Ultimate Archie Comics
By Hervé St-Louis
November 9, 2006 - 17:46
Archie Comics is one of the oldest comic book publishers in North America and certainly, one of the most successful. Created in 1939, MLJ (Archie Comics’ original name) the company has created a niche for itself with teenage humour and published comics based on the Riverdale gang headed by 17-year-old Archie Andrews. Archie first appeared in Pep Comics #22 in 1941, along with sweetheart, Betty Cooper.
Archie Comics has survived in the marketplace ever since by presenting its characters as modern counterparts of current teens. It probably is one of the few publishers whose products are distributed beyond the comic book stores and book stores.
In this interview we’ll try to understand what makes Archie Comics work. I'd like to thank Archie Comic's press agent, Rik Offenberger, for making this article (six months in the making) possible. I'd also like to thank Michael Silberkleit' Archie Comics's president for answering those questions. In all there's the equivalent of 14 pages, so it was not an easy interview to respond to.
CBB: For decades, Archie comics were the leaders in products sold on newsstands, and the one bright spot in the industry as to the variety of its readership. Are you feeling the competition from Manga?
Archie: We are happy to be part of the manga comic market with Sabrina the Teenage Witch. We also had Josie & the Pussycats take on the manga look for a while. In 2004 the Riverdale gang joined Sabrina in our annual Halloween Ashcan and were given a manga look. So manga isn’t competition, Archie is part of the manga comic experience.
CBB: Do you think that kids and readers these days are skipping American comics that are like them in favour of a product that was made for the audience of another country?
Archie: Archie comics have been enjoyed by generations of readers through out the world in many languages in many countries. Just this year our comics have been translated in Arabic. You can go to our website www.archiecomics.com and see copies of our comics in French, Greek, Norwegian, Swedish, German, Korean and Spanish.
CBB: What kind of strategies does Archie have to fight the Manga tide?
Archie: Again, where appropriate Archie comics are manga comics, so there is nothing to fight. We are not planning on make our line of comics a manga line, but Sabrina is the flagship title in the Archie Manga line of comics.
CBB: Has your market share being affected by competing titles published by companies such as Tokyopop?
Archie: The people at Tokyopop are friends of ours. Tania del Rio was a Tokyopop contestant winner before joining Archie Comics.
CBB: Whereas many people “hate” super hero comics and other things they see as juvenile literature, Archie, although it is aimed at kids seems to always be skipped when it’s time to lash out against what critics call fanboy material.
Archie: Archie Comics is and always has been a family company that produces family friendly comic books. We have been a strong supporter of the Comics Code since its inception. When people “lash out”, the issues that offend them are not a part of what Archie Comics is about, so they usually don’t include us.
CBB: Why do you think they leave you alone while they’ll go on criticising anything produced by DC Comics or Marvel?
Archie: I am not sure exactly what you are referring to here. But we don’t have an Identity Crisis nor do we think it would be appropriate for our audience. We don’t have a Civil War, after all, who would join Reggie’s side? Actually both those projects were controversial and very successful for our friends at DC and Marvel. For the most part they sell adventure comics, where we sell romantic comedy comics. Neither of their controversial comics were funny so it’s not a fair comparison. Even Sonic who stars in two of our comics in the Archie Adventure line is a humorous comic book.
CBB: According to your market data, are they more female Archie Comics readers than male readers?
Archie: Our readership is split pretty evenly between boys and girls. What makes us stand out is that our competition has mostly male readers while we are more balanced.
CBB: What are the main age groups of your readers?
Archie: Our readers range for 8 to 80 and everywhere in between. Parents buy Archie comics for their children, and Grandparents buy them for the Grandchildren. Parents read the comics to the younger children, so they are our readers too. We have lifetime fans that started as small children and enjoy our comics as Adults.
CBB: It seems that some books are definitely written for girls and I don’t mean Katy Keene. Others seem more neutral, like the main Archie series.
