Despite being around for over 75 years, Archie Comics is currently having a bit of a moment. The current run of their Archie title has writer Mark Waid exploring how the character of Betty Cooper is the glue that binds her community together. Reboots of both Jughead and Josie and the Pussycats have recently ended critically acclaimed runs, while new titles like Jughead: The Hunger and the music-focused The Archieshave, at least for the time being, taken their place. Meanwhile, the digests featuring the classic stories and takes on the characters can still be found at supermarkets and book stores across the country.
Oh yeah, and there’s this show on the CW called Riverdale. Two episodes into its second year and the show is more popular than ever before, thanks to great word of mouth and people binging on the first 13 episodes via Netflix. It is rapidly becoming appointment viewing, and vindicates those of us who for years have been shouting about how, unlike any other publisher in the industry today, Archie Comics is truly willing to push the creative envelope when it comes to what their well-established characters can do.
The latest example of this is the forthcoming B & V: Vixens. Written by longtime Archie Comics editor Jamie Lee Rotante, the series chronicles the adventures of Riverdale resident BFFs Betty and Veronica as they lead a motorcycle gang called the Vixens. Joined on the title by artist Eva Cabrera, letterer Rachel Deering, and colorist Elaina Unger, Rotante leads the first solely female creative staff on a big in Archie history. An overdue milestone that aims to appeal to everyone from fans of juvenile delinquent exploitation flicks like Teenage Gang Debs and to readers of the current valentine to female friendship that is Paper Girls.
Speaking to us at New York Comic Con a few weeks back, Rotante explained the genesis of the project. “We were just brainstorming new ideas, just kind of throwing around what else we could do with the characters,” she told us. “And I’d been tossing around the idea for awhile that it would be really cool to have the ladies be in the forefront as a girl gang .” Once the seed of that idea was planted, further inspiration was found in the unlikeliest of places — old Russ Meyer films. “So then it became what if we do a Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! style idea with Betty and Veronica?,” Rotante added.
The brilliant mixture of Riverdale purity with good girls gone bad-esque dramatic potential was too good for the Archie higher-ups to pass on, and when the book hits stores on November 15th readers can expect to see Betty and Veronica and the other women of Riverdale like they’ve never seen them before. But does Rotante fear that this fresh take on the characters will scare off any potential readers, or will they embrace the change? “I think people will be excited,” she declares, “especially when books like Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina have really opened that door to take new chances with these characters.”
So if Betty and Veronica are leading the Vixens, who will they be squaring off against? “The Serpents,” she exclaimed with a grin. She goes on to add that these won’t be the exact Southside Serpents that Riverdale viewers are familiar with, but rather a merging of the gang from TV with the original Serpents that were featured in Bob Bolling’s classic Little Archie comics — only all grown up and looking for trouble.
To sum up B & V: Vixens‘ mission of exploring realistic female friendships, Rotante succinctly sums up what the book will be about: “These girls are fighting, but not each other. They are fighting for what they believe in.” After learning this, B & V: Vixens is one gang that we can’t wait to join.
Here’s an exclusive look at sample pages from B & V: Vixens, as well as the main cover by Eva Cabrera and variants from Robert Hack and Fiona Staples.
B & V: Vixens hits stores on November 15th. The 32-page book retails for $3.99. We’ll have more on this — and all things Archie — in the days and weeks ahead.