FCBD Preview - - books worth seeking out - - - Part 2

PEP COMICS FEATURING BETTY AND VERONICA, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY EDITION # 1  (Archie Comics, May 2011)  “You’ve Been Clubbed!”  Script & Pencils:  Dan Parent.  Inks:  Jim Amash.  Letters:  Patrick Owsley.  Colors:  Digikore Studios

NOTES:  A year ago I tackled a huge stack of FCBD titles and wrote about them, using a critical 7-point ratings scale.  Those books that seemed to best attract the intended audience and provided a good story that would encourage more reading received the best ratings.   I’m not going to attempt that this year because it no longer seems necessary.  Every 2011 FCBD title I’ve looked at so far seems to “get it” more than ever before.  Each one presents an original story (no reprints) or at least a new spin on a familiar story (origin tales) and does a fine job of engaging the reader with good scripts and art.  Bravo, comic book publishers!

One of the many pleasant surprises I received was the ARCHIE SUMMER SPLASH FCBD 2010 EDITION #1, also scripted and penciled by Dan Parent.   Then, I wrote that Parent “takes some liberties with the characters and puts a little stamp of his own on them.”  You can read more about that here - - - http://bcrefugees.blogspot.com/2010/05/fcbd-what-about-books-part-eight.html     Dan Parent has impressed me all over again with his work on this new FCBD issue.


          If PEP COMICS FEATURING BETTY AND VERONICA, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY EDITION #1 is one of the titles offered to you when you visit your local comics store on Saturday, May 7 - - - please do yourself a favor and take it.   I know for certain that I would have paid a lot more attention to the Archie Comics titles during my impressionable youth if they would have been as good as the work that Dan Parent is doing here.   In addition to updating the characters and bringing them into the 21st Century for modern readers, Parent also incorporates simple “life lessons” into the tales in a very entertaining and non-preachy fashion.  Just as the Aesop’s Fables of classic literature entertained and instructed at the same time,  Parent seems to be pursuing the same purpose in his scripted stories for Archie Comics.  (Hey, why not call them “Archie’s Fables”?  - - or “Parent’s Fables”?  - - or better yet work them into the self-help section of bookstores under the category of “Parenting Comics”.)

         First, Parent manages to work in almost all the main characters from the Archie canon into the story - - and then very quickly establishes what makes them tick through the use of flashbacks and current incidents that bring out their peculiarities and motives.  Someone who’s never read an Archie book before can pick this up and get comfortable with the characters and understand the story with no difficulty whatsoever.  That takes skill  - - but Parent is so smooth you might never pick up on that.

“You’ve Been Clubbed!” begins with Betty and Veronica re-visiting a childhood playground and finding the old tree house where “The Archie Club” was formed during their elementary school days.  That leads to a funny and entertaining flashback tale about exclusive “members-only” clubs and early socializing (“getting along” with others).    Veronica gets trapped in the tree-house with no apparent exit until Archie and crew come to the rescue with a ladder.  This leads to a very funny segue that runs throughout the rest of the story involving cell phones and ring tones/ video images.  (Along with accompanying subtle life lessons.) 

This amusing situation  leads to Betty and Veronica realizing how much fun clubs were, and their joint  decision to create a club to develop some friendly and helpful inter-action between the more mature Archie crew and their younger (and some disadvantaged) neighbors.  How best to do that is then debated, resulting in the formation of two separate clubs.  One is somewhat simplistic, centered around Pop’s dairy/refreshment store - - and the other meets at Veronica’s home with all the accompanying toys and gadgets to amuse the youth (high def TV, video arcade games, etc.)   Surprisingly, the club at Pop Tate’s is preferred over the Veronica mansion. What the Archie crew learn from this experience is, as Betty so succinctly states it, “these kids crave one-on-one attention!” 

God bless you, Dan Parent.  This book is recommended for all ages.

Dan Parent is scheduled to appear during Free Comic Book Day at Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark,  Delaware.  You can learn more about him here . . . http://www.danparent.com/


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