At New York Comic Con, Archie Comics continued its streak of bold moves with the announcement that Michael Uslan is writing a new series titled "Farewell to Betty and Veronica," in which something will happen to the two iconic females of Riverdale. Uslan didn't give any details, but he did say it would shake up Riverdale forever while introducing two new characters.
The panel room was full, and thanks to the NYCC organizer's decision to assign the always popular Archie panel to an with a seating capacity of 70, a long line of would-be attendees were turned away.
The stage was packed as well. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa moderated the panel, which included Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater, artist Francesco Francavilla, Uslan, editor-in-chief and co-president Victor Gorelick, Archie co-president Mike Pellerito, writer and artist Dan Parent (the creator of Archie's openly gay character Kevin Keller), and Michael Murphey, CEO of the digital comics distributor iVerse.
As the panelists took their seats, someone brought up a large model of a hamburger -- with Veronica's severed head in the middle -- which remained in the center of the table for the duration of the panel.
The panel kicked off with a trailer from the new series "Afterlife with Archie," written by Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Francavilla, which debuted on October 9. Aguirre-Sacasa explained that "Afterlife with Archie" had its genesis as the zombie variant cover Francavilla drew for "Life with Archie" #23. "I bought the book thinking, 'Maybe there's an imaginary story or dream sequence that has Archie with zombies,'" he said. "There wasn't, but I loved the cover. I was having breakfast with Jon Goldwater and his son Jessie in Los Angeles, we were taking about something, and then afterwards I said, 'By the way, Francesco's cover is amazing. You have to make a poster so I can hang in my bedroom.' There was kind of this weird pause, and then Jesse and Jon and I all were like, 'This needs to be a comic book.' Two hours later, Jon sent me an e-mail that said, 'Let's do it. We're doing it.' That was less than a year ago, and now the book is on the stands."
Francavilla, who also drew the covers for "Archie Meets Kiss," said he is a big fan of classic horror comics, and he tends to go in that direction whenever an editor gives him carte blanche. "The step to go to a zombie version of Riverdale was very quick," he said.
"And if you think issue 1 is a horror comic, wait till issue 2," Goldwater said. "It's just beginning."
"It only gets weirder and darker," Aguire-Sacasa said, adding that many characters have yet to be seen. "The zombie apocalypse will affect everyone in the Archie universe."
Later in the panel, Goldwater announced that the first issue of "Afterlife with Archie" sold out in comics shops in one day, and that there will be a second printing with a variant cover by Francavilla.
Victor Gorelick showed off the new art book, "The Art of Archie: The Covers," which features notable Archie covers, many suggested by fans, as well as background on the artists.
Then Uslan stood up to talk about his new project. He began by describing Archie Comics as a place where "creative people never simply hear the word 'No.'" Uslan was the writer of the original "Archie Gets Married" series, and now, he said, Goldwater has given him the green light to do a new arc to run in "Betty and Veronica" titled "Farewell to Betty and Veronica."
The crowd gasped audibly at the news as Uslan continued, saying that both men and women classify women as either Betty or Veronica. "But what does it mean?" he said. "What really, truly defines what being a Betty is or being a Veronica is? We are going to explore that, but in the process, we're going to have to say, and Riverdale is going to have to say, goodbye to Betty and Veronica. I don't want to tell you too much about it, but it is going to shake up a lot of people. There is going to be a vacuum in Riverdale, there's going to be guys going crazy, there's going to be a lot of tears, but then there's going to be twists, turns, surprises and two new characters that I think you are really going to be floored by."
Dan Parent will handle art for the comic, which will be out next year, but beyond that vague outline, both creators were mum about the details.
Next up was a trailer for "The Fox," the superhero book by Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel, which launches October 30. "He is a true freak magnet," Pellerito said of the eponymous superhero. " Everything you ever thought should be in a comic book but they were too scared to do--that's the book! Dino has done an amazing job."
Some changes are in the works for Kevin Keller, although not as grave as the ones Uslan has planned for Betty and Veronica. The current issue of "Kevin Keller" has him feuding with Veronica. "Guess who wins," Parent said. "Neither one." After that, he said, a new storyline will launch in issue 14, taking Kevin in a new direction.
In addition, Kevin Keller has been picked to be on of the celebrity ambassadors for GLAAD's Spirit Day, a day of anti-bullying activities scheduled for October 17. "This is the first cartoon character to ever be chosen as a GLAAD ambassador," Parent said. "Kevin Keller" won the GLAAD award this year for best comic book.
Archie is about to embark on a world tour in Archie #650, going to India, China, Australia, and Canada with musical guest stars from the Archie Universe, such as Josie and the Pussycats and the Madhouse Glads.
Goldwater also promised a big event in "Life with Archie." "There is a monumental moment that is going to happen in 'Life with Archie' next year that has never happened in an Archie comic book," he said. "As both worlds start hurtling toward one another, it's going to be the ultimate explosion." A big announcement is in the works, he said, and the reveals will begin in January.
Murphey rounded up some digital news: A new "Afterlife with Archie" app launched on Wednesday and was featured by Apple as the best new app in its books section on Thursday. Inside the application are the first issue and two exclusives, an enhanced version of the first issue with samples of the script and additional backup stories, and a script book with layouts of the pages. Users can subscribe within the app and get each new issue and the extras for $4.99 a month. In addition, the Archie Comics and Red Circle apps have been updated.
The panel also featured trailers from the "Sabrina" animated cartoon, which had premiered that day on The Hub, and the upcoming animated series "It's Archie," which will be out next fall. The audience also saw a trailer from the "Rescue Riverdale" iPad game; Android and Windows 8 versions will be out in the near future.