Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater Talks Stan Lee’s ‘Super Seven’
Worlds collided last week when Archie Comics, home to Riverdale's most well-meaning red head, announced a return to the super hero business through a partnership with Stan Lee and Pow! Entertainment to create "Super Seven," a title starring a team of seven super powered aliens mentored by none other than Lee himself. Written by Tom Defalco with art by Patrick "Spaz" Spaziante, The "Super Seven" comic is poised for multimedia augmentation through a partnership with Andy Heyward and A Squared Entertainment. In light of these announcements, ComicsAlliance caught up with Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater for his insights into Archie Comics' return to the super hero comics and its plans for Lee's latest creations.
ComicsAlliance: Archie's had a history of being an all-ages publisher, targeting pretty much everyone. What made Stan Lee and his company a good fit for what you wanted to do with a new super hero line?
Jon Goldwater: Well, I have to tell you Caleb, you hit the nail on the head because that's exactly why it worked so perfectly with Stan. His marching orders for "Super Seven" are "Let's make the greatest comics we can make. Let's write the best super hero series we could write. We don't need to target young, we don't need to target old – we're just going to make great comics." And we're going to let comic book fans enjoy them as a whole as opposed to a young demo or an older demo, these are really going to be targeted to the comic book fan and fans of super hero comics. So for us, our deal as part of this is to just make the best possible super hero comics. And it certainly isn't going to be targeted for the young, but it's going to be targeted for the real super hero fan.CA: The concept is pretty unique in that it kind of shatters the fourth wall with Stan Lee actually in the book. How did you get to that point of deciding to have the "real world" in the series?
JG: Well, I mean it's truly not the "real world," at all. Stan is a character in the book, so we're not literally shattering that fourth wall so-to-speak. He is going to be an ongoing character in the series, so in the vital part. He's not going to be looked at as an outsider, he's an insider in the story. So he's part of the ongoing storyline going forward.
CA: How do you think that will affect the way the team has their balance? What makes Stan Lee a good mentor for a group of super heroes to you?
JG: If there's anyone on the entire planet who knows super heroes it's Stan. He's the creator of the modern super hero genre. He was there at the beginning of all the great things that have come forth. So if anyone has a unique understanding of what a superhero is all about I can't think of anyone on this planet better than Stan Lee to mentor them. It'd be like Babe Ruth mentoring a hitter today or Michael Jordan mentoring a basketball player. Stan is in the majors – the Michael Jordan of comic books. So for him to mentor super heroes? Man, it's going to be exciting, it's going to be fun and it's going to be educational, it's going to be great.
CA: Now that we've talked a little about the book's writing, I've noticed that you've got one of Archie's own people from the Sonic Title, Patrick Spaziante, doing the art with [longtime Marvel writer] Tom DeFalco writing. So you've kind of got a Marvel guy and an Archie guy coming together. How's the chemistry from what you've seen so far?
JG: I've got to tell you, it's fantastic. Because we're creating a new team and a new book. So Tom, he and Stan really know each other very, very well. They're very like-minded, so from the writing point of view it's been a wonderful and seamless transition. From the art point of view – Spaz – he get's it. He gets it instinctively about what they're looking for and what Stan is looking for to design a super character and he's a tremendous fan of all the Marvel stuff. He actually does work for Marvel as well. He's mostly known for his "Sonic [the Hedgehog]" stuff," but Spaz has done plenty of work for Marvel. So he knows exactly what we're looking for in the creation of these new characters and he's working very closely with Stan in the creation and the visual look of that. So to put together this new team, it's been really, really great to have these guys. They're getting along fantastic so it's been, for me sitting on the sidelines sort of watching all these wonderful creators get it going has been pretty fantastic, pretty inspiring.
CA: This isn't the first super team or group of super heroes that Archie's had in its history as a publisher. Awhile back Archie had the Red Circle characters who have since moved to DC. What made getting a new super hero team the best strategy for Archie, while letting the Red Circle stable of characters go over to DC? What made that the right choice for the company?
JG: Well, they actually kind of go together to a certain degree. We're so happy that we licensed these Red Circle characters to DC because they're doing an unbelievable job with them. I just got the new "Shield" book on my desk today. They're doing a fantastic job with our Red Circle characters. So for me it was like, "Wow." That deal was entered before I came on here at Archie and to see them do such a great job is something where I went well, "For us if the opportunity ever presented itself for us to go into the super hero genre, that'd be something that we'd be directly interested in doing." So of course when the opportunity presented itself to work with Stan, that's a no-brainer. That's something you've got to jump on and jump on real quick. So I think we're in a unique position because we really have nothing else like it here at our home office at Archie and we're in a great position to really spend a lot of time and a lot of energy really cultivating and making that one aspect of our current business into something vibrant and grow it internally. So we're still doing all of our Archie books and doing all the stuff that goes with that, but this is a whole unique stand alone business for us and we're very excited about it.
