4 Takes On Josie and the Pussycats #1

Josie and the PussycatsJosie and the Pussycats #1

Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Diordio (w), Audrey Mok (p)
Archie Comics
September 28, 2016

What do you think of how the band formed? Was music integrated well into the storyline?

Megan Purdy: The formation of the band didn’t seem to be given enough weight. Perhaps this is down to the pacing of the issue, but it didn’t stand out as a high point and neither did their climatic stage success later in the issue. Perhaps too, it’s due to the lack of clear mission–why is it so important that they form the band now, with these members, and for this benefit concert? I had a hard time rooting for the band because I didn’t really get, well, why I should. I love Josie and the Pussycats, be it the classic comics band or the movie version, but why should I love this version? The comic hasn’t gotten there yet. And although it opens with Josie playing folk songs in an empty bar, it didn’t give me a real sense of what kind of band Josie and the Pussycats will be. Melody complains that she doesn’t know Josie’s original songs and Valerie is shown singing in a choir, but what kind of music does Melody actually know and what do these three aesthetics sound like all together? I guess I want more music and less cats, from a comic about a fictional band.

Insha Fitzpatrick: I very much agree with Megan that the formation of the band wasn’t very satisfying and didn’t carry enough weight, mostly due to the sheer fact that it very much came out of nowhere? However, I kind of like that randomness of forming the band. That’s how some bands are formed. But this one needed a bit more of a history behind it, a bit more of what came before. Hopefully, they’ll be able to introduce more of the backstory of Melody and Josie being in a band before and some more history with Valerie. I think what this needs is some history.

I also like the introduction and integration of the music in Josie and the Pussycats. It shows that they’ll have a bit more time to evolve as a band. It seems like Josie is reeling from being in a band, to being solo, to being in a band again. It’s a fumbled transition and even more fumbled when you add a third member to a party. I want to give them more time to figure it out and to create their sound since this is issue #1. By the end of the comic, we get a taste of the sound that they’ve brought together, but still in the beginning stages. I’ll be waiting for that EP like Black Canary had. That’s when I totally know they have it all together.

Laura Harcourt: Between this issue and the recent Bombshells: Annual, I have a sneaking suspicion that what Marguerite Bennett really wants to be is a folk songwriter. Why is Josie doing acapella ballads at hipster coffee houses? Likewise, what sort of music are the Pussycats playing later? I’ve always considered them to be a rock group, but when Josie is warbling Simon & Garfunkel knockoffs at coffee houses, why would I think she’d change up her music for the trio? (Pet peeve: When Josie offers to play music that Melody and Valerie know, instead of her own original compositions,what does that mean? Covers? How do they all know these songs? As someone who has been in multiple bands in the past, that kind of vagueness makes me itch.)

Speaking of the band, I have to agree that it didn’t seem to be given enough weight. There’s no reason for me to think that these three would stay in a band together after this one competition. They’re all in it for their own motives (aside from perhaps Melody, whose motives are always elusive), and they aren’t really friends. I found their discovery of Valerie (singing the animals down from their excitement) to be trite and cheesy and wished they’d found some other way to draw her in.

I agree with Insha that this beginning gives them plenty of room to grow, but at the same time, I’m not sure we really need a Josie & the Pussycats origin story.

Ginnis Tonik: I immediately cringed at Josie’s music’s lyrics at the beginning, it immediately put a bad taste in my mouth for Josie–like she seems kind of self-righteous and obnoxious? But then the comparison to folk music and Simon & Garfunkel helped–oh, this is super earnest shit. Okay, got it, but if this were a comic just about Josie, oh man, that would suck, but maybe that’s the point? I liked how Melody was incorporated, and I loved the cheesy way Valerie was brought in, too–because animal whisperer.

But the question of whether we need an origin story in the first place is interesting. Archie Comics is trying to bring in a new audience, while still appealing to their old base–was an origin necessary for this? I am not sure. I think it might have been more in keeping with the Archie rebranding for it to begin in medias res.

As for the band’s music, I liked how Josie’s music made me cringe, but they got better when she backed off; like a lot of Bennett’s writing, it was more affective for me than effective, if that makes any sense.

What did you think of the art? Was it good? Bad? Effective?