Archie: The Betty & Veronica Spectacular comics comes to mind as a title aimed at girls. The revamp on that series came from the look of fashion magazines. Dan Parent gave the series a unique look, and made it stand out from our regular Betty & Veronica title. We don’t plan that a particular title should only attract girls or should only attract boys.
CBB: Do you have genuine market segmentation at Archie Comics?
Archie: We have three different looking product lines at the moment; there is the Archie line, the Archie Adventure line and the Archie Manga line of comics. There is some overlap, as we mentioned earlier the Riverdale Gang visited Sabrina for a Manga adventure and Josie & the Pussycats have also visited the Manga line. For the most part we keep them separate with Sonic as our Adventure hero, Sabrina getting the Manga make over and the rest keeping the Riverdale look.
CBB: Archie has always had one of the best distribution networks of any North American publisher. Your books are found at the waiting lines of super markets next to People Magazine and O, they are in comic book stores, corner shops, newsstands, and airports next to cheap paperbacks.
CBB: How do you handle, retain and organize such as complex distribution network?
Archie: We were there at the beginning of the direct market and we were successful on the newsstand. We never gave up on either. The newsstand prefers the digests and the direct market prefers the standard comics, but both markets sell both products. We work with our retail partners and support them with the type of product they can sell successfully. Remember, we are a 65 year old comic company and most people have at one time read an Archie comic. Adults who grew up reading our comics and digests will buy them for their kids.
CBB: Do you need to advertise and market your products for specific retail environments from time to time to remind them to order more of your books?
Archie: Marketing is an important part of the publishing process. We want the retailers to know what we have planned and we want to keep our fans informed as well. We send out regular press releases and include everything on our website as well. It’s not as much a matter of reminding them as it is about getting them excited about the next issue of Archie.
CBB: Are the floppies (24 page comic books) distributed as well as your digests outside of comic book stores?
Archie: All of our comics and digest are available to all of our retail partners. Different retailers have different preferences. Grocery stores usually put the digests at the check out stand and the standard comics with the magazines, and will therefore sell more digests.
CBB: Do you think that one of the explanations of the success of Archie comics is the low price and cheap newsprint?
Archie: An Archie Double Digest is the best value in comics today. However, the Archie Americana series has been very successful with a higher price and high quality paper. It’s always a matter of finding the right packaging for the material. We want to give our customers Archie Comics in the formats they find most desirable.
CBB: Why do you think the rest of the comic book industry puts so few effort to replicate a distribution network as good as yours?
Archie: That is something you would have to ask them. I don’t know how much effort they put in.
CBB: Do you actively recruit foreign language publishers for translation or do they approach you instead?
Archie: Part of Archie’s charm is that he and the gang relate the teenage experience in a way that is accessible to people in many different counties. As a result we have been fortunate enough to have had many people come to us over the years and ask to publish our comics in different languages.
CBB: In how many country and languages can Archie comics be read?
Archie: That changes pretty quickly as we add new publishing partners. As I mentioned before we have comics in Arabic, French, Greek, Norwegian, Swedish, German, Korean and Spanish. We just added a new publishing partner in Mexico and many of the publishers sell the comics in more than one country.
CBB: Do they receive all your new material for translation or only a specific set of stories from a time period?
Archie: We send them digital files and they translate them into the local language or languages whatever the case may be. It’s all a matter of what each publisher requests.
CBB: What series do foreign publishers prefer the most from Archie?
Archie: Archie Andrews as always been our most popular character and is always the character most in demand from our foreign publishing partners.
CBB: There has been several cartoon series, films and television shows with Archie characters. There have even been a few games. Are they any other plans in the works?
Archie: There are always plans in the works; we are actively planning movies, animation and a video game right now. You will see then very soon.
CBB: How feasible is it to license material from Archie Comics? Is it a costly endeavour that only a media group can afford or can a mid-level company afford the fees?
