Essay – The Changing Archie Landscape

Introduction

So…

A lot has happened since I wrote my last essay. For one thing, the fucking plague hit, which greatly disrupted the comic book direct market in North America and caused people to flip their shit. While DC Comics and Marvel Comics are owned by giant corporations and probably won’t be shut down (although rumors are always swirling), Archie Comics is much smaller and has been much more greatly affected by the plague, which has, in general, hastened the transition to digital and streaming content.

No one seems to be talking about how Archie Comics is doing, so I decided to do that in this essay, giving an update on what’s happened so far and the current state of the Archieverse in 2021.

What’s Happened Since 2017

2017:

September 20 – Archie’s Funhouse Double Digest is cancelled at issue #28.

October 4 – The Archies, a New Riverdale floppy title focusing on the band, debuts.

October 4 – Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica, a miniseries coproduced by DC Comics and Archie Comics, debuts.

October 11 – Archie Halloween Spectacular, a floppy special consisting solely of reprints, comes out.

October 18 – Archie and Me Comics Digest debuts.

October 25 – Jughead: The Hunger, an AU horror title spinning off from the earlier one-shot, debuts.

November 22 – Betty & Veronica: Vixens, a New Riverdale title about the girls starting their own motorcycle gang, debuts.

December 20 – Your Pal Archie, a classic-style floppy title with a bit of Riverdale-influenced character designs, is cancelled at issue #5.

2018:

January 10 – Life With Kevin, a possible-future classic-style floppy title with almost no coloring, is cancelled at issue #5.

March 7 – Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica concludes at issue #6.

March 14 – Vampironica, an AU horror title, debuts.

March 21 – Riverdale Digest, a reprint-only digest of New Riverdale stories, is cancelled at issue #7.

May 2 – Betty and Veronica: Friends Forever, a classic-style floppy title reprinting stories that have recently appeared new in the digests, debuts.

May 16 – The Archies is cancelled at issue #7.

May 23 – The first run of the Riverdale tie-in comic is cancelled at issue #12.

June 20 – Archie’s Superteens Versus Crusaders, a two-part AU title, debuts.

July 11 – The Archie title, which had been rebooted in 2015, concludes its current run (written by Mark Waid) with issue #32.

July 18 – Archie Meets Batman ’66, a miniseries coproduced by Archie Comics and DC Comics, debuts.

July 25 – Archie’s Superteens Versus Crusaders concludes.

August 28 – Riverdale Student Handbook, a tie-in book to the TV series, comes out.

September 5 – Vampironica #3 comes out over three months after the previous issue.

September 12 – Archie 1941, an AU miniseries, debuts.

September 26 – Betty & Veronica: Vixens is cancelled at issue #10.

October 3 – The Archie title reverts to legacy numbering with issue #699, a $1.00 “primer” summary of what’s happened so far.

October 10 – Archie Halloween Spectacular, a floppy special consisting solely of reprints, comes out.

October 26 – Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a horror-themed take on Sabrina the Teenage Witch starring Kiernan Shipka, premieres on Netflix.

November 21 – Archie #700 comes out, kicking off a run by Nick Spencer.

December 12 – Vampironica is cancelled at issue #5.

December 19 – Betty & Veronica, a possible-future New Riverdale miniseries, debuts.

December 26 – Riverdale: The Day Before, the first tie-in novel, comes out.

2019:

January 9 – Archie Meets Batman ’66 concludes at issue #6.

January 23 – Blossoms 666, an AU horror miniseries, debuts.

February 6 – Archie 1941 concludes at issue #5.

February 13 – Archie & Friends, a classic-style floppy title reprinting stories that have recently appeared new in the digests, debuts.

March 13 – Riverdale: Season 3, the confusingly titled second tie-in comic, debuts.

March 27 – Sabrina the Teenage Witch, a New Riverdale miniseries, debuts.

March 27 – Jughead: The Hunger is cancelled at issue #13.

April 24 – Jughead: The Hunger vs. Vampironica, an AU horror miniseries, debuts.

May 4 – Riverdale, Season 3, FCBD Edition #1, a floppy comic with an original story, comes out.

May 8 – Betty & Veronica concludes at issue #5.

May 8 – Red Sonja and Vampirella Meet Betty and Veronica, a maxiseries from Dynamite Comics, debuts.

May 28 – Riverdale: Get Out of Town, the second tie-in novel, comes out.

June 12 – Jughead’s Time Police, a New Riverdale miniseries, debuts.

July 9 – Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Season of the Witch, the first tie-in novel, comes out.

July 17 – Blossoms 666 concludes at issue #5.

July 24 – Archie vs. Predator II, an AU horror-comedy miniseries, debuts.

July 31 – Riverdale: Season 3 is cancelled at issue #5.

August 7 – Archie: The Married Life – 10th Anniversary, a confusingly titled, possible-future, classic-style miniseries, debuts.

September 11 – Sabrina the Teenage Witch concludes.

September 18 – Archie 1955, an AU miniseries, debuts.

October 2 – Archie Halloween Spectacular, a floppy special consisting solely of reprints, comes out.

October 9 – