The undead weren't the only things making their way through the Archie: Life, Afterlife and Beyond panel Saturday at the first Special Edition NYC convention in New York City. Archie SVP of Publicity & Marketing Alex Segura took the mic to introduce Co-CEO Jon Goldwater and President Mike Pellerito, who collectively got the show going while they waited for another special guest.
Goldwater talked up the role of CCO Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's work with the publisher while also giving the "secret origin" of the "Afterlife With Archie" horror series. Artist Francesco Francavilla did the original "Afterlife" piece of art as a variant cover for the "Archie Marries..." magazine series "Life With Archie" #21. The tongue-in-cheek image got Aguirre-Sacasa interested in doing an Archie horror comic, which Goldwater immediately greenlit.
"Archie is still the hero and still having his issues with Betty and Veronica, but he's doing it in a whole new setting," the CEO said before Francavilla joined the panel.
The artist spoke a bit about his first Archie work – as cover artist for the "Archie Meets KISS" series written by Segura. "I think the secret was when we did a more realistic approach on the Archie characters, which has eventually been adopted in 'Afterlife,' " Francavilla said. Goldwater said the version was a natural while Francavilla stressed that his versions were still recognizable as the classic Archie cast.
"Thank you for supporting 'Afterlife'...it's been a magical ride," Goldwater said, nothing that on the heels of the just-released trade for the zombie book, Archie is prepping a similarly horror-themed "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" ongoing. Speaking on the collaboration between Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla, Goldwater said he refers to the pair as Archie's "Lennon and McCartney."
And for the "Sabrina" series, Francavilla's friend Robert Hack will be taking up the art reins. "I had a sneak peek at the art, and it's pretty dark," Francavilla said. "It's set in the '60s, and so it's not in the same universe as 'Afterlife,' but it's in the same vein."
For fans who want more of the classic "Sabrina The Teenage Witch," Goldwater said that the publisher is working with Sony Pictures for a big screen version of the character that he compared to the Harry Potter franchise in tone.
Talk then shifted to the upcoming "Death of Archie" storyline in "Life With Archie" #36, the penultimate issue. "It's everything you'd expect Archie to be and do," Goldwater said. "You guys have come to love and admire who this character is, and you're going to feel so great about what transpires at the end of #36. Then #37 is sort of 'Life Without Archie,' showing what life is like in Riverdale a year later...even though it sounds 'doom and gloom' – because at the end of the day Archie does die – it's going to be done in a way that it really inspirational for people."
The story will be written by longtime "Life With" scribe Paul Kupperberg, and the panel made a point to note that this death wouldn't affect the future of the teen Archie, who they say will go on forever.
Pellerito praised Francavilla's "Archie Tombstone" variant cover for the book, saying it packed a huge emotional punch. "What was great is that we reached out to a lot of people we don't typically deal with," Pellerito said of the wide range of variants. Many artists who were concerned over their schedules immediately agreed to draw something when they learned the hook of the piece was "The Death of Archie," including Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke, Adam Hughes, Cliff Chiang, Jill Thompson and Alex Ross.
On an upbeat note, the panel discussed new Archie character Harper – a disabled Riverdale character introduced by Dan Parent in this month's new issue.
"The response has been huge," Segura said. "It's really the next character in the tradition of Kevin [Keller] to expand the world of Riverdale."
Goldwater spoke to the publisher's continued push to diversify their world saying, "I really think Kevin was inspirational...when Dan came to me with this idea, I thought this was just continuing what we wanted to do, who we want to be as a company and who we want to be as people." Pellerito said that there is a twist to the story in terms of the love interests involved.
Writer Michael Uslan will also return to Archie for "Farewell Betty & Veronica" – an eight-part arc exploring what happens when the two teens leave Riverdale.
"The first issue is a real tearjerker," Pellerito said, noting that once the girls leave, it makes for some major changes to Riverdale society – especially for the other girls. Meanwhile, Betty and Veronica will also see their own personalities change as they travel the world. The panelists revealed that there will be some brand new characters introduced in the series to help fill the gap the girls left.
Archie's adventure line got a spotlight as "Sonic The Hedgehog" and "Mega Man" were talked up by the panel. After the soft reboot of the Sonic universe, the book is introducing some new water-based characters to Sonic's world, while Knuckles gets his own big reintroduction in "Sonic Universe."
On the "Mega Man" front, all eyes are on the introduction of Mega Man X to the world. More info is expected to be released tomorrow at the Sonic and Mega Man panel, which Pellerito promised would be an extra zany hour headlined by himself and Editor Paul Kaminski. The panel also promised big Sonic news to hit this summer during San Diego Comic-Con.
Moving on to fan questions, the in-development "Archie" movie came up, with Goldwater saying, "There will be some Archie movie/TV type things in the near future."
A fan asked how Archie would be presenting the "Death of Archie" story considering the recent gun violence across America. Goldwater said the issue was not something Archie was tone deaf to, and he felt their story would be very respectful of the feelings many Americans have after so much tragedy in the national spotlight.
Asked about the future of Kevin Keller now that his ongoing has ended, the panel said that a brand-new "Kevin Keller" series with a brand new concept is in the works, but they're waiting until Dan Parent is ready to announce exactly what that is.
The video game front is alive for the company, as their iOS "Riverdale Rescue" game is continuing to add new updates and twists to the gameplay. "It's now available anywhere and everywhere," Goldwater said. Pellerito noted that this weekend, many new characters from the comic like Kevin Keller's future husband and the Archie pets have just been added to the game.
Coming back to the "Sabrina" movie, Goldwater said they're almost done with the first draft of the screenplay. Once that's in place, they plan to search for a director. They hope to have that process done by the end of the summer and start searching for the actress to play Sabrina in the fall, with an eye toward filming by the end of the year. "It's going to have its real suspenseful elements to it, but it's also going to be really fun," the CEO said. "Transformers" producer Don Murphy is working on the film in connection with Sony.
A fan who wanted to see the classic Archie horror stories that were reprinted in the back of "Afterlife" collected on their own seemingly convinced the panel that they should include some of that material in the high-end hardcover editions of "Afterlife" when they get to that point.
Goldwater ended the panel by promising that in 2015, Josie and the Pussycats would get their turn at an Archie revival.