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  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2017/01/25 Permalink
    Tags: , archie, archie comics, , classic characters, , darker timelines,   

    Talking with Archie Comics Writer Alex Segura About the CW’s Riverdale and Archie’s Continuing Reinvention 

    Though the gang from the Archie comic books has embarked on countless storylines that go deeper than shared ice-cream sodas and a broken-down jalopy, the universe of Archie Andrews, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead has long been best known in its original, squeaky clean form.

    Then came the Archie Revolution. This creative shift began in 2010, with the publication of the surprisingly thoughtful and well-received Life with Archie, which explored two timelines: one in which Archie married Betty, the other in which he married Veronica. Since then the company has almost completely revised their classic character, without sacrificing the fundamentals of the universe. They’ve taken chances with their storytelling, explored other genres, and modernized the characters.

    They’ve also worked with some of the best writers in the world to craft complex, interesting stories for Archie—including Alex Segura, Senior Vice President of Publicity and Marketing and Editor at Dark Circle Comics and author of several Archie comics. As the new Archie strategy culminates in the debut of the CW’s Riverdale, a gritty new Archie TV series that has a Twin Peaks vibe going on, we took a few minutes to discuss the State of Archie with Segura, how he mixes his work for Archie Comics with his series of novels featuring the detective Pete Fernandez, and how Riverdale is shaping up to be the crowning achievement of 75 years of Archie Andrews adventures.

    Your writing for Archie involves some fascinating mashups, like Occupy Riverdale and Archie Meets Ramones to name two examples of the fun, interesting modern direction of these storied characters. What’s your inspiration for an Archie story?
    I think, first and foremost, I try to be true to the characters. I grew up reading Archie and I get a kick out of hitting the notes that made me laugh as a kid. And while the Archie comics were very sitcomlike in terms of not being serialized, there were some constants. The kids were sometimes at odds but rarely mean. It all comes from a place of friendship, familiarity, and fun, so I try to keep that front and center even when they’re dealing with unexpected things, like Gene Simmons, Joey Ramone, or something as potentially controversial as Occupy.

    Did you know Archie was about to become one of the most innovative and interesting reboots in comic history when you took this job?
    I can’t say I predicted that, but I did know Archie was an icon. He was immediately recognizable and the kind of property or brand that people knew, whether they were fans of the comics or not, like Batman or Spider-Man. So, from a publicity perspective, that’s a dream. It means you don’t have to over-explain what you’re pitching. So, once the content caught up with the awareness, thanks to the leadership of Archie’s Publisher/CEO Jon Goldwater, it provided us with a ton of interesting stories to pitch to the mainstream press. That created the wave of interest that’s culminating now with Riverdale on TV.

    Aside from your comics work and day job, you’re the author of three mystery novels featuring your character Pete Fernandez (Silent City, Down the Darkest Street, and the forthcoming Dangerous Ends). Tell us a little about Pete. Any chance you’ll be writing an Archie/Pete Fernandez crossover someday?
    I don’t think Pete is going to drive up to Riverdale anytime soon, but hey, never say never!

    I’m originally from Miami, and when I first moved to New York about a decade ago, I became obsessed with a lot of modern crime writers—authors like George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, Reed Coleman and Lawrence Block. Each of these writers not only had strong protagonists that were flawed, human, and (often) funny, but the sense of place was amazing. You couldn’t tell a Nick Stefanos story without D.C., or Tess Monaghan without Baltimore. It got me to thinking about writing my own crime novel, set in my hometown.

