In recent years, Archie Comics have established themselves as industry innovators thanks to their commitment to shaking up the status quo with their innovative Kevin Keller and Life With Archie titles. This desire to experiment with and recontextualize their iconic characters has reached its apex with Afterlife With Archie, a teen dramedy that just so happens to be set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. Created by artist Francesco Francavilla (The Black Beetle) and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Glee), Afterlife With Archie is the most surprising comic in Archie history…and it might also be the best. Funny, thrilling, and genuinely shocking, Afterlife With Archie has turned the Archieverse on its head. As word of the book’s immediate success began to spread, I had the opportunity to speak with Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla about the genesis of the project at last month’s New York Comic Con.
To paraphrase the words that opened the comic, this is how the end of the world began.
Francesco, how did you get involved with illustrating the variant cover of Life With Archie that helped plant the seed for this project?
Francesco Francavilla: They approached me after I did the Archie Meets Kiss covers. Everybody loved those, so they approached me to do more work, mostly variants. That was the beginning of our relationship with Archie. I love drawing those characters, so I was really happy to be involved more and more.
What was your initial involvement Roberto?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: I was obsessed with Archie and I was obsessed with horror. I was in my local comic book shop in L.A. called Golden Apple, and I saw Francesco’s cover for issue 23 of Life With Archie and said “oh my God, Archie’s doing a zombie book!” So I bought it, and then when I got home I saw it was just a variant (cover) and that the issue on the inside was a Life With Archie comic, which I love, but I thought there might be a zombie fantasy sequence or something. Then not too long after that I was having breakfast with John Goldwater and his son Jesse we were talking about another project and afterwards I said that the most amazing variant cover ever was Francesco’s zombie cover. I said “I want the poster, let’s get the poster!” And he said “we’ll do the poster.” Then, at the same time, literally all three of us said that it needs to be a comic book. We talked a little bit. I wanted it to be called Crypt of Archie; John really wanted it to be called Afterlife With Archie. Maybe two hours later he sent an e-mail saying “let’s do it.” So it started from there. I can’t remember if Francesco was going to do it before I wrote the script or after, but we were all agreed that he has to do it. No one but. He started it, he has to do it. And that’s kind of how it started.
Was there any apprehension that it may not be well received given how the public traditionally views the Archie characters?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: We had a sense that because zombies are so big in popular culture that maybe people thought it was going to be a gimmick or more like the traditional Archie crossovers, but I think people were pretty excited from the announcement on. They’ve only gotten more and more excited now that they’ve gotten a chance to read the book.
When did you both first realize this was going to become a sensation that it’s become?
Francesco Francavilla: This week.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: I think as we were releasing teasers and images, people were getting really excited. But you never know how people are going to react once they read it, if they’ll say “I don’t like this” or what. But the response has been great. So I’m with you, I think this week it’s really felt like lightning in a bottle.
What, if anything, can you tell our readers about the Archie movie that you are writing?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Wow. I can tell you that those wheels turn as fast as they can turn, and we are right now working on the story.
And just to make things clear, it is not going to be an Afterlife With Archie movie, because that rumor is still out there.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: There have been many rumors that have been debunked, and I will continue to say right now it is only a rumor.
Francesco Francavilla: But we’ll have a poster with zombies on it (laughs).
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: There will definitely be a variant poster with zombies on it for sure.