Archie: Last year we reached a licensing agreement with a 14 year old girl, Marisa Rodriguez; so it’s just a matter of the right business plan for the right product.
CBB: Do you think that being an independent company, makes it easier to license material from Archie Comics?
Archie: Much easier, licenser can deal directly with us. There is no parent company that has to agree after we have approved a license.
CBB: It appears that you have a special unit for customized comic book creation. How does it work?
Archie: If you are looking for a custom comic, just let us know. We are always happy to produce custom comics for companies that have custom comic needs. We produce them in house and work with the company to provide a comic that helps get their message across while still maintaining an enjoyable and humorous story.
CBB: Archie’s house style has always been more comic strip-like than standard comic book fare. The characters’ design is standardized, the lines are thicker. There are few background details.
Do you think that Archie is better suited for the comic strip rather than the comic book?
Archie: There is a daily Archie comic strip in most of the major markets in North America. On our website we offer the strip in Spanish as well. We also offer ESL lessons which can help teach both English and Spanish on a daily basis. However, they are different types of humour. A joke told in 4 page is different then a joke told in 4 panels. Archie works well in both environments.
CBB: The comic strip offers short gags which is one of Archie’s strength. How many original strips are still created by Archie staff for newspapers?
Archie: One each day.
CBB: Are they distributed through many papers?
Archie: The Daily Archie strip is distributed by Creators Syndicate, and available in both English and Spanish, if your local paper doesn’t carry the Daily Archie strip write a letter to the cartoon editor.
CBB: Do you use another syndicate to publish those comics or do you work directly with newspapers and the large media groups who own them?
Archie: Creators Syndicate does all the syndication of our comic strip. Craig Boldman, who also writes Jughead, writes the Daily strip and Henry Scarpelli provides the art.
CBB: Are the strips in colour or black and white?
Archie: Black and White 6 days and color on Sunday.
The Dan DeCarlo Affair
CBB: Just before the release of the last Josie and The Pussy Cats film, in 2000, long time artist, Dan DeCarlo sued Archie Comics claiming that he had created Josie well before he had presented her to Archie. Archie Comics alleged that DeCarlo had created Josie as a work for hire and thus could not claim to own her. The matter was settled by the Supreme Court of America which affirmed Archie’s position.
DeCarlo died the day after the Supreme Court ruling.
In hindsight, could Archie have worked out something similar to Jerry Siegel and Simon Shuster, the creators of Superman to recognize DeCarlo’s input?
Archie: We wish that court rulings were not necessary when dealing with any of our talent. Dan DeCarlo has passed and it would not be appropriate to talk about what had and had not been offered to Dan DeCarlo before his death.
CBB: As Archie is rarely talked about in the trade press, it did not elevate passions, are you aware that if such a case had happened at DC Comics or Marvel, with an 80-year-old artist who had worked for 43 years, as DeCarlo did for Archie, you would have paid a public price for this?
Archie: See my answer above.
CBB: Some claim that you have erased the contribution of DeCarlo from your official company’s history. Is that true?
Archie:No, this is not true.
Josie & the Pussy Cats
CBB: Josie, bandleader of the Pussy Cats, started as a female version of Archie. When the 1970 cartoon was introduced as a girl band with fellow best friends Valerie and Melody, the comic book series also changed as a girl band comic book. Archie Comics was quick to capitalize from this and adapt its characters to changing times.
Will Josie ever be a girl next door as opposed to a lead signer in a band?
Archie: Josie is the girl next door, she just happens to be in a band. That didn’t change who she is. At present our fans are happy with her being part of the Pussycats.
CBB: Did Josie’s band ever sing with the Archies?
Archie: From time to time Josie and her band have appeared in Riverdale.
CBB: Josie and The Pussy Cats seem to be the model for many girl bands, fictional and real these days. Are they any cross promotions to introduce fans of the comic book series to the various music albums recorded and vice versa?
Archie: We are currently doing cross promotions with the Veronicas. Josie and the Pussycats are not involved in that at the moment.
