Archie Comics is in the midst of celebrating 80 years in business, and although Archie and the Riverdale are known at times as throwbacks, they're keeping with the times both in comics and television - and according to its new top editor, they're using the company's classic fundamentals "Humor, Heart, and Horror" - but spinning it to fit today's audience.
Archie Comics' senior director of editorial Jamie L. Rotante has seen a lot in her ten years with the company; from breaking in as a proofreader and rising up the ranks as both an editor and writer, she's come to understand the family-owned comic publisher and the various audiences it attracts - whether on TV, in comic shops and bookstores, on digital devices, or in the checkout line at your local grocery store.
As Rotante tells us, Archie Comics will be doubling down on the anthology format in the coming months and years, beginning with November 3's Chilling Adventures in Sorcery. Archie is no stranger to anthologies, but she and her team are exploring new perspectives on it to catch the eye of fans (and potential fans).
Newsarama: In the press release for Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, it says "the future of Archie Comics starts here." To you, what does the future of Archie Comics look like?
Jamie L. Rotante: It may seem funny at first, but a big part of planning the future is achieved by reflecting on the past. Namely, Archie's history of publishing. As we've celebrated Archie's 80th anniversary, we've had the opportunity to reflect on who we are as a company and what makes Archie stand out from all other comic publishers.
The model of doing anthology-style books with a variety of short stories isn't new to Archie Comics. It's a big part of the company's publishing DNA.
I think a major appeal of Archie (and I know it always was to me growing up), was the ease of access to our comics and characters. So many people started reading comics (or just started reading in general!) because of Archie, and that's because there's a great accessibility factor. There are very few barriers to entry when it comes to picking up an Archie comic - the stories are fun (whether that be because of humor, romance, or horror), and the character archetypes are easy to understand and, most importantly, likeable.
Longtime comic fans and brand-new comic readers can pick up an Archie comic and jump right in, which is a tradition that is so important to uphold. We always say that Archie Comics are for everyone, and we mean it!
Newsarama: What can long-time fans look forward to?
Jamie L. Rotante: The return of a lot of favorite characters and franchises. The short stories allow us the space to bring in characters and alternate universes that might have been tough to squeeze into a mini-series or one-shot on their own. We have the opportunity now to play around in a lot more worlds and we have such a deep bench of characters to draw from that should please fans both old and new alike!
Newsarama: What are you looking forward to most, as someone who's inside it all?
Jamie L. Rotante: All of it! I know that seems like a simplified answer, but it's true. There is such a thrill from writing comics and seeing them illustrated and then born into the world, and that same feeling holds just as much weight from an editorial standpoint. Putting together each title gives me that same excited feeling over and over again, and being able to share these fun new takes on the characters and see the reception from fans is amazing. I'm also looking forward to people who have maybe never read an Archie comic before picking these up and feeling at home here in Riverdale.
Newsarama: Let's go back to anthologies, which you mentioned earlier. You've been quoted as saying the anthology format gives your team the "chance to tackle a variety of genres and collaborate with exciting new talent and long-time favorites simultaneously."
Archie has been doing anthologies since the beginning, but these oversized genre-based ones - are there more coming?
Jamie Le. Rotante: Yes! We're playing with a few different models - some are genre-based, others are tied to specific holidays and seasons, but each bi-monthly anthology allows us the opportunity to tell a variety of short, entertaining stories featuring different characters and storylines.
What's so particularly exciting about this model is the ability to bring in a lot of talent for each book. We love returning to work with some of our favorite creators to tell new stories outside of the longer narratives they've crafted in the past. Likewise, it's a great way to bring in a lot of new faces and styles to build our talent pool and expand our reach. This also allows for fans to see the Archie characters in different art styles and trace the evolution of their designs over time. The core of these stories and the artwork is going to be unmistakably Archie, but in different flavors - what we hope is to strike a good balance so that there's something to enjoy for every type of comic reader.
Newsarama: Every time I go to the grocery store, I'm re-assured when I see an Archie digest sitting there. How's that side of the business working these days, and do you have any new ideas on that front?
Jamie Le. Rotante: Our digest program is stronger than ever! There's absolutely a reassuring quality to seeing those jumbo digests in stores and checkout aisles.
The challenges faced over the past year made us realize how many people come to Archie Comics as a sort of comfort food. No matter what's happening, our characters are always around providing stories filled with humor and heart. It's a testament to the dedicated team here at Archie, too, for keeping these books filled with great content week after week, including the new lead stories featured in every digest. From the digests to our collection of classic graphic novels, keeping our publishing legacy alive is very important. Knowing that these comics are a source of comfort to so many really helps us keep pushing forward.
Newsarama: Archie is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. What are the big lessons you take from its history you want to be the message of Archie Comics going forward?
Jamie Le. Rotante: We've been saying a lot in-house that there are three H's in Archie - Humor, Heart, and Horror. These have been our cornerstones for over eight decades, and they've only gotten more robust in the last few years, especially under Jon Goldwater's reign as CEO/publisher.
Archie Comics are for everyone, and that's something that's so important to remember. There are so many different types of comic fans, and moreover, so many different types of Archie Comics fans. As long as we can continue making products that keep them all satisfied and wanting more, we know we're doing something right (and clearly we have been for 80 years!)
Newsarama: We're just a couple of months into your run as Archie's top editor, but you already have Chilling Adventures of Sabrina back on track after years of delays, and even a second Sabrina series picking up where the TV show left off. How do you feel about the Sabrina 'family' of titles going forward?
Jamie Le. Rotante: It's been great to see Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa return to writing comics, and it coincided nicely with our new publishing plans getting underway at the same time. He's an amazing talent and we know that our fans have been eager to continue reading the stories he created alongside Robert Hack, and to see him continue the narrative from the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Netflix series with Audrey Mok in The Occult World of Sabrina. Roberto's such a genius at his approach to our characters and he has so many stories to tell, it's always an honor to have him craft these wonderful tales and series for us.
We'll continue to keep fans and retailers updated when new issues have firm release dates and do our best to keep the excitement going next year for Sabrina's 60th anniversary!
Newsarama: Are there plans to re-start or relaunch the main Archie comic book series, which went on hiatus after July 2020's Archie #713?
Jamie Le. Rotante: Nothing is off the table but it's a matter of timing and understanding our audience and the market. These new shorter-form stories and anthologies are a model we'd like to apply for most of our projects going forward, but that doesn't mean that a continuing series isn't possible - whether that be in print, digital, or as part of a partnership.
What we really hope is that fans of the modern Archie stories will find something in each anthology that appeals to them.
Newsarama: Last question then - what are your big goals in your first five years as top editor at Archie?
Jamie Le. Rotante: From an editorial perspective, it's establishing and continuing a robust publishing platform that will allow us to continue to tell new and interesting stories with a diverse group of creators. We know there's a dedicated and incredible readership out there looking to see their favorite characters get love and attention. Making sure they feel seen and heard is very important to us and drives so much of what we do.