Archie Comics. Seventy Five years of The most All American kids you can imagine, living their All American lives in the town of Riverdale.
Until they stopped living that is.
In 2013, Archie Comics published a new title, something that was decidedly different from the rest of the various series that follow the kids from Riverdale. Instead of a book that focuses on the problems of teen love triangles or finding the perfect hamburger, this book was going to be a bit more adult, and a whole lot darker. This book was going to be the first foray into horror for the series, and it was going to be done without much of the humor found in a typical Archie story.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had been a comic writer at Marvel years ago, and has worked in TV, notably on the Fox show Glee. He was tasked with writing a series that crossed over the Glee characters and the Archie universe in early 2013, starting his tenure writing for Archie Comics.
In 2012, issue 23 of Life With Archie was released. That series featured a plot device that followed Archie in two parallel futures, one where he marries Betty, one in which he marries Veronica. Francesco Francavilla was given the slot to draw one of the variant covers for that issue, and fashioned a cover featuring Archie facing down a herd of zombies, including his old pal Jughead. It was done as a lark, as many variant covers are stylistically or tonally different from the usual art seen in a series.
Sacasa decided to run with Francavilla’s idea. What if an outbreak of the undead swept through Riverdale? Would readers want to read that story?
The answer as discovered shortly upon the release of the book in late 2013 was a resounding yes. Sacasa and Francavilla crafted Afterlife With Archie with all of the respect that the characters deserve, but did not write this book strictly for the Archie fan base. This book pulls few punches when it comes to scares or gore. Francavilla’s art is draped in oranges and blacks, as he deftly colors his own pencils. The plot follows a zombie plague caused by a mixture of Sabrina The Teenage Witch’s misguided good heart and Reggie Bannister’s carelessness. Soon the townsfolk are on the run from the zombies, led by undead Jughead. That’s all the setup needed, but let it be said that issue 4 alone had more heart in it than most current comics can muster in a year. Archie faces some hard choices and some harder memories, and Sacasa aims right for the gut with his script.
Sacasa meanwhile, for creating what has amounted to a hit for Archie Comics was recently promoted to Chief Creative Officer, and along with getting ready to release the 7th issue of Afterlife before years end has a new endeavor too. Sabrina, a new horror title, following the previously mentioned Witch, will be released in October. The first trade paperback of Afterlife was recently released, compiling the first 6 issues.
If your a comic fan like me, you too probably read Archie at some point in your life. I did as early as elementary school, devouring the digest sized books that hung at the grocery store checkout lines. As I got older I moved away from reading them, but Afterlife has reminded me of why I loved those characters, and has given me a new perspective on them and their relationships. If your a horror fan like myself, you owe it to check this book out as well, do not dismiss it as kid’s stuff, it is not.
Oh and one last thing. If you read issue 4 and don’t cry a little, your dead inside.