Over the past few years, Archie Comics has taken a lot of inspiration from the world of superheroes. We've seen inter-company crossovers, high-profile creators, the launch of a Mature Readers line and a couple of superhero imprints, and now, they're embracing the superhero comic's most time-honored tradition: For the first time since 1942, the Archie title is getting relaunched with a new #1.

That's kind of a big deal in and of itself -- with 661 issues as of this December, I'm pretty sure that Archie is currently the longest-running monthly comic on the stands that has never been rebooted or renumbered -- but the bigger news comes from the announcement of the new creative team handling Archie's biggest new direction yet: Mark Waid and Fiona Staples.

According to the New York Times, Waid and Staples will be giving Riverdale a "new look and an edgier tone," and while that combination of words is usually a pretty big warning sign in the world of comics, but here, it seems like more of an extension of the publisher's recent move away from the standard formula that marked their stories for so many years. Waid is, after all, known for bringing both a new direction to books like Flash, Fantastic Four and Daredevil that's usually marked by optimism and heroism as much as a sense of danger. Plus, his work on the all-ages Impulse is one of my favorite things he's ever done.

It's worth noting that this represents a bit of a homecoming for Waid, who actually got his start at Archie as an editor before moving into writing superheroes. As for Staples, she's done work for the company in the past, but it's mostly been limited to covers, like the amazing Josie and the Pussycats piece that later made into a print.

 

 

One assumes that no matter how edgy Archie gets, it's probably going to be a pretty big change from her recent work on the critically acclaimed Saga.

The announcement does, however, raise a question about how fast Archie's line is changing. Waid and Staples -- especially Staples -- certainly represent a departure from the familiar "house style" that has made the publisher so distinctive, pioneered by the legendary Dan DeCarlo and currently the domain of longtime Archie cartoonist Dan Parent. That visual style, along with the short-form, humor-driven stories, formed the core of Archie's publishing lineup for decades, and while the more experimental stories are still outnumbered by the the classic stories, it does make me wonder if those are on the way out.

That said, Archie's new direction has shown a huge amount of progress and very few missteps, and as two of the best creators working in comics, Waid and Staples look to be continuing that trend when they take over next year.

As revealed in the press release, their first story will kick off in a new Archie #1 early next year, and will focus on an origin for the Betty/Veronica/Archie love triangle. Clearly, there are at least some things that won't be changing at all.