After scoring a hit with The Archies One-Shot, Archie Comics is poised to launch an ongoing version this October. Co-writers Alex Segura and Matt Rosenberg were cool enough to take time off their busy schedules to give us some Behind The Music style info on the upcoming book and its creation. So sit back, put a record on and check it out!
Monkeys Fighting Robots: First off, Alex and Matt, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I know you guys are busy.
Matt: Thanks for the interview!
Alex: Yes, thanks for having us. Always good to chat.
MFR: Was having the band something you guys always knew was going to be part of this new version of the property?
Matt: I think Alex is best suited to answer that from the company point of view. I’ll just say, I think what Mark Waid and the other Archie creators are doing with the new feel of some of the books, I love it because it feels fresh and different and vital. But most importantly is still feels like Archie. We all love these characters and this universe and I don’t think anyone wants to stray too hard from that. And Archie playing music, The Archies, is such a crucial part of who he is and what Riverdale is.
Alex: I think The Archies are a big part of Archie and the story of his friends, sure, and when Matt and I got the gig, we wanted to show this sprung directly from the bigger stories Mark was telling on the flagship book. Having Joe on board as the artist really helped, because he’d just finished a nice run with Mark and then a stint on RIVERDALE, so it felt very official if that makes sense. Creatively, like Matt said, the band angle gave us a lot of new ground to explore – it lets us play with the character dynamics in a different way and also take the kids out of their comfort zone, which always makes for interesting drama.
MFR: What was it like working with the art team of Joe Eisma, Matt Herms, Jack Morelli?
Matt: It’s amazing. I’ve been a huge fan of Joe’s work for years since Morning Glories first came out. He has such a fun style that feels really unique but still captures these real human emotions and moments so well. His characters feel so alive. And add Matt’s colors and we just have this gorgeous, vivid looking world. Jack too. They all work so well together to create a world that you just fall into as you read it.
Alex: Joe’s the perfect artist for this book because he gets what we’re trying to do and he makes it better. We all love music, but Joe knows how to capture the feeling of music on the page, which is not as easy as it sounds. They say you’re lucky if a collaborator is two of three things – nice, fast and great. Joe is all three. Matt and Jack really round out the team, and I couldn’t be more impressed with them. Rock comics aren’t your typical story, so the drama builds in different ways, and the colors and letters are so important to that process. They make it look easy.
MFR: How did you guys get Jaime Hernandez to do that gorgeous cover on the one-shot?
Matt: I sold my soul.
Alex: Once Matt threw his soul on the table, we were set. But actually – I just reached out to Jaime. He’s an Archie fan and had drawn a few things for us already – including a variant for ARCHIE MEETS RAMONES. I’m still pinching myself that Jaime drew the cover to something I co-wrote, though, for sure.
MFR: What is it about Archie as a concept that endures?
Matt: There is a sort of timelessness and purity to Archie and Riverdale. It’s Americana for sure, but it’s more than that. It’s about these characters that you feel like you know like you could be friends with them or even be them. Archie comics for me have always been this magical blend of wild adventures and comfortable familiarity. There is just something so amazing about getting to check in with them every week. I literally grew up with them always around me. I still have all my old issues and digests. They just feel like some of my oldest friends.
Alex: Archie’s the eternal everyman and good guy. You want to spend time with him and his friends, and his struggles are pretty universal – friendship, struggling to succeed and finding humor even when you’re facing some kind of adversity.
MFR: To get more specific with the previous question, why does Archie endure so much with music? Why is the band ‘The Archies’ always so important to the stories?
Matt: I feel like that plays more to the Americana angle. They are that accessible, relatable dream. The band you start with all your friends that practices in your garage. It’s this amazingly recognizable bit of daydreaming for so many people, but Archie never has to wake up from it. He never has to actually learn how to play an instrument, or find friends who know how. He never has to worry about noise complaints from the neighbors or booking a show. He just gets to be in a band and go on these great adventures because of that.
Alex: It’s kind of the rock dream, no? To not only be in a band but to be in a band with your best friends – and to be good at it! It’s kind of the crux of the book, too, but from a more realistic approach. The idea isn’t the same as the reality, though we still manage to tell the story with humor and heart, which is what Archie is all about.
This is also the third time you guys write together. What’s the process like? How did you guys get THIS rockin’ duo together in the first place?
Matt: We’ve known each other for a while now. We had a lot of mutual friends and just kept crossing paths in the New York comics world. When Alex wrote Archie Meets Kiss I was a big fan of the book and was working at a comic shop at the time. I set up a signing for him and we hung out. I think, and I might be wrong, that it was there that we talked about how much I’d love to write an Archie book one day. I really love Alex’s writing and I think we have similar sensibilities, so when the opportunity came about to work together on Archie Meets Ramones it was a no brainer for me. And it’s been a ton of fun since then.
Alex: Yes, I think that’s where the idea was born. Matt’s an old friend and we like a lot of the same things but also different stuff, so we play off each other well. I think we’re similar in that we write from an emotional place, which is where the best stories come from. I’m a fan of Matt’s work and I’ve loved to watch his career blow up. Having this chance to work together has been a highlight for me, and I’ve learned a lot. Writing these stories have been really fun, and it’s let us share our own musical experiences through the most iconic characters – it’s been amazing.
MFR: Alex, you especially have now written three Archie and music-based stories (Archie Meets Kiss, Archie Meets Ramones and now this one, The Archies). Matt, having read your work as well, I’ve seen all the many band homages and references you have done. I know music is a big part of both of your interests. Can you tell us a brief history of how music and playing it has been a party of your lives outside of comics and how it influences your work in them now?
