NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

October 11, 2013

Archie's 'Afterlife'

The beloved comic veers into horror

The vibrant, cheerful and safe town of Riverdale is getting a ghoulish makeover.

In “Afterlife With Archie,” a series that debuted this week, publisher Archie Comics is launching not just its first horror title, but also its first book carrying a rating for teens and older and sold only in comic shops.

Archie was originally written by Haverhill native Bob Montana and was based on his experiences at Haverhill High in the 1930s.

The current series, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, sees Archie, Betty, Jughead, Veronica and others, including Sabrina the Teenage Witch, enveloped in a panoply of incantations, elder gods, zombies and the undead.

“It’s a hard-core horror book,” said Aguirre-Sacasa, a Harvey Award-winning writer who melded his personal interests and horror obsessions into influences for the book. “This is why I was meant to do comics.”

Those are evidenced in descriptions and images. In one panel, for example, Sabrina the Teenage Witch is clutching the fabled but dreaded “Necronomicon.” In another, showing the gang at a party, Archie is dressed as Freddy Krueger from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films.

Francavilla included his own nods to horror classics, too, like the “‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and ‘Nosferatu’ posters on Jughead’s bedroom wall.”

But the book, despite its subject matter, he said, reflects the core characteristics of Archie and the other characters.

“Sabrina? She’s always messing up,” Aguirre-Sacasa said, though in this case, the mistake has grave consequences for Jughead.

“He’s always hungry,” Aguirre-Sacasa said, a normal trait that portends doom by the end of the first issue, setting the stage for the second issue and beyond.

Publisher and co-CEO Jon Goldwater says the title is not your “traditional Archie Comic” given the subject matter.

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