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CBR TV: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Gets Creative, Horrific with Archie

Newly minted Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa returned to CBR TV from the world famous CBR Tiki Room at WonderCon 2014 in Anaheim to discuss all the latest with his new position. He opens the discussion with CBR’s Jonah Weiland by talking about his 2003 play, “Archie’s Weird Fantasy,” which netted him a cease and desist letter from Archie Comics. The play found Archie coming out of the closet and moving to New York City, and was an alternate reality extension of the Riverdale gang that Aguirre-Sacasa grew up loving. The writer then transitions into talking about his new position and where he sees Archie’s ability to improve and strengthen its position in the marketplace. Aguirre-Sacasa then touches on why Archie Comics is commonly seen as a nostalgia brand and how he’s working to change that perception, as well as Jon Goldwater’s vision to keep Archie and his cast of characters relevant in the modern era. They close things out with a discussion of the “Death of Archie” storyline coming to “Life with Archie” before Aguirre-Sacasa hints at the new Sabrina book he’ll be writing starting in October that functions as a companion to the wildly successful “Afterlife with Archie” ongoing series.

On whether he would ever consider making “Archie’s Weird Fantasy” into a Archie Comics series given his new role at the company: In terms of alternate realities, I think that “Afterlife with Archie” kind of — it’s a horror book and it’s a zombie book — but it is also kind of telling an alternate, almost like a secret history of the characters in Riverdale. So it feels like that’s kind of where that’s happening, so no, probably I would not. … Really it was like a three-act, huge, epic, three-hour play in different time periods because I loved how Archie was — the idea was you know how Archie was 17 through all the different decades, so the play itself also was set in different decades and it would jump 30 years but Archie would only be a couple of years older and that kind of stuff. It’s the kind of play that also like, I mean, you know it had 18 characters and now no one will produce a play that has more than five characters.

On where he sees the greatest potential for Archie Comics as a company: A lot of people describe Archie as a huge, untapped resource, a sleeping giant, and I think that’s absolutely true in terms of things like film, television and, honestly, stage shows. We have a lot of priorities. There’s a “Sabrina” script at Sony, which is — as you know, movies have however long a development process that they have — the “Sabrina” movie is in very active development at Sony. And I’ve read the script, the script’s great. And that’s obviously a huge property for Archie. There has been a lot of talk, and a lot of desire and we at Archie have a big desire to maybe do something with “Afterlife with Archie,” and that’s potentially to do that as a horror movie. Its roots are definitely, you know, teenagers, horror, zombies, night of the dance, pool parties. There’s a lot of stuff that lends itself to kind of a, almost like an “Evil Dead” low-budget aesthetic with the characters. In fact, on some level that’s what “Afterlife with Archie” is, is sort of like “Evil Dead” with the Archie characters.

There are so many characters though — Katy Keene, Josie and the Pussycats — besides the horror version of Archie, I think that there could and should be an Archie television series that’s sort of almost more like coming-of-age like “The Wonder Years” or something like that that’s sort of set around the town. Or “Friday Night Lights,” which was about, really, was obviously about a football team but also that town. I think you could do a show that’s based around the town of Riverdale and kind of what that’s like. So I think those are kind of the biggest areas. … A lot of my job is day-to-day going out and educating people in Hollywood about Archie, what the characters are, what’s available and what might be done with them.

On why some people dismiss Archie as less relevant than it actually is: When you’re translating something that works so well in one medium to another, there are always pitfalls. … I don’t know why that stuff hasn’t been successful for us. Jon Goldwater, the head of Archie, really wants Riverdale to reflect today’s world and I think that people think, “Oh, is ‘Archie’ set in the ’50s? I always picture them as like Betty in poodle skirts and them dancing to jukeboxes and stuff like that.” That nostalgia obviously is a part of Archie, but I think that people need to realize that these kids and characters live in the present day world. The other thing is, when I meet and talk to people, people have such an emotional connection to these characters, so there’s also a sense that obviously “Archie” is a comedy comic book but there is romance, and there is a deep emotionality to these characters. They’re all characters on the cusp of adulthood and that’s such a fraught, emotional time.

When we talk about “Archie” movies and an “Archie” television show we say things like ‘heartache,’ we say things like ‘John Hughes,’ that’s the kind of stuff we talk about that’s both funny and really emotional and real. There’s something about these characters that, I don’t know, they’re just so real, and it’s getting people to think about them as — we’re never gonna do like “The Dark Knight” origin, deep, twisted version of Archie, but Archie can be a real kid with real problems and real struggles and real aspirations and real dreams.

On whether Archie’s upcoming death in “Life with Archie” was always part of the plan for the series or something that was developed over time: It’s been in the works for a while. … [Jon Goldwater and I] were having lunch and he’s like, “Something huge is coming down the pike.” This is before “Afterlife,” before all of that, and he said, “We’re really figuring it out and we really want to look at this from all sides, but what happens if I say to you ‘Death of Archie’?” And I was like, “What are you talking about?” And he’s like, “We’ve got this story cooking up for ‘Life with Archie’ called ‘The Death of Archie.'” We talked for like two or three hours about what that means, and Jon had talked about it with all of the team behind “Life with Archie” and everyone in his office and everyone had a very visceral response, but Jon felt this was the right ending to that series. So it’d been in the works for a while. I think a couple of the ideas that developed, one is going beyond the issue in which Archie dies to see how Archie’s death has affected all of the cast of characters, what that life has meant. Celebrating what Archie does in that issue.

It’s huge. Even my dad who lives in Nicaragua called me and was like, “Archie’s killing Archie?” and I was like, “Yeah,” basically. “But it wasn’t my fault for a change.” And it’s a really great story. That’s a great book, but those last two issues are incredible.

On what his future holds as a writer for Archie: This October I’m launching a second book which is kind of a companion book to “Afterlife,” also horror, which is a Sabrina book. That’s gonna be, in a way, I think, even darker than “Afterlife with Archie.” “Afterlife with Archie” kind of usually has a good sense of humor about it, like a Sam Raimi kind of tongue in cheek — the Sabrina book is very dark. It’s a period book, it’s set in the ’60s, which is when Sabrina first came out; it was in her heyday. And it’s really gonna explore the mythology of a girl whose father was a warlock and half of her lineage was a dynasty of witches. So it’s gonna be kind of an homage to “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist.” All those like “The Blair Witch Project,” all that stuff. So I’m really, really excited about that. That will launch in October, and those’ll be the two books that I continue to write. Between that and helping out with Archie both in terms of the awareness stuff in Hollywood and then — you know, comic books are in my blood so I’m trying to get as involved in publishing as much as possible. This May we’re having our first kind of creative summit retreat at Archie where we’re all kind of getting together to really talk about all the books we’re putting out and what we can do.