CBB: Did the movie producers ask Archie Comics to provide any specific extras for the DVD of 2000 film?
Archie: We didn’t have that much involvement in the packaging of the DVD. The next time we make a Josie & the Pussycats movie we will be much more actively involved.
CBB: Recently Sabrina has received a Manga design upgrade. What motivated you to try this experiment?
Archie: We are always looking for different ways to connect with our audience. We are always trying different things and seeing how our audience reacts.
CBB: How has this played out so far?
Archie: The reaction to Sabrina’s manga makeover has been very positive and we just releasing our first Manga Sabrina trade paperback in October.
CBB: Is the audience you’re aiming for different than the one traditionally interested in Archie Comics?
Archie: We always want to expand our audience but we never want to alienate our current readers. With Sabrina we have hit the right combination to make our fans happy and increase our sales.
CBB: Are you trying to make old fans of the Sabrina television series remember that the character originated in comics by offering a hip Manga style?
Archie: We offered photo covers while the TV show was on, we used the cartoon look when the animated series was on. Now we are just giving the fans a different look. The advantage of being a teenage witch is that you can use your magic to change your look.
CBB: Recently there was a pilot for a Zatanna cartoon series, borrowing much from the typical teenage setting used by Sabrina. How did Archie feel about DC Comics and Warner trying to mimic one of your star characters?
Archie: We have had a very pleasant and long stand relationship with the people at DC and wish them nothing but success.
CBB: Do you think that most of Sabrina’s television series’ fans knew that Sabrina was a comic book character?
Archie: Any time you cross mediums there are fans that cross over. We gained new fans, but the reason they wanted to make a Sabrina series is because they wanted our fans to watch the television series and they wanted people to know what the series was about before they ever saw an episode.
CBB: Why did you change the physical appearance of Sabrina’s aunts?
Archie: Many of the characters are updated from time to time. Some updates are more subtle than others but it is always a matter of making the characters appealing to the next generation of fans.
CBB: Are they more plans for Sabrina outside of comics?
CBB: What Archie series are currently featuring Sabrina?
Archie: Right now she is regularly in the monthly Sabrina comic in her manga version and classic Sabrina can be seen in our Digests from time to time.
Archie and Friends
CBB: I know the car was old and possibly stretching credibility that a 17-year-old still drives a car made in 1919 but did you have to give him Archie a mustang?
Archie: What’s wrong with a Mustang?
CBB: How many 17-year-old can afford mustangs these days?
Archie: His parents helped him pay for it.
CBB: One thing I noticed recently was that Veronica had a mom. When did she first appear?
Archie: About 25 years before Veronica.
Seriously, Veronica’s Mom has been there from the very first story with Veronica.
CBB: What motivated you to add this new character?
Archie: Everyone needs a Mother, but she isn’t new.
CBB: I noticed that other characters have been differentiated too. For example, I remember reading a comic as a kid, where Big Ethel’s dad was a clone of Jughead’s. Things like that don’t happen anymore. Is the differentiation due to the greater sophistication of readers?
Archie: Much like the case with Sabrina’s aunts, the characters get updated from time to time. Bingo Wilkins and Jughead Jones just became cousins last year when we discovered that they had the same Uncle Herman.
CBB: For years, one never knew what age Archie was and in what grade he was. Now, we know, and we even know that he is a Sagittarius. Why the change to real dates and time frames?
Archie: It ads another layer to the character, it make him a richer and deeper character without changing and values or characteristics.
CBB: Doesn’t that limit the potential stories one can tell with the characters, I mean how many Christmas stories or prom night can one read before the ugly word continuity steps in?
Archie: Most fictional characters don’t age. There was a time when I was younger then Superman, today he is younger then I am.
CBB: Do you think that current teens can still relate to Archie?
Archie: That is the whole point of Archie, he is the every man, or every teen. Teenagers all over the word, and in every generation, can relate to him on some level or another. It’s that ability to relate to him and his friends that make his stories fun and enjoyable.