Insha: I really loved the art. Audrey Mok is a great artist, and I can say so many good things about the character design of the girls. They feel realistic to me in so many ways and that’s what I want. The one surprise design I didn’t think I would love so much is Alexandra. She’s gorgeous in this. They have their own personal style, which is important, and Audrey really brings that out of each and every one of them. They come into each and every one of their personalities. What’s great is that you can really see each of them in their style. Josie is a bit of a free spirit, Melody isn’t afraid to show skin and be flirty, and Valerie is a little bit more conservative. I’m looking forward to them in different outfits throughout the series and mixing that in with their tails and ears. It’s different than what Adam Hughes is doing within Betty & Veronica (which should definitely have been a fashion comic) and Derek Charm with Jughead; it’s a gorgeous thing and it was wonderfully effective for me.

I also very much enjoyed Andre Szymanowicz’s colors with the combination of Audrey’s art here. They compliment each other so well. They’re super realistic and downright beautiful for what this comic is. Audrey and Andre make a great team, and I’m excited to see where they produce together within this comic.

Then there’s Melody’s literal starry-eyed reaction to seeing the animals for the first time–why not push that further? The next panel has her bouncing around the kennel in excitement, but why don’t the colours reflect that feeling?

Megan: I loved a lot about the art. I agree with you, Insha, that the designs are strong, though I think I’d like to see Mok push them even further in coming issues. Of course, I want the girls to wear lots of different (awesome) outfits, because like Betty & Veronica, Josie and the Pussycats should be a fashion comic in addition to a band comic, but I’d like them to have some signature design elements. A favourite jacket or headband that keeps coming back. That kind of thing. I think Mok has made a good start on character design telling part of the characters’ story in this issue and I want to see more of that.

But although the art was effective in that respect and in terms of telling the story, it was also rather conventional at times. I’d love to see her push things more in terms of page and panel design and even backgrounds. A good example is the scene where Josie and Melody meet Valerie. She works at a vet clinic. (As a technician? A doctor? An assistant? This is unclear.) And when Melody accidentally sets off the dogs and cats barking and meowing and generally wailing, Valerie calms them down by singing. Her voice comes out like a wispy pink ribbon. This is cool! But would be cooler is if the ribbon disrupted the very geometric page layout, leading our eyes along the page. The transition from the first to second panels is disruptive, rather than natural.

Then there’s Melody’s literal starry-eyed reaction to seeing the animals for the first time–why not push that further? The next panel has her bouncing around the kennel in excitement, but why don’t the colours reflect that feeling? Andre Symanowicz is doing Mok’s pencils no favours here or elsewhere. So many gloomy backgrounds seemed more appropriate to a thriller than a candy-coated band tale!

Ginnis: I am so glad Audrey Mok is on this, because she consistently uses fashion to convey character, which is important, even integral, to the female-led Archie comics.

To bounce off Megan’s comment, I agree on pushing things, and I hope that as the Pussycats get bigger and better venues, this will happen more. I wonder if with Black Canary and Jem out there as girl band comics, they are trying to set themselves apart from that, but I think they are doing some really cool stuff with how they incorporate the visuals of music with the static pages and panels of a comic book.

Does it work as a first issue? Were the characters introduced well? Do you have a sense of their voice? Do you want more?

Insha: I’m very much mixed on this. I loved this as a first issue for many reasons, but will leave it short and sweet. I have the smallest of complaints within the backstories and formation of the band; however, it leaves so many cool things to look forward to within the series. We finally get to have one of the best bands in Archie Comics history (The Archies are awesome too, don’t get me wrong, but Josie and the Pussycats are pretty ace) come back to life, and we get to travel along with them through the ins and outs and ups and downs of becoming this band. I loved this first issue because it’s such a brief, but exciting introduction to a world that not a lot of people know. I wish there was more, but I’m so excited to see where these girls end up.

I know this is very odd to say, but it honestly felt a bit like an old friend reading this? It was something that I didn’t expect, but it felt like the old Josie and the Pussycats comics to me

I really enjoyed the introductions of each other the characters. I know this is very odd to say, but it honestly felt a bit like an old friend reading this? It was something that I didn’t expect, but it felt like the old Josie and the Pussycats comics to me. The characters were almost the exact same way and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy to know that these characters are still awesome. I think what’s great about this comic is that you can almost get a taste of their original voice, but I have a feeling that it’s going to get stronger from this issue on. Marguerite Bennett is almost the master of ensemble voices in a comic book because of her work within DC Bombshells, but this really needs to take some time to brew and fully form because we can get what’s really going on with the girls, especially since they’re still trying to find their own personal voice and styles (Josie goes with the flow, Melody’s more free and Valerie is more conservative) within the band.

