Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is the chief creative officer of Archie Comics and the writer on both the critically acclaimed oddball horror comic Afterlife With Archie and the forthcoming Sabrina the Teenage Witch series -- and he's helping oversee a huge creative renaissance at Archie.
Chris Sims caught up with Aguirre-Sacasa at San Diego Comic-Con to talk about the Dark Circle relaunch and the Shield redesign, the 1960s setting of his Sabrina horror comic, the chances of a Josie and the Pussycats appearance in Afterlife With Archie, and whether there's such a thing as "too far" in an Archie zombie horror comic! Plus... any chance of an appearance by Jingles the Christmas Elf in the forthcoming Afterlife With Archie Christmas Special? (Yes, that's a real thing.)
Archie Comics has developed a reputation for doing the unexpected and somehow pulling it off. The wholesome publisher pipped Marvel and DC to the lead in launching an ongoing book with a gay teen protagonist in Kevin Keller; it broke with the conventions of comic book continuity with its attention-grabbing Archie Marries... books; and it successfully brought zombies to Riverdale with its critically and commercially successful Afterlife With Archie books, potentially kicking off a new line of horror books.
So it feels in keeping with that spirit that Archie Comics announced yesterday that it plans to relaunch its cheery (and under-exposed) Red Circle superhero line as 'Dark Circle,' a line of adult-oriented series with the sophisticated narrative ambitions of HBO or Showtime. It's certainly unexpected. Can Archie Comics pull it off?
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This week, Chris and Matt talk about how much they love Big Trouble in Little China, and how much they enjoyed the first issue of the new comic sequel by Eric Powell and Brian Churilla in spite of some art hiccups; then it's on to Nailbiter #2 by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson; and finally they discuss the first volume of Afterlife With Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla.
Although Archie's core line of kid-friendly titles has been grabbing its share of headlines lately, the company's biggest critical and commercial success over the past year has undoubtedly been Afterlife With Archie, the moody, adult-oriented story of how the zombie apocalypse hits Riverdale. Created by Francesco Francavilla and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the book has been hailed by fans and critics, and with that kind of praise, it was pretty much inevitable that they'd expand the line with another similar title.
Now, they have. This week, Archie announced Chilling Adventures ofSabrina, an ongoing series about everyone's favorite teen witch, from Afterlife writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Robert Hack.
Q: What's the weirdest thing Archie Comics has ever done, and why was it awesome? -- @darkmaple
A: It almost goes without saying at this point, but Archie's marketing strategy over the past few years has been nothing short of brilliant. All the stunts they've been pulling -- and I mean that in the most positive way possible -- have been designed to shake up the public perception of just what Archie Comics are. Most readers, even if they're casual fans of the actual Archie comics, tend to have this mental picture of Riverdale that's built around those eight-page gag strips where Archie has to run back and forth between two dates, and for good reason. That's been the core of the line for the past 70 years, so when they announce something like Lena Dunham dropping by to write a story or an adult-oriented horror comic where Archie's classmates are devouring each other's flesh, it immediately makes people wonder how it's going to work in the peaceful, idyllic world of Archie Comics.
But here's the thing: They've always been weird out there in Riverdale. They're weird as Hell.
Comics fans know Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa from his work writing a handful of Marvel properties, such as Marvel Knights 4 and The Sensational Spider-Man and from the recent breakout hit Afterlife With Archie. But he's also a TV writer (for shows including Glee and Big Love) and playwright (the only reason Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark ended up making any kind of sense), which is a big reason Archie Comics has named him its first-ever chief creative officer.
Aguirre-Sacasa's first move on behalf of the company is a big one, too: He's tapped Girls creator Lena Dunham to write a four-issue miniseries for the company, starting next year.
It's been pretty well established over the last few decades that when supernatural troubles erupt in Riverdale, Sabrina the Teenage Witch is usually at the center of it. In Afterlife With Archie, however, things have gotten a little more out of hand than they usually do -- it turns out that meddling in the incomprehensible forces required to resurrect the dead has far more dire consequences than dosing Harvey with a love potion in an effort to have a nice prom date. Like, say, a full-on zombie apocalypse that's already claimed a pretty sizable chunk of the Archie cast.
That's the situation that's been going on ever since Sabrina used the Necronomicon to bring Hot Dog back to life and got banished to a nightmare hellworld for her troubles. She's been missing ever since, but in the upcoming Afterlife With Archie #6, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla finally catch up with her. Check out the exclusive reveal of both covers, including a downright Tarot-esque variant from Andrew Pepoy, and a few answers from Sacasa below!
If you had asked me six months ago whether we, as a culture, ever needed another story that took a familiar story and added zombies to create wacky supernatural hijinx, my answer would've been a quick and definite no. It's a premise that's been done to death, shambling resurrection and death again, and when October rolls around, you can't swing a dead cat that feasts for the flesh of the living without hitting some bold new reworking of the zombie formula.
If, however, you then asked me if I wanted to see a zombie story about Archie and the gang written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, I would've probably done some pretty quick backpedaling. That is exactly what I want to see, and now that Afterlife With Archie is finally on its way for a spoooooky Halloween debut, I can confirm that it's every bit as fun as you want it to be.
Because juggling two relationships wasn't enough a challenge, this fall Archie is taking on the undead. Launching in October is Afterlife With Archie, a new monthly series from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla about Archie, Betty, Veronica and the gang fighting off a zombie invasion in Riverdale.
Archie Comics will be showing a promotional trailer for the new series at a panel on Saturday, but The Hollywood Reporter debuted it today, and you can check it out below.
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