Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Archie Comics have been more topical than ever lately, but when we heard that the Occupy movement was coming to Riverdale in an upcoming issue, we just had to get the details. Here’s writer Alex Segura on how they got the idea and where this comic is going.
Robot 6: OK, first of all—why? Whose idea was this, and why does it seem like a logical story for the Archie crowd?
Alex Segura: It came up while I was sitting and talking to our Co-CEO Jon Goldwater. We had just finished an interview to discuss the wedding of Kevin Keller and the reporter—I believe it was the AP’s Matt Moore—said “What’s next, Occupy Riverdale?” We all kind of chuckled at the idea, but once we got off the phone we stopped and thought “Why not?” Jon’s vision of Riverdale has always been of a modern city that reflects what’s going on around the world. So, once we decided we wanted to do it, I threw my hat in the ring and wrote up a proposal.
I really wanted it to be about Occupy but also not to stray too far from what an Archie comic should be, which is light-hearted, entertaining and, most importantly, funny. It wasn’t easy, but I think we got it. I looked back at a lot of the classic Archie stories from the 60s and early 70s that showed the gang dealing with current topics in an honest, but still “Archie” way. Not to mention our current, topical output, like Kevin Keller.
Robot 6: Which comic will it appear in?
Alex Segura: It’ll be in ARCHIE #635, which hits after the conclusion of Dan Parent’s Archie Marries Valerie arc.
Robot 6: Is this a self-contained story or will it run across a couple of issues?
Alex Segura: It’s a standalone issue, drawn by the amazing Gisele Lagace with a jaw-droppingly beautiful variant by Jill Thompson, one of my favorite people in the comic book industry.
Robot 6: Can you give me an idea of the storyline?
Alex Segura: Sure! It all starts while Archie and Jughead are walking to school — they come across a protest at Perkins Park, lead by new student Andy Martinez. Andy and his fellow Occupy Riverdale protesters have set up shop in the park to decry the current financial system, similar to the current Occupy movements across the country and the world. You see a lot of the classic characters choosing sides and Archie’s kind of stuck in the middle. When your friends are divided, what side do you take? It’s relevant and important stuff, but told in a very Archie way.
Robot 6: Have you consulted with any members of the Occupy movement in writing this story?
Alex Segura: I have a friend who actually started his own, small Occupy movement in his suburban town, so it was nice to pick his brain and get a sense of the issues and goals of the movement, around the time I was pitching for the assignment. I also consider myself a bit of a political junkie, so I keep tabs on a lot of what the Occupy movement puts out there. I’m by no means an expert, nor should this issue imply that. I’ve taken the general aspects of the movement and integrated them into Riverdale to create a fun, entertaining and—hopefully—informative Archie comic.
Robot 6: Have you visited Occupy Wall Street yourself?
Alex Segura: I’ve been down there, yeah, but I haven’t spent a significant amount of time talking to Occupy Wall Street, beyond keeping up with them through the news and their own channels, like Twitter and their newspaper.
Robot 6: Will this be in the regular Archie continuity, and if so, how familiar do you think the audience will be with the Occupy movement?
Alex Segura: Yup, this is a regular issue of Archie.
I don’t imagine everyone who picks it up will know the ins and outs of the Occupy movement, but you don’t have to. This issue isn’t preachy, not does it take sides. It brings characters we know and love face-to-face with something a lot of Americans and people around the world are facing or discussing, and we see how it affects them. At the end of the day, it’s an Archie comic, so all the things readers expect are there: humor, entertaining characters and Jughead being hungry. If you have no interest in politics but still want a fun Archie story, this serves that purpose as well.
Robot 6: Tell me a bit about Gisele Lagace–she gives the characters a really different look. Why did you choose her as the artist?
Alex Segura: Our president, Mike Pellerito, chose her! She’s done some Archie work in the past, and I know we’ve been looking to have her do some more stuff for us. I think she brings a really dynamic and modern sensibility to the characters while remaining true to their classic style. When I see her art come in I’m continually amazed by how she strikes that balance. She’s a great storyteller and has a knack for facial expressions and her linework is deceptively smooth and simple. Great all around. I was very excited when Mike told me she’d be drawing the issue.
Robot 6: I love the variant cover by Jill Thompson. How did this come about? Does this mean you won’t be seizing her Tumbler and demanding payment because she used your characters?
Alex Segura: I’ve been talking to Jill since I got to Archie about doing something with us. I knew she was a fan and we were really just waiting for the right project and time to work together. I’m supremely lucky that it lined up with something I was working on as a creator! Her variant, along with Francesco Francavilla’s lovely ARCHIE MEETS KISS covers have really gone a long way to show these characters in unique but totally recognizable lights. Archie’s the kind of character that’s really open to interpretation, and it’s awesome to see him drawn by some of the biggest and brightest names in comics! Jill’s cover is beautiful.
Robot 6: Any plans to leverage this by, say, donating copies to the Occupy Wall Street library or reaching out to the movement in other ways?
Alex Segura: That’s a GREAT idea, actually. I’ll borrow it, if you don’t mind!
Robot 6: Feel free! Thanks, Alex!