CA: From what I've read your partnership with A Squared Entertainment to push "Super Seven" into various multimedia seems pretty ambitious. What's your dream scenario for the franchise in terms of where you'd like to see it go?
JG: Well, from Archie's point of view, we want to create the best possible comic book we can create. So we want the best story, we want the best art. We're going to do it at a good price, we want it distributed everywhere we can get it distributed. So from Archie's perspective, we just want to create the best possible comic that we're proud of, A Squared is proud of and of course, most importantly, Stan Lee is proud of. And of course we want the fans to enjoy it and be really happy that they've reached into their pockets and spent their hard-earned money on something that is fantastic. Secondly, of course we want to distribute the comic book digitally. I want to get it up on iTunes for download; hopefully the new iPad helps with the digital readership of comic books. So we want to get the book up digitally. After that we're talking Webisodes going forward. And of course with Andy Heyward and A Squared we're talking about great things like animation, we're talking about licensing; we're talking about ultimately feature films. Feature films take a moment to develop, but I don't see why we can't have, in the near future, some animation. We're going to see some opportunities going on. And with these characters and absolutely getting down to the nitty-gritty in these books, I absolutely see a feature film future for these characters without a doubt. We have a very, very ambitious plan. There's no reason why we can't achieve exactly what we want to achieve. We have great people involved. We've got the best of the best with Andy Heyward and Stan Lee. So I really think pretty soon you're going to see not just the comic books and all the stuff digitally, you're going to see stuff on television and you're going to see stuff on the big screen without a doubt.
CA: Where does that fit in with some of your other multimedia plans for the rest of the Archie stable like Josie and the Pussycats and some of the other stuff you've got going on?
JG: Well the Josie partnership with Nick Cannon is just so – I can't tell you what a great guy Nick Cannon is and how incredible it is to be in business with him. Not only is he a celebrity in his own right, he's also one of the smartest people I've met in my entire life. This guy is absolutely brilliant and his vision for Josie and the Pussycats is going to blow people away. So we're developing that property right now. I think we're negotiating with the writer for the series. I think Nick has identified who he wants to write the pilot. So I believe we're coming to a deal with the writer today as a matter of fact. So that thing is off and running. We have a record deal that we're talking to one of the major record labels about a Josie and the Pussycats band. We're going to have a TV show for Josie, a reality show for Josie and we're going to have a band – a real band and a real record out there so not only will we have a scripted TV show, we'll have a band that's going to get on tour. And that's really, really exciting. And the band's going to be a little harder edged now. There's going to be a little hard rock stuff going on. So maybe in the tradition of a Joan Jett or something like that, so it's not going to be little pop stuff. I think it's going to be more like The Runaways Joan Jett style music. So it's going to be cool.
CA: Speaking of Josie and the Pussycats, Archie's got a crossover where he'll be smooching on Valerie coming up. Do you have any plans for "Super Seven" to cross over with some of your other properties in the near future?
JG: Nah, "Super Seven" is going to be stand-alone. We're going to keep all the Archie characters to the Archie world and "Super Seven" is going to be a stand-alone comic.
CA: Is there anything else our readers should know about "Super Seven" or anything else Archie has going on?
JG: As far as "Super Seven" goes, we're going to launch it at some point I'm hoping in September or October at the latest this year. As far as Archie goes, look for some new titles that we're going to announce really soon. We're not cutting titles, we're increasing titles. So look for some announcement on brand new titles, brand new initiatives coming from the Archie line of comics. I think we might see those announcements in the next two weeks. So there's going to be new stuff coming from Archie this summer that's going to be a little different, a little out-of-the-box and a little bit more along the lines of the wedding story and stuff like that. So watch for those announcements in the next couple of weeks. And hey, we've got the Tom Root "Jughead" #200 coming out in March and that to me, that comic is the most brilliantly written comic that Archie's put out in years. This guy Tom Root wrote an unbelievable comic for "Jughead" #200, so I really encourage everyone to read that. You've got the "Robot Chicken" vibe combined with Jughead. He just hit it out of the park. That guy's the best. He's just hilarious. He's got such a fantastic sense of humor and he just gets the Archie universe. He's a huge fan and we're so proud that we have him on board as a writer for "Jughead" #200. So please look out for that book and, of course, we have the Archie/Valerie crossover coming and many other multimedia opportunities coming forward for Archie.