Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Archie Wedding Review (with Photos)

For almost 70+ years famous comic book character Archie Andrews of Riverdale, U.S.A. had to endure the trials and tribulations of an American teenager, like hanging out with his group of friends and going to school but most especially choosing who to date, the elegant and wealthy Veronica Lodge or the sweet girl-next-door Betty Cooper. Readers from all corners of the globe enjoyed the mishaps of this “average American teenager” but many really wanted to know: who will he choose to be his wife and have children with???

In 2009-2010 Michael Uslan (Executive Producer of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight movie) and longtime Archie penciller Stan Goldberg and inker Bob Smith gave the answer in the 6-part story entitled “The Archie Wedding: Will You Marry Me?”. The funny thing here is he chose both!!!

In the story, readers were treated to two realities where Archie chose Veronica and the other one where he chose Betty. It showed to the readers of the consequences from his pick, the effect it had from his friends to handling a pregnant wife and being a doting parent. The story made headlines through TV shows, comic book blogs and newspapers. It even made some violent reactions, even stating that he is bigamous because he gets treated to the best of both worlds. This wouldn’t happen if Archie chose to be a Muslim.

Either way, the story starts with Archie and the gang playing their last set in front of a crowd in their school as they prepare for college. Archie, being the sentimental fool, got a little worked up from leaving Highschool life and decides to take a walk outside to clear his mind. He stumbles upon the appropriately-named Memory Lane Street and made a decision to walk up Memory Lane Street instead of walking down. There he is faced with two dirt roads and walked to the left side.

After the walk readers were shocked to see that Archie is coming back from his stroll wearing a College jacket, seeing his parents a little aged and already psyched to graduate from College.

The Memory Lane Street became a big story element where deciding to leisurely walk the left or the right dirt road he is somehow “transported” to the future of either marrying Veronica or Betty. It was pretty far-fetched but what do you expect from an eternally young teenager who faced mad scientists in his youth and had an alter-ego superhero named Pureheart the Powerful?

The writing is pretty simple and straightforward, as it shows the pressure of preparations of a wedding and taking care of an expecting wife and the sacrifices a parent makes taking care of a child. Writer Michael Uslan delivered as well as artists Stan Goldberg and Bob Smith. Anyone who is familiar of the Archie series will feel right at home with the depiction of Archie and the gang. Although there were instances that the anatomy and facial features seemed…off. Like these for example:

But the most surprising awkwardness comes from a scene after the Archie-Veronica wedding and at the reception:

Yeah, I know, right?

Either way, it never really hindered the storytelling and there were a lot of visual treat shown in the series, like this:

Older Veronica kinda looks like pop singer Katy Perry, right? Sadly, Betty looks exactly the same as she was along with the other part of the gang. I guess it’s only fitting for Veronica to look different because she can afford a makeover.

There is even this:

I can’t believe that Archie comics could get away with this. But it seemed appropriate, since they are already married. So cut them some slack.

Another visual treat is seeing Betty and Veronica being pregnant and wearing maternity suits. This is like the first time I’ve seen them like this in this state.

As usual with preparations for the wedding and the ceremony itself there are a lot of heartwarming and tear-jerking moments. The story wasn’t left out, as seen here:

This is another rare moment, because Archie fans know how much a bumbling idiot Archie is, especially around Veronica’s father Mr. Hiram Lodge. It was pretty moving.

But the greatest moments are from the “Archie marrying Betty” reality. It seemed that the writer heavily favors Betty than Veronica. In the “Veronica” timeline, there’s nothing much eventful on the story other than the wedding and them having kids. Archie seemed to have it easy getting a job since his father-in-law gave him one in his multi-million dollar company, like it was just handed to him in a silver platter. And we haven’t heard much from Betty ever since she moved to New York to work there and when she met with Veronica and she told her news to Betty that she’s having kids and wanted her to be a Godmother.

With the “Betty” reality we are shown the hardships of Archie finding a job (mostly because during the time the story was written it was America’s recession period), going to New York to face the married life there, facing Betty’s top boss and other moments that changed them and their friends and loved ones forever. It’s definitely worth the read. Ask any storyteller/writer how to make a good story, make a lot of conflicts. More conflicts = Relatable characters = More interesting read. Some of them are:

Here we are shown how much Betty values Archie.

