Thanks to Mark Arnold for alerting us to Ape Entertainment's announcement of plans to publish a comics title starring what the independent company terms a "reimagined" version of Richie Rich. Or perhaps Ape's mixing up its buzzwords a bit; one of the press releases that I saw online described the planned version of Richie as "a new incarnation imaged (sic) for modern audiences." Actually, Ape may be splitting semantic hairs over nothing. Despite the anime-flavored look of the redesigned characters -- a makeover not unlike those given to Casper, Wendy, and Hot Stuff in Ardden Entertainment's CASPER AND THE SPECTRALS title -- the much-trumpeted thematic changes to the character and his world do not represent a drastic departure from what has gone before. Provided that you are aware of what has gone before, of course.
Here's a portion of Ape's press release about the retrofitted Richie:
Part James Bond, Jr., and part Indiana Jones with Donald Trump's bank account, Richie Rich is an altruistic adventurer who travels the world helping the less fortunate. With his close-knit team of friends, including an updated iRona (sic) and a butt-kicking Cadbury, Richie is a hero for a new generation, acting as the voice for the underprivileged while putting his wallet and exceptional character to good use, spending some, but helping many.
Er... "spending some" of his character? Money? Wallet collection? Proofreaders to the front of the store! But I digress. Aside from the overtly "socially conscious" tone suggested here -- which could be effective if handled correctly, but, especially in the wake of the financial crisis and recession, could just be an excuse for crude capitalist-bashing of one sort or another -- the notion of Richie as a globe-trotting adventurer is certainly nothing new. Thanks to my long-running RICHVILLE RUMINATIONS column in THE HARVEYVILLE FUN TIMES!, I suppose that I have written more about Richie for public consumption than just about anyone in existence. My first series of RUMINATIONS columns for THFT!, back in the early- to mid-90s, covered the many, many ways in which Richie led an adventurous existence in the Harvey Comics of the 60s, 70s, and early 80s. The sight of the (bulked-up) Cadbury packing heat on the cover of Ape's first RICHIE release doesn't faze me; Richie himself was known to handle firearms to good effect on many different occasions. As for faceless minions ganging up on Richie's gang, we have seen that too, thanks to such "classic" adversaries as The Condor and Dr. N-R-Gee. Those baddies don't really qualify as "hip," "cool," or "cutting-edge," though, which is probably not going to be an issue here (despite the reported contributions of old Harvey hands Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon to an early Ape issue). The question is, will political correctness trump the simple desire to tell a good, rousing adventure tale?
The appearances of the characters aside, the cast also reflects treatments seen in past RICHIE stories. Cadbury was always a remarkable athlete and "Renaissance man" -- heck, Dos Equis' spokesman could have taken a few lessons from the Riches' butler -- so the acquisition of a lantern jaw and a few more layers of muscle (along with, strangely, a pair of Mickey Mouse-style gloves?) won't be too much of a stretch to imagine. I gather than iRona (I hope that that name doesn't get Ape in copyright trouble) is simply a sleeker version of the Riches' robot maid, with up-to-date computer technology added to augment her already superhuman strength (and, if the Hanna-Barbera cartoon version of RICHIE RICH is to be believed, Transformers-style body-modification abilities that predated the original TV version of Transformers itself). iRona bears a certain unsettling resemblance to the tit(t)ular star of a Phil Foglio XXXENOPHILE story, "I Swing the Body Electric," but I am confident that Ape won't go THAT far in the course of its "reimagining" activities. Richie's girlfriend Gloria's role isn't described above, but "tomboyish ass-kicker" is a pretty good guess as to her personality -- and, wouldn't you know, even that idea has some precedent (cf. the Gloria of the live-action Richie Rich movie from 1994 starring Macaulay Culkin). As for Dollar the dog, well, as long as Ape can stay an arm's length (or ten) away from the Frank Welker-voiced "comic relief" character of H-B days... To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, sometimes a dog should just be a dog.
The previous observations should serve to convince you that Ape's new version of the RICHIE RICH "universe" is built on a sturdier foundation that you might guess. What is yet to be determined is the attitude that the creators, and particularly the writers, will take. A lot of comics fans have admitted to disliking the Harvey Comics version of Richie because of the (mistaken) perception that the flaunting and/or abuse of vast wealth was all that Richie brought to the table. In its zeal to attract a "new generation," will Ape go too far in the other direction and turn Richie into a smug, preachy character who pays obeisance to all the appropriate secular "gods"? (Dr. N-R-Gee and The Iceman in a global warming story, anyone?) I really do hope that Ape does this project right. Richie is too enjoyable a character to simply be left on the "diamond heap" of comics history.