Despite its name, the Archie Comics Forever: 75 Years of Storytelling panel eschewed looking backward and instead focused on all of the ways the company continues to innovate: a reinvigorated comic book line attracting top industry talent (including Mark Waid on the flagship Archie series and Adam Hughes writing and drawing Betty & Veronica), a promising live-action series (Riverdale) poised to make a splash on The CW next season, and even a Betty & Veronica fashion line.
Publisher Jon Goldwater began by calling Riverdale "the most exciting thing that's happened to this company in many decades." Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Archie's Chief Creative Officer and Riverdale's showrunner, recalled his first meeting with producer Greg Berlanti, the overseer of all of The CW's DC shows. Berlanti, a "huge Archie fan," told Aguirre-Sacasa that "Riverdale is what The CW needs now," as the network has fully embraced the superhero genre at the expense of the teen shows its predecessor network, The WB, was known for. (Riverdale thus returns Berlanti to his roots, as he was the creative force behind the late WB gem Everwood.)
Aguirre-Sacasa touted the Twin Peaks vibe of Riverdale, which takes all of the familiar and beloved trappings of the Archie universe–football, cheerleaders, that love triangle–and infuses the coming-of-age high school story with a small-town murder mystery. Much like Smallville before it, the pilot (which I was fortunate to catch on Preview Night) leans on the idea that the seemingly idyllic town is not what it appears to be, with secrets and mysteries lurking under the surface.
During the Q&A portion later in the panel, Aguirre-Sacasa addressed "the trick with every high school show," that is, how to handle the aging of the characters and the actors who portray them. He confirmed that "they're not going to play kids forever" and that, in success, the show will follow the characters beyond high school. Lastly, while there are currently no plans to inject supernatural elements into the show, a la the current "Archie Horror" line of books, Aguirre-Sacasa promised "a very big Halloween episode" this season that will be an homage to Afterlife with Archie.
On the comic book front, Archie President Mike Pellerito discussed bringing Adam Hughes into the fold to pull double-duty on the new Betty and Veronica. "Everyone knows Adam can draw the best women," Pellerito said, "but he writes just as well, if not better, than he draws." For his part, Hughes called the experience "way more fun than I thought it would be," and he said it has been his mission "to make sure the boys are not too prominent" in the series. During the audience Q&A, he revealed that he is "Team Betty" but assured fans that Veronica would not get the short end of the narrative stick in the series.
Archie's next big launch is September's Josie's and the Pussycats, which Goldwater said he gets asked about more than anything else. In addition to the new book, which will emphasize "friendship and bond-building," live-action versions of the characters are also featured in Riverdale.
Other current and upcoming comic book projects include: Mark Waid's Archie, which will introduce Cheryl Blossom to the series in issue 13; Jughead, whose artist, Derek Charm, was on hand to highlight the book's humorous tone; Archie Meets Ramones, written by SVP of Publicity and Marketing (and panel moderator) Alex Segura; Dan Parent's Life with Kevin, which follows a 20-year-old Kevin Keller living in NYC with BFF Veronica; and the "Archie Horror" duo of Afterlife with Archie and the 1960s-set Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
After the panel, Pellerito offered the possibility of comics set in the Riverdale TV universe, citing, for example, the potential of a prequel series revealing the backstories of the main characters' parents (many of whom get a fair amount of play in the pilot).
Beyond comics and television is the Betty and Veronica fashion line designed by Rachel Antonoff. She said the goal was to create clothing the characters would actually wear, including varsity jackets and "tons of patches." In describing the spirit of the line, Antonoff said she was "excited to show the friendship" of the two characters rather than merely their romantic rivalry.