Archie meets Lady Gaga? Well, no, not yet but, as we learn in this interview, anything is possible in the Archie universe. Archie’s Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing, Alex Segura and Archie veteran artist and writer Dan Parent are the creative team behind the team up of the Archie gang and the legendary rock band, KISS, a four-part story arc that begins in Archie #627 which comes out this November 30. In these exclusive GeekWeek back to back interviews, we let both Alex and Dan talk about this unique project. We start with Alex Segura and get a sense of how he ended up writing this landmark Archie story.
GEEKWEEK: There's a lot of people talking about the upcoming "Archie Meets KISS" story arc. And here you are its writer. Can we start with you sharing with us something about the process of writing for comics.
ALEX SEGURA: Sure. Good question. I’ve worked with some great editors – Mike Marts and Janelle Asselin over at DC on my DCU HALLWEEN SPECIAL 2010 story and Mike Pellerito here at Archie. They each taught me a lot, and atop the list was a basic rule that a lot of people tend to forget when it comes to comics: Show, don’t tell. Comics is a visual medium. Rely on your artist and let the pictures do a lot of the talking. No one wants to read a 10 paragraph word ballioon. I’m still learning.
My process is pretty standard – I plot out the issue roughly, then break it down by page, making sure something important or notable happens on each page. Then I dialogue the page to get a sense of the rhythm for the story and then break that down into panels. I then re-read, edit and tweak accordingly. Then I get to see Dan Parent draw it! Dream jobs DO exist.
GW: Your first work with Archie was an Archie and Friends story. Can you tell us what that was like? And how did that compare with what you did over at DC Comics?
AS: The ARCHIE AND FRIENDS story -- #156, for those keeping score – was a lot of fun, and really came from an idea Mike Pellerito had. He wanted to see the gang go to a comic book convention in costume. I took that, put together a plot synopsis and we batted it around. It was a pleasure to write and I learned a ton about the craft. I grew up reading Archie, so having the chance to write a story involving some of my favorite comic characters was surreal and amazing. I have original art from that story framed and in my office.
My DC story was a little different. It was a 10-pager, as opposed to a complete issue, and part of an anthology of Halloween stories DC puts out annually. But it came about in a similar way. I mentioned the idea to Mike Marts while we were talking about something else (probably me asking about preview pages of some sort for a Batman title) and then the idea went up the flagpole. Once everyone signed off, I got to scripting it. Mike’s feedback was invaluable and he really helped a novice get to the basics of telling a story. I’d written stuff before, but the DC story was my first full script, and I learned a ton.
GW: How did you approach the Archie Meets KISS story?
AS: Before I put anything down, I had to answer the big question: HOW do you bring KISS into Riverdale and not make it seem forced or strange? I did some research and re-read some of my KISS back issues and realized we needed to level the playing field a bit. In order to bring in these supernatural-ish characters to Riverdale, you needed another character to bridge the gap, for lack of a better term. I think Mike (Pellerito) suggested Sabrina, and once I had that, everything kind of fell into place. I’m really going for the same “Archie Adventure” feel those stories from the 70s and early 80s had – a nice mix of action, adventure and comedy with some level of family friendly peril thrown in.
GW: The choice of KISS is interesting. Do you treat it at all ironically? Or is it more just a fun vibe?
AS: It’s really all in good fun. The KISS guys show up because a threat appears that they have to handle. The Archies eventually join forces with them. It’s very much in the classic vein of off kilter comic team-ups. There are a few knowing Easter eggs thrown in for fans, but it’s all pretty straightforward.
GW: "Archie Meets KISS" makes me think of all the celebrities that have appeared on "The Simpsons." Is there room for that kind of irony within the Archie universe?
AS: Most definitely! Celebrities in Riverdale have become pretty common – we’ve featured J.Lo, Mark Zuckerberg, Simon Cowell, Michael Strahan and tons more. And that’s just in the last year!
GW: Do you expect "Archie Meets KISS" to appeal to a broader audience than the usual reader of Archie?
AS: I’d hope so. I know the KISS Army is very vocal and dedicated, so I’m hoping this story has enough cool stuff to keep them entertained! Dan Parent’s done a bang-up job on the art. I’ve said this before, but Dan’s the premiere Archie artist of this generation, so having him draw this story is wonderful. He nails the KISS guys’ likenesses and he can draw some pretty cool zombies, too.
GW: I like the strange appeal of KISS. For a story like this it offers a little sense of danger but in a comfortable way, like Alice Cooper. What do you think of the Archie gang meeting up with a contemporary artist that is a product of today and has an edge, like Lady Gaga? Could you see her in the pages of an Archie comic?
AS: I’d love to write a Lady Gaga meets Archie comic – like KISS, I love her music and think she’s such a larger-than-life character, that it’d work. I could totally see that happening!
GW: Finally, we all look forward to the four part Archie Meets KISS storyline which begins in Archie # 627 in November. Are there any final thoughts you like to close with?