    Then Pete walked in. He’s in pretty bad shape when you meet him in Silent City—his father just died, his fiancée has left him, and he’s not-so-slowly drinking himself to death. So, not your ideal hero. But that’s part of the fun, no? As the series progresses, we watch Pete stumble and pick himself up again, learning as he goes. Pete’s story runs on two tracks—there’s the overarching mystery of each book, which is essential to these kind of books, but there’s also his own personal struggles to be more than just a waste of space. He wants to reclaim the potential he knows he lost and he wants to be the kind of person his father thought he could be. He’s not always successful, but that’s what makes the stories compelling, I think. It’d be too easy to just have him settle into a routine, evergreen situation where each book is about the case in front of him. But I’d be bored and I think readers would, too. That’s why I try to make each book stand out and push him forward. The latest book, Dangerous Ends, takes a much wider view of not only Pete, but Miami as well, flashing back to the early days of Castro’s Cuba and showing how the past continues to affect the present, and put Pete’s own life at risk. It’s definitely my most complex book to date and I’m really excited for people to dive into it.

    Let’s talk Riverdale. The new TV show is right in line with the reinvigorated, edgy sensibility of the new comics (zombies, anyone?). I’ve heard it described a bit like Archie meets Twin Peaks. Did you have any input on its development?
    I did not! Though, I love what I’ve seen and the team of Greg Berlanti, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Jon Goldwater, and Sarah Schechter that WB and The CW (plus cast and crew) have put together. It feels noir, moody, compelling, and risky without distancing itself from the core Archie mythos. In the same way you can believe Archie and his friends are battling a zombie apocalypse in the Afterlife with the Archie series (written by Aguirre-Sacasa), you’ll buy the murder-mystery-meets-small-town idea in Riverdale immediately. It’s an impressive and addictive piece of work, and really a testament to what the company’s been moving toward over the last eight years under Jon’s watchful eye.

    Would you say working as a journalist in Miami and writing gritty noir novels actually prepared you to work at Archie Comics, of all places? Will some of that noir quality show up in Riverdale?
    I think different kinds of writing help you become more versatile and improve what you do across the board, in the way being a great poet might assist you in writing a short story because it teaches you how to be compact with language. Writing comics has taught me to be more visual in my prose, because in comics you’re writing a screenplay for the artist to direct and it’s all about camera angles and what to focus on, so that taught me to be more image-centric when working on the novels. Writing prose has also helped me look at a comic as a bigger whole and plot according to that, as opposed to just stringing gags together. You want it to feel cohesive and valuable, even if it’s a humor comic. Journalism, for me, played a big part in all that. It taught me to be direct, clear, and fast. Use the words you know, put the important info at the top and don’t waste time. I think that’s reflected in most of my work. Tell the story, make it engaging, fin.

    What else do we need to know about Pete Fernandez, the future of Archie, and Riverdale?
    Well, the third Pete Fernandez Miami Mystery, Dangerous Ends, arrives on April 11 from Polis Books, available wherever books are sold. You can also grab the first two, Silent City and Down the Darkest Street, now, in case you want to prep on Pete’s adventures. I’m also cowriting a The Archies one-shot with my pal Matthew Rosenberg and artist Joe Eisma, which reveals the origins of the band in the current Archie world. That was a lot of fun. In terms of Riverdale—I suggest people check it out! It’s a really gripping take on some of the biggest, most iconic pop culture characters ever. Don’t miss it.

    The new series Riverdale kicks off on January 26 at 9 p.m. EST on The CW. And while you’re at it, Alex Segura’s Pete Fernandez novels are excellent noir thrillers that go places Archie Andrews can’t—at least not yet. But the way things are going, give Archie a few more years and he might get there.

    The post Talking with Archie Comics Writer Alex Segura About the CW’s Riverdale and Archie’s Continuing Reinvention appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 9:15 pm on 2016/03/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , classic characters, , , , , jane steele, lyndsay faye, ,   

    Jane Steele Is the Hard-Edged Jane Eyre You Never Knew You Wanted 

    Lyndsay Faye is a certifiable meddler in fiction. Her debut novel, Dust and Shadow, pitted Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper in a masterful showdown between a fictional giant and an enigmatic true-life menace. The pairing seemed a more even match than even Moriarty could provide. In a world where Holmes pastiche is a cottage industry, Faye captured Doyle’s characters near-flawlessly, while setting before them a new challenge worth their respective salt.

