Back in December, Archie Comics announced perhaps its boldest move yet in a series of recent bold moves: A new “Archie” #1, relaunching its more than 70-plus year flagship series in July with a fresh continuity, a new look and a high-profile creative team of writer Mark Waid and artist Fiona Staples. At the time, Archie Comics Publisher and CEO Jon Goldwater made it clear that the reinvention wouldn’t stop with “Archie,” telling CBR, “I see it as something that will happen down the line with all our core titles, without a doubt.”
It looks like “down the line” may be closer than fans expected. Archie Comics has launched a Kickstarter to fund three new series in the spirit of the Waid/Staples “Archie” relaunch: “Jughead,” written by “Sex Criminals artist and “Howard the Duck” writer Chip Zdarsky (artist not yet named); “Betty and Veronica” written and illustrated by superstar artist Adam Hughes; and “Life with Kevin,” a series starring the company’s first openly gay character Kevin Keller, written and drawn by his creator, Archie veteran Dan Parent, and inked by J. Bone.
The Kickstarter launched with a $350,000 goal and incentives including original art, a Kickstarter-exclusive “Archie” #1 variant cover edition by Staples and the chance to be drawn as a zombie in the publisher’s hit horror series “Afterlife with Archie.” CBR News spoke with Goldwater about why Archie went the Kickstarter route to launch these new books and what the plan is in case the goal isn’t met, plus hints of what fans can expect from the proposed series.
CBR News: Jon, the first question people are likely curious about: Why Kickstarter? Certainly there have been other major publishers to utilize the platform, but it’s still a surprise to see this move from Archie.
Jon Goldwater: We came to Kickstarter because we didn’t want to wait a few years to expand on the world writer Mark Waid and Fiona Staples were building with “Archie” #1 — we wanted it all faster, so our fans could really experience the scope and breadth of this New Riverdale.
Let’s be honest: We’re not a corporate appendage, nor are we flush with corporate cash like Marvel or DC. We’re a small operation and we have to be thoughtful and selective with everything we do. But that doesn’t mean we have to be cautious and afraid. Quite the opposite. I think the only way to get noticed in this crowded marketplace is to take calculated risks, be daring, push the envelope and — first and foremost — tell good stories. The rest is just dressing if the story doesn’t deliver. Once we knew “Archie” #1 would deliver in spades, we started brainstorming how we’d expand the line and give other talents the chance to tell stories with these characters. The lineup of talent and books blew us all away. Once the creators themselves said they were in, we were in an enviable problem: we had these books we wanted to fast-track, but we also had our own financial considerations to think about. As a company, we’re always expanding and trying new things. We’ve just launched in Wal-Mart and Target. We’re one of the first companies to embrace digital and same-day with print. We don’t just sit around. But none of that is free.
So it became a question of, do we want to play the long game and roll these out as we can, or do we want to go all in because we believe in these books? I don’t think the answer we chose is a surprise. Who better to help us build this New Riverdale than our own fans? What better endorsement can these books get than direct support from the people that will read and love these books? We would be nothing without our fans and it just made sense to have them with us from day one as we build this together.
Archie certainly has a lot of supporters, but $350,000 is a lofty goal for anyone — what’s the plan if the Kickstarter does not get funded? Well these books still happen?
Some might see it as lofty. It’s a realistic number to us, taking everything into account. We want to make these books top quality in terms of not only production but the talent and time involved in creating them.
I’m not a “glass half empty” thinker — we’re moving forward with this in the hopes of getting funded. If we don’t, we’ll assess where we are. But our focus now is to join forces with our fans to create a New Riverdale. With their help we can make this a reality. I have faith in Archie fandom. They haven’t let us down in 75 years.
This is, of course, further bold moves following the new “Archie” #1. Will the three new titles be set in the same continuity as the new “Archie”? Will the books have a level of interconnectedness?
I’m hesitant to get too technical about how these books co-exist, but yes, they’re all in the same universe. Chip will see what Mark is doing and Adam will see what Chip is doing. Kevin’s book is really on its own, as it happens a little later, but Dan will be in the loop in terms of Kevin in the other books. But I don’t expect a line-wide crossover or direct overlap beyond tonal stuff, or hat tips to what’s happening in the other books. “Archie” #1 is about Archie, but it’s also about the entire gang, so it’s very much a team book. The other titles, like “Jughead” and “Betty and Veronica,” will tell you their “solo” adventures and what happens between the issues of the main series.
Let’s talk about the individual teams and lineups — Chip Zdarsky and Jughead is certainly an intriguing combination. Zdarsky is just starting to build a name as a mainstream comics writer with “Howard the Duck” — what made him Archie’s choice for “Jughead”?
I don’t know how else to say it, but Chip is Jughead. His humor, his vibe. He’s just got it. He’s a really funny, sweet and engaging writer and we love his work. I think he’s got the perfect sensibility for the character and I hope he’s around for a good, long while. I can’t think of anyone else that could not only bring Jughead into the present, but also harken back to the best Jughead moments. We lucked out.
Of course, Adam Hughes has a major track record, and has even done some Archie covers recently, but it’s rare to see him on single-issue comics. What can you share about what he’s bringing to “Betty and Veronica,” and what it means to have an artist of his caliber on the book? Is this planned as a long-term run?
Adam’s on the book as long as he wants to be, and he’ll be doing interiors for the first arc and probably alternating with someone else as we get further into the run. But yes, the idea is for him to be around for a while. Adam has a ton of stories planned and is having a great time with these characters. He’s going to really showcase them as friends and the challenges they face together. Sure, they compete for Archie, but there’s so much more to these girls than that. They’re not defined by Archie. That’s something the book is going to explore.
We’ve known for a while that Dan Parent was working on a new Kevin Keller series, but J. Bone inking is a new dimension. What can you say about what the team has planned for “Life with Kevin”? And since Parent is known for the previous Archie Comics house style, do you see him as bridging the gap between the old and the new?
J. Bone is the perfect complement to Dan on this book — I think he presents Dan’s pencils in a new way, and you instantly feel that this book isn’t just another issue of the previous “Kevin Keller” series. This is an older, more experienced Kevin, now in his twenties. He’s left Riverdale and his only friend is Veronica — and they’re exploring together. It showcases another chapter in Kevin’s life and gives readers a chance to get to know him better outside of the main Riverdale mythos. Dan and J are working together magnificently, and it’s been great to see those pages come in. Kevin is a hugely important character for us, and we want to make sure this next chapter is a stellar one.
Archie’s efforts in the past few years have all been about evolving the company further, and often in unexpected directions — how do these new books look to further push what the new “Archie” #1 will have started?
This is Archie today. Archie now. We’ve taken the great, beloved elements from these classic characters and we cleared off any dust or barnacles. These are teenagers in today’s world. But these books will be funny. They’ll have a bit more bite to them. They’ll keep people entertained. This is really the next phase for the company, and it took us six years to get here, but I couldn’t be happier. We’re kicking off the next 75 years in style.