The bubblegum-music-comic-book crossover event of the century has arrived: The Archies #4: The Archies Meet The Monkees! This is an event almost 50 years in the making: the Crisis-of-Infinite-Earths for the subset of the population who were late-Sixties tweens, fans of fictional bands, or those who desperately want to see Jughead accidentally eat a piece of Micky Dolenz’s shirt.
Of course, the Archies and Monkees have a long-and-winding history. When impresario Don Kirshner was fired from his role as music supervisor of The Monkees TV show and the band’s albums, he endeavored to create a new project that he could have complete control over, particularly after Mike, Micky, Davy, and Peter defected.
Thus, the Archies, culled from the classic Archie comic series, were born, their animated personas more under Kirshner’s thumb than any live-action actor/musicians could ever be. Kirshner even used the Archies as a vehicle for songs that the Monkees flat-out refused, like the Jeff Barry/Andy Kim-written smash “Sugar, Sugar.”
It seemed destined that the Pre-Fab Four would cross paths with the gang from Riverdale, but now that the Sixties are so long and gone, how did this whole crossover finally come to be?
According to co-writer Alex Segura, “Tim Powers, a pal and comic book writer, connected me to superstar artist Mike Allred, who know the Monkees’ ‘people,’ and once I pitched John Hughes over at Rhino on the idea, he was game and extremely helpful in putting it all together.
“It was completely painless, which helped [co-author] Matt [Rosenberg], [artist] Joe [Eisma], and me focus on making the issue as special as we could.”
Certainly, one of the most special aspects of the issue is the stellar alternate cover by the above-mentioned Allred, creator of the cult superhero Madman and avid aficionado of the Sixties-mod aesthetic.
His cover features the Monkees and the Archies playing in space on a crash course for everlasting bubblegum-music fame.
Overall, The Archies #4 births some absolutely gorgeous art featuring two of my favorite bands finally interacting, including Joe Eisma and colorist Matt Herms’ interiors in the classic-Archie style.
Allred’s aforementioned alternate cover is my personal fave; the readily available cover by Gregg Smallwood featuring the Archies playing in the iconic Monkees “Rainbow Room” is pretty dope, as is Joe Eisma’s cover featuring the Archies peering into the Monkees’ pad looking perplexed!
The comic’s plot feels as light as a first-season episode of The Monkees’ TV show. The two bands meet and attempt to foil a Davy Jones kidnapping. Unsurprisingly, Betty and Veronica are smitten. I don’t want to spoil too much here, but the plot gets into some larger meta-textual issues of what it means to be a “real” band and the role the two bands played in the greater culture of their time.
Some parts of this issue work better than others. For one, the story is bogged down by its own wealth of characters. As a fan of Micky and Peter, I don’t feel they’re given their due here.
The Archies #4 lacks the frenetic pace of the best of either The Monkees TV show or a really goofy Archie comic. The authors, however, show a lot of love for both properties that definitely shines through.
“I grew up a Beatles and Monkees kid, so I watched The Monkees TV show pretty religiously. It was a blast to be able to mine those memories and create something that adds to both the Archie and Monkees mythos,” says Segura.
And yes, this comic delivers the Monkees through a childlike and nostalgic Archified lense. “It feels natural and light [to have the Monkees interact with the Archies],” continues Segura, “which is a big driving force for the story Matt and I came up with. Once we started writing, it wasn’t hard — it was fun!”
Segura, Rosenberg, and their team seem to relish throwing in references to the period the birthed the two bands as well.
“The issue is loaded with Easter eggs and hat tips to not only the classic Monkees TV show, but even more cool stuff,” Segura says. “I think fans of comics and the band will love it.”
If you can find the Charles Manson reference (I’m not kidding), then you’re a better comics, music, and history geek than I was on first reading. [Editor’s note: I was the one who found it. Point for me!]
I’ve been highly anticipating this issue since it was announced. The Monkees and Archies take up a lot of shared space in my music brain, and I’ve often equated the two bands to each other, daydreaming to myself, “Who’s the Nesmith of the Archies? Jughead, definitely Jughead.”
Maybe because I’m such a devoted fan, not all of this issue worked as well for me as I was hoping. That being said, I’m so pleased that it exists at all.
Segura concluded our interview by saying, “I think there are some bands that just lend themselves to becoming comic book characters.” The Monkees have always definitely been one of those bands. Seeing them finally interact with the most quintessential comic book band in the world is a fantastic thrill.