Writer Nick Spencer on Taking Over 'Archie' Comics This Fall

"I couldn’t say yes fast enough," says the 'Amazing Spider-Man' writer of the chance to take over the lives of Archie, Jughead and the rest of the Riverdale crew.
Marguerite Sauvage/Archie Comics

It’s all change in Riverdale.

This fall, as revealed by The New York Times, Archie Comics will relaunch the core Archie title with a new creative team, as former Captain America (and current Amazing Spider-Man) writer Nick Spencer takes the reins of Archie and his Pals and Gals alongside artist Marguerite Sauvage with the 700th issue of the series. The original series ended in 2015 after 666 issues; Mark Waid and Fiona Staples rebooted the entire property later that year, and that series ended this month after 32 issues. Archie No. 699 will be a special recap issue for new readers, available in October for just a dollar, ahead of the new run.

Heat Vision spoke to Spencer about taking over the series, his love for Archie Andrews and the town of Riverdale — as well as Riverdale, the TV series — and what to expect from the upcoming run.

You’ve been working predominantly with Marvel in recent years; how did you come to be involved with Archie, and taking over the primary Archie title from Mark Waid?

It was [Archie Comics co-president] Alex Segura who first reached out to me, letting me know that Mark was coming to the end of his story. He asked if I might be interested, and I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I have so much fondness for these characters, going all the way back to my early childhood, and I’d always wondered what I’d do if I got the chance to write them. From there, we talked about story possibilities and thankfully everyone was on the same page and excited about the direction we’d be going on. Also, I have to say thank you to the wonderful folks at Marvel who were very gracious and accommodating in letting me chase this dream— I’m still very much a part of the family there with my work on The Amazing Spider-Man — and more to come!

Waid has been guiding the Riverdale gang’s path for years by this point, having masterminded the reboot of the franchise in 2015. Did you discuss the Archie characters with him, and get a sense of where he saw the characters going?

We did talk a bit once I’d accepted the job, yeah. Mark and I are friends, we’ve worked at Marvel together for a while now. He was very helpful and gracious — it’s funny because he just took over for me on Captain America and now I’m taking over for him here. I’m in such awe of the job Mark did on this book, I’ve been a fan of his run from the beginning. People forget what an impossible job that seemed, reimagining these characters in a modern context. Plenty of folks thought you’d lose what made the whole thing special and Mark more than proved them wrong — he made this book a draw for a whole new generation of readers. I can only hope to build on that. 

This is far from the first high-profile comic book property you’ve taken on (as you said, you start your Amazing Spider-Man run this week), but Archie is different from a Marvel or DC title in many ways. It’s simultaneously less beholden to the continuity of decades’ worth of earlier adventures, but far more specific in terms of who the characters are and their relationships to each other — there’s not the elasticity of the portrayal of, say, a Batman or Captain America, nor necessarily the option to jettison the supporting chance in favor of an all-new status quo. How much of this factored into your approach to the title?

People feel like they know these characters in a very personal way, a very human way [and] that’s different from your average superhero, I’d say. And to the second part, I think that’s just the nature of this story — the book is called Archie, but really, it’s about everyone, the whole cast. So it’s really about finding that core truth in each character and building off that, but then also threading them together and putting them in each other’s orbit in a way we haven’t seen before. The excitement is in making you see new sides of these characters by putting them through another character’s lens.

When I think about Archie, the title I go to from your back catalog isn’t something like The Fix or Superior Foes of Spider-Man, both of which are undoubtedly comedies, but the Jimmy Olsen strip you wrote for DC — that, in many ways, felt not only tonally consistent with Archie, but also had elements of the romantic comedy (with hapless redheaded protagonist). Waid and collaborators brought an element of drama to the title in recent years, as well, which leads me to wonder: What is an "Archie Comic” in your mind? What tone are you planning to bring to the series when you take over?

I think that’s a good observation! There’s a common sunniness of the disposition in both Jimmy Olsen and Archie. I’d dare to say if you enjoyed that run (for the 10 people who read it), you’ll probably enjoy this. At the same time, as you mentioned, this book has had its share of drama — with a particular escalation of conflict and stakes over the last year or so, I’d suggest. [For those not following the title, the final year of Mark Waid’s run as writer including a life-threatening accident — and subsequent recovery process — for Betty Cooper, as well as unveiling of the secret at the heart of Cheryl Blossom’s family.] And we want to build off that, as well. So we’re aiming for a mix, where you’ll have those character-driven moments of levity and warmth, but then night falls, and the mysteries and the cliffhangers start reading their heads. If we do it right, should be a lot of fun.  

The Archie franchise as a whole has thrived recently through evolution, whether it’s horror comic Afterlife With Archie or The CW’s Riverdale. As the man in charge of the “core” Archie, do you see yourself being influenced by the different incarnations of the characters that are almost as well-known as the originals by this point?

You can’t not be. I’m such a huge fan of Riverdale, and one of the first things I said was I want to find ways to reach that audience without losing what makes a classic Archie story work. I don’t think they’re as wholly incompatible as some might suggest. Everything is not going to be grim and gritty all of sudden — though I don’t think Riverdale is either — all the cast aren’t suddenly going to be morose or angry — again, though, they’re not on Riverdale either.

What you will see are some longform mysteries, some shocking twists, some pairings you’ve never seen before. We want to be where the action is. Also, speaking to Afterlife and so many other great titles and concepts Archie has introduced over the last few years, I think I can say we’re broadening the scope a bit, bringing in more characters that fall under the Archie banner while not often seen in the core title. I’m excited about that. 

You’re working with Marguerite Sauvage on the book. Her work has such a lightness of touch, and her characters have such personality. What is it like working with her, and how has it impacted your plans for the title?

Marguerite is such a gifted, remarkable and unique artist. I’m not ashamed to admit, I absolutely lost it when they told me she’d be coming on board. Just the sheer beauty of the artwork will make this book worth picking up — you don’t even need me! I’m so honored to be working with her on this. There’s really no one who could be more perfect for this book. 

So what are your plans for the title? What should audiences expect for everyone in the not-so-sleepy town of Riverdale as the series returns?

I’m going to keep pretty quiet on this front, but I think I can tell you this much: When we open, a little time has passed since we last saw the Riverdale gang and since most of them saw each other. So every one is in a different place, some dramatic changes have occurred and certain members of the cast are carrying around some big new secrets... 

Here’s something silly to wrap up: Which Archie character would be your choice of date to take to Pop’s Diner? I mean, at least you’d know that Jughead would find something good on the menu…

You know, I thought about this, and it seems to me the most Archie-appropriate response is to say I can’t decide. 

Archie No. 700, which launches Nick Spencer and Marguerite Sauvage’s run on the series, will be released digitally and in comic book stores in November, with a new Betty and Veronica series launching the following month, written by Jamie L. Rotante. Below, the covers for Archie No. 699 and Betty and Veronica No. 1.

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