By Kelly Kanayama
The “Archie Comics Forever: Celebrating 80 Years” panel opened to polite cheers — surprisingly polite, in fact, considering that the seats were almost 100 percent full. But that suited the tone of the next hour: pleasant, nothing too overwrought, and getting right down to business.
Moderator Ron Cacace, Archie Comics’ digital marketing manager, started things off by focusing on the company’s televisual content. Specifically, Riverdale Season 4, which premieres on October 9, and for which a trailer was shown promising DARK SECRETS (as though Riverdale has any other kind of secrets). Season 4 deals with Archie and company entering their senior year at Riverdale High, with all the sexy, campy drama the last year of high school entails in their bizarre universe. The first episode of the season honors the late Luke Perry, who portrayed Archie’s father Fred Andrews; Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater described it as “the best episode of television you’ll see all year.”
Next up for discussion was Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The panel revealed that Season 3 is set to finish filming in a few weeks, and promised more “epic”, “dark,” and “twisted” horror for the show’s next season.
The panel turned to the upcoming Katy Keene show, starring Pretty Little Liars’ Lucy Hale. In keeping with Katy’s general distance from Archie’s world in the comics, the show is set in New York, far from Riverdale’s DARK SECRETS. However, viewers can expect some degree of crossover, with Josie McCoy, played again by Ashleigh Murray, featuring in the show and bringing remnants of her Riverdale past to the Big Apple. We’ll also see “some iconic comic book characters coming to the screen for the first time” in Katy Keene, said Goldwater. Said characters appear to mainly come from the Josie and the Pussycats comic, including rich mean-guy/mean-girl twins Alex and Alexandra Cabot.
Overall, Katy Keene will be a more “optimistic” show than Riverdale, Goldwater said: “it’s fun, it’s light, it’s filled with music, but it’s also life in the big city, and…life in the big city can be a little challenging.”
Discussion then pivoted to a different medium: books. Specifically, the YA novels set in the universes of Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, developed in partnership with Scholastic. Their author Micol Ostow enthused about the near-limitless possibilities of writing in these universes, noting that “whatever the most arbitrary, crazy thing is you can think of, we’re doing it in the books.” This is especially the case for Riverdale, she said, but Sabrina provided unique opportunities to delve into full-on horror.
Ostow also talked about her authorship on the Riverdale graphic novels, some of which are adaptations of the show and some of which are original stories set in the Riverdale-verse. She explained that she mainly seeks to explore the storylines that the show didn’t “get a chance to do,” and teased an original Riverdale graphic novel, The Ties That Bind, that comes out in 2020.
The panel then highlighted a recently published Archie Comics art book, The Archie Art of Francesco Francavilla, which collects the Afterlife With Archie artist’s work in a sleek hardcover. The reasoning behind the book, said Goldwater, was that Afterlife With Archie “was a watershed moment for our company.” Without Francavilla, he added, “I don’t know if there would be a Riverdale,” hence this collection honoring his accomplishments.
To lighten proceedings a bit, the panel discussed several upcoming romance and YA titles set in the main Archie Comics universe. First was Sabrina the Teenage Witch, a graphic novel written by Kelly Thompson with art by Veronica Fish, set for release later this year. It will be followed by Sabrina: Something Wicked in 2020 by the same creative team.
Readers can also enjoy Archie and Sabrina, a comic (out now) where the two title characters are dating — a pairing that might raise some eyebrows, but as the panel put it, “Let’s have a little fun. You know, Archie is Archie. He gets around!” January 2020 will see the debut of Archie and Katy Keene, a romance comic that pairs Archie with the alliterative fashionista, written by Mariko Tamaki and Kevin Panetta with art by Laura Braga. “There’s going to be fashion, there’s going to be fun, there’s going to be excitement.”
The panel also touched on the rebooted Archie, written by Mark Waid, and its Varsity Editions hardcover collections, mentioning that Volume 2 is coming soon and noting that these comics inspired various storylines on Riverdale.
Speaking of Mark Waid, he and co-writer Brian Augustyn, plus artist Peter Krause, have teamed up for Archie 1941, out now. President of Archie Comics Mike Pellerito described the comic as “a sweeping World War II epic where Archie goes to war” and where Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and their fellow Riverdalians struggle with the problems of entering young adulthood during a tumultuous time in America’s history. For something less grim, there’s Archie 1955, written by Waid and Augustyn with art by Tom Grummett, which follows Archie on the road to musical stardom. The comic explores the question of what would have happened if Archie, rather than Elvis, had become the poster boy for rock ‘n’ roll.
The panel went on to do a rundown of other current titles, focusing mostly on their sci-fi and horror offerings. These included Blossoms 666, written by Cullen Bunn with art by Laura Braga, where, as Archie Comics co-president Alex Segura put it, Jason and Cheryl Blossom “are the Antichrist, and they’re competing to see who can be more Antichrist-y.” Panelists also brought up the “completely insane” Archie Vs. Predator II, written by Alex de Campi with art by Robert Hack, which is a sequel to the 2015 Archie Vs. Predator.
After a quick nod to Red Sonja & Vampirella Meet Betty And Veronica, the panel talked about the Vampironica books, namely the currently-running Jughead: The Hunger Vs. Vampironica and the upcoming Vampironica: New Blood, out 2019. Frank Tieri, who writes both Vampironica titles, highlighted the introduction of “an Archie multiverse” in Jughead: The Hunger Vs. Vampironica.
