Archie Comics is celebrating their 80th anniversary this year, and they’re pulling out all the stops, with new collections of classic material, a revival of their superhero line, and one-shots celebrating the world of Riverdale. This week the publisher released Everything’s Archie, a classic-style one-shot by writer Fred Van Lente, artists Dan Parent, Bob Smith, and Glenn Whitmore, and letterer Jack Morelli.
The issue is the Archie debut for Van Lente, who has written for pretty much every other major publisher. The Beat chatted with Van Lente about working on Everything’s Archie, how COVID-19 impacted the story, and his thoughts on Archie’s place in the history of comics. Check that out, as well as the full first story from the one-shot, below.
Joe Grunenwald: How long have you been an Archie fan? What appeals to you about the characters?
Fred Van Lente: I’ve been an Archie fan from way back — way, way back. Back in the ancient days of the 1980s, my family would take trips to my grandfather’s cabin on Lake Macatawa in Michigan and in his attic there was a big box of comics to keep us occupied. My older cousins had long raided it of Marvel and DC superhero books, leaving the Archies and Harveys for the younger kids like my sister and I. We loved them! It’s a real cross-off of the Bucket List to be working on them today.
As an added bonus, when I worked for Marvel and DC, my family couldn’t care less, but now that I’m making my first sojourn to Riverdale, I’ve become a true rock star.
Grunenwald: Since this is an anniversary special, was there anything you felt it was important to include or to reflect about Archie and the residents of Riverdale in the story?
Van Lente: We definitely agreed it was important to have the Big 5 play the most prominent roles — Archie is the main focus, but Betty, Jughead, Veronica, and Reggie are all prominent, and have their mini-arcs. The book is sneaky in that it looks like it has four 5-6 page tales like the Archie line has done so well over the years, but it all adds up to one big, overarching story that makes for a really terrific read.
Grunenwald: Were there any unexpected challenges you encountered while working on this story?
Van Lente: The book was slated, originally, to come out earlier, but then this worldwide pandemic happened? Not sure you heard about it. One of the original plotlines involved Archie renting out his room on Air BNB to buy a guitar (while neglecting to tell his parents), and the feeling was that might not be an appropriate story for our COVID world, so I swapped that out for another idea I had. Frankly, it’s a credit to Archie that the project outlasted last year’s troubles and it’s coming out at all!
Grunenwald: As a historian, how do you view Archie’s place in comics history?
Van Lente: It’s huge. “Teen comics,” as a genre, were more or less invented by Bob Montana in Archie, and were one of the major staples of the 20th century industry, with lots of competitors — Patsy Walker, whom you may know from Netflix’s Jessica Jones, was a direct gender-swapped rip-off of Archie by Marvel. Simon and Kirby‘s Young Romance, which sparked the romance trend that would up being the second-most popular comics genre next to superheroes, drew out of the duo’s failed attempted at an Archie ripoff called My Date. And kudos to Archie for keeping their classics in print with collections like the Archie Americana Series trade paperbacks and so on.
Grunenwald: Do you have any more Archie stories on the horizon?
Van Lente: I have a bunch more up my sleeve, yeah. Hopefully you’ll see them soon!
Grunenwald: Betty or Veronica?
Van Lente: The classic question, isn’t it? The cliché thing is to go with Betty, right, because she’s the underdog, everywoman, more identifiable. Her biggest competition for Archie is Veronica, but then Veronica’s biggest competition for Archie is also Veronica. I like Ronnie best as a character when she is comically self-involved. So as a writer I’m going to have to say Veronica, because she’s hilarious and — arguably? — the best Archie character to write, except for maybe Jughead. But as a boyfriend, I have to go with Betty, because I’ve dated the Veronicas of the world before, and I can relate to Archie’s suffering.
The Everything’s Archie! one-shot is available in stores and digitally now.