How Archie's recent comic adventures paved the way for The CW's new adaptation
This week the CW premieres Riverdale, a new drama that reimagines the iconic characters of Archie Comics in the dark, sexy, modern age. Those who remember Archie as a light-hearted kids comic awash in sunny nostalgia may be surprised by this update, but it’s actually something Archie Comics has been building for a while in the pages of their comic books. Back in 2015, the company relaunched its flagship character with a new Archie series from writer Mark Waid and artist Fiona Staples, that updated Archie and his friends for a modern high-school setting while still keeping their core character traits and iconography intact (other series like Betty & Veronica and Josie and the Pussycats soon followed suit). Riverdale builds on that revision, while adding in some Twin Peaks murder mystery.
Ahead of Riverdale‘s premiere, Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater spoke with EW about the long journey to modernize Archie.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Archie Comics has rebooted or relaunched most of its main titles over the course of the last few years. Do you consider Riverdale the culmination of this relaunch process?
I see Riverdale as the culmination for the company, to be frank. It’s what we started working toward when I took over. To make Archie more than a publishing company, but a media company where we see varied and compelling takes on our iconic heroes. We’re on the cusp of that now, and the publishing feeds the other channels. Without great, defiant stories coming from the publishing side, people would still think of Archie as a retro, dormant brand – which we are most certainly not. So, in my eyes, it’s all one big narrative and one big movement to give Archie and his friends the right placement in pop culture. To me, and to a lot of people, Archie and the gang are as iconic and relevant as Batman or Spider-Man.
Twin Peaks is often cited as an influence by the Riverdale creators. Together with [Archie spinoffs] Afterlife with Archie and Archie vs. Predator, what do you like about introducing supernatural/creepy elements to the Archie universe?
For decades, Archie was a comedy that was about a very idyllic place in Riverdale. When I came in, that nostalgia factor had been ramped up too high. People thought the comics were telling stories set in the past. I set out to not only modernize Archie and the stories he was in, but also to show how flexible these characters can be and still be Archie, still be Betty or Veronica or Jughead. Now, Archie isn’t about being retro, it’s about being entertaining and daring. You can see Archie fight the Predator or zombies, meet up with Joey Ramone, Sharknado, be a noir TV take or whatever pops into your mind – as long as the characters are true to themselves. If the characters behave like themselves, anything’s possible, and people didn’t really see the character that way until very recently. That, to me, is the biggest achievement that’s come during my time running this company. Archie is relevant and vibrant, not a fossil.
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What are you most excited about from Riverdale? What differentiates it from past Archie shows like Archie’s Weird Mysteries?
Riverdale is a whole other level, apart from the company’s previous attempts at media or live action. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa loves these characters. He lives and breathes Riverdale. So, this is for him – and for me – a dream come true. The chance to tell a modern, dramatic take on these characters while still remaining true to their essence…I’ll tell you, it’s all we’ve ever wanted. It’s miles above anything we’ve done before, and we’re going to continue on that trajectory because this is not the only project we have in the hopper.
Sometimes, when a Marvel movie or show becomes successful, the comics noticeably veer more in the direction of that interpretation of the character(s). Will we see anything like that with Riverdale and Archie Comics?
I think you’ll see us continue to do what we’ve been doing, which is to tell great stories that show how versatile these characters are. That’s never going to change, and we’re going to continue to take risks and challenge expectations while remaining true to the characters. It all starts with a good story, in my view, and that’s a rule I reiterate daily in the Archie offices.
What, for you, is the central idea of Archie that remains true throughout these reboots and adaptations?
To me, Archie is the best of us. The hero. He may struggle, he may have internal conflict, but at the end of the day – he cares about his friends, his family, and his hometown. Whether it’s a comedy, horror or teen drama, that’s always going to shine through, and that’s why people love him and his friends. It’s also a big part of Riverdale.