Archie comics are now available in Hindi and Malayalam, and they sing Hindi film songs! Neeti Sarkar wonders if that desi twist will really work with these American idols

We've literally grown up with Archie comics so much so the red-haired heartthrob and his gang have come to be a part of our everyday life. The foodie in a group who manages to keep the pounds off is invariably called Jughead. In fact pizzas, burgers and ice-cream sodas have gained much popularity thanks to these youngsters from Riverdale. The publishers in keeping with the changing times, introduced Kevin Keller, the first ever gay character in the series last year and as if that change weren't enough, Archie comics have officially taken the desi route, with the launch of Hindi and Malayalam editions in India.

Jon Goldwater, Co-CEO, Archie Comics, at the launch said: “Archie comics have entertained fans for several generations. We wanted to give our fans in India something they could relate to, hence the move is to bring in some Indian flavour to the comic. It will be the same Archie, the same Veronica and Betty but with a desi twist… Fans can now expect to see Archie and Veronica dance on the popular ‘Aakhon ki gustakhiyaa' or see the gang sing some popular songs like the college classic ‘Purani jeans' and the classic oldie ‘Kankariya maar ke jagaya' among others.”

The company plans to launch 12 Archie titles in the first phase and 36 titles within the coming year. The 12 titles of the first phase will include seven on the Archie-Betty-Veronica marriage saga.

This change has received mixed reactions from Indian fans with the majority not finding it a comic relief! Sindhu Balram, a student of media studies says: “Classics must be left the way they are. Tamper with them; innovate too much, and even the existing fan base is bound to decrease. I've grown up reading Archie comics and the storyline, settings and jokes being typically American are what make these comics loved by all. Archie Comics cannot be Indianised.”

The stereotypes that exist in the series are again quintessentially American. “I really wonder what Betty would be like. Sometimes she is the clichéd dumb blonde but jokes like these will just not make sense in a vernacular language,” opines Mohan Sivaram, an advertising professional.

“I cannot imagine Archie, Betty and Veronica running around trees and dancing in the rain to Bollywood songs. Some of us detest these things in the films we watch, imagine having to see the same in a comic book. This change spells doom,” says Tanisha Fernandes, a collegian.

Yashas Mitta who works for a leading comic book company opines: “I'm a little sceptical about desi-ising such cult stuff. None of such ventures in the past have really gone down well with the Indian audience. A lot of humour is usually lost in translation, however good the translation is. But if they do manage to strike the right chord, it'll be great. Although, I'm very excited to see how the ‘desi' version will look/sound/feel, only time will tell how good it turns out.”

He adds: “Today, comics are no means to an end. They are just the beginning of creating a certain culture. It's definitely warming to see Archie come home because it shows that Indian fans are being taken seriously.”

While Archie fans have much to grapple with already, all we can ask is “next is what”? Betty and Veronica draped in transparent saris with revealing cholis, Juggie wolfing down a plate of steaming hot samosas, or Archie and his ultimate lady love doing the saath phere, perhaps?

Keywords: Archie comics