Earlier this year, Archie Comics named Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa as the company’s first-ever Chief Creative Officer, tasked with bringing in new writer’s and developing fresh concepts for the Riverdale gang. So far the move yielded fascinating results ranging from hiring Girls creator/star Lena Dunham to pen a four-part Archie miniseries to the announcement of a collaboration with Dark Horse Comics on Archie Meets Predator. While being integral to making these high-profile deals happen, Aguirre-Sacasa is also writing the ongoing Archie horror titles Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. At last week’s New York Comic Con, he took some time to discuss these books as well as the future of all things Archie. Take a look.
The last time I spoke with you Afterlife with Archie had just come out and it was an immediate sensation. Here we are a year later and we have a companion book with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. What was so shocking to me about that book was its third act revelation that Betty and Veronica are witches. Will other Riverdale characters be flowing in and out of Sabrina, or was that a one-time thing?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: No, it is not a one-time thing. Betty and Veronica and some of the other Riverdale girls are definitely going to appear in the book regularly. A bunch of them are in the second issue, and then the second arc we are doing is called “Witch War,” and that is going to be a story about two covens fighting: one is Sabrina’s coven and one is the Riverdale coven, which Betty and Veronica are a part of.
So it’s safe to say with this book we are seeing different versions of the Archieverse, with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina taking place in the 1960s and Afterlife with Archie taking place in the present day. Do you think a third horror title would be going to the well one too many times?
It would depend on what the book was. Archie and his gang are the leads of Afterlife, Sabrina has a very small part in it. She cameoed in the first issue and then she was in issue 6, and she’ll come back. But she’s not the focus of Afterlife, and Sabrina is obviously the focus of her book. It doesn’t feel like these are cannibalizing each other. Archie may have a cameo in the Sabrina book, but he hasn’t yet so I think we’re okay on that front. I think as long as they make sense and the stories feel different. It feels like they deserve their own books. I don’t know. If the right combination of characters comes together for a third book we wouldn’t not do it for fear of cannibalizing it, you know what I mean?
What can you tell me about the upcoming story arcs for Afterlife with Archie and Sabrina?
The first storyline of Sabrina is called “The Crucible,” and it really is Sabrina’s origin story and her dark coming-of-age. It’s all crystallizes around her 16th birthday, which goes horrifically awry. The second arc is called “Witch War.” You read the first issue so you know that Betty and Veronica are part of a rival coven, and it’s going to be a story about Sabrina’s coven in Greendale versus the witches of Riverdale led by High Priestess Grundy. So that’s going to be an epic magic war.
That will take us through issue 12, and amongst those we’re going to intersperse some one-issue only stories. One is Sabrina spends a night in a haunted house on a dare. It’s going to be an homage to The Haunting. In Afterlife we are doing “Betty R.I.P.” right now. Issue 7 is going to be a big Thanksgiving issue, which Francesco is drawing right now. Issue 8 is a Christmas issue. Then 9 is a Reggie Mantle issue. 10, 11, 12 have the kids finding what they think is a refuge from the zombie apocalypse, almost a compound with other teenagers living there. Obviously it’s not the sanctuary that they originally think it is. Let’s just say it’s almost a Children of the Corn cult where only teenagers can live.
The last issue of Afterlife with Archie really ramped up the possibilities of the series. It went from zombies to huge Lovecraftian horror. Was this planned from the beginning, or did the success of the title allow you to delve into other types of horror?
From the very beginning we wanted Afterlife to be a horror book, not just a zombie book. Which is why we had Sabrina and the Necronomicon. We wanted it to be supernatural as opposed to science fiction like a Dilton experiment gone awry. So we always knew we were going to branch out into other horror areas, that’s why we also did the Blossom twins. To show we’d have other aspects of horror, like Flowers in the Attic is its own genre, and stuff like that. We always knew from the get go that we’d go there.
Francesco and I are both huge Lovecraft fans, so when we put in the Necronomicon we thought it would be great if we could do more H.P. Lovecraft stuff. So every issue Francesco would ask “is this the Lovecraft issue?” and I would respond “not yet.” And then it ended up being issue 6, and we will still continue it by the way.
Is there any kind of horror genre that you want to get into Afterlife that you haven’t yet? Or is there anything that you think would be going to far?
Going to far…it hasn’t occurred to me. I personally don’t love torture porn. As a horror fanatic it’s not my bag, so I don’t think we’re ever going to go there. That might be one bridge too far. I’m not interested in that even creatively, but other stuff I can’t think of anything that we may not try at some point.
As a fan of the weird Archie adventure stories of the 1970s, would you ever consider doing an one-off graphic novel anthology of these sorts of horror stories featuring the characters?
That’s a really good question. I think we would, absolutely. We’ve talked about it. We’re going to do a big possession story in Sabrina, the Pussycats are going to be part of Afterlife in a very big way in the third arc. So weirdly in that way we don’t want to dilute the characters by doing one-offs and tons of stuff like that. But never say never.
Is there any chance of getting those old stories compiled as a digital exclusive?
Absolutely. We’ve also talked about doing them as a big trade. With a new Francesco Francavilla cover? You’d get that book!
Oh in a second. Switching gears a bit, let’s talk about Kevin Keller. I feel the character shows how inclusive Riverdale is…and how it’s a reflection of how the world should be. His solo title is winding down, so what are Archie’s future plans for the character?
There are definitely big plans for Kevin, which Dan Parent, who is the creative voice of Kevin Keller is working on. He just showed me some new designs and sketches that are amazing, and there’s going to be a big announcement very soon about Kevin. In Afterlife he’s only going to have a bigger role as that series goes on, and he’s still obviously in all of the regular books. A big spotlight on Kevin is coming very soon.
Recently Archie has announced everything from a comic written by Lena Dunham to Archie Meets Predator. As Archie’s Chief Creative Officer, what types of stories are you seeking? What are you looking for from talent you want to bring to Archie?
It basically comes down to a huge love of Archie. Archie Meets Predator came up at our Archie summit meeting, and we wanted to see if Dark Horse was interested. From first contact they loved the idea. So I think it’s finding those people who have enthusiasm and passion for the characters. If that’s there and we don’t have to convince them about Archie’s relevancy or brand or the characters then everything else is easy. To me it’s that passion. It starts there.
Finally, what’s the status of the Archie movie?
We have a very big announcement but we can’t quite make it yet. It will be in the next week or so. That will answer that question completely.
Thanks to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa for his time, and for Alex Segura and Ron Cacace at Archie for arranging the interview.