CBB: What makes him such as special guy and likable character?
Archie: Archie just has the right combination of personality and supporting characters that make him connect to his fans in ways that no other humorous comic book character has been able to achieve. From the very beginning his personality connected with the fans.
CBB: Betty and Veronica really are archetypes and have always been strong female models. Yet I can imagine a feminist group stepping in and accusing Archie Comics of dummying girls. What do you think is the secret that makes the competition for Archie’s heart so enduring and so popular with both girls and boys?
Archie: It’s all about the personality of the characters. Betty and Veronica have always been strong characters. Because they are fully developed as characters they have been able to support their one titles and still been supporting characters for Archie himself. Archie genuinely likes both Betty and Veronica and can’t choose. It’s that genuineness that has connected with the audience.
CBB: Is Reggie the Daffy Duck to Archie’s Bugs Bunny? I mean, is Reggie, a darker Archie or his arch villains?
Archie: There is a more antagonist relation ship between Bugs and Daffy. Reggie and Archie are completive but Reggie is neither a darker Archie nor a villain, he is a bit of a prankster and a lot of his jokes backfire.
CBB: As a kid, I only though of Reggie as Archie’s pal who competed for the same two girls. In a sense, it made sense as in the school yard; kids had similar best friends with revolving door girlfriends. Today, the entire gang would end up on Doctor Phil, in real life.
What makes the gang such a strong unit, despite all the soap opera potential?
Archie: The characters have a strong and well developed relationship. Our ability to demonstrate that relationship through storytelling and humour has established who the characters are and built a relationship not only between the characters but with the readers as well.
CBB: Aren’t characters like Cheryl and Jason nothing but extreme takes on Veronica and Reggie?
Archie: Cheryl and Jason are different then Veronica and Reggie both in motivation and their relationship to each other. As a result they get a different reaction from our fans.
CBB: Don’t they make the older characters obsolete?
Archie: Quite the contrary. Veronica stars in her own title as well as two Betty & Veronica comics and two digests. While Cheryl struggled to maintain her own title, and never reached the level of popularity that Veronica experienced.
CBB: Archie Comics introduced Chuck Clayton as the defacto black guy in the 1970s, along with his girlfriend, Nancy Harris and his father coach Clayton. There were also Latino characters Frankie Valdez, and Maria Rodriguez.
Doesn’t it feel like having one pair of each, dating within their own ethnic group makes them tokens although they seem as well adjusted as the other characters?
Archie: None of the Archie characters are token characters. The main over riding story is about Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and Reggie. All the others are supporting characters. Chuck sees many more stories then Bingo Wilkins. Claude Hooper and Ginger Lopez demonstrate that characters aren’t introduced as pairs.
CBB: Were they ever any Asian or Middle Eastern characters?
Archie: We do have Asian characters, but have not yet seen the Middle Eastern Archies yet.
CBB: Why couldn’t there be two main black girls in Riverdale, three Latino guys and four different Asian girls?
Archie: The main characters are Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and Reggie. Everyone else is a supporting character and would not be a main characters.
CBB: Have you tried to figure out how to introduce “diverse” characters without falling into clichés or tokenism?
Archie: We don’t see them as tokens. We see them as valuable supporting characters.
CBB: Other characters like the wheel-chair bound girl, Anita, no longer appear. It seems that she was only introduced to make a point that some kids had disabilities. It kind of feels like an after school special. Is that why she was removed from recent comics?
Archie: No one is ever removed. We tell humorous stories and jokes. We use the character that is appropriate for that particular story. With the large cast of supporting characters not every character can be seen every month.
CBB: Some say that once an Archie character disappears from view (except for Cheryl Blossom and her brother Jason), that they never reappear. Is there any truth to that?
Archie: No truth to that at all. Look at Katy Keene. She was out of the lime light for several years before finding the right fit in Archie & Friends.
