Another chat, another chat transcript! This time we moved away from traditional super hero comics a bit to talk with writer/artist Tania Del Rio, who’s currently handling the creative chores on Archie’s “Sabrina The Teenage Witch.”
Brian Cronin: Did Archie call you up for “Sabrina,” or did you go to them?
Tania del Rio: They actually called me up after seeing an article about me in the local paper.
Tania del Rio: At the time, I didn’t realize they were local.
Brian Cronin: Shinji…how did Sabrina not figure out the thing with the blades?!?!
Brian Cronin: He doesn’t want to talk about the blades, he has a blades tattoo scraped out on his chest, does he have to draw her a picture?!!?
Tania del Rio: Ha Ha!
Tania del Rio: No, I think Sabrina is just naive.
Tania del Rio: She doesn’t like to see any negativity in those she cares about.
Tania del Rio: Plus, she thinks that “bad-boy” Shinji is the type to sport a tattoo just for fun.
Brian Cronin: That is a good point, especially with her attitude towards the Queen.
Tania del Rio: That’s true.
Brian Cronin: Is Harvey going to stick around as a character?
Tania del Rio: Oh, yes. Definitely. He’s one of the staple characters and we’ll be getting to see through his shell eventually
Brian Cronin: His shell confuses the heck out of me!
Tania del Rio: Yes, that’s what a lot of people have been saying. Even the assistant editor on “Sabrina” is fed up with Harvey’s attitude!
Brian Cronin: Early on, I understood his thought processes, but it got harder to follow when he got with Sabrina.
Tania del Rio: He’s not opening up, that’s for sure. Whether it’s just plain insecurity or another secret remains to be seen…
Brian Cronin: Does Harvey have a tattoo on his chest?
Tania del Rio: No, Harvey’s too chicken to get a tattoo!
Brian Cronin: Maybe henna
Tania del Rio: Henna, perhaps!
Petersen: I haven’t looked at an Archie comic in years. Where can I see samples of what’s going on with Sabrina?
Tania del Rio: Hmm… online I’m not sure. But you can still buy back issues through Archie’s website
Petersen: I found some samples through Google
DarkBlade: Ms. Del Rio, do you know if “Sabrina” will be coming out in digests?
Tania del Rio: I’d like to see digests, but I haven’t heard anything so far about plans to release any.
DarkBlade: Noooo! They need to do them. Hm, I should get my friend Greg Hatcher’s classes to write in, too…
Tania del Rio: Yes, please write in and ask for digests!
DarkBlade: Is the Talk Back address listed on Archiecomics.com the place to send letters about digests?
Tania del Rio: Yes, that’s the right address.
Tania del Rio: I won a spot in Tokyopops’ Rising Stars of Manga anthology. That’s what the article was about.
Sir Tim Drake: Who would you say are your influences?
Tania del Rio: Hmm…. my biggest American influences are Wendy Pini and the Disney animators from “The Lion King” era. In Japan, I love Yayoi Ogawa (tramps like us) and Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2)
Tania del Rio: But I really have too many influences to list!
Smoogis: What manga are you reading nowadays?
Tania del Rio: Like I mentioned, “Tramps Like Us” is one of my favorites. I love “Naruto,” “Fruits Basket” and “One Piece” as well
Petersen: Do you feel like manga has become a trend or fad that damages the American reputation of really good Manga?
Tania del Rio: I think in some cases, perhaps. But I think we’re also creating our own style of manga– a new genre in itself. Tokyopop calls this “OEL” or Original English Language
Tania del Rio: The OEL thing is a whole debate in itself.
DarkBlade: Oooh, like “Megatokyo!” The very last page (first page if you go right to left) reads, “This is the back of the book! Megatokyo was created in ENGLISH. Now be a good little reader and flip it over….”
Tania del Rio: I think it’s a positive thing, overall. We’re not trying to destroy what Japan has started. Just like they’ve adapted things from our culture, we are adapting things from theirs
Brian Cronin: Did Archie pretty much just say, “do what you want?” Or do you still have to follow a specific editorial idea?
Tania del Rio: Archie is really flexible about letting me have fun and create the stories I want to create. They have suggestions now and again, but it’s pretty much “do what you want” as long as I remember the audience
Petersen: What duties do you have on the book?
