Move over Gorillaz: comic book icons the Archies and Josie & The Pussycats are set to become real-life bands, thanks to a nationwide talent search set to launch in the U.S. There are already plans

Move over Gorillaz: comic book icons the Archies and Josie & The Pussycats are set to become real-life bands, thanks to a nationwide talent search set to launch in the U.S. There are already plans for albums, merchandising, commercial tie-ins, and theatrical and direct-to-video releases, as well as a television special and series.

The concept comes from a deal between Archie Entertainment Co., Lou Pearlman -- known for his success with such teen icons as 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys, and LFO, as well as ABC and MTV's "Making the Band" series, which spawned O-Town -- and former BMG Entertainment CEO Strauss Zelnick's company ZelnickMedia.

"With the way the world has changed, I think it's a great time to relaunch the Archies," Zelnick says. "Pop music has skewed younger in the last year. Music that appealed to an 18-year-old three years ago appeals to a 12-year-old today. So why not play right into that and create branded music that is specifically aimed at kids that are 8-13 that's for them and based on a brand that they know and love?"

Under the terms of the deal, all content surrounding the comic book characters is subject to approval by Archie Entertainment to "preserve the wholesome tradition" of the personalities first introduced in the 1940s.

"We are very excited to see our characters, who have lived in the imaginations of generations of readers, come to life as members of singing groups that, with Lou's help, are sure to be loved by kids, young and old, just like the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync," Archie Entertainment co-chairman Michael Silberkleit says.

A distribution deal for the forthcoming albums has yet to be put in place. The Josie & The Pussycats venture has no connection to last year's MCA/Universal live action theatrical release. That tongue-in-cheek comedy, which starred Rachel Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson as a pop-punk version of group, spawned a soundtrack that peaked last April at No. 16 on The Billboard 200.