CBB: Are they any plans to reintroduce some of the older characters?
Archie: There is always a mix of classic characters and new characters. As our writers come up with new stories they select the characters that will make the story as much fun as possible. But there isn’t an Archie limbo where older characters can’t be reintroduced.
CBB: I have to ask this for all Wilbur fans (please don’t all raise you hands at once). Will he ever come back?
Archie: Wilbur is a part of Archie Comics history, and with the right story he could return.
CBB: It was a bit confusing on your Web site when I read it (I’m hoping this description won’t disappear from your Web site because of me).
“Jughead has been Riverdale's chief girl-hater”... “Jughead is always the odd one out”...”Even as Riverdale's all time moocher, Jughead is always calm, and has always seemed to be the most sensible member of Riverdale's teen community.”
Is Jughead gay?
Archie: No, just immature when it comes to the opposite sex, like many boys of his age. At one point he even carried a pin that attracted girls.
CBB: I’m asking this because other publishers such as Marvel and DC Comics have been asked for years by legions of fans to “open up the gates” and allow some of their characters to be gays or lesbians. I can’t believe that there has not been similar demands from Archie Comics. Have there been any demands?
Archie: No, we have not had that kind of demand.
CBB: In some of the 1990s series, Jughead had two girlfriends at once. Cynics would say that you were trying to portray Jughead as a heterosexual not inclined in all the teen dating politics that his pals Archie and Reggie to avoid dealing straight on with gay issue. How do you counter that?
Archie: We were trying something different with Jughead and seeing how the fans responded. In this case the fans preferred classic Jughead and that is what we give them. There was no deeper plan.
CBB: I know that Archie has a teenage and family audience and that parents trust your books by default. Do you find that you have to avoid dealing with some issues like a character’s sexual orientation just to preserve your trust with a large part of your clientele?
Archie: We are presenting a romantic comedy in our comics. Many of the issues you bring up would be more appropriate in a dramatic series. We don’t deal with the issues of religion and politics because they aren’t funny when dealing with teenagers. Likewise sexual orientation of high school students is more of a dramatic issue rather then a joke told in four to six pages.
CBB: Are they any other hard questions such as a character’s sexuality that you guys have had to deal with?
Archie: Archie and the gang are about humour not hard questions. When people buy an Archie Comic book they are hoping to have fun and laugh, not explore hard hitting social questions.
CBB: Do you think it is asking too much of Archie Comics to deal with every different aspect of North American society, instead of concentrating on the comics and the fun they provide to your readers?
Archie: Archie’s job is about fun and jokes. If Archie makes the readers laugh he has done his job. As a company we provide a comic book that is fun and light hearted. We are not producing sociology text books.
CBB: If I understand well, Josie and her gang, don’t live in Riverdale. Have they ever met Archie?
"Then it's the same answer to the question above, Josie and the Pussy Cats have been to Riverdale a few times."
Any planned meeting of the two gangs?
Archie: Not at present.
CBB: I believe that Sabrina and Harvey (my favourite) live in Riverdale. Do they ever meet the other kids such as Archie and Veronica?
Archie: Sabrina lives in Greendale and she and the Archie have shared several adventures.
CBB: Archie attempted to introduce continuity in its stories in the mid-1990s. Some of the characters underwent dramatic changes. For example Jughead had a Mohawk and listened to hard rock.
Don’t you think that continuity could have worked if continuity had simply being included in stories without changing the characters or their personalities?
Archie: We don’t have the type of continuity that DC or Marvel have. Our stories are not told in a serialized format. We do however from time to time update our characters. When we do, we listen to our fans and they tell us if we are taking the characters in the right direction. That’s why Jughead doesn’t have a Mohawk today.
CBB: I have to ask, who came up with the ideas of changes for the characters?
Archie: It depends on the characters and the change. It’s different in each case.
CBB: Why go into the obligatory grand crossover and tight continuity when you could have simply acknowledged older stories loosely. It seemed to me that such continuity would not have annoyed older fans, while attracting the interest of other fans who cared?
