Archie Comics pulled out all the stops for their Friday “Archie Forever” panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The panel was packed with big names from Archie: co-CEO and publisher Jon Goldwater; co-president and editor-in-chief Victor Gorelick; president Mike Pellerito; CCO and writer on the Archie horror line Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; writer and artist Dan Parent; “Archie vs. Sharknado” writer Anthony C. Ferrante; “Jughead” writer Chip Zdarsky; “Betty and Veronica” writer and artist Adam Hughes; and “Archie” writer Mark Waid. Serving as moderator for the jam-packed panel was SVP of marketing and publicity and editor of Dark Circle Comics Alex Segura. The panelists’ table was just as packed as the audience, where Archie fans of all ages crowded together.
The panel started with a round of applause. “I always ask for a bigger cheer, but that one was pretty good,” Segura said. The rest of the panel was punctuated with similar applause and cheers directed towards announcements and mentions of various Archie series, writers, and artists.
The discussion began with Goldwater speaking about the newly relaunched “Archie” ongoing series. “The idea behind ‘Archie’ #1 was, let’s just have fun with it,” explained Goldwater. “Lets invite everyone into the Archie world.” About the book’s artist Fiona Staples, Goldwater said, “How great does she make Archie look? That love triangle now makes sense.”
Editing at Archie Comics “is the easiest job in the universe,” said Pellerito, “when you get all of these brilliant people to work on the book. I wish I could say I had something to do with it, but man, these guys are brilliant… absolutely brilliant.
“I kind of am Jughead,” Zdarsky joked, referencing the character that he will soon bring to life in a new series along with artist Erica Henderson. “Not a big fan of girls; I mean, they’re okay. Eat too many burgers, you know…”
On a more serious note, he shared his reaction to the announcement of Waid and Staples’ involvement in the new “Archie” series: “I just wanted to do anything. I was like, do you need someone to staple the comics?” After drawing a variant cover for “Archie,” eventually Zdarsky was offered the job writing “Jughead.” “The chance to write it has been amazing and I can’t wait to let everyone in this room down,” he said.
Segura asked Hughes to explain how he got attached to the new “Betty and Veronica” series. “It’s because ‘Sabrina’ wasn’t available,” Hughes said. He went on to explain, “Betty and Veronica were two characters I never thought I’d be allowed to work on, because I’m known for more of a pinup style.” However, Hughes noted that he will be focusing more on comedy than pinups in his series: “I want it to be a laugh riot.”
Goldwater recalled Parent pitching to him the idea of introducing a gay character in Riverdale — a character that became new Archie mainstay Kevin Keller. Goldwater called that conversation “a watershed moment for the comic book world, certainly for Archie Comics.” Parent explained the upcoming series “Life with Kevin,” showing sketches of an older Kevin and confirming that Veronica will be featured in the series.
In addition to the new look of the comic line, Archie’s world will soon expand into television. Segura announced an Archie TV show, “Riverdale,” which has found a home on the CW. “We started talking about trying to do a teen drama like ‘Dawson’s Creek’ or the ‘OC,’ but with Archie Comics characters,” said Segura. Greg Berlanti — a longtime Archie fan and creator, writer, and producer on “Arrow,” “The Flash” and “Supergirl” — is involved in the project.
“There’s a lot of music in it; Josie and the Pussycats are in it,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. He called their partnership with the CW “a great match.” He also reassured fans that “like in the comic books, Archie will be hot.”
Ferrante talked about how well the Archie brand works with other franchises, specifically his new series, “Archie vs. Sharknado.” “It was actually pretty cool. It was one of those organic things. You think, our world is kind of goofy and silly, and Archie has that sense of fun, too. So it’s really a perfect marriage,” said Ferrante, who directed all three “Sharknado” films. “I think we did something that no one’s done before: we paired up Dilton and Marcy, which seemed like the obvious thing to do.”
Readers expecting lots of character death in “Archie vs. Sharknado” will be surprised, however. “I fell in love with the characters, so I couldn’t kill some of them off,” said Ferrante. He did promise some missing limbs, though. After drawing the book, Parent said he “was totally sharked out.” Ferrante described the book as an ensemble story: “Everybody plays a part in saving the day.”
Aguirre-Sacasa gave the audience a sneak-peek at “Afterlife with Archie” #9, his book set in a zombie-filled Riverdale. “This whole issue is about Reggie’s guilt, and how different he is from Archie,” said Aguirre-Sacasa. He showed a page that spoofed the classic “Highlights for Children” feature “Goofus and Gallant” that swapped out the titular duo Archie and Reggie. He also teased the next arc which bears the ominous title “Betty R.I.P.”
Aguirre-Sacasa talked about working with “Afterlife with Archie” artist Francesco Francavilla: “It’s really an auteur book, and the auteur is Francesco.” He described issues #10, #11, and #12 of “Afterlife with Archie” as, “a little bit like our homage to ‘Children of the Corn.'”
For “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” Aguirre-Sacasa talked about working with artist Robert Hack: “Like ‘Afterlife,’ he’s really the auteur behind it. The book has become very different from we originally thought, but we’re enjoying the journey.” Issue #6 will focus on Salem, telling the story of how he became a cat. A new arc, “Witch War,” will start in #7 and focus on the conflict between the witches of Greendale and Riverdale.
Aguirre-Sacasa then announced a third title in the Archie Horror line, which he said, “May or may not be called ‘Vamperonica.'”
Waid thanked fans for their support of his new “Archie” series. “You’ve only just seen the beginning of what we’re doing with Riverdale and the other characters,” said Waid. In issue #3, Waid teased that Veronica “comes to Riverdale like a wrecking ball.” He also discussed a sequence in issue #2 about Betty coming to terms with growing up and her tomboy characteristics. About the other new series, “Jughead” and “Betty and Veronica,” he said, “No one’s setting a specific, iron-clad tone or continuity. Let’s just enjoy what each other does.”
Waid also had some thoughts about Zdarsky’s impending run on “Jughead.” “While I live in terror to see what he does with ‘Jughead,’ it’s also a complete sense of excitement,” said Waid. “You couldn’t have put that character in better hands. And I’m not just saying that because he’s feeling me up behind the table right now.”
Zdarsky was complimentary of Waid’s writing, as well: “Mark’s the best writer in the business. He always has been, always will be, until I murder him and drink his blood and inherit his power.”
“Jughead is me,” continued Zdarsky. “He’s kind of smarter than everyone in the room and doesn’t feel like he has to show it. He’s my soul mate.”
To close out the panel, Gorelick summarized everyone’s excitement about the new direction of Archie Comics. “In baseball, you always have an award for the manager of the year,” said Gorelick. “Jon Goldwater should be the CEO and publisher of the year for putting together a team that won the World Series. These changes, they’re changes that had to happen because this company has to move forward. And they’re moving forward in the right direction. I’m very happy to see it.”
He also announced that he has been working on a special book for the 75th anniversary of Archie, happening in 2016. “There’s no one that is better to put this book together than Victor,” said Goldwater.