AS: If you’re a fan of KISS, or Archie – or just looking for a fun, action-packed adventure featuring monsters, magic and loads of comedy, you’re in for a treat. Dan Parent does a wonderful job on the art and it also features zombies and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch! What more could you want?
And now Part 2: Dan Parent
GEEKWEEK: Did you find it to be a surprise when you learned you'd be working on an Archie comic featuring KISS?
DAN PARENT: Yeah, that’s not your everyday gig! But I was thrilled for sure!
GW: What is your sense of the readership of Archie comics? Mostly teens along with a mix of older comics fans? I wonder how many teens will never have heard of KISS? I imagine that can be part of the fun, to introduce KISS to a whole new generation.
DP: Archie readership is all over the map. When I’m at conventions, I meet people from every age and background. While the biggest chunk is probably still young readers, there’s a steady fan base with older readers, from college age to grandparents. A lot of teens know KISS, for those who like classic rock, and those who watch Gene Simmons’s reality show. My daughter, who is 18, liked KISS before this whole project came about.
GW: Please share with us one of your memories of KISS. In the spirit of the last question, how would you describe the band to a kid who has no idea who you're talking about.
DP: My oldest KISS memory is dancing at the eighth grade dance to the song, “Beth”…with a girl named Beth! Honest to God, that’s true! I would describe KISS to a kid as an American rock ‘n’ roll band known for their classic imagery and costumes as well as their classic music.
GW: Dan, you created the first openly gay character in the Archie universe, Kevin Keller. Of course, it makes sense if you want Riverdale to be more inclusive. Moving forward, do you foresee any other big changes ahead for Archie and the gang?
DP: I’m sure as time marches on, changes will continue in Riverdale. Kevin’s changed the dynamic in Riverdale, in a one hundred percent positive way, thanks to our family of loyal fans, and the new fans who’ve joined us. While Riverdale stays the same, it also changes too.
GW: Why was it, do you think, that Archie didn't meet KISS back in the ‘70s?
DP: I’m not sure! But I’m glad the project waited until I was working here!
GW: Lastly, thank you for your time, are there any final thoughts you'd like to say?
DP: Thanks to all the readers who let me have the greatest job in the world. I’ll keep working hard to entertain you, I promise!
“BATMAN YEAR ONE,” the new animated movie, the latest in the excellent ongoing series of DC Universe Original Movies, is now available as a Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, and thru iTunes as well as other outlets. It packs a punch and delivers a gritty story loyal to the original masterpiece comic by writer Frank Miller and illustrator David Mazzucchelli while providing its own energy and style.
When that landmark comic was unleashed in 1987, New York City was still very much a classic crime capital and Gotham City proved an easy stand-in. Today, things have reconfigured in a mass of complexity but vice is still vice and crime is still crime. The movie is set in a timeless present befitting the eternally crime-ridden Gotham but, if you look closely, there are definite nods to the ‘80s with old computers and VHS shops. The main thing is that this is a double origin story, Frank Miller’s take on what it was like to have both Batman and Lt. Jim Gordon come into their own during that crucial first year.
The hallmark of the DC Universe Original Movies is their faithful adaptation of landmark DC comics, like “All-Star Superman.” Even a sense of the artwork from the original comic is attempted. I’m not so sure that Mazzucchelli’s style is retained but that’s fine. Where the comic has its intrinsic literary and artistic qualities, the animated movie keeps pace in ways special to its medium. The action is spot on. And, there is no doubt that the voice actors bring out another dimension to this.
At the top of the list is Bryan Cranston as Lt. Jim Gordon. A three-time Emmy Award winner, Cranston is known for his role as the dad in “Malcolm in the Middle” and for his recent starring role in AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” Talk about adding heart and soul to a work, it is Cranston who holds this movie together as the driving force. In fact, “Batman Year One” is very much focused on Lt. Jim Gordon and how he navigated through the corrupt political system of Gotham, struggles with his domestic life, and tries to make sense of this amazing vigilante in a bat costume. As Cranston describes in a special Warner Bros. interview, he brought a lot to the role, including his background in police training:
“In thinking about James Gordon, basically I used my own background. I went to college to become a police officer. There's a certain similar decorum that all police officers have – it’s a skepticism and a curiosity and a bit of cynicism, too. And what I found in reading the script was that all those elements seem to be in place for the character. So all I wanted to do is to bring out that sensibility and make him real. He has to be a real guy, someone you believe could be this police officer, in order for you to accept the plight and the dismay that he's going through, and trying to do the right thing in a city that is surrounded by corruption.”
Rounding out the Blu-ray package are some cool extra features which include a “Catwoman” short movie, a documentary on Frank Miller, two episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series,” handpicked by producer Bruce Timm, and a roundtable discussion about Batman with a stellar cast of DC comics talent. Overall, it is quite an impressive package. The only warning is to keep in mind that this is a Frank Miller PG-13. Some of the stuff here is simply going to be too intense for kids, including extreme violence, sexual content and basically the disturbing noir stuff you’d expect. That said, this is definitely a good movie and a great companion to the original book.