Then there is one part where after Archie proposed to Betty in their hangout, The Chocklit Shoppe after their graduation, Veronica was furious and marched out. A few days after Betty went to Veronica’s mansion and asked her to be her Maid-of-Honor. When she vocally declined this happened:

It was something special.

And also when the gang found out that Reggie proposed to Veronica and she accepted:

And after Veronica and Reggie got married in Las Vegas, Archie and Betty received some news from the newlyweds. Archie gave out one of the best lines ever in the whole storyline:

It’s a known fact that Veronica is extremely wealthy while Betty is slightly insufficient on money. But I never really thought they’d be this poor:

I guess it never hurts to have a little money (or in this case, a LOT of money) in times like these. However they made the Betty-Archie wedding so meager it almost seemed like a gag.

Another startling development in the book is Archie here is less of clumsy teenager, hinting at a little bit of maturity. But as usual, we are treated with the slapstick “Archie (Bad) Luck” on the labor of Betty and Veronica (after all, couples panic when they are already in labor.). Just so everything is right with the universe.

There is also a part on each “reality” where Archie confronts the “not-my-bride” and explains to her why she didn’t pick her. With Veronica it seemed a good excuse.

With Betty, well…

It’s almost the equivalent of a “OOOHHHHHHH… BUUURRRRNNNN!!!!

There is one scene in the “Betty reality” that makes you think twice about Archie’s decision:

They were interrupted and their friends egged them to play despite without practice. Someone threw food at them just for fun and a food fight ensued. After the food fight stopped and the gang helped clean the place up Archie got back to Veronica and:

After this Archie talked to Betty over chocolate malt and then proposed to Betty. One would think that Archie saying “Uh…No need” is really Archie supposed to propose to Veronica but “settled” for Betty instead. Just a little observation.

But all in all, the storyline is a treat. It was something that fans wanted to see for a long, long, long time, even if it a sort of a “fantasy” story. It, as the writer said in the afterword of the graphic novel, “reawaken the interest of people of all ages and cultures to their heartfelt interest in and love for these characters…[we were swamped] with letters telling us that parents and children were reading the [story] together.” It’s worth a read, more so with the release of a spin-off Archie series that explored more the married life of each “reality”. So if ever you are a young kid who wanted to see how a wedding works out, as well as having kids, look no further than America’s favorite freckle-faced, carrot-top teenager to show you.

all photos copyright Archie comics

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rockin' Valentine: An Estrogen Valentine Concert Observation

February 14. The date is very well-known to people all over the world as it is the day that we celebrate Valentine's day, a celebration of love to a family member, girlfriend, boyfriend or your wife/husband. While some go to great lengths and cash to find a perfect venue for their Valentine date, others just settle for something different. Something...alternative.
This is what I experienced when I attended a Valentine Concert entitled "An Estrogen Valentine" at B-Side at the Collective in Malugay Street, Makati City last February 14. It was produced by my cousin who manages a music studio in Canada and an OPM advocate. The name of the event suggests that it is mostly women performing in front of a crowd. And it is not far from the truth.
I attended the place at a suited time, with my date in tow. She was opting for a Ogie Alcasid-Regine Velasquez concert at Smart Araneta Coliseum but I promised a long time ago that I'd support my cousin's concert. Besides, it was pretty close to where I'm residing. It was my first time to go to The Collective, so I really don't know what to expect. Turns out that it is almost what the name of the place implies: a place for a select group of people like rockers, skaters, art aficionados, food connoisseurs and music critics. There are stores that sell foreign food, skateboards, art toys and bars. The place is at B-Side, a bar as well. The ticket price is 200php/person, with a special rate of 300php for couples. There are 2 free beers per ticket and a free copy of December 2011 Esquire Magazine, with TV5 President Manny Pangilinan on the cover. The event was pretty big and had tables and chairs. The makeshift stage had the large amps installed along with party lights hanging from above. It also has some LED lights and a smoke machine placed on the stage for some effects to the music experience. Trippy. There are some air conditioners as well since it was outside the actual bar but there are places that the air conditioner doesn't reach, which is where we are at. It was a little humid but it can be tolerated. The place was dim but not dark. We were near the stage but we were facing the left side of the performers.