    Now she’s back, focusing that same tender, exploratory devotion to Charlotte Brontë’s masterwork with Jane Steele. In Jane Eyre, poor, plain Jane gets hurtled from mistreatment to mistreatment, until finally she finds ethically questionable romance with Mr. Rochester. As readers, you can connect deeply with Jane on an emotional level, as she endures an endless parade of indignities and anguish. While she’s an incredibly strong woman—you’d have to be to withstand the secret in the attic—Jane is at the disadvantage of living in the 19th century and having little control over her own circumstances. As an orphan, and then as a governess, she’s got little means to rise above whatever misery befalls her.

    Not so much with young Jane Steele. Jane Steele gets things done, and she’s got the trail of bodies in her wake to prove it. Faye’s novel shares the basic elements of Brontë’s: a heroine orphaned at a young age, a sinister aunt, a demented boarding school for wayward young women, a new life as a governess, a secretive, erudite lordling pitching woo despite his shady past.

    It’s all there, because it all makes a great story. What makes the narrative unique is that Jane Steele knows this story. She’s not a stand-in for Jane Eyre; she’s her biggest fan. It’s a unique device, bestowing this meta awareness on Jane, and it adds a winking playfulness to the proceedings. Truthfully, it’s a quality any story about a serial-killing Jane Eyre groupie should have.

    Yes, Jane Steele has murdered, “for love and for better reasons,” and the story of Jane Eyre has inspired her to tell her own, deepest, ugliest secrets and all. Each chapter begins with a relevant passage from Brontë, serving as an anchor for Steele, who is buoyed by the similarities between herself and her fictional hero, yet dryly critical of how her predecessor handled her trials and tribulations.

    This Jane is a different bird. Though still sensitive and quietly altruistic, she’s also scrappy, droll, and endlessly industrious. Often, she’s a firecracker just waiting for a fuse to be lit. But she’s far from a manic menace; Jane Steele is plagued by the deeper consequences of her actions, by the perilous fragility of truth, by the weight of her own conscience.

    Thus, by the time Jane Steele meets Mr. Thornfield, the splendidly sarcastic army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars to inherit her childhood home, she’s more a match for him than Mr. Rochester’s Jane ever was. She and Thornfield both have skeletons—many literal—in their closets, and it puts them on a more even footing as they pursue a romance. Whereas Jane Eyre’s innocent, unyielding stoicism endeared her to Rochester, adrift in his own failings, it’s Jane Steele’s crackling chutzpah that catches the tormented Thornfield’s eye. He sees in her much of what he sees in the mirror: someone running from a past darkened by tragedy not entirely of their own making.

    The result of all of this is a Jane Eyre for our age, with a heroine who can wield both a knife and a well-placed insult. That her crimes are endearing instead of alienating is both a tribute to Faye’s deceptively charming style and to Jane’s sturdy yet pliant moral code. Who could begrudge a few casualties when you’re having this much fun?

    Jane Steele is on sale March 22, and available for pre-order now.

  • Jeff Somers 7:13 pm on 2016/01/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , classic characters, , , , , wham! pow!   

    Five Reasons Study Hall of Justice is a Must-Read for All Aspiring Young Superheroes 

    Anyone with an imagination, young or old, kid or adult, has at some point in their lives dreamed of being a superhero. Whether you’re a kid wearing Superman Underoos and running around the house with a blanket tied around your neck, or a grownup heading out to Comic Con in your awesome 3D-printed Iron Man costume, you’ve almost certainly wished you could uncover fiendish supervillain plots and fight for justice—or maybe indulge in a little supervillainy of your own. Hey, no judgements.

    It’s precisely this sort of wish that inspired Scholastic and DC Comics’ new Secret Hero Society, and the first in the series—Study Hall of Justice, by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen—hits the sweet spot dead center. This graphic novel combines the deep end of the DC Comics universe with a fun, lighthearted tone, a fantastic mystery, and a wide range of storytelling techniques that make it a guaranteed hit among kids of all ages—though it’s officially aimed at grades 3 through 7. Here’s why your favorite wannabe superhero will want to read it posthaste.