Tania del Rio: I write and pencil each issue. Someone else inks, letters and colors it
Brian Cronin: You’re not exactly an old maid, but where do you look for how the characters would react, do you still look to your own experiences as a teen as an influence?
Tania del Rio: Oh yes. I think it’s an advantage that my teen years are not so far back in my life. I have taken events and emotions loosely based on my own experiences
Petersen: Forgive me again for not knowing much about you, but what is your age
Tania del Rio: I’m 25.
Brian Cronin: Jim Amash has such a vast comic knowledge, has he been an aid for you?
Tania del Rio: Yeah, Jim’s a great guy. In the beginning, especially, he was helpful about making suggestions and just telling me really amusing stories about his own experiences
Stony: Do you know if Archie is planning to expand the line? Like maybe a Salem title?
Tania del Rio: Hmm… a Salem title! That sounds like fun! Although the closest possibility right now is a manga “Josie and the Pussycats.”
Brian Cronin: Salem has been so much fun in your run.
Tania del Rio: Thank you! I love Salem, too.
Tania del Rio: The issue where he became a toy was in response to all the fans begging for Archie to make a Salem plushy.
Stony: Well see, that’s why he needs his own title.
Tania del Rio: Yeah, everyone write Archie and ask for digests and Salem spin-offs!
Petersen: Are you working on other non-Archie projects?
Tania del Rio: I have a blog where I’ll be posting news as I have it, though. It’s livejournal, user name taniadelrio.
DarkBlade: Heh heh, expect a sudden expansion of your friends list…
Tania del Rio: Woo hoo!
Tania del Rio: I’m pretty new to livejournal so I haven’t got a huge list yet. So friend-away.
Stony: Just looking back at what you said… so, you invented Shinji…?
Tania del Rio: No, actually Shinji existed before I got on board. He was created by Holly G, who drew the comic before me. Apparently, she’s a manga fan as well so she designed him as a “bishie” or beautiful boy type.
Brian Cronin: He definitely fits in well!
Brian Cronin: Was that holly golightly?
Tania del Rio: Yes, Holly Golightly, that’s right
Brian Cronin: Are you seen as a “manga coordinator” at Archie? For instance, did you pick the Josie artist?
Tania del Rio: No, I didn’t pick the Josie artist. I’m not really a manga coordinator, but they do ask me my thoughts from time to time. The editor for the “Sonic” comic is pretty good about the manga thing. I think he was the one who found the Josie artist.
Stony: Do you think someday you might like to get into animation?
Tania del Rio: Actually, I trained as an animator. Animation has always been one of my favorite things. But when I graduated college and tried to find work as an animator, I was disgruntled. I didn’t like the assembly line feel and I’d rather be doing my own characters
Tania del Rio: It’s tough to draw someone else’s character all day. Especially if it’s just for a chicken commercial or something
Tania del Rio: I like telling stories, not advertising.
DarkBlade: Were you by chance at Anime Weekend Atlanta this past weekend? I missed it. If not, you should go next year! (Maybe? Perhaps? Please?)
Tania del Rio: No, I wasn’t there this year. I do plan on going to more cons next year… so you never know!
Brian Cronin: Do you have any thoughts on what you’d like to do with a Josie series?
Tania del Rio: Well, right now we’re sticking to short story installments that will be printed in various “Archie and Friends” issues. I’m basically retelling their story from the beginning. In the past, they’ve always been depicted as a successful group.
Tania del Rio: But I’m going to take them back to their garage band roots
Brian Cronin: Hype the next issue of “Sabrina.” #70, right?
Tania del Rio: Uh, yes that’s right. Okay…
Tania del Rio: Sabrina gets involved in two spelling bees. One is a mortal spelling bee and one is a magical spelling bee. (Yes, the good ol’ pun).
Tania del Rio: She does it mostly to impress Harvey, but the outcome is a bit surprising
Stony: I was wondering…. does the four blades plot have a definitive ending in the works?
Tania del Rio: Yes, I’m still going to be bringing back the four blades plot in future issues. I think #75 will be a big issue for that.
