Friday, February 21, 2014

Archie Characters Go the Book Route With 'Girl Next Door'

by Brian Truitt)

"Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty," out July 16 from Archie Comics.

Riverdale's most famous blonde is crossing over from comics to the book world.

Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty, out July 16 from Archie Comics, is the company's answer to the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise. Archie's new series of young-adult novels with pictures begins with its first book starring Betty Cooper, that plucky girl who's been in a love triangle with Archie Andrews and Veronica Lodge since the 1940s.

Featuring art by Bill Galvan, Bob Smith and Jack Morelli, the contemporary cartoon diary chronicles Betty's first year of high school, her extracurriculars (BMX biking, dog training, peer meditation) and her strained relationship with her rich and snobby BFF Veronica.

Author Tania del Rio says she's filling the book with humorous entries focusing on all the drama of being a teen: "Academic pressure, the highs and lows of unrequited crushes, 'frenemies' and trying to balance growing up with keeping childlike interests."

She's surprised by how much she related to Betty when working on the project — del Rio was an avid journal keeper herself when she was a teenager.

"Looking back on my old diary entries, I see how often I made mountains out of molehills," she says. "I tried to bring some of this spirit to Betty, and had so much fun writing about her high school experiences with her voice."

Betty has had more than 70 years of stories on the comic-book page, and with her take del Rio wants to show a fresh new side to the character fans know. But she also introduces Betty to new readers "as a lovably flawed, relatable freshman girl who manages to get herself into a host of ridiculous situations," the author says.

"She sometimes takes herself a little too seriously, but it's her brilliant imagination and tenacity that helps her deal with all the craziness in her life, and that's what I love best about her character."