interview pour gridlords

American pop culture in Quebec : Archie in “la belle province”.

Sophie: One of the things I’ve found strange and unexpected as an American coming to Quebec is the almost constant presence of Archie comics — on the subway, in libraries, at friends’ apartments… can you talk a little about that? Why do you think that is?

Alex :
I guess it’s true that they’re pretty big in Quebec. But, you know, Archie comics are actually quite fascinating. You could almost say they function as middle-class America’s sociopolitical barometer. I mean, if something ends up in an Archie comic you can pretty much consider that it has been widely accepted as a “normal” element of mainstream culture. So the History that is being written in Archie comics is basically the History of mainstream America itself — and, secretly, of its interaction with the cultural undercurrents it ends up having to deal with.

Frank :
(Nods in agreement)

Sophie: Right right. So your book Pinkerton has a lot to do with cultural undercurrents, with cultural impact… particularly when it comes to music, and with romance. Did you take any inspiration from Archie for that? You’re sort of focusing on indie rock, but if I’m not mistaken, Archie, even in all it’s square-ness, has dealt with the cultural impact of a variety of musical sub-genres.

Alex : Well… Archie itself has been and remains a mainstay of American pop culture… and while it isn’t a direct influence on our style, that fascination with the effect of pop culture on everyday life is one of the main themes from Pinkerton.

It’s interesting that you mention music and Archie. There actually was a spotlight on the influence of the psychedelic rock scene in the Archie comics from the early seventies, in the latest issue of this amazing zine called Galactic Zoo Dossier, which is run by Chicago’s fine psych connoisseur Steve “Plastic Crimewave” Krakow… So sure, the Riverdale gang is pretty square, but it can try to be hip from time to time. And it’s very telling that they recently felt the need to introduce a gay character in the series, which may sound like a pretty politically correct move but in truth shows not only how important that issue has become in recent years — but also proves how widely accepted it really has become. Because, really, if it’s in an Archie comic… it’s wholesome and all-American, right?

Frank :
Right?

Sophie:
Definitely wholesome and all-American — but I think that Archie has this often overlooked almost Nancy-esque absurdity. There’s a lot of dada in Archie, a lot of play, I think they’re really experimenting with the medium in a big way, but it’s sort of hidden if you’re not paying attention.

Alex :
Right. And the whole aesthetics of it are so generic as to be quite fascinating, in their own way. Archie comics are almost meta-comics, in that they function as the “zero degree” of visual narrative composition. Just straight-ahead efficiency, no bullshit.

Frank : No bullshit.

Sophie:
I can really see the Archie influence in Pinkerton, but sometimes I feel like it’s a little bit hidden in the work of your peers in Montreal. Do you think they’re affected by its huge presence, or are they ignoring it?

Alex :
I know for a fact we’re not the only Archie fans making comics in Quebec right now. Vincent Giard, he’s all about Archie… his stuff is like Archie (Schwartz’s) meets Moebius meets Gaudi… L’ostie d’chat by Iris and Zviane is just straight-ahead Archie drama infused with both authors’ personal sensibilities… and Pascal Girard, he’s just Archie comics with some Larry David thrown in for good measure. Jimmy Beaulieu is into both Betty AND Veronica, obviously. Everyone from the Bob zine in Quebec City definitely digs Archie. And then there Cathon’s stuff, of course. I think the only one who isn’t influenced by Archie is David Turgeon, who’s style is clearly inspired by French literature, stuff published by Editions de Minuit from the sixties onward… and Julie Delporte, but she was actually born in France so that might account for that.

Frank :
Yeah. Probably.

Sophie: So there’s generally not very much criticism of Archie in the scene?

Frank : Obom actually made a little comic called À chier, which Colosse recently reissued… that’s just old school Archie comics, but with these weird funky faces and different lyrics…

Alex :
Lyrics? Don’t you mean dialogues?

Frank : Well… Archie is just music to me.