As usual with Filipinos, there is the notorious "Filipino Time" so the event started at least 3 hours late of the set time. But we could also attribute to the large traffic since it is February 14. Dylan of JACK TV's The PEEP show and UN radio DJ fame hosted along with a tall, foreign guy that I have no idea who he is. Sorry, guy.. The first performers were Flying Ipis. They're an all-girl band that plays indie-punk music. This is my first time to listen to the band but they're featured in FHM but I wasn't able to follow what they're playing. They're pretty loud, or that's one of the disadvantages of live music. The vocalist was going around in circles while singing, so their band name really applies to her. You almost want to swat her with a slipper. Their last song started with the vocalist screaming using a megaphone. It was a pretty good touch.

A filler singer-rapper came next, Urban Hope of Fliptop fame. He was the one who was supposed to play first but was late. He's disabled so he's on a wheelchair. But that didn't stop him from rapping about peace and the "hard life". He also sang the late Francis M's masterpiece, "Kaleidoscope World" to which the crowd sang to, especially the chorus part. He also invited some street kids that would be on Kitchie Nadal's act later on to sing with him, and the 2 kids were very talented.

Next on the act was Turbo Goth, a 2-member couple band that plays techno-pop-goth. The vocalist is a very statuesque female who models. The guy is the one who supplies the sounds through his guitar, tambourine and a synthesizer as well as entertainment in the form of him gyrating a lot and jumping all over the place. I kept on shouting after every song that he should be sedated. They were pretty good , they made a very explosive start. Their music is not that loud like the first band, but as usual I can't follow their songs except for their cover of "Bizarre Love Triangle". In the end they asked a friend in the audience to play along with them and if I didn't know better, they'd almost want to thrash the stage if not for the sake of other bands performing after them.

After some "parlor games" were done to give time for the band to sound-check their equipment and also to promote the event's sponsors, Imago was up. My girlfriend and I was really waiting for them to play because at least we can follow what they are playing. I was a little surprised that the vocalist was pretty small in person. But it was never a hindrance, just an observation. I'm glad that after all these years the band is still together with the original members still intact. Everybody in the crowd sang to their hits "Sundo" and "Akap". It was a good set.
Next came Kitchie Nadal. It has been a while since she moved to Canada, and she looked more girly than before, with leggings, a yellow sequined sleeveless top and a purple scarf. She played her new songs first, where I've noticed that it is more political than her previous songs about love and relationships. She also collaborated with some street kids who rapped and beat-boxed along with Kitchie's chords. She played a lot of songs, more than the previous band's, which also includes her old-time favorites "Wag na Wag mong Sasabihin" and "Same Ground".

Next up is a new band called Junior Oca Experience. It's like they're a filler band but they really delivered. They're the best example of a band playing live music. They're loud but audible. The vocalist sings very clearly. But they played almost for 30 minutes with 2 songs ("Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo" and "Englishman in New York") and 1 instrumental. Why that few? Because they played too long, with their saxophone, drums, bass guitar, lead guitar solos. There was even a part where the drummer went to the microphone and did some beatboxing as well as the vocalist using a voice synthesizer and imitating some guitar chords. It was entertaining and you get your money's worth but it was too darn long. I joked that if they would make a full-length album it would take 2 and a half hours to finish. And after they finished their set you would think twice about asking for an encore.

Finally Up Dharma Down performed in front of the crowd, and you could see that they are the ones that the people are waiting for. They got excited, and clamored to be in the nearest place to look and hear the band. The vocalist had a new hairdo and performed well, although most of the songs on the set are new to me. I only know one song from their set and it's the song "Oo". What I noticed is their sound requires a lot of sound-distortion technology. You'd see the guitarist step on the foot pedal that controls what sound his guitar is making numerous times. I humorously thought that when he stepped on one pedal his car would drive by itself. At near of the end of the set the vocalist urged the audiences to get really close to them. I guess she'd want their fans to get a good picture/video of them to show to their friends. She was very hospitable. In the end they looped a soundbyte that gave a surprising exit of the stage.
The show ended at 3am. It was tiring but the show was a success and made me renew my interest in OPM. It just goes to show that Valentine dates don't need to be really expensive as long as it makes you spend time with each other and learn a thing or two from your partner. Like girl empowerment. And knowing the meaning of the word "Estrogen".

-"the king"

P.S. I kid, I know what estrogen means.

all photos copyright 2012 Mari Arquiza