Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Robert Hack visited the world famous CBR Tiki Room during New York Comic Con to spill all the dark secrets from their expansion of their new horror universe with "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" in a conversation with CBR's Jonah Weiland. They discuss the limits of horror in "Sabrina," why the book is darker in tone than even "Afterlife with Archie" and how EC Comics have influenced Hack's work on the series. The artist and writer talk about how long it took to nail the book's aesthetic in terms of colors in order to maintain a singularity of vision. Aguirre-Sacasa also talks about how many titles the burgeoning horror universe could support and whether he plans to write all of them or bring in some new voices. The CCO wraps up by talking about what sets the Dark Circle relaunch apart and what's next for the company in terms of film and TV, including an update on Sony's planned "Sabrina" film adaptation.
On pushing the envelope with the book's horror and why it feels darker than "Afterlife":
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: It's funny, though both the mom and the dad seem to be dead, I can tell you that we have not seen the last of either Sabrina's mother or Sabrina's father. We see Sabrina's mother in the second issue, she's in the lunatic asylum -- lobotomized -- and kind of a bigger arc for Sabrina will be reconnecting with her father and realizing what exactly her father did to her mother.
As we were working on the book, it's a little bit less viscerally shocking than "Afterlife," which has zombies and Jughead and dogs getting killed, and Archie beating his zombie dad with a baseball bat, which doesn't get more kind of obvious than that. ["Sabrina"] is a little more psychological. As we were working on it I did feel, "Wow, this book is in some ways a lot darker than 'Afterlife,'" and I don't know if it's because it focuses on Sabrina and she's kind of -- Archie has his whole gang around him, so they always feel like a buffer, a circle of protection. Sabrina, though she does have a supporting cast, you never know if they're actually allies or if the aunts are villains, so it does feel like it's more like her trial by fire, and it just does feel a little bit darker and a little bit more psychological.
On finding the right approach to "Sabrina's" colors:
Robert Hack: It's sort of a sepia, makes it feel older, vintage. I'm actually distressing some of the pages with sandpaper. It's a way of making it old, yet new. I mean, it is viscerally new.
Aguirre-Sacasa: Originally Robert wasn't going to color the book. He drew it, he inked it, and we went out to a lot of really amazing colorists who did great jobs, but they looked a little bit more like everything else on the shelf. [Because] "Afterlife with Archie" is such a singularity of Francesco [Francavilla]'s artistic vision, that somehow great colorists, they did great jobs on the pages we sent them -- it was the first six pages -- but it never kind of felt right.
I talked to [Archie Comics co-CEO] Jon Goldwater and I said, "Maybe this should be a black-and-white book." That will really make it stand out." And then we all had a lot of internal conversations about do black-and-white books sell, is that really what we want to do. I said, "I'd rather put out a black-and-white book that is all Robert than a book that just doesn't feel like it's got that singularity of vision." And then I think I asked, "Who colors those covers of yours that I love?"
Hack: I had done a few covers -- and just stuff for myself, where I did my own sort of sepia, similar vintage tone. And...
Aguirre-Sacasa: And then you did the first six pages and it was like, "That's the voice of the book."
On how their Dark Circle super hero relaunch is different than similar attempts from other companies:
Aguirres-Sacasa: It's not just a reboot, it really is kind of a reimagining. So obviously Red Circle is now Dark Circle, and to me it's what it always is and why these launches are successful. And that is the books that come out themselves are excellent, excellent books. "Black Hood," I've read the first few scripts, I've seen the artwork, and it is gonna be an A+ book. The quality is there, will be there. We really, really kill ourselves on every book we launch, we obviously don't put out as much as Marvel and DC so it really is for us quality control and making sure that everything we put out can stack up to what came before. So that's kind of our philosophy behind Dark Circle and frankly every move we're doing now going forward is scrutinized to within an inch of its life by fourteen different people to make sure that we've got the right quality, the right tone, and it's the right expansion.