So far, Afterlife with Archie has done a more than capable job of showing how Riverdale has been impacted by the zombie apocalypse. Yet there has been one lingering question: What exactly are Josie and the Pussycats up to as the world crumbles. With apologies to second stringers like Bingo Wilkin and Clyde Didit, the Pussycats were the only noteworthy characters from the Archieverse who have yet to appear in the pages of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s horror epic. With today’s release of the tenth issue, all of that has irrevocably changed forever — and the book may have just taken an unexpected (and monumental) shift in the process.
The fifth chapter of the “Betty R.I.P.” story arc, “Interview/Interlude with the Pussycats” has Josie McCoy sitting down with a journalist for a no holds barred discussion about all aspects of her notoriously secretive band’s history. As you probably guessed from the bat-laden cover, it turns out that Josie is actually a vampire.
Born in 1906 and raised in an orphanage run by the cruel Alexandra Cabot, Josie soon fell in with fellow orphans Melody, Valerie, and Pepper. United by their shared love of music, they forced by their caretaker’s lover to become a musical act. Several tours follow, during which time the core trio of Josie, Valerie and Melody bonded while Pepper fell to the wayside after becoming pregnant by their seedy “manager.” Success led them to New York City, where the group met charming millionaire Henry Irving (who, none so coincidentally I’m sure, shares a name with the real-life inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula). Irving soon glamours Josie, transforming her into a vampire before disappearing. After her friends find her covered in the blood the next morning, Josie shares her new “gift” with them. Together they embark on a decades-spanning career as musical chameleons who adapt to the taste and style of the time, all the while trying to keep track of Irving as he continues to wreak havoc along the way. It is soon revealed that the reporter is known for writing negative pieces, and the girls — in an act of revenge that will make journalist-hating rockers everywhere cheer — set up the interview specifically to feed on him. The issue ends with the band landing in Riverdale, discovering the destruction that has occurred, and assuming that somehow Irving is to blame.
More than just a riff on Interview with a Vampire that allows writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrator Francesco Francavilla — whose work here is a blood-stained joy — further indulge their love of horror lore, this detour from the main story thrusts Josie and company into the action while also establishing Henry Irving as a possible new big-bad for the comic. (A bold move given how Cthulhu is already a supporting character here).
Also of note is the slight shift that this issue takes to set its events as occurring in the real world. Up to this point, Afterlife with Archie has always taken place in a stylized version of our reality. However this issue’s compelling sequences featuring the Klu Klux Klan and a jarring reference to Charles Manson and the Tate/Labianca murders cement that the events depicted within are definitely happening on the same timeline as our history. A little point, but one that suddenly opens the door for Archie characters to be placed within a historical framework as the book progresses. Which is absolutely compelling.
A small complaint: While discussing the various musical guises that Josie has taken over the years, Aguirre-Sacasa has them working as Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child-style acts in the ’90s in 2000s, before adopting their current look as The Pussycats. This comes after Josie makes a comment about how simple it was to switch the band’s image in the pre-Internet days. Unfortunately, given that Internet was greatly accessible to most from the mid-’90s on, the logic behind the group’s look swapping begins to fall apart. It makes for a great joke about the disposability of pop music but it also undermines the otherwise solid weight of the story–and marks the first misstep of the comic so far.
It will be interesting to see how Josie and the Pussycats are incorporated with the main storyline from herein. Will they be friends or foe to Archie and his surviving pals and gals, what with their vampire nature and all? We have to wait to find out and, yes, that really bites.
If Chris Cummins could go back in time, he would want to meet Snoopy. Follow him on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.