Paploo the Ewok: I think Archie should do a manga makeover of Katy Keene. I like the concept of OEL, though not so much the name [but I guess it’s better then past ones]. Also, yay for Moyoko Anno comics!
Tania del Rio: Oh yes, Moyoko Anno is great! I know they’re giving Katy Keane a makeover, but not a manga one. She still looks good, though!
Tania del Rio: It was a lot of fun! I’m actually surprised they let me try a manga spin on their staple characters. I especially liked drawing Jughead
Brian Cronin: So Archie is pleased with the direction, right?
Paploo the Ewok: I’d love to see a manga Betty title.
Tania del Rio: There may be more manga Archies and Betties one day– even if just for a short story. But I do think Archie is pleased with how Sabrina is going. I’m impressed that they decided to take a risk by doing this and I hope it’s paying off
Brian Cronin: Where is your take on magic land inspired by? What have you been using as a basis?
Tania del Rio: The magic realm is less wacky and goofy than it used to be depicted. It’s more like a real world. A bit Harry Potter-esque. But I actually take most of my influence my Hayao Miyzaki’s works. The idea is that this magical energy, or mana, is like an energy source in the magic realm.
Brian Cronin: Do you fear the serial nature of the story will come back to bite you after 10 or so more issues? You can’t have characters finalize their story, but at the same time, you want them to be true to themselves.
Tania del Rio: I think it’s something to be aware of, certainly. But I still know there are plenty more possibilities and places to explore. So I’m not too worried at this point
Tania del Rio: I understand what you mean, though.
Tania del Rio: You want the characters to change, and yet they must stay the same.
Tania del Rio: I think the “Sonic” comic has been pretty good at keeping the stories and characters going over a long period of time. Sometimes the continuity gets mucky, but I think it’s possible to do as long as you plan ahead.
Stony: So, do you get first dibs on any manga work that comes up at Archie?
Tania del Rio: Well, they asked me if I wanted to draw the manga “Josie and the Pussycats” stories. But– especially if it ever becomes its own title– I just couldn’t do both. I did do a short Sonic story.
Tania del Rio: And I’ll probably do a couple more Sonic stories in the future, which is sort of manga-like
Paploo the Ewok: Tania– It’d be insane to do 2 monthlies at once.
Tania del Rio: Yes, “Sabrina” is pretty much a full time job as it is
Brian Cronin: Will there be any new “normal” characters introduced?
Brian Cronin: I really liked the issue with the “witch.”
Tania del Rio: Yes, I liked that, too! I’m always tempted to bring in more characters, but I feel like I need to spend a bit more time on the ones I do have. But Gwen the “witch” will be having more of a role later on
Brian Cronin: The thing that most impressed me with those issues was that you were not afraid to show truly negative aspects of Sabrina’s personality, like the fact that she was really into having two guys fight over her
Tania del Rio: Yes, I think flaws make characters interesting. If Sabrina was just happy and friendly all the time, it would be boring. You’d end up hating her for being so perfect. Her selfish tendencies are one of the things I like about her. It shows she still needs to mature a little.
Stony: If you could only write or draw a title, like say Josie… which would you prefer?
Tania del Rio: That’s a tough question. I do enjoy drawing but it takes so much out of me. And I do enjoy writing. In Josie’s case, I’d say writing. But that’s just because I hate drawing band equipment!!
Paploo the Ewok: What’s it like working for Archie? It’s always seemed like a mystery to me.
Paploo the Ewok: They seem to work in a different way then most publishers [i.e. – in house artists etc]
Tania del Rio: I used to think it was a mysterious place too, until I started working there. They’re all nice, normal people! I come in once a week to drop artwork off and chat with everyone.
Paploo the Ewok: Do you work from your own studio?
Tania del Rio: I work from home, in my own studio. A lot of their artists are out-of-state.
Tania del Rio: But it’s true that some of their digest artists work in-house.
Stony: What state are Archie situated in, btw?
Tania del Rio: Westchester, NY
Paploo the Ewok: So they live where the X-men do.
Tania del Rio: Ha ha. Now you know the “secret” behind the X-Men!
Paploo the Ewok: It explains the redheads….
