They’re All A Little Unbalanced: Alex de Campi Talks ‘Archie vs. Predator’ [Interview]
Ever since it was announced, I was pretty sure that Alex de Campi and Fernando Ruiz's Archie vs. Predator was going to be everything I wanted out of comics. Now, with the first issue out, I know for a fact that's true --- at the very least, it's my favorite Predator crossover of all time, replacing even the one where Judge Dredd takes his shirt off and fights a Predator with a knife alongside Dutch's granddaughter.
But really, that first issue is just the tip of an alarmingly violent iceberg, which is why I spoke to de Campi about how she prepared for the series, why she's so drawn to writing Betty, Veronica, and the medium of emojis, and why she wanted to give Dilton a giant robot Archie that he could use to fight aliens. Really.
ComicsAlliance: I'm pretty sure that "Archie vs. Predator" is a concept that sells itself purely from the title, but last time I talked you to about it, you mentioned that it also featured Dilton piloting a giant Mecha-Archie robot. Is there anything you can tell us about that's along those same lines, for anyone who might still be on the fence about it?
Alex de Campi: Oh, it's got the lot. Fried cat; subplots about mass graves, and jokes about decapitated people and turtlenecks. Also much, much violent death. But it also stands as a really good, solid, funny Archie comic --- so whether you come in as a Predator fan, an Archie fan, or a rubbernecker, there's something for you.
CA: I imagine part of the fun of it was peeling back the surface of the usual Riverdale and throwing in horror, but there are a lot of Archie stories that do that too. Did you ever read any of the "serious" ones from the '70s? Those weird horror elements and danger always stick out to me.
AdC: Yes! I read about 4,000 pages of Archie comics to prep for this gig. My favorite ones are the 40s and 50s ones which remain zany but also so dark. There is just so much you can do with these characters; even the most subtle shadings can bring you to fascinating places.
CA: Not to spoil things any further, but I love the idea of using a teenage Predator, who immediately falls in love with Betty and Veronica. Did that just come naturally out of the existing Archie love triangle?
AdC: I just wanted to mess with everyone's expectations. I've read a ton of Predator comics and seen all the movies, and they pretty much do one thing. They do it very, very well... but every Predator movie/story is pretty much the same. So why not tweak it? And really, the Predator has to be a teenager on his first solo hunt. Otherwise the denizens of Riverdale would either last one page in total, or the Predator would just look at them, snort, and leave.
CA: One of the fun things about the Archie characters is that they're almost complete archetypes, something that makes them a natural fit for a horror story like Afterlife. It comes through here, too, with Reggie's obsession with getting to third base and Jughead watching Pop Tate get his head blown off and continuing to eat a cake that has an eyeball and brain matter on it. Was there anyone whose personality stuck out that you wanted to go into a little deeper, or was it fun to file them all down?
AdC: I get to delve into Dilton in issue #3, and that makes me happy. I think it's pretty clear from the book I can write Betty and Veronica aaaall day: Betty, the mildly psychopathic and gullible, superstitious girl next door with eyes only for Archie (some might call it obsession); logical, practical, solipsistic Veronica, for whom Archie is the one thing she (usually) can't buy. I would have liked to do more with Jughead. He has a moment, but not as much of a storyline as I wanted (mainly due to space). I'm still pretty proud of my fairly lengthy off-panel Spellman subplot.
CA: What is it about Dilton that caught your eye? He's usually the one who gets overlooked unless he's, you know, building a time machine or something.
AdC: Well, exactly. Everything in Archie is about dating and love, except for Dilton's storylines (um, other than all the "Dilton builds a sexbot" storylines, of which there are a gratifying number). Dilton never really gets to shine as his own person, and how he must feel in this high school where everyone is in a relationship --- even those who don't want one, like Jughead, have girls after him. Except Dilton. I mean seriously, Dilton in real life would be on incel forums planning a school shooting.
CA: Betty's definitely more obsessive --- or at least aggressively obsessive --- in that era. Was there a particular story from the '40s or '50s that stands out?
AdC: This is my favorite Betty panel, Drawn by Bob Montana; inked by Joe Kubert. I want to say '48, but I'm not sure:
I love the stark nakedness of her obsession in her eyes. These kids are sweet and optimistic and family-friendly, but they're all a little bit unbalanced (especially as written in the 40s and 50s), and I think that makes them much more relatable.
CA: Both Archie vs. Predator and No Mercy involve a pretty heavy use of emojis. Is that a coincidence, or can we look forward to more emoji-based comics dialogue in the future?
AdC: Well, Cameron Stewart already did an emoji-only issue of Batgirl --- the Endgame tie-in.. But yes, No Mercy and AvP are both books starring teens, and teens use emoji.
CA: I believe you said that for this story, you mainly worked with Dark Horse, but obviously Archie editorial was involved too. Was that experience any different than doing books like Grindhouse that just went through Dark Horse, or something like No Mercy?
AdC: No Mercy is Image, so it was the usual existential horror of editing yourself. Yes, obviously, we could hire an editor, but I have no money. Grindhouse has the same editor as Archie vs Predator --- the wonderful Brendan Wright --- and so the whole process was very easy and familiar. Brendan keeps me honest. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa would then come in and suggest plot and dialogue tweaks at the very last minute, but by Issue #2 we could pretty much predict what Archie was going to ask for and pre-tweak the issues to meet their approval. Both Archie and Fox, as licensors, have been extremely mellow, pleasant and easy to work with.
CA: If you got the chance to do an Archie comic that didn't involve the wholesale slaughter of the cast, would you take it? And if so, any idea what you'd do?
AdC: Oh, absolutely, in a heartbeat! I've had so, so much fun writing these characters, and working with Fernando Ruiz. And I have asked, but sadly Archie are booked up for the rest of the year with really famous writers like Lena Dunham and Mark Waid, so I'm afraid everyone should enjoy my take on the Archie kids in AvP's four issues while they can, as I don't think they can make space for me again for quite a while. I'm really thankful to Dark Horse for the opportunity, as they were the ones who put me forward for this.
I also looked at Archie's superhero roster and there's a character called The Wizard I'd really like to do.
The character is not actually a wizard, more of a genius with a type of ESP. But instead of doing the character as a rich old white dude, I wanted to make her a rich young mixed-race girl. Archie is so strong with kids (my daughter, four years old, nabbed all my Archie digests and loves to look at them) that it would be really fun to have a more middle grade-centered superhero book. But again, they have to wait until they see how the first wave of superhero stuff goes... which means, we're talking distant future/never.