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Archie & Friends #129

Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009
By: Penny Kenny

Alex Simmons
Fernando Ruiz, Al Nickerson (i), Phil Felix (l), Glenn Whitmore (c)
Archie Comics
“Delinquent Doodles: The Cartoon Life of Chuck Clayton" (part 4)

When a boy in his comics’ workshop is caught spray painting public property, Chuck tries to figure out why he did it.

Writer Alex Simmons and the art team of Fernando Ruiz, Al Nickerson, Phil Felix, and Glenn Whitmore had me from the first page of “Delinquent Doodles.” A dark alley. A kid caught in the act of wrong doing. His desperate attempt to escape. His capture. And his name, Michael DiAngelo. What better name could you have for a budding artist than Mikey DiAngelo – Michelangelo? And the story just gets better from there.

Simmons seamlessly weaves together Chuck’s search for the reason behind Mikey’s actions, his class’s efforts to get their comics finished, and Nancy and Raj’s attempts to do a public service video. The finale brings everything together and makes a positive statement about comics, arts, and community without being schmaltzy or syrupy.

One of the joys of this issue is the characterization. Simmons nails the established personalities of these people. Even when a character only makes a cameo--as Jughead, Ethel, and Veronica do--their dialog and actions are spot on. In the panels in which they appear, Chuck’s students come across as unique, talented, and bright individuals with quirks and preferences of their own. You could see them spinning off into their own series. My one complaint with their characterization is that two girls go “Ugh!” when Chuck mentions math. That’s a Barbie “I hate math” moment I could have done without.

Simmons has also done what very few Archie writers have succeeded at--made Nancy someone you could see Chuck dating. She’s supportive of his comics’ work and teaching, but she also has her own interests that keep her busy. She’s not just Chuck’s girlfriend. She’s an individual. Hopefully we’ll see more of that in future stories that feature the character.

There are so many scenes to enjoy this issue: Chuck indignantly explaining he had “action figures” not “dolls”; the aforementioned opening scene; the students’ creative explanation of why Mikey’s late; Raj and Moose setting up a film shot; and Mrs. DiAngelo not letting Mikey explain his actions. The latter is a comedic convention--telling someone to talk, then not giving them a chance to--but in Simmons’ hands it comes out funny and believable. And through this all, he includes tidbits on how to draw.

Ruiz and Nickerson do a fabulous job depicting the different drawing styles necessary for the story. It’s not as easy as it would seem at first glance. They have to make each student’s art individualized; make Chuck’s designs look more polished as befits a more practiced artist; and make those styles look different from the character design. Even Raj’s fantasy scene looks different – having something of an angular Batman: the animated adventures appearance to it. This issue is really a showcase for how versatile these two artists are.

I am curious though: is it Simmons or Ruiz who’s the Cosmo the Merry Martian fan? The old Archie Comics character has made several background appearances over the course of this storyline. Here he shows up as a stuffed doll and a mascot. Perhaps there’s a revival in Cosmo’s future?

Glenn Whitmore’s coloring is, as always, beautiful. His use of yellow as both shadow and highlight creates contrast and adds depth to the panel. There’s also an absolutely gorgeous panel showing the cast in silhouette against a red, orange, and yellow sky. It practically leaps off the page.

“The Cartoon Life of Chuck Clayton” has been an enjoyable storyline. It’s sad that it’s ending. However, Simmons and company give it a terrific send-off.



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