Archie Comics is reaching into your TV screen — and how they're doing it will surprise you. Archie Comics was once the most conservative publisher extant, regurgitating for many decades the same formulaic high school antics with its eternally adolescent cast. Not anymore.
In 2015, Archie Comics went back to the drawing board. "Archie" was relaunched with one of the most respected and experienced writers in the industry at its helm, the near-legendary Mark Waid. Waid has written nearly every major character and recently revitalized Marvel's "Daredevil." On "Archie" he smoothly walks a tightrope, dragging the character into the 21st century, while maintaining the elements that have made the teen redhead and his friends popular since 1940.
Shortly after "Archie," "Jughead" was relaunched with writer Chip Zdarsky ("Sex Criminals"). Riffing off Waid's reinvention of the Riverdale gang, Zdarsky keeps the character's beloved eccentricity, but updates those qualities for the new century.
Next month, Riverdale's best frenemies get a makeover. "Betty & Veronica" No. 1 ($3.99) arrives July 20, written and drawn by superstar Adam Hughes, a slick artist with a beautiful style, and one known especially for gorgeous women, as he has demonstrated on "Catwoman" and "Wonder Woman."
But "New Riverdale," as it's sometimes called, isn't the only place you'll see new versions of the Riverdale gang. Archie Comics has also launched a breathtakingly daring — and genuinely creepy — horror line. In "Afterlife With Archie," the remnants of the Archie gang are on the run from an undead Jughead in the zombie apocalypse. In "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina," Greendale's teenage witch battles her own coven over the murder of her boyfriend.
Archie's superhero line is also getting an aggressive update. Today's "Black Hood" is a gritty crime drama, with the original Hood having died in the first issue and the replacement dealing with a substance-abuse problem. "The Shield" — now starring a woman — takes place in the murky world of espionage.
One thing all of these books have in common is a fearlessness in taking chances. The horror and superhero books don't shy from death, even of main characters, and feature stories and situations that would give aneurysms to the Archie editors of the past.
Which finally brings us to the TV show. The one-hour, live-action show has been picked up by the CW, where it will be a midseason replacement (which probably means a January 2017 premiere).
"Riverdale" will reflect the new risk-taking attitude at Archie Comics, being described on archiecomics.com as "a bold, subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends, exploring small-town life and the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale's wholesome facade."
It's definitely a surprising new version of Archie for TV, joining the other surprising, new Archies in the comics.