Tania del Rio: Well, no. Mainly because I was basically starting over with the characters. I did use old pre-established characters such as Shinji and Llandra, but I restarted the story from new.
Paploo the Ewok: What were your experiences with TokyoPop like?
Tania del Rio: Tokyopop is a fun company. They joke that Archie “got to me first.”
Brian Cronin: It was interesting that you didn’t do a book with them after the contest.
Stony: How long do you see yourself staying with Archie?
Tania del Rio: I don’t really have a timeline in mind, Stony. I’m enjoying it so far… so I guess as long as they want to keep doing it!
Brian Cronin: Does Harvey have friends? Like, other than the other three other main characters.
Tania del Rio: Yeah, he has his basketball buddies that he hangs out with. You see them standing next to him sometimes. But he’s pretty anti-social in general
Brian Cronin: I liked the one issue where we got to see stuff from Harvey’s viewpoint. will we see anymore of that?
Tania del Rio: Yes, in bits and pieces. I don’t want to make him totally unlikable just because nobody can figure him out. I will be letting readers into his thoughts again
Brian Cronin: And show his henna tattoo
Brian Cronin: The four sporks.
Tania del Rio: Oh yeah. LOL
Tania del Rio: That’s a good one. Maybe for an April Fools issue!
Brian Cronin: How about Llandra? Any more spotlights on her?
Tania del Rio: Yes, I’ve hinted that she has abilities with plant-magic and we’ll be seeing examples of that. And we’ll learn more about her father, who was a Rainforest Shaman
Alex Segura Jr.: Tania– it’s Alex. I handle PR for Archie. Just wanted to pop in and join the fun!
Tania del Rio: Yes, I know you! Welcome!
Alex Segura Jr.: Tania, did you find it hard to adapt to a monthly sked when you landed the Sabrina assignment?
Stony: Yeah, how do you manage that anyway? From what I understand, it’s laborious enough even to just write or draw a monthly comic… but both?
Tania del Rio: It was a little tough at first just because I’ve never done anything like it. But now I’ve figured out a schedule that works well for me. I’m still a slow artist, though.
Tania del Rio: The writing isn’t so bad. It takes about a week to come up with a synopsis and write the script, usually less.
Tania del Rio: The drawing is what really takes the longest. I can only get a page done a day… sometimes two, if it’s simple.
Stony: So you write out scripts for yourself? You don’t start off with little storyboards/thumbnails?
Tania del Rio: I like writing the script and seeing what it will look like in my head. Then when I start drawing it, it really comes alive for me. I like to write in elements that I think will be fun to draw.
Kirk G: Where do you get your ideas from?
Tania del Rio: I have no idea where my ideas really come from. One just leads to another. I start with a paragraph-long synopsis. After that gets approved, I write the script. From there I do rough layouts and then the final art.
Tania del Rio: While each issue of Sabrina is a stand-alone story, elements do tie over into other issues.
Brian Cronin: Right, like the four blades stuff recently
Tania del Rio: Exactly. In fact, of late, more and more elements have been carrying over.
Tania del Rio: I do try to let each issue stand on its own, though.
Tania del Rio: I’m lucky because it is a hard business to break into.
Brian Cronin: Is that why you studied animation in school? In case comics didn’t work out?
Tania del Rio: Hehe, that’s true. I thought it would be easier to get a job in animation. In fact, it proved to be almost as difficult. I did 2-D animation, which is unfortunately dying.
Tania del Rio: 3-D animation seems to be the way things are going now….
Cayman: Hopefully 2-D animation will make a comeback at some point.
Tania del Rio: Yes, I think 2-D animation will come back one day. Even if it’s looked at as an “old-timey” novelty.
Brian Cronin: Hey, you mentioned the contest, but not the background. I bet there’s a good story there.
Brian Cronin: Tell us about the Rising Stars of Manga contest.
Brian Cronin: Or was it simply, “I saw an ad, I applied, ta da!”
Tania del Rio: Yes, I actually entered it because I was working retail at the time (because I couldn’t find animation work). I bought the first volume of Rising Stars of Manga (RSOM) and I thought it was pretty cool
Tania del Rio: I figured it would be good to force myself to enter because I was pretty much artistically “blah” at that point. So I made an entry when I got home from work each night and sent it in.
