Updating Archie Comics for a New Generation of Readers

In Feature Articles by Edward Nawotka

Archie Comics

You may think of teen comic hero Archie as a “nostalgia brand,” but a fresh look and edgier stories he is being updated for a new generation of readers.

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

Alex Segura

Alex Segura

Over the past seven decades, the comic book hero Archie and his gang of friends — Jughead, Veronica, Betty, et al. — have become classics. The beloved high-school and teen comic book is just the sort thing that you might remember having read while you waited in the back of your mom’s Oldsmobile, your bare legs sticking to the hot vinyl, with the windows cracked to let out the summer heat, sipping a Tab through a straw, while your mother popped into the corner store to pick up a pack of smokes.

Yes, Archie, to many, reeks of a long-time-ago…

Hear Alex Segura on the relaunch of Archie at our March 26 conference, Designing Books for Millennials.

“But Archie has not been frozen in amber for 75 years,” says Alex Segura, Senior Vice President of Publicity and Marketing for Archie Comics. He has hung out with the band KISS, fought zombies, married both Veronica and Betty (in alternate story lines), and even died. But he’s coming back this July, relaunched for a new generation. “Archie stared off with a bit of an edge, but has been somewhat neutered over the past decades. We’re returning that edge. If classic Archie is Saturday morning TV, then this is prime time,” says Segura. 

Archie #1, hipper than before.

Archie #1, hipper than before.

The comic book series, which has reached 600+ issues, will be re-issued at #1 — a big deal in the comic book world. “We’ll be using classic elements of Archie to revive the brand and telling his origin story for the first time as well. It will still be a comedy, but with a more YA focus.

All of which is not to say that the Archie comics haven’t tackled potentially controversial issues before: Segura notes that Archie was “the first comic book to feature a gay wedding” — when Archie’s friend Kevin Keller got married his long-term boyfriend.

Instead, the challenge is to reach a new generation of millennial readers with content that will appeal to them, all the while without turning away the stalwart Archie fan who has stuck with the brand through decades.

Archie #1, the gang reborn.

Archie #1, the gang reborn.

“The emphasis has always been on Archie being for everyone: we have made it our mission to keep him on sale in all retail channels — and on the racks of places like Wal-Mart, instead of just comic book shops. But now we are going from retro and nostalgic to vibrant and engaging.” The new comic brings together two highly regarded comic book creators: artist Fiona Staples and writer Mark Waid, and as you can see from the accompanying pictures, the updated Archie is very 21st-century, more Williamsburg than Riverdale. But, as the catalog copy for Archie #1 (out July 7) promises, Riverdale has changed as well…

“The Archie reader is now far more varied than merely a supermarket buyer, which s not what we perceived a decade ago, which we thought would be a supermarket buyer. Archie’s reach is much broader. Now Archie is going to seem more modern. The challenge with Archie its that as a brand is that there has always been that huge awareness. Hopefully, the transition will seem natural and organic!”

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.