Matt: Well I’ve been a big music person my whole life. I actually ran an indie/punk label with my girlfriend for a decade. Other than that I’ve done just about everything you can do in music that doesn’t involve having musical talent. I’ve tour managed, been a roadie, guitar teched, sold merch, booked shows, printed merch, and managed bands. Music has been a constant in my life, like comics, for as long as I can remember. So it just makes sense to me that some of that spills over onto the pages.
Alex: Music has always been a passion, often an obsession, for me. As much as I’ve always wanted to write, a desire to play music and be in a band was right there, too. I’d been in bands through college – none really that successful, but always fun and a great experience. In NY, I actually played in a few groups that put on shows around town, and that was a great experience. My last band even put out an EP which you can dig up on the streaming services. Songwriting is a real challenge, and it makes all your writing better. That still plays a part in how I write – from prose to dialogue to scripting. A lot of my experiences in bands have bubbled up in some form with this book, which has been great, because it gives me a chance to look back and relive the fun times. It also makes me want to pick up my guitar again! Maybe when the kid goes to college…
MFR: What kind of sound do you guy think The Archies have?
Matt: That answer for me changes all the time. They’re obviously poppy, kind of rough around the edges, and super energetic. Right now I’d say they are somewhere between Sonic Youth, Joyce Manor, and The Thermals. But if you asked me tomorrow I’m sure that answer would be completely different.
Alex: Yeah, I think they have a strong pop sensibility, but also a bit of bite to them – a raw, garage-y sound, like the Breeders or Pinkerton-era Weezer. Fuzzy guitars, dueling vocals and great hooks. The bands I think of most are Imperial Teen, Rilo Kiley and Last Splash-era Breeders. But it changes.
MFR: Would they put out a release on vinyl? Or something special for Record Store Day?
Matt: Sure. I’d love to have a 12″ of Joe reading issue one complete with sound effects and different voices for the whole cast. Right? That’s what everyone wants, right?
Alex: Yeah, who wouldn’t want that?
MFR: Who would play on an ultimate bill with them? Who do you think The Archies would be crazy about playing with?
Matt: Well I think everyone in the band would have their dream lineup, so it would be a 6 band bill. You can guess who picked who if you want. The Archies opening for U2, Blondie, Metallica, Husker Du, and Taylor Swift.
Alex: I still think T-Swift would be a great guest-star. Let’s make that happen.
MFR: What would a ‘The Archies’ tour be like?
Matt: In the real world? A nightmare. In the Archie world? It’s in the book. You’ll have to read it to find out. Weirdly there is the same amount of junk food in either version.
Alex: Yeah, that’s the book! In reality, they wouldn’t make it out of Riverdale. But in the comics, they’re doing pretty well, all things considered.
MFR: What kind of music do you think each member loves? Do they each have a favorite band and who would they be?
Matt: They listen to all sorts of things. I don’t want to give too much away because people should be able to input their own stuff in there too while they read. But I think whatever you think Jughead listens to, he listens to stuff that’s way heavier.
MFR: Matt, you have always written extensively about kids and teenagers. Why do you find it so easy and relevant to do so?
Matt: I’m super immature.
MFR: What bands do you hope to have in the book?
Matt: My dream bands would be Faith No More, Bad Brains, Superchunk, N.W.A., and The Clash. But that doesn’t include a bunch of the bands we did get that I can’t mention yet.
Alex: I am so bowled over by the bands we have locked in. It’s the perfect mix of “oh, cool, wasn’t expecting that”-type of groups with major, iconic bands from different eras. It’s going to be fun. As for dream acts – I’d love to see the Replacements, Talking Heads, PJ Harvey, Neko Case…any of those.
MFR: Have any musicians expressed interest?
Matt: Yeah! I feel like everyone we’ve talked to has been super excited. It’s kind of amazing. Everyone loves Archie.
Alex: The great thing is that no one’s brushed us off. Every band we’ve interacted with has been interested and keen to figure it out, which is a great sign.
MFR: What do you hope will set this series apart from all the other great Archie titles already out there?
Matt: I think the big thing for us is getting out of Riverdale. We get our 5 main characters, cram them in a van, add all this stress and excitement and craziness, tons of cool guests, and then we just see what happens. Also, ours is probably the only book where you will see Jughead in a Converge shirt.
Alex: I think it’s the book that’ll keep people on their toes and talking – because there’s no template. Like Matt said, it pulls the kids out of Riverdale – there’s no Choklit Shoppe, No Mr. Lodge or Weatherbee chasing after Archie – they kind of have to survive on their wits and still make great music AND still get along.
MFR: Do you have longer arcs planned or more short tales?
Matt: All of the issues work as standalone stories, but there is a longer arc which is about the tour and the band figuring out who they are. So you can pick it up wherever and hopefully enjoy it. But if you come along for the whole ride it’s much more enjoyable I think.
Alex: Matt and I were mindful to make each issue stand on its own, but also feed into a bigger narrative – which has been an interesting challenge. You can hop in whenever, though, and each issue presents a cool guest star and leads you down the road toward something bigger, we hope.
MFR: And finally, can you give us a hint about the first arc? How do The Archies get on that road to rockdom?
Matt: Sometimes you just have to get in the van.
Alex: Yup. All aboard.
The Archies #1 will hit comic shops on October 4th, 2017.