for the title. I'll start by looking briefly at these two issues:

Dan Parent's covers are eye-catching and lovely. Remove the cover copy and logo and either one of them would look darn spiffy hanging on a wall, either on their own or as a calendar.

Each issue has a 12-page comic story by Parent with inks by my pal Rich Koslowski. The stories look good, but they always feel a bit padded to me. They need more comedic or dramatic meat to them to justify their page counts.

The stories are followed by a host of fun features: fashion pages, quizzes, survival guides, school memories, Halloween party tips, and Riverdale-style monster movie posters. But, as much as I might like these features, when I finish reading an issue of this title, I feel cheated because there were only 12 pages of actual comics. Which got me to thinking.

Betty and Veronica Spectacular should be changed from a standard-size comic book to a Shojo Beat-style magazine. The title characters are arguably better known than Archie himself. Dan Parent's covers would be as striking on a magazine display as they are on a comic-book rack...and the expanding page count would allow lots more pages of both comics stories and special features. With hundreds of pages to work with each month, this new Betty and Veronica Spectacular could include comics and features designed to attract a wide spectrum of readers. The new comics material could showcase Archie's growing cast of characters, giving the newer ones solo opportunities to shine.

While hundreds of pages of new material per month might be somewhat cost-prohibitive, think about what could be done with the reprint library of Archie Comics. Right off the top of my head, I think such a magazine would be a terrific venue in which to reprint Tania Del Rio's manga-style "Sabrina" series from its start. To attract older comics fans, the magazine could reprint "vintage" and unedited "Archie Universe" stories from the 1940s through the 1980s, possibly with amusing articles about the times in which they were originally published.

Other comics reprint possibilities could include the classic COSMO THE MERRY MARTIAN, the 1960s adventures of THE FLY and THE JAGUAR, the campy MIGHTY CRUSADERS tales from later in the decade, and even oddities like YOUNG DR. MASTERS and, assuming this could be worked out with Conde Nast, the wacky Archie Comics version of THE SHADOW. Such a publication would also have room for the best KATY KEENE and LITTLE ARCHIE stories from the past. A mere 20-25 pages per issue of such material would likely be enough to seal the deal with the older comics fans mentioned above.

Getting back to SPECTACULAR's likely target audience - pre-teen girls, teen girls, young women, and nostalgic older women - we have lots of room left for a wide range of feature and photo pieces on fashion, music, women's sports, movies, TV, travel, decorating, current events, women who are making their mark on our society, and other topics of interest to those readers.

What would be the drawbacks to producing this magazine? I thought about those as well.

Color from cover to cover would likely be too great an expense for a magazine this size. So some of the reprinted stories would need grey tones added to the art to keep them from looking drab and flat on the printed page.

Neither the Archie comic books or digest carry much in the way of outside advertising. A magazine like I'm describing would need to carry outside advertising, both to add to the profitability of the magazine and to make it look more like a "real" magazine to its potential customers.

Archie Comics has traditionally been successful outside the direct comics market. The Betty and Veronica Spectacular I outline here would be in keeping with that model and even grow beyond it. I'd subscribe to such a magazine in a heartbeat.

After my long-winded dissertation, you probably forget this is a review column. I almost did, too.

For the record, Betty and Veronica Spectacular #84 and #85 each get a perfectly acceptable three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony



Brave and the Bold with Black Lightning

Another in our ongoing series of answers to questions that I am frequently asked:

What did you think of Black Lightning's appearance on the episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold that featured him, Katana, and Metamorpho?

I haven't watched it, but I intend to watch it as soon as DC pays me for the use of my creation in the episode...if only to see my credit at the end of the episode.

Based on what folks have told me, I can't say I'm wild about the idea of a super-hero created to be a positive adult role model being replaced by a teenage criminal, however misguided a teenager he might be. On the other hand, the show often plays fast and loose with established characterization and, despite that, I still enjoy it most of the time. So I'll reserve my final judgment until I view the episode for myself.

There are several more Black Lightning questions waiting to be answered. I'll try to buzz through them before the end of the week in the hopes that a few non-BL questions will follow. It's my own personal audacity of hope.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 03/16/2009 | 03/17/2009 | 03/18/2009 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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