Tania del Rio: To my surprise, it got selected as a runner up for Volume 2!
Brian Cronin: You have to give Sabrina a job in the mall then, and use it to tell horror stories from your time working retail
Tania del Rio: Oh, I have many retail horror stories to tell! I was actually thinking of making Sabrina have a lame job at some point.
Kirk G: Why do comic creators always seem to “luck out” into these jobs???
Tania del Rio: Well, sometimes it is luck. But with many aspiring artists, it’s perseverance. I know people who go to cons every year pushing their own work. They lose money and it takes time, but each year they build more and more fans…
Tania del Rio: Eventually, you’ll get noticed if you can force yourself to keep at it.
Alex Segura Jr.: Are there any other characters you’d like to write? Or draw for that matter?
Tania del Rio: Hmm…. you mean Archie characters?
Alex Segura Jr.: Any characters.
Tania del Rio: Hmm… this is going to oust me as a dork, but I’ve always liked the X-character Jubilee. I think it’d be fun to draw her.
Stony: You’d be surprised how popular Jubilee is…
Kirk G: How about a Jubilee/Sabrina cross-over? Jubilee always seems to hang at the mall…
Tania del Rio: Yeah they can throw “paffs” at each other
Tania del Rio: Hmm…. actually I’ve purposefully stayed away from the mall-rat persona because I think there’s a stereotype that if it’s a girl’s comic, the girls have to, like, totally live at the mall.
Alex Segura Jr.: Were you a big fan of the earlier Sabrina comics when you took the gig?
Tania del Rio: Actually, I didn’t read as many Sabrinas as I did Bettys and Veronicas. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t notice them as much or what. I did read a few, though.
Tania del Rio: And I was watched the TV show a loooong time ago.
Alex Segura Jr.: The “Betty’s Diary” series from a few years back was a good run, I think. Touched on a lot of the issues you explore now.
Tania del Rio: Hmm… I don’t know if I remember that one. It sounds interesting, though
Brian Cronin: It was great stuff.
Alex Segura Jr.: Yeah, it wasn’t as humorous as some of the other Archie titles.
Alex Segura Jr.: Was pretty much Betty dealing with growing up and friendship, etc.
Tania del Rio: Interesting.
Tania del Rio: And Archie college- years would be fun. Has there ever been something like that?
Alex Segura Jr.: I don’t think so
Alex Segura Jr.: I always wondered about that as a kid, though.
Brian Cronin: I think they’ve intentionally kept away from that.
Tania del Rio: Yeah, that would probably make sense given some of the connotations of “college years.”
Tania del Rio: Hmm… let me think…
Tania del Rio: I’ve always been a big Wendy Pini fan….
Alex Segura Jr.: “Elfquest” is great
Tania del Rio: Yeah, Wendy’s always has been one of my idols.
Stony: I’m gonna get crucified if I say I prefer Veronica to Betty, aren’t I?
Mangaman: I too like veronica over Betty
Tania del Rio: Actually, I like Veronica, too. Betty is too goody-two shoes for my taste
Alex Segura Jr.: I kind of miss the days when Archie characters could be a bit more extreme…Jughead as the woman hater, Reggie being a jerk, etc.
Tania del Rio: I agree, Alex. Sometimes the PC thing tends to water down great personalities.
Brian Cronin: I am pleased that Archie is allowing you to have the freedom to give people unpleasant attributes outside of “spending too much money” or “being vain.”
Tania del Rio: Me too, Brian
Messchird: What is it like to work for a big company?
Tania del Rio: It’s a lot of fun. And it’s not actually as big as they might seem at first. I was surprised at how cozy and friendly the offices are. I imagined it being this big corporate building in NYC. But it’s a lot more comfortable than that!
Tania del Rio: And they have a cool couch that looks like a 50’s car.
Stony: Awesome… do they have a lot of Archie memorabilia around the offices?
Tania del Rio: Oh yeah, it’s plastered everywhere. It’s almost like a little Archie museum
Tania del Rio: I know there’s some old pages hanging in my editor’s office, but I have no clue as to how rare or valuable they are. Of course, I think that any old art is rare and valuable
Alex Segura Jr.: I have a real soft spot for DeCarlo art.