Archie: Each story is someone’s first Archie Comics. Every comic is accessible to new readers and the continuity is not so tight as to keep out new readers.
CBB: Although there is no longer any strict continuity, each character now seems to have more defined personalities, hobbies and things they like. Whereas in the past both Archie and Reggie were average athletes, now each of them is described as being very successful and winning several medals and trophies, unlike in the past.
CBB: Is there a genuine need to make each character more defined and specific than in the past?
Archie: Readers today demand more from their characters then they did in the past. As a result there is more depth to personality and hobbies, etc. These are just extras for the long time readers; you don’t need to know these things to enjoy and Archie comics.
CBB: Is each character slowly adopting a typical character type? Like Jughead, is he the de facto geek while Chuck is the artist?
Archie: The main characters like Jughead are more fleshed out then being the defacto geek. Chuck didn’t just become an artist recently; we have some history with his character.
CBB: It seems that the Riverdale gang is more self-conscious than before. By this, I mean, Nancy is now the cheerleader. She’s good friend of Betty and Veronica. It’s different than before in that there weren’t specific cliques and structures. Nowadays, everything is spelled out clearly and there is less place for fans to imagine things on their own. Do you agree with my take on things?
Archie: I disagree; there is more depth to the characters, so there is more to know about them. However, part of the fun with all fictional characters is that the fans do imagine things on their own.
CBB: Are you afraid that with the shorter attention span of today’s fans that if you don’t spell out everything to them and how relationships work in the world of Archie that they won’t get it and move to something else?
Archie: Actually I don’t think that today’s fans have shorter attention spans. We live in an age of information and they just want more information about our characters and that makes the characters richer.
CBB: Do you feel any pressure by modern media and entertainment to streamline your characters to make them instantly appealing and relatable to modern “sophisticated” readers?
Archie: We are telling jokes and having fun, Archie isn’t about being more “sophisticated”.
CBB: Archie’s house style has changed throughout the years. The current look gives more individualized look to characters. For example, Reggie’s head is no longer the same one used for Archie. It’s more square with a larger jaw. Big Ethel is no longer a female version of Jughead. She has more feminine looks and a better haircut.
Are Archie’s character designs updates mandated top down or is it a gradual evolution?
Archie: Archie always has to look like Archie. However Stan Goldberg and Fernando Ruiz don’t draw Archie the same way. The changes are in artistic style and as the fans react to a particular style we listen to what the fans say.
CBB: For a long time, characters seemed to sport the same clothes they wore in the 1950s and 1940s. For example, Archie wore checkered pants and a black cardigan with the letter R. Nowadays; it seems he wears Bermudas, sandals, loose t-shirts all the time, not just at the beach. In fact at the beach, the guys wear boxer shorts instead of traditional bathing suits.
Are they still Archie stories where the character wear some of their classic gear instead of modern clothes?
Archie: We are constantly looking at what teenagers are wearing and change the clothing to match. Archie didn’t just change form the bow tie to a t-shirt. In each decade Archie represents what teenagers looked like. If you flip through the Americana series, you will see the different looks Archie has had in each decade.
CBB: Aren’t you afraid of being a little bit behind current teen fashion trends as whatever appears in print is already a few months old?
Archie: Teenagers aren’t so trendy that a look is totally out in 3 months. At least average teens don’t have that problem and the gang from Riverdale are just average teenagers with average problems.
CBB: Aren’t they risks that by adopting very specific clothing as opposed to general modern looks, that stories will not age as well in a few years?
Archie: Readers enjoy the changes in clothing when the pick up the digest. The digest have a mix of new and old stories to the readers get the best of both worlds.
CBB: How stringent are you that artists use the characters’ official models?
Archie: Again when the reader picks up the comic, Archie has to look like Archie. But, each artist draws him somewhat differently.
