Sunday, September 04, 2016

Reader's Diary #1371- Various writers and artists: Best of Josie and the Pussycats

Josie and the Pussycats have been popping up in comics news a lot lately, first for their introduction in the Archie horror series Afterlife with Archie and then for their new series by Marguerite Bennett, in a new, revamped style similar to the rebooted and critically acclaimed Archie and Jughead series.

Of all of the characters from Riverdale, I couldn't say that I was greatly informed about this trio. Actually, if I'm being honest, before now I couldn't have told you with any confidence that they were a trio and certainly couldn't have named anyone in the group besides Josie. But, as I'm looking forward to seeing them in Afterlife and in Bennett's new take, I thought it was high time to get familiar with the band and some of their more classic comics. I've been finding that enjoyment of the newer takes, often subversive takes, depends somewhat on a familiarity with older, classic comics.

Best of Josie and the Pussycats comes introduced with an essay by Paul Castiglia, talking about their origins, significance, and impact. The origin story interested me, for sure, and I was happy that the collection editors included their first appearance comic as well as the "first appearance" comics of essential characters. As for the significance and impact, I'm somewhat skeptical. I believe Castiglia when he talks about Josie and the Pussycats as one of the first all-girl rockbands (albeit fictional) and of the importance of adding Valerie, a rare positive example of a black female in mainstream comics at the time. However, I'm still doubtful that Josie and the Pussycats was as inspirational as Castiglia implies. Like the rest of Archie comics, despite popularity, they were never a critically acclaimed comic in those days, and did Josie and the Pussycats really lead Joan Jett and the rest of the Runaways to pick up guitars? I'd say such claims are tenuous at best.

This compilation shares comics from 1969 to 1988 which is a little strange considering that it was published in 2001. I'm left wondering what happened to them in the 1990s. Did Nirvana kill them like they did hair metal bands? Still, the selections were well chosen to get a sense of the characters and the comedic styling (similar to other Archie comics, but with a few more music related stories rather than dating woes). I do, as I'd hoped, feel more equipped now to tackle the new incarnations.

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