“Not only do all the Archie horror titles interact here,” he said, “we see now that they’re part of a bigger Archie multiverse, with the Little Archies, with Hangman, with Josie & the Pussycats in outer space.” Vampironica: New Blood spins off from these events, centering on how Vampironica deals with her newfound knowledge of the multiverse and some dark family secrets. (Oops, I mean DARK SECRETS.)
Moving toward more realistic fiction, the panel then looked at Betty & Veronica: Senior Year, which came out last month. Author Jamie L. Rotante described the graphic novel as “dealing with relationships, dealing with friendships, dealing with college applications…it’s Betty and Veronica right in the middle of it…and in the end, like always, it’s a story about friendship.” The story, she said, was informed by a desire to create a comic that spoke to real high school experiences, where “if you’re in high school, you can read this and feel, ‘Wow, somebody gets it’.”
Rotante also talked about her forthcoming graphic novel, Betty & Veronica: The Bond of Friendship, which is scheduled for an April/May 2020 release. The book focuses on Betty and Veronica at Riverdale High’s Career Day, wondering what they’ll be when they grow up, with each chapter exploring one of their possible futures. The Bond of Friendship is aimed at a younger audience than Senior Year; when writing the story, Rotante said, she wanted to create a book that “the 12-year-old me” would love.
For even younger readers, Archie Comics has partnered with Little Bee Books for a line of all-ages graphic novels. The first installment will be The Riverdale Diaries: Hello Betty, written by Sarah Kuhn with art by J. Bone. It’s scheduled for a 2020 release.
The panel also announced Archie Meets The B-52s, written by Alex Segura and Matt Rosenberg with art by Archie Comics veteran Dan Parent, which comes out in 2020. The comic follows in the grand tradition of Archie’s musical crossovers with real-life bands, such as Archie Meets Kiss and Archie Meets The Ramones. After stating that the B-52s are “an iconic band,” Parent admitted that he had “a vested interest” in this particular crossover “because I’m such a huge B-52s fan,” and added that the combination of the band who made “Love Shack” and Riverdale’s clean-cut teens “just makes sense in a weird way.”
Next up was the currently-running Archie: The Married Life: 10th Anniversary, written by Michael Uslan with art by Parent, J. Bone, and Glenn Whitmore. As the title suggests, the comic focuses on two possible futures, one where Archie marries Veronica and another where he marries Betty. The panelists teased some interesting developments in the comic, including Mr. Lodge’s death in the Archie/Veronica storyline, Dilton becoming “quite a character” over the years, and “get[ting] a little political, because we know politics can be crazy.”
The panel then plugged Jughead’s Time Police written by Sina Grace with art by Derek Charm, which resurrects the older series of the same name. Rotante described it as a sci-fi “romp” featuring “every possible Jughead, in every situation you could imagine, all coming together.” Readers in the know, she added, will enjoy the comic’s “many nods to the past,” but won’t be “bogged down by continuity.”
For those wanting lighter science fiction fare, there’s Cosmo the Mighty Martian, debuting in November. Written by Ian Flynn and drawn by Tracy Yardley, Cosmo the Mighty Martian takes a 1950s character from the Archie Comics vaults and relaunches him for a new audience in an all-ages adventure.
Following this, Cacace played a short video compilation — which had almost nothing to do with anything that had gone before, but which gave the audience a much-needed chance to relax and have a good laugh. The video celebrated news coverage of the official Archie Comics Twitter account’s response to Prince Harry‘s and Meghan Markle’s baby being named Archie: a tweet that simply read, “i’m baby”. (Cacace runs the company’s Twitter.) TV stations across America picked up on it, often reacting with surprise and confusion, with the best of those reactions cut together for the panel’s audience to enjoy.
Goldwater concluded the main portion of the panel with a shoutout to Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick, who has been with the company for an impressive 61 years, before Cacace moved proceedings along to what turned out to be a very short Q&A. Perhaps its brevity was due to the noncommittal answers that the panelists gave; it’s hard to do much with “We have no plans to do [X], but you never know.”
That was a shame, because audience members did put forth some good questions. One person asked whether the company’s future offerings would ever revisit the world of the often-reviled 1980s cartoon the New Archies. While the panelists promised that more characters from more universes would be cropping up, they said there were no specific plans to go back to the New Archies specifically.
Another audience member wanted to know if there had ever been any ideas deemed “too crazy” for Riverdale or The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. “NEVER,” was the emphatic answer.
Other audience members asked whether they would be producing more animated work in the vein of Archie’s Weird Mysteries — to which the panel said it was possible, but no specific projects were announced — and when we would see a horror-ified Betty. “What should Betty be? We’re open to ideas!” was one answer, supplemented by, “She’s always gotta be on the good side of things.”
Any plans for an Archie or Archie-verse movie? Not at the moment, said Goldwater. Their focus right now is on Riverdale, “hopefully…for a few years,” and then “we’ll see where we go from there.”
One fan wondered if, with all the different Archie Comics universes colliding on screen and on the page, we would someday see a Crisis on Infinite Archies. The panel acknowledged it as a great idea but, again, stated that there were no specific plans to do so. It made sense, really; judging by everything they’d talked about, “crisis” is not a word you’d associate with today’s Archie Comics. In fact, they seem to be doing pretty darn well.