One thing that makes me so happy is Valerie being the lead singer. This is something super near and dear to me. The original theme song is Patrice Holloway as Valerie and the lead singer of Josie and the Pussycats. Some of the original comics show Val singing as well. It makes me happy to know that they carried that piece Josie and the Pussycats history into this new beginning. (Back to the review!)

I want more Josie and the Pussycats! This was my third favorite revamp of Archie Comics (Jughead and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina were first), and it made me really excited to see my favorite girls back in comic form.

Megan: I found this first issue underwhelming, but I will stick around for at least the next two issues to see where this is going. I love Archie comics, and I love Josie and the Pussycats. But this didn’t feel particularly promising as a first issue. I’m just not excited about this iteration of the band or about the comic itself. With another new Josie and the Pussycats debuting in the upcoming CW show Riverdale, this comic, which reboots the classic characters for the Waid, Zdarsky, Hughes verse, will have even more to compete with. Riverdale’s Pussycats are an all black girl band with a punk edge, but this version seems like it’s going to be a folk-soul girl band? Maybe? Like I said above, I’m not sure.

With Riverdale just around the corner, the ’90s Josie and the Pussycats movie–also a very different property than this comic–a perennial fan favourite, and the original iteration of the characters still in publication through Archie’s kids line, this comic has a lot of work to do in convincing me that its version of the characters is something special.  

Laura: I didn’t like this issue very much. I’m a huge fan of Josie and the Pussycats–and one of my all-time favorite incarnations of them was the movie–but this book just didn’t nail it for me. The two high points for me were Melody’s characterization and Valerie as lead singer, both of which I thought were, if not well executed, still true to the Pussycats I know and love.

But what the holy hell have they done to Alan M.? I yelled at my screen when I got to that panel. Josie the folk artist and Alan M. the producer just feel wrong to me.

The largest reason why this issue didn’t work for me is because I could tell how hard Bennett was trying to make it New and Different: there’s a lot of heavy lifting happening to take familiar, well-loved characters and make them shine again, but when you can see and feel the effort, it tends to look forced.

Ginnis: Yeah, like they already are fabulous, they’re Josie and the Pussycats! I got the same sort of forced New and Different feel, but what I did like was how right away each of the girls were distinguishable in personality from one another. And the “Omg, we are so mad at each other after being duped by Alexandra, but we will work it out in two panels” felt very Archie to me–it’s slice of life without too much drama, so I liked the quick resolution.

I want more, but less New and Different, quippy topical references! I think the Pussycats can stand on their own, especially with how distinct their personalities were from this first issue.

How well do the revamped version of the characters compare to the original characters (if you know them well)? Maybe even the movie? Do you think this version will coincide with Riverdale? Does it do a better job or can it improve?

Insha: It’s hard to say how they compare, but I think it does a really great job in revamping the characters into these modern times. Archie Comics have been doing a fantastic job into bringing those characters from the past and bringing them into a modern setting that many of us can relate to. It does that well within Josie and the Pussycats #1 while keeping those basic characteristics of the characters from the comics and even the cartoon. This version of Josie and the Pussycats really put me in the mind of the movie because of the mini fight they have before Josie says she’s sorry and many more moments in the comics (Melody and the kitten have my heart).

I don’t think this will coincide with the show at all. Sometimes it’s really nice when a comic and a show actually come together, but I highly doubt you can do that with this one. Riverdale’s supposed to be a bit darker and grittier than what this Josie and the Pussycats are, but at the same time I can see them pulling some of the characteristics from this comic for the Riverdale girls. I still can’t wait to see what Riverdale’s Josie and the Pussycats will come up with. However, as Megan said, this band seems to be taking on more of a folk-indie type feel that is the complete opposite of the punk image of Riverdale’s J&TP.

I think Archie Comics’ Josie and the Pussycats will do such a great job. The designs are absolutely flawless, the writing is still getting on it’s feet, but the message is sorta kinda clear on what they want to do. I’m so excited about following the journey of this band from the beginning again.

Laura: I’m hoping that the characters will relax into their voices a little more as the series progresses: right now, aside from Melody (and maybe Alexandra Cabot), they just don’t quite hit their mark. Still, I’ll follow along for at least a few more issues, and see how this freshman band goes from being in a community contest to being the rock stars we know and love.

Megan Purdy

Megan Purdy

Publisher of all this. Megan was born in Toronto. She's still there. Philosopher, space vampire, heart of a killer.