Tania del Rio: I love De Carlo’s art as well. It had a lot of personality
Messchird: I’m curious, why the manga look?
Tania del Rio: I think Archie recognized that manga is gaining popularity here in the states. Plus, the concept of a magical girl is a perfect fit for manga.
Alex Segura Jr.: It’d be a great idea to release “Sabrina” in digest-size trades.
Tania del Rio: I know a lot of people have been asking about digests. I really would love to see that happen.
Alex Segura Jr.: I’ll float the idea to Mike P.
Tania del Rio: That would be nice– I think digests would do very well. Especially if we could sell them alongside other manga trades
Alex Segura Jr.: Do you read reviews of your work online or in print?
Rio: I do read some blogs regularly that review new “Sabrinas” when they come out
Messchird: What do you think of mainstream manga like “Dragonball Z,” and the ilk?
Tania del Rio: I never could get into “DragonBall Z”… but I do like “Yu-Gi-Oh.” (but that’s a secret)
Tania del Rio: I admire the artist that draws “DragonBall,” Akira Toriyama. I liked his “Sandland” comic
Mangaman: The manga of “Yu-Gi-Oh” is surprisingly good.
Tania del Rio: Yeah, the manga is a lot darker than the TV shows
Tania del Rio: That seems to be the case with most manga before it gets adapted for television. That’s why I don’t watch as much anime as I read manga.
Tania del Rio: No, but I hope to visit Japan next year!
Messchird: Sound good. I love sushi….
Tania del Rio: I don’t really like fish… but I’m trying to learn to like it so I can try some real sushi one day.
Tania del Rio: I’m a wuss. I still eat California rolls.
Brian Cronin: That is the only sushi I eat!
Tania del Rio: Oh good! I’m not alone! ^_^
Alex Segura Jr.: California rolls are great.
Tania del Rio: Someone told me “that’s not real sushi!” and I said “I don’t care! I love it!!”
Brian Cronin: Bah.
Tania del Rio: Or I’ll take the nerd approach and say that “sushi” actually refers to the style of rice rather than its contents
Matt: So, asking a rather standard question, what’s your favorite aspect of working in the comic book industry – specifically the “Sabrina” title?
Tania del Rio: I like getting to know the characters. I know I create the stories, but sometimes it’s almost like they create themselves. I’m sometimes surprised by the turns of events. And I like drawing Shinji.
Tania del Rio: It’s also nice having a monthly schedule to work with. I like routine!
Alex Segura Jr.: Enjoyed any movies or TV shows lately?
Tania del Rio: I don’t really watch much TV, because it’s too distracting. I do see movies now and again. The last one I saw was “Red Eye.”
Alex Segura Jr.: What books outside of manga/comics are you reading?
Tania del Rio: I’m reading the novel version of “Howls Moving Castle” right now… and “A Great and Terrible Beauty” which is actually a young adult book. Well… both are, actually
Messchird: In your time, has there been any controversy over the new manga look?
Tania del Rio: I think, at the beginning, some people were suspicious of it. I think they thought we were just jumping on the bandwagon and trying to capitalize on a fad. But now that people have had a chance to read the story and see the art, hopefully they realize that this isn’t just a cheap attempt to knock-off manga.
Messchird: I hope so. It takes courage to change things.
Tania del Rio: Yes, and I think it’s great that Archie was willing to take a chance and change one of their oldest characters so drastically
Messchird: It’s like this: “We like this” but when the change occurs: “”We’re disorientated!”
Tania del Rio: That was one of the risks, to be sure.
Tania del Rio: Yes. For some fans, I’m sure it was an adjustment. But the response seems to be mostly positive now, so that’s good
Brian Cronin: Wow…you’ve chatted up a regular storm tonight, Tania!
Tania del Rio: Yes, indeed! Time flies!
Tania del Rio: Well, thanks again for having me. Have a good night
Brian Cronin: you too, Tania! Thanks, it was a lot of fun!
Tania del Rio: Bye, everyone. You can check out my blog at www.livejournal.com/users/taniadelrio.