    1. The premise is super clever
    A pint-sized Bruce Wayne has just been admitted to an elite private school, the Ducard Academy, and he’s psyched. But from the very first day, things at the school seem a little…off. Maybe it’s the fact that the orientation packet instructs him not to bring “the authorities,” but to definitely bring his “absolute loyalty.” Or maybe it’s the mysterious nature of the principal, whose identity is secret. Or maybe it’s the clowns roaming the hallways, or the ninjas Bruce thinks he sees in the trees (spoiler: he totally saw them). All of these suspicious moments prompt him to launch an investigation with the enthusiasm only a kid can muster.

    2. The criminal investigation unit is cool
    Luckily, he doesn’t have to investigate on his own, because among his classmates are two other kids who also feel out of place and unnerved: Clark Kent, a polite kid from the midwest who Bruce suspects is a little strange, and Diana, a wonderful girl from a mysterious island who has a bit of a temper problem. Not yet Superman and Wonder Woman, Clark and Diana quickly become Bruce’s best friends and partners in the newly formed Criminal Investigation Unit (whatever you do, don’t call it a Junior Detectives Club!). Of course, Bruce, being the future Dark Knight, also begins investigating his new friends.

    3. The rogue’s gallery faculty and students are a lot of fun
    The CIU finds plenty to occupy them, as they’re the only kids at the academy who respect authority and want an education. The other students—who mostly go unnamed, but are pretty clearly kid versions of classic DC villains like the Joker, the Riddler, and eventual class president Lex Luthor—play pranks, deface and destroy school property, and bully the other kids (especially a big kid named Bane). Worse, the faculty—including homeroom teacher Mr. Grundy, who hates Mondays, guidance counselor Huge Strange, and phys ed teacher Coach Zod (who begins each class with the command to bow down to him)—celebrate these misdeeds while punishing Clark, Diana, and Bruce when they’re clearly in the right. You don’t have to be an expert on superhero backstory to enjoy this story, but if you’re well-versed in comic book lore, there are endless Easter eggs to chuckle over.

    4. The mystery rocks
    On top of all that, the mystery is great. All the CIU wants is an education, and to see justice done. They believe kids who misbehave should be punished, and their friendship leads them into an exciting adventure that pits their wits against the secretive nature of the principal, the secret mission of the school, and—hardest of all—the taunts and bullying of their classmates. All the kids in the CIU bring their own specialties to the table, but all have their flaws (cleverly highlighted throughout by Student Evaluation Reports submitted by Guidance Counselor Strange—and then stolen for the investigation by Bruce), and in the end they must put aside their differences and work together as a team to defeat their foes and reveal the truth.

    5. The structure guarantees you’ll never get bored
    Aside from standard graphic novel layouts, the book includes a plethora of documents, security camera footage, transcripts of chat sessions and computer searches, journal entries, and posters on the hallway walls to give information and advance the plot. The sheer variety and inventiveness of the visuals guarantee you’ll never be bored, making this a fun, immersive story with something for everyone.

  • Ginni Chen 6:00 pm on 2014/08/06 Permalink
    Tags: cartoons, celebrity bookshelves, , classic characters, heroes in a half-shell, , pizza, teenage mutant ninja turtles, , , turtle power,   

    The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Their Favorite Books 

    collageWhat is happiness? Is it love, success, the achievement of dreams, and spiritual fulfillment? Or is it a bowl of sugary cereal, pj’s and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opening credits on a Saturday morning? Ask a child of the 80s and 90s, and they just might say the latter. They also might yell, “Turtle power!”

