Archie's Weirdest Mystery
Behind the Scenes
So, exactly how did this Archie's Weirdest Mystery story work? Here's a little step-by-step description of how it was done, with an example page.
Here's the sample page. This is the finished page one of the last chapter, the epilogue of the story.
How did we get here? First, I combed through my collection of comics to find pages I wanted to use, and would fit into a story.
On a further search, I found this page which had what I wanted in terms of the foreground characters. It had three girls entering a room in cheerleading outfits. They then set up for a cheer.
So the figures were perfect. I had three characters in my story, and there were three in this page. Great! Usually, just Betty & Veronica are used in stories, so to find a third girl is a rare thing.
There are many problems, though. The girls are inside, and they're wearing "summer" uniforms. The panels I would be using in later pages were for winter uniforms. I would need to make changes after I scanned it in.
I chose this page to start the epilogue, with the idea to write a little cheerleading scene at the end. That would tie into the second chapter, where the guys and girls go into an argument about who was better at cheering.
This page was a decent fit, as it had some of what I wanted. The problem was that I wanted to to have the "girls" introduced to the crowd, so everyone would know that they were back in Riverdale, and deep into their new roles.
The crowd was perfect, except for Archie being in there, but the girls weren't anything I could use. But the rest of the original story that uses this page had many panels I could use in later pages, so I wanted to stick with it.
Try as I might, I could not find a better page for what I wanted. And in the end, all I need to keep from this page was the crowd.
I scanned it in, removed the color and did some touch-up to get what you see here.
Let's get to work. I'll remove the foreground figures that I don't need. I especially don't need Archie in there, as he doesn't exist at this point in my story.
On this page, I'll delete everything in blue. The lower two panels I'll save and use later on in my story. I'll also delete all that "snow" that's falling - It's distracting.
With the foreground figures removed, I now have to fill in the blanks. All the parts in yellow were drawn in to fill the deleted area. I also moved the stands up a little to make room for the foreground images I'll be dropping in there. Some of the crowd were also moved to fill in for blank spaces.
Off of the "indoor" page, I'll carefully select the images of the girls. I'll copy out the green part and then the red part and put them into separate files to work on.
Here are the three girls, removed from the original page. Because I will be using pages from the "outdoor" story later on, I need to retouch the uniforms into "winter" uniforms that match those "outdoor" images. I also need to re-do the heads so that they match my characters: Juggsie, Marcie and Gina.
Here's the result. I've made new heads, redrawn the uniforms, and drawn in the missing parts.
Veronica gets the Juggsie makeover, with bigger "juggs" drawn in, new hair, a bigger smile, and that weird hat thing. Betty gets ponytails and Marcie's freckles. Midge's head is shaved bald and then Gina's hair drawn in.
For the uniforms, the shorts lose the buckle, and the leg seams. New pleats are drawn in along with stripes along the hem. Voila - cheerleader skirts. The tops have the short sleeves erased and the bare midriff removed. I draw in ribbed collars & cuffs, turtlenecks and add the sleeve stripes.
Okay, now I've dropped the girls into the page. Up top, the three girls now fit in pretty naturally.
Below, I've dropped in the second gang of girls plus a bounding frame as well, to make sure everything fits on the page. The middle gap will be where I put the title.
Now, I've got to give this bottom panel a background. So I find one in some of the later panels and then expand on it a little. I'm a better illustrator than this (honest), but it's partially copied from another Archie image, so it matches the style of the comics.
The two extra girls on each side I thought were necessary to show they were part of a larger squad. Since the girl on the right (Midge) was going to be virtually erased when I re-did the head, I duplicated her and put her on the far left. It's her again on the far right, but I've re-drawn her significantly.
And now I've got to do what I did with the first panel, and re-do all the heads, and re-draw the uniforms. I also erase the words in the balloons.
So now, I have to add the "announcer" word bubble and the title. Making the title is another how-to in itself...
The page now does exactly what I want. It has our three girls being introduced as cheerleaders, and establishes them back in Riverdale at a football game.
So in the end, everything fits and everything looks reasonably correct. All that's left is to do the lettering and coloring.
With most of the basic artwork done to a draft stage, I printed out all the pages and scripted the story with a pencil.
I had already planned out the action, so now I wrote the exact wording. One might think that scripting would be the very first step in this whole process, but the nature of finding pictures first and then seeing if they could be stitched together into another plot meant I had to tackle this project backwards.
The drawings were the most essential element, so once I had the right sequence of art, then I used the writing to create a story around them.
If you look closely, you can also see in the top image is a little different from the previous example. Even the art was still in a draft stage at this point.
And back to the finished product. Using vibrant comic colors and an authentic comic-book-style font, the finishing steps are applied.
I also add the disclaimer at the bottom to cover my ass.
Some pages were tougher than this one, others were much easier. But with 52+ pages in total, that's why this project took several years to complete.
...And that's why I probably won't try it again for a good long while!