Archie Comics’s Blue Ribbon imprint of graphic novels for young readers is set to debut later this year with Betty & Veronica: The Bond of Friendship. The graphic novel is written by Jamie Lee Rotante and illustrated by Brittney Williams, and sees the titular pair considering the different possible paths that lie ahead for them in the future, and whether their friendship will be strong enough to survive should their individual paths diverge.
Rotante and Williams are no strangers to Betty & Veronica or to the young readers market, respectively. Rotante has previously written two different B&V series for Archie: Betty & Veronica: Vixens, which reimagined the BFFs as members of a teenaged biker gang; and Betty & Veronica: Senior Year, which told for the first time a story set during the pair’s final year of high school. Williams teamed with writer Hope Larson to co-create the all-ages series Goldie Vance, is also the artist on DC’s forthcoming middle grade Lois Lane graphic novel. To say that they’re a perfect match for Betty & Veronica: The Bond of Friendship seems appropriate, especially once you see the preview pages for the book that have already been released.
The Beat had the pleasure of interviewing Rotante and Williams about their work on The Bond of Friendship, how it differs from previous interpretations of the characters, and what they each think the other brings to the project to make it special.
Joe Grunenwald: Jamie, you’ve written a few different iterations of Betty & Veronica before this graphic novel. How has your understanding of and approach to the characters changed as you’ve worked on them more?
Jamie Lee Rotante: The first Betty & Veronica series I wrote (B&V: Vixens) was pretty nerve-wracking. Sure, I had read Archie (namely Betty & Veronica) comics all throughout my adolescence and I had plenty of extra experience reading them in my time at Archie as a proofreader, but actually writing them was a huge task. I mean, these are some of the most iconic characters in pop culture!
But what I found once I got into the thick of it was that it came pretty naturally to me—these weren’t characters I just knew from comics, they felt like my friends. Even though I was putting them through some experiences unlike any they had done before, it still came together pretty seamlessly.And it was that connection to them that I really wanted to explore further in Betty & Veronica: Senior Year, where I had the opportunity to explore the more realistic side of high school life for them.
This graphic novel gets to touch on those aspects while also embracing a lot more fun and dream-like scenarios, which is just super enjoyable to write. And the more I write for Betty and Veronica, the more natural it feels—their personalities are so distinct that even when they flip the script and act in ways that are outside of the norm, it still makes sense for their characters. They have clear personality traits, but they’re never, ever boring to write OR read.
Grunenwald: Your last B&V series was very specifically about the characters during their senior year of high school. Where does The Bond of Friendship fall in their school careers? Where are they in their friendship?
Rotante: There isn’t really a distinct time that The Bond of Friendship is set, but I’d say junior or senior year. They’re still exploring the world of possibilities that’s out there in the future for them, so really any timeframe works!
Grunenwald: Is there any continuity between this book and your previous B&V work? Any fun Easter eggs you snuck into the script?
Rotante: I wouldn’t say there’s really any major continuity between this and the previous series, but a few nods include Toni and Dilton’s interest in STEM fields and Betty’s volunteer work, both of which were explored in Senior Year.
Grunenwald: Brittney, you’ve worked on some longer ongoing series, but this appears to be your first graphic novel. How would you compare your process working on this to past projects? Did you find it more or less enjoyable?
Brittney Williams: Before starting on this book, I recently finished another graphic novel. In general I really enjoy drawing comics. My process is basically the same for most projects, but it’s fun to have the opportunity to draw a book from start to finish. In that sense, I love drawing graphic novels a bit more.
Grunenwald: What kind of design updates did you make to Betty & Veronica for this book? Are there things you consider to be essential parts of B&V’s looks that you absolutely couldn’t change?
Williams: I just drew them in my style haha. Generally speaking, Betty is the sweet, lovable girl next door, and Veronica is the sassy, headstrong go-getter. Those characteristics are timeless and should reflect in their acting and fashion sense. I didn’t want to change much about them. I wanted to stay as true as possible to these characters.
Grunenwald: Based on the preview for the book, Riverdale High is looking more diverse than it perhaps ever has before. What kind of things did you have in mind as you were designing B&V’s classmates? Did you have any particular favorites to draw?
Williams: I mainly just wanted to draw a world I see everyday. I like drawing background characters because anything goes and that freedom is fun.
Grunenwald: What do you each think the other has brought to this book that makes it special?
Rotante: Brittney’s art blows my mind constantly. There’s just so much life and animation in each and every panel. The style is also just so universally appealing, it’s got that familiar, cartoon look that just makes you feel good and makes you want to keep on reading. I’m so lucky that I had the chance to work with Britt on this, and I really hope we can work together more in the future.
BRITTNEY: I really love the heart Jamie brought to the book. Betty and Veronica’s relationship is very special and I enjoyed reading the script and drawing their interactions with each other.
Grunenwald: Betty & Veronica have been around for decades—what do you hope The Bond of Friendship adds to their story, and how are you approaching the characters from a fresh angle?
Rotante: I hope this opens the door for more stories that explore Betty & Veronica in scenarios we haven’t seen them in before! Getting the opportunity to really think outside the box and have them explore more action, adventure, and even a bit of sci-fi was a lot of fun. They’re so adaptable to every type of setting it really shows how the sky is the limit when it comes to these characters!
Williams: I hope this book adds another level/look into Betty and Veronica’s friendship. I’d love for readers to pick this up and feel like they’re reading a classic Archie story but with a modern twist.
Grunenwald: Is there anything else you want readers to know before they pick up Betty & Veronica: The Bond of Friendship?
Williams: Check it out, you’re gonna have a ton of fun!
Rotante: This is a story that I think will appeal to every generation of Betty and Veronica fans—those who love the classic digest content, fans of the Modern Archie universe in current comics, and fans of the Riverdale TV show. But not only that, this is a story that isn’t just about Betty and Veronica—it’s about everyone who has a dream or aspiration. It’s about the paths that others have followed to make those dreams become a reality—regardless of who you are or where you came from—and how it’s possible to do that yourself, even if the odds seem stacked against you.
The 144-page Betty & Veronica: The Bond of Friendship is due out from Archie Comics in comic shops on April 22nd, 2020. Final Order Cutoff to pre-order the book is on Monday, March 30th, 2020. The book will be available widely in early May.