    The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a band of four brothers, named after Italian Renaissance painters and trained in the art of ninjutsu to fight crime. They’re walking, talking, butt-kicking mutated turtles raised in the sewers of Manhattan by their sensei, Splinter, an anthropomorphic rat with Japanese sensibilities. With the highly anticipated TMNT movie coming out in a few days, we’ve got the heroes in the half-shell on the brain. Here’s what we imagine each of their favorite books to be:

    Leonardo (leads)
    Masked in blue and wielding two katanas, Leonardo is the leader and the most obedient to Splinter. Leonardo’s favorite books are:

    The Way of the Samurai, by Inazo Nitobe
    It’s about living by a code of honor and cultivating loyalty, courage, and obedience, values that contribute to Leonardo’s credo.
    The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
    Leo loves the duels, the loyalty, and the epic bromance between the fearsome foursome.
    King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green
    Leo is fascinated by these medieval tales of chivalry, gallantry, and swords. He’s also enthralled by one sword in particular: King Arthur’s Excalibur.
    The Book of Ninja, by Antony Cummins and Yoshie Minami
    This book covers the history of ninjas, but Leo loves it for more practical reasons: it’s instructive on the arts of espionage, tactical planning, night raids, mission strategies—all the things ninjas need to defeat their enemies.

    Michelangelo (party dude).
    He’s the easy-going prankster in the orange mask who talks like a surfer and wields nunchakus. Mikey thinks these books are cowabunga:

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson
    Come on. The kids might not know it, but we all know Michelangelo likes to party. He’s obviously the Scooby-Doo of the gang.
    The Pizza City, by Peter Genovese
    The Turtle likes his pizza! As a born and raised New Yorker, Mikey takes the history, origins, and story of the New York slice seriously.
    God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut
    Michelangelo’s sense of humor is as big as his heart, so Vonnegut’s novel about a loony, wealthy philanthropist is one of his favorites.
    The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
    Swashbuckling pirate heroes, giants, conniving Sicilians, masochistic Counts, and one absolute babe of a princess, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny. All of Michelangelo’s favorite things.
    The Agony and the Ecstasy, by Irving Stone
    A gift from his sensei, Splinter, this is the only serious book on Michelangelo’s shelf.  He loves this novel about his namesake Michelangelo Buonarroti, the Renaissance man behind the Sistine Chapel.

    Raphael  (cool but crude)
    The dagger-dueling, red-masked rebel of the group, Raphael is hot-headed and sarcastic but also fiercely loyal to his family. His favorite reads:
    Animal Farm, by George Orwell
    Raphael considers this book research into anthropomorphic animals who are bad guys. This book accounts for Raphael’s deep mistrust of talking pig Bebop.
    The Mole People, by Jennifer Toth
    Always on guard against intruders, Raphael finds Toth’s account of the subterranean homeless population of New York City enlightening.  He likes to know a bit about the other people roaming around New York City’s underground maze.
    Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
    Angst-ridden Raphael relates to Holden’s disappointment in adults and his desire to die for a noble cause and to protect children.
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
    It’s one of the few books that can make Raphael laugh, and it’s about following your own moral code when the world around you is being stupid.

    Donatello (does machines)
    He’s a purple-masked whiz with the bo staff, and a whiz at everything else too. Donatello’s the inventor/engineer/scientific genius who prefers to use brains over brawn. On his bookshelf:
    Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman
    A fictional exploration into the dreams of young Albert Einstein while he works on his theory of relativity. This book weaves together philosophy and science in a way that’s right up Donatello’s alley.
    Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami
    This bizarre, fantastical, and compelling sci-fi classic describes Tokyo’s sewer-dwelling reptilian monsters. Donatello finds this ironically amusing.
    Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
    The themes of censorship and the importance of books and dissenting ideas speak to Donatello’s intellectual side. It reminds him to use force for good, not to oppress or dominate others.
    The Iron Man comic series, created by Stan Lee
    These comic books were a gift from his brothers, who see Donatello as their own Tony Stark: genius, inventor, engineer ,and hero. Donatello wouldn’t mind being a ladies’ man like Tony Stark, too.

    Who’s your favorite Ninja Turtle and what book would you give him? 

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