With Further Ado #99: Jetta, Jeff and the Entrepreneurial Project that Turned Into An Artists’ Party

It’s hard to believe that in 2020, the concept of “Archie” can mean so many different things to so many different people. To me, the first image I conjure up of Archie is that classic, squeaky clean strip about teenagers.  I read about a thousand classic Archie Comics in the orthodontist’s waiting room and a big box of Archie comics way when, and then my aunt Elissa bequeathed another big box of Archie comics to me too.

But today, it’s more likely that the images of Archie and his “pals & gals” from CW’s Riverdale are what comes to mind for many younger fans. Comic readers might think of the horrific Vampironica, or the Netflix’s Sabrina, or the new Katy Keene TV version of the characters.  (I can’t believe that the obscure character, Pepper is on TV!)  These different incarnations are all legitimate and all engaging.

Kudos to folks masterminding the Archie brand – for their creativity, flexibility and vision.

But it turns out that even the “classic” version of Archie – the house style established in many ways by Dan DeCarlo – was co-opted.  Before Dan DeCarlo started his long and impressive career at Archie Comics (MLJ), he worked on a title called Jetta Raye, the delightful teenage sweetheart of the future.  And back in 1952, that meant the 21st century.

In the 50s Jetta comic series, published by Standard/Nedor/Pines, teenager Jetta Raye went (would go to? syntax for future stories is tricky)  to Neutron High School in the year 2052.  That doesn’t seem that far off now, does it? She had a boyfriend named Arky (gulp!) and stumbled into zany adventures. To a reader today, it would seem to be a delightful mash-up of the Jetson’s and classic Archie. But the incredible part is that Jetta  pre-dated both of them!

More Jetta Raye Is On The Way

The good news is that there’s new Jetta Raye on the way. I caught up with the very creative Jeff Schultz and he told me all about it.

Schultz started at Archie in 1995, but not on the traditional comics. He was first assigned to the Archie Digests.  These small magazines had established a foothold in grocery store checkout racks, and they were solid sellers.  Those of us focused on comic shop sales in the 1990s tend to forget how broad their reach was.

Soon Schultz was assigned as artist on the Veronica solo title. “Those stories didn’t have a lot of action,” recalls Schultz. “Even with Betty and Veronica – there was a lot of walking.”

I got to know Schultz professionally at the fabled Archie Holiday parties, but I knew his work well. My daughters were captivated by Archie Comics for years, and we were able to spot and appreciate his loose, comedic style.

But now Jeff is involved with this Jetta Raye reboot. His involvement actually started years ago. In the 1990s, Rich Maurizio, and his girlfriend, ran an animated arts studio. They needed help and contacted Schultz.  After the pair broke up, the studio went kaput, but every now and again Schultz would hear from Maurizio, who kept asking if Schultz would like to work on Jetta.   “We planned it. We started it…but it never got going,” recalled Schultz.

After a while, Jimmy Tournas, a longtime friend from the professional circuit, liked the characters and was eager to take over the Jetta project.  “He turned out to be the main guy,” said. Schultz.

Like many entrepreneurs, Jimmy Tournas wears many hats. “I am publisher, senior editor, layout guy, writer, producer and inker,” explained Tournas.  “We are small, and so I have Jeff as my guiding light on this project.  I trust his common sense and judgement on a lot of things.  He is dependable, and a great asset.”

Tournas is very excited to launch this project with an IndieGoGo campaign. He’s bringing in the heavy hitters too. “Joe Sinnott is a very close friend, and so we have a cover inked by him …and maybe some other things in book two if we have a good campaign.”

They’ve worked hard to make this as much fun as possible.  The new idea was to have different looks on the Jetta book.  “My son loved the Spongebob comic, and it had different artists. So we had to come up with [a list of] artists.”  Schulz and Tournas thought, let’s try to get the Kennedy Brothers. “We got ‘em. They did a great job. The image of the red car. That was them.”

“We have a Star Trek parody by the Kennedy Brothers,” explained Tournas.

 And now it’s turned into a bit of an artist’s party.  More luminaries included in this project include:

  • Al Milgrom – His Marvel-esque parody of the Fantastic Four makes for fun adventures in the 22nd 1/2 Century/
  • Joe Sinnott – He lent his brilliant brushstrokes to the cover that Schultz drew.
  • Ken Wheaton – He created a Simpsons parody. This talented artist is a regular on the convention scene and has worked on many projects, including Popeye and The Simpsons.
  • Other contributors include:
    • Bill Walko
    • Matthew Manning
    • Craig Boldman
    • Paul Kupperberg
    • Chris Yambar
    • Angelo DeCesare
    • Mark Sinnott
    • …and of course, Rich Maurizio

It’s easy to take a quick look at Jetta and conclude that everything about Jetta is derivative. One might think this comic borrowed elements from the Jetsons, but of course it pre-dated that Hanna-Barbera Show. The Jetta characters have Archie doppelgangers, but it goes even further. For example, Schultz explained that the supporting character Hilaria is based on Barbara Hale, who played Della Street in the long-running 1950s TV legal drama,  Perry Mason. But like the ingredients of a delicious dish, it’s so much more.

At the end of the day, it’s a simple proposition. It’s not really about Archie, or comics history or the backstory of launching an entrepreneurial project. “The book is funny and the stories are funny,” said Schultz. “That’s all you need to know.”

Fans can contribute to the IndieGoGo here.   The full list of creators is on JettaRaye.com and look for Jetta Raye Adventures on Facebook.

Al Milgrom art from the new book provided exclusively to Pop Culture Squad