It’s no secret that we adore the All New Archie comics. When New Archie was first announced last year, Panelteers (… myself included) could barely contain themselves. And with every issue that drops, we love it even more. They’ve been funny and heartfelt, and our old friends have become more than just a few panels of laughs. Now we’re invested in their lives and in their relationships. Next month, Archie, Vol. 1 will hit the shelves, and to celebrate, we’ve asked writer Mark Waid a few questions about what it’s been like living in Riverdale over the past year.
Preeti Chhibber: Clearly we have been huge fans of the new Archie over at Panels.Net from the very first panel reveal. How did you think people were going to react? Were you nervous about updating characters with such a long history?
Mark Waid: I was crazy nervous. So much is always at stake when you take on a character with this much history who’s this beloved. The reaction exceeded my wildest dreams, however, for which I’m grateful. I think the key is always to reassure the readers that you love the character as much as they do, and that they can trust you.
PC: In the Afterward of Vol. 1, you talk about how you approached updating Riverdale and how you realized that did not mean creating more edgy versions of these characters — was it difficult maintaining that line of humor through the series?
MW: Not really. The humor’s actually the easiest part, because it all comes from character, and I feel like I’ve known these characters all my life (probably because I have). It’s the drama that’s dicier, more difficult to navigate, because it means putting characters in opposition with one another without making any of them out to look like chumps or evil villains.
PC: I grew up on Archie, and have been reading it since … before I could actually read, probably. But one thing that has never happened? Archie has never made me simultaneously chuckle at our boy getting beaned by a baseball fooble, while still agonizing and angsting over Betty and Jughead’s outsidery status. How did you go about achieving the right tone and balance for the dramatic tension with the slapstick humor?
MW: Again, I always knew that the secret was going to lie in that balance, in keeping readers invested because they never know from page to page whether or not we’re going to be trying to make them laugh or make them cry. I think–I could be wrong, but I think–that the tone and the balance comes from thinking of these characters as real, honest kids with real, honest emotions–to not think of them as cartoons.
PC: The Betty-Archie-Veronica triangle is an Archie staple. In older stories, it can be a little hard to stomach these smart, accomplished girls having such a fierce, lifelong frenemy relationship over, well, Archie. In the New Archie, they both come off as very human: Betty’s still the friendly, cute girl next door, but she makes mistakes, and Ronnie’s still a spoiled brat, but she does genuinely care about Archie. What was your thought process while writing their new stories? How did you want to portray their relationship?
MW: Without in any way sounding like I’m being critical of past interpretations of the Archie Love Triangle–all of which, in their era, were great–I just couldn’t wrap my head around Betty and Veronica being besties in one story and yet fighting over the same boy in the next story. Not only did it make my head hurt, but in our more enlightened times, having any of these kids view one or more of the others as prizes to be won just grates. I wanted to hew a little closer to the original 1940s triangle–Betty pines for Archie, but Archie sees only Veronica and sees Betty purely as a pal. To that, we added the wrinkle that Betty’s not exactly pining for Archie, she just doesn’t want to see him end up with someone bad for him. At least, that’s what she’s telling herself. And to be honest, even I haven’t yet decided how truthful she’s being with herself.
PC: Let’s talk about Jughead! Jughead is now officially, canonically asexual. A lot of readers are excited to see even more LGBTQIA+ representation in the already friendly Archie series. Will that come into play in future storylines at all?
MW: I’d love to play with that a little more. In my mind, he’s always been asexual. That’s kinda the archetype of the “removed, wiser-than-his years” supporting character–I’d lay money down that Linus Van Pelt is asexual, too. That said, I cede Jughead’s development to Cap’n Chip Zdarzky and his bent mind.
PC: Updating the look of an iconic character is a daunting task, and Fiona Staples absolutely knocked it out of the park. What happened when different artists came in to in turn give their own spin on newly updated Archie? How is it writing text with different art styles in mind?
MW: It’s not as challenging as I’d feared to write for a succession of artists, and I do think that Veronica [Fish] and I have found our groove as partners and collaborators. With all the artists, I try to open up the scripts as wide as possible for them to add their own sense of humor to the drawings and the settings, and I’m delighted that Veronica can handle both the wordplay and the slapstick with equal skill.
PC: In addition to updating our old favorites, you’ve created a colorful cast of supporting characters new to the Archie universe. Do you have a favorite among the newbies?
MW: Not yet. I’m still feeling them out. But I gotta tell you, while he’s as old as Archie himself, Hiram Lodge is the most fun to write for.
Spoilers for the most recent turn of events in Archie’s universe in Mark’s answer below!
PC: Okay, the volume ends on a tiiiiiiny bit of a cliff hanger. Can you give us any hints as to what we can look forward to in coming issues?
[SPOILER ALERT FOR ISSUE 6, AVERT YOUR EYES!]
MW: You mean now that Hiram Lodge now knows definitively that it’s Archie who destroyed his mansion? Hiram will seek revenge–and trust me, if you’re a teenage boy, the one enemy you DON’T want is a billionaire who will stop at nothing to destroy you. Look forward to seeing the ultimate David v Goliath fight!
Thanks to Mark Waid for taking the time to talk Archie with us. Volume 1 features issues #1–6 of the series and releases in March (week of 3/9 in comics shops, week of 3/29 in bookstores), while issue #6 releases Wednesday, February 17. Final Order Cutoff for the book is 2/14, so make sure you tell your comics shop you want to read this awesome trade. Trust us, you’ll love it.