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In recent years, Archie Comics has aggressively courted new audiences, whether it was reimagining the concept as a horror series in 2013, relaunching its core comic book continuity in 2015 or launching the cult television series Riverdale in 2017. Next year, it continues that growth drive with the launch of a YA original graphic novel program, Archie Blue Ribbon, and a partnership to create additional graphic novels for middle-grade readers.
The original graphic novel line will be targeted at the bookstore market, filling in a potential gap in Archie’s current publishing program, which currently has two areas of focus: comic book stores, served by both single-issue releases and the collected editions of those titles, and the newsstand market, which continues to be home to Archie’s long-running digest editions.
Releases will take two distinct forms: the Archie Blue Ribbon line will be published by Archie itself, and targeted at Young Adult readers, while the company is partnering with Little Bee Books for a series of middle-grade books to be released through Little Bee’s BuzzPop imprint.
“At Archie, our goal is always to present the best story in the best format to reach the most readers,” Archie Comics co-president Alex Segura said in a statement. “Launching a YA-centric line of original graphic novels with Blue Ribbon and partnering with Little Bee to create graphic novels geared toward kids is a natural next step to give fans compelling, unique, and meaningful stories involving our iconic characters.”
The debut BuzzPop release will be The Riverdale Diaries: Hello, Betty!, by Sarah Kuhn and J. Bone, launching a series that reimagines the familiar characters as middle-grade schoolers. The first book sees Betty Cooper struggle with the fact that her best friend Valerie Smith — from whom she had previously been inseparable — has taken a class without her, leaving Betty alone in drama class, having to deal with Veronica Lodge. The book will be published in August 2020.
“The Little Bee partnership came together naturally, and helps us continue to reach a vitally important market,” Segura said. “We’re all extremely excited to see The Riverdale Diaries in the hands of young readers.”
“Betty and Veronica and Valerie are some of the chief icons of my youth,” Kuhn said in a statement about writing the series. “Getting to write words for them now is mind-blowing—as is seeing them brought to life by the inimitable J. Bone!” Editor Rachel Gluckstern added, “The chance to reimagine such iconic characters and explore how they got to know one another back in middle school is amazing. Sarah and J are just killing it. They get the middle-school vibe and audience, and this story is fresh, funny, and totally awesome!”
Archie Blue Ribbon will launch with two titles at an as-yet-unrevealed point in 2020, with Jamie L. Rotante, Brittney Williams, Matt Herms and Jack Morelli’s Betty & Veronica: The Bond of Friendship — in which the two iconic characters imagine their lives after graduation during Riverdale High’s latest career day — and Riverdale: The Ties That Bind, a spinoff from the CW television series by Micol Ostow, Thomas Pitilli, John Workman and Andre Szymanowicz.
“Betty and Veronica are two best friends despite being opposites — many people can relate to that,” Rotante said about the Betty and Veronica title. “Sometimes your first, closest friend ends up being totally different from you as you both mature, and it can be scary thinking of how that dynamic might change further in the future.”
Ostow, who has written for Archie’s Riverdale comic series as well as a number of prequel novels based on the series, added, “I’m hesitant to say too much about what the actual story of the OGN will be as these things always evolve as I work! That said, my goal is to ensure that each of our core four [characters] gets their moment to shine, to take the opportunity to explore settings and scenarios that are less feasible on the television show, and to play around with pairing off unexpected characters in fun ways!”
“In terms of the YA line, we’ve had the idea in our back pocket for some time now, and it fell into place once the talent and stories for B&V and Riverdale came together,” Segura said. “Archie Blue Ribbon will stand for the best talent telling the best stories featuring our characters, and we’re excited to launch this imprint in such a meaningful way.”
Both Archie Blue Ribbon books will run 144 pages at a $14.99 U.S. price point.
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