Out of nowhere, well known "third party" publisher Archie Comics have made some major announcements to kick off March. The biggest is the hiring of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa as the first "chief creative officer" that the family owned company has had in its' near 75 year existence. Aguirre-Sacasa is a well known playwright, TV writer and comic book writer whose body of work includes TV series such as "Big Love" and "Glee", comics such as "Marvel Knights 4" and "Nightcrawler", and a famous re-write of the Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn out the Dark". As co-CEO John Goldwater explains, after five years of big "attention grabbing" moves to widen the sales and reach of Archie, the time came to create such a position to "move forward" to coordinate adaptations for the big and small screen.
One of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's biggest moves is getting the star and creator of HBO's hit series "Girls", Lena Dunham, to make her debut in comic books with them. She will write a four issue story for the main "Archie Comics" book next year, complete with a "Girls" homage cover by longtime "Archie" artist/writer/creator Dan Parent.
Starting in 2009, Goldwater has led "Archie Comics" into the future with some bold and overall successful moves. Among them are a theoretical "marriage" story between Archie, Betty, and/or Veronica which led to the launch of a successful magazine, "Life with Archie", as well as appearances by various media figures in the core comics (such as KISS) and acquiring the license for Capcom's "Megaman" to match their longtime "Sonic the Hedgehog" comics. Dan Parent's original character, an openly gay character named "Kevin Keller", went on to get his own ongoing series at a time when DC Comics hesitated to marry off "Batwoman" to her longtime girlfriend last year. "Archie Comics" was also the first major North American comic book company to go "day and date" with their digital comics matching the release of their print comics. The company has continued to sell comics outside the "direct market", including their digests being regular sales items at large chain stores such as "Rite Aid".
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is also the writer of another of Goldwater's unique launches, "Afterlife with Archie", which is a separate series seeing the Archie gang attempt to survive the zombie apocalypse. It's become "Archie Comics"' best selling series and likely helped earn Aguirre-Sacasa his position. He has also been tapped as the writer for the "Archie" movie which is set to be released by Warner Brothers. The film is moving along "very very slowly" and will feature Archie as a "John Hughes-ian" film. Speculation that the "Archie" film could wind up mixing genres by adding in zombies was teased by Goldwater himself after seeing the series sell within the top 50 in the direct market. Mingling the Archie gang with horror elements worked in a media adaptation before; "Archie's Weird Mysteries" ran as an animated series from 1999-2000 and is still syndicated by Ion TV's cartoon station, "Qubo".
"Archie Comics" are often dismissed by many "hardcore" or "mainstream" fans, but the franchise has existed for three quarters of a century and unlike the "big two", have no qualms with gearing their comics towards women or children. Attempts to update the series' supporting cast to be more inclusive have been met with acceptance rather than hand-wringing by Archie staff. Their line offers a variety of genres besides "superheroes" and offer well known characters to venues outside the weekly comic shop crowd. At some point in their life, nearly every comic reader read an "Archie" comic, usually when they were young (as they replaced the "Harvey Comics" cast as the "gateway" for very young readers). It's only due to the domination of the "big two" that a company as large as "Archie Comics" seems to exist on a fringe, but it seems they now want to increase their fortunes twofold. These are interesting times for North America's last family owned comic publishing corporation.