CBR TV’s Jonah Weiland welcomed writer and Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Eisner Award-nominated “Afterlife with Archie” artist Francesco Francavilla to the CBR Yacht at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The duo discuss the role “Afterlife with Archie” plays in terms of the company’s publishing philosophy, how each of them approach it and whether Francavilla ever expected to become a known commodity as a result of working on an Archie comic. Aguirre-Sacasa then talks about the publisher’s upcoming plans amidst increased expectations in the wake of the recent “Death of Archie” storyline, the new Dark Circle imprint, whether the horror universe has a name and what what the “Sabrina” companion book brings to the line.
On what “Afterlife with Archie” has meant to changing perceptions about Archie Comics: “It has changed the perspective, but hopefully what it’s done is broaden the perspective and gotten people who hadn’t read Archie comic books, even those that read ‘Life with Archie’ — horror fans, Francesco’s fans — to start reading the books and thinking about it differently,” said Aguirre-Sacasa. “Obviously we’re branching out into a ‘Sabrina’ kind of a more mature book that doesn’t tie directly to ‘Afterlife’ but is definitely a companion book. Dark Circle also feels like it’s sort of emerging from the shadow of ‘Afterlife’ in a really, really good way.”
“Roberto was telling me I have this ability to make that starts in a more cartoonish way, like the original Archie designs, [appear] more realistic and you believe that, ‘Okay, that’s real. That can be real,'” said Francavilla. “Part of the success is the horror in this book is real. It’s not an exaggeration or a cartoon version. I was reading some reviews about issue #6 that came out this week, and people say that, ‘I got as scared as like I was watching a horror movie.’ I think that’s important in making the book what it is.”
On whether Francavilla ever expected to become a household name as a result of working on an Archie Comics title: “I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was surprised when I was asked to work on ‘Detective [Comics]’ and ‘Black Panther.’ I had DC and Marvel knocking at my door at the same time and I was like, ‘Okay…’ My style is a little more European, because that’s where I’m from. I thought I was going to be in the indie world pretty much most of the time,” said Francavilla. “I’m just as happy to see that now the variety of styles is what people want. Marvel, DC, you see all kinds of styles, and Archie, now, did this huge step, because you go from the [Dan] DeCarlo classic style to now we have ‘Afterlife,’ we have ‘Sabrina.’ And now we got the Dark Circle [imprint], we’ll have a more different variety of styles.”
On how Archie can maintain its momentum and dealing with the pressure of increased expectations: “Archie is all over in a way Archie hasn’t been in a long, long time. ‘Death of Archie’ dominated the news cycles for a week and kind of swamped everything in a good way,” said Aguirre-Sacasa. “For me it’s about quality. It’s putting out books that month-to-month are really good, that are an incredible level of art and writing, and putting those out consistently for our readers. We’ll always have big events like ‘Death of Archie,’ launching the Dark Circle line, launching ‘Sabrina.’ We just started a new, huge storyline in ‘Afterlife’ which, not to spoil anything, Francesco’s a huge Lovecraft fan and he wanted to do some Lovecraft stuff. And we have ‘Sabrina’ crossing over with Lovecraft and Cthulu and all that stuff, so it’s telling compelling stories and making the books as good as any other books that are out there I think is the way to keep momentum going.
“I think we do [feel the pressure],” Aguirre-Sacasa continued. “I think every time we get a script in or get a pitch in, every time we get artwork in, or we were talking about colorists, when it comes in I think we are judging it a little bit differently and thinking, ‘Is this as good as what’s come before, and is this going to resonate with readers as much as what’s come before?’ We never go for the shock. Even ‘Death of Archie,’ that really was a progression of that story. But we want to make sure people are talking about it.”
On what the upcoming “Sabrina” book does for the burgeoning Horror universe: “‘Afterlife’ is a zombie book and it’s a little bit pulpier and it’s — even using H.P. Lovecraft, like that goes back to ‘Weird Tales’ — and ‘Sabrina’ is a little more psychological and it’s more an homage to movies like ‘The Omen’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘The Exorcist,’ obviously because it’s witches and demons and stuff like that. But it really is Sabrina’s epic, dark kind of coming-of-age story. So it’s a little bit more of a slow burn than ‘Afterlife.’ I mean, theres tons of horror and a lot of people who’ve read the first issue say it’s, weirdly, even darker than ‘Afterlife.’
“It feels like it used to be ‘Swamp Thing’ and ‘Sandman’ [at Vertigo], and I feel like these two books — I would never say that I’m as good as Alan [Moore] or Neil Gaiman, but in terms of different tones and stuff, that’s kind of what we’re going for,” Aguirre-Sacasa said.