Archie Comics. In June, DeFalco begins a stint on the company's flagship book, beginning with "Archie" #610. CBR News caught up with DeFalco to find out what this return means for him, and for America's favorite red-headed Romeo.
DeFalco began by explaining his history with the venerable publisher, which began in the summer of 1972. "When I graduated college a few million years ago, I sent a resume to Archie Comics. Since I was determined to become a writer, I had already sold a few short stories, worked for a local newspaper, wrote releases and articles for the college's PR office and had produced a weekly comic strip for the school newspaper.
"Michael Silberkleit, one of the company's co-publishers who was in charge of the company's business side, must have liked what he saw and turned it over to Richard Goldwater, the co-publisher in charge of the editorial side," DeFalco continued. "Richard must have also liked it, because he invited me up for an interview. I met the legendary Victor Gorelick, who's been with the company for a couple of millennia and served in every capacity from colorist to editor in chief. Anyway, I was offered a job in Archie's production department as a proofreader, spent my first day opening mail for 'Dear Betty & Veronica' and began learning how the comic book industry really works. I soon started submitting scripts, eventually sold a few and then sold a whole bunch more.
"During my time at Archie, I had the privilege to sit at the feet of some real comic book masters. I'm talking about John Goldwater and Louis Siberkleit, two men who helped create the comic book industry, as well as people like Frank Doyle, the greatest Archie writer of them all, Harry Lucey, Dan DeCarlo, Samm Schwartz, Joe Edwards, Rudy Lapick, George Gladir, Bob Bolling, Barry Grossman, Dexter Taylor, Bill Yoshida, Chic Stone and so many others!"
As one might expect, returning to one of your first places of work after nearly 40 years away brings with it some nostalgic feelings. "It's a little like coming home to visit with old friends," DeFalco explains. Still, coming back after years spent with Marvel wasn't as much of a shift as one might expect; DeFalco is of the opinion that, fundamentally, the two publishers have a lot in common. "They are both incredible playgrounds filled with terrific characters that have unlimited story potential," he explained. Regardless of the material, DeFalco's way of tackling the work remains the same. "Whenever I approach a story, I bury myself in the character and his/her world. The same approach works if I'm during a Western, a tale of sword and sorcery or a space opera!"
DeFalco's Archie comeback story will not actually be the first one published, but it affords the opportunity to bring with him the rest of the "Spectacular Spider-Girl" creative team. "The first story I wrote is actually a six-pager with Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema that will be published for April Fool's Day 2011," though fans need only wait till June to see DeFalco return to the Archie helm. "The first new published story appears in 'Archie' #610 and features The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. Originally a take-off on the old 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' series, we've updated the concept and made a few significant changes. In our version, the secret agent is actually a character that was originally created in the 1950's but has never appeared in print until now. And we've also mined Archie lore for an appropriate master villain. The art is by Fernando Ruiz, and it is simply gorgeous!" DeFalco declares.
The title of this story is "The Blackest (And Bluest) Day!" which might seem to some to be a bit of a spoof on a certain mega-crossover from a distinguished competitor. But DeFalco acted playfully shocked that anyone would consider such a thing, protesting "Spoof, moi?!?" And lest longtime Archie readers presume to know what to expect from this concept, DeFalco warns against that assumption; this isn't your daddy's Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.. If you want to find out just how Archie gets caught up in the spy game this time around, DeFalco is adamant; "You'll have to read the story to find out."
But what about this long-lost character created in the 1950s who will be seeing his print debut here? As it turns out, it's no Sentry-style hoax; Andy Andrews is the real deal. From November 2009 through February 2010, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art hosted an exhibit entitled "The Art of Archie Comics" and at the exhibit, the publisher unveiled for the first time the unpublished tale of Andy Andrews. In covering the exhibit, the New York Times detailed the tale's provenance. "One of the best discoveries is a 13-page story featuring Andy Andrews, Archie's cousin, that never saw the light of day. 'It was in an old art file that we had in the warehouse,' said Victor Gorelick, the co-president and editor in chief of Archie Comic Publications. 'It was still in the original wrapping from some 50 years ago.' Mr. Gorelick, who began working for the company in 1958, said the story was written and drawn before his arrival. The plot was described as a cold-war thriller."
That tale, entitled "The Iron Caper" begins with Archie reading a letter to his class from Cousin Andy (who is apparently an international man of mystery) about his exploits in the world of overseas espionage, which form the meat of the story. DeFalco adds, "I believe the story was written and drawn by the always-incredible Harry Lucey, who also did 'Sam Hill' and 'The Dover Boys' as well as countless 'Archie' stories." DeFalco got the idea to work Andy into his tale after learning of the character from Victor Gorelick, but to what extent the original tale will influence DeFalco's take on Andy remains to be revealed.
Of course, Archie isn't the only project on DeFalco's plate these days. Now in her 12th year of publication, "Spider-Girl," the daughter of Peter and Mary Jane Parker, continues to be a major part of DeFalco's focus. As Marvel recently revealed, the series, which for the past few months has been seeing publication both in digital form and in the "Web of Spider-Man" anthology book, will be returning in May to her own solo title, "Spectacular Spider-Girl," a rare occurrence for any series without a hiatus, and a testament both to the series devoted fanbase and its strength in the bookstore and digital markets.
The announcement met DeFalco with a mixture of surprise and bafflement, however. "I'm afraid I have no idea why Spider-Girl is getting her own book, again. I was totally taken by surprise when I got the news." It was nonetheless a welcome surprise, as DeFalco explains. "I love writing Spider-Girl, and I hope a lot of new readers join the fun!"
The expansion to twenty-two pages is a benefit as well, especially for a writer known for multiple running storylines. "I get more room to play with sub-plots when I have more pages," DeFalco says. Giving a bit of detail about the twists and turns fans can expect coming up in the book, DeFalco says, "A gang war has erupted in New York City and Spider-Girl soon finds herself confronting the original Punisher, Wild Card (a mysterious new super-villain), the Black Tarantula and her "cousin" April in a roller coaster ride that will thrill and chill!"
And there's even more coming up for DeFalco. "In the world of comics, I'm currently working on a 'Buckaroo Banzai' script with Mac Rauch for Moonstone Books, 'The Flying Fool' (a World War II project that's also for Moonstone), and another project for Archie Comics that I can't talk about now."
"Archie" #610 with art by Fernando Ruiz goes on sale June 23.