CBB: In the past, all girls were the same height, except Big Ethel. For the guys, Moose, Jughead and Dixon were the only ones not the same height. When looking at Archie’s Web site, each character has specific height. For example, we learn that Midge is shorter than the other girls.
What is the influence behind giving each of your characters such specific proportions?
Archie: In the information age our readers want more information about our cast and we then have to provide details that are reasonable and make sense for each character.
CBB: Secondary girls, in Archie comics, including Josie and Sabrina always had a cone for a nose, while Betty and Veronica had nicer pointy noses. Why is that?
Archie: Josie and Sabrina are both very pretty. They just don’t all look alike.
CBB: As an action figure collector, I have to ask, where are the Archie action figures???
Archie: As soon as well license one we will be happy to sell you one on our stuff shop.
CBB: Are Archie collectibles easy to locate on your Web site?
Archie: In the stuff shop
CBB: What kind of Archie collectibles are available these days?
Archie: It’s all right here http://stuffshop.archiecomics.com
CBB: One of the strength of Archie Comics has always been its letter pages. For years Archie Comics replied to readers and even some who had personal tragedies. For example, Betty often provided advice to love struck girls with impossible crushes on school jocks. This active involvement with readers differentiates Archie from other publishers who only reply to specific comments related to plot lines and direct criticisms of published series. It seems to be one of the chief assets of the company and one the things that made it appealing to female readers.
Another example is how fans designed clothing for star pin up girl Katy Keene. Artists regularly featured clothing created by fans in her adventures. Few publishers are prepared to go as far, yet even today, there’s a dedicated answer your questions character on Archie’s Web site.
Why do you still favour the pen pal type of user interactions over online message boards?
Archie: Message boards fill with spam, and with younger readers we have to take precautions that make it too difficult to use a message board.
CBB: With email, has there been more letters?
Archie: Many more, and we read every one of them.
CBB: Is it more difficult to filter such contents?
Archie:No, our readers tell us if we did a good job or not, no filter is necessary.
CBB: Do you ever hear about some of the people whom your fictional characters gave advice to?
Archie: Some times they write back and tell us.
CBB: Can you relate stories about kids you’ve helped in the past by responding to their letters?
Archie: I really don’t want to tell some one else’s story without their permission.
Reprints and Collected Editions
CBB: Digest already reprint older Archie stories, but is do you have a set line of archives and collected edition in better quality print for serious Archie collectors?
Archie: The Archie Americana Series separated the stories out by decade and it is printed on much higher quality paper.
CBB: Do you make returned newsstand edition of Archie easily available for cheap to fans and collectors or is it impossible to sell them because the retailers only return the barcodes for a refund?
Archie: We don’t get back full comics. Al unsold comics are destroyed by the distributor.
CBB: Do you give some of your extra stock to charities, local schools or libraries?
Archie: Yes we do. We also give them to our fans at store signings and conventions. We gave away 300 copies of the Love Showdown trade paperback at the San Diego ComicCon to everyone who attended our panel. We ship hundreds of comics to Conventions all year long. On the subject of schools and libraries. We have started the Archie Comics PTO/PTA fundraising program. We are offering school PTO/PTAs’ a program where each school PTO/PTA keeps 50% of all funds received by students for our comics, digests and graphic novels. These comics are sent from us to the student’s classrooms. We are also offering libraries a 40% discount on all comics, digests and graphic novels. Both of these new programs are turning out to be very successful.
CBB: Do you have a master list of all your books that collectors can easily peruse and complete their collections or even history books on Archie comics with related information?
Archie: We have a history book in early development and are trying to decide if the fans would be interested in a published version.
CBB: My two last questions are existential and necessary for my mental balance, so please answer.
Will Reggie ever win Midge away from Moose?
Archie: Ever is a long time.
CBB: Who will Archie pick? Betty or Veronica?
Archie: People have been asking that question for 65 years and so far Archie hasn’t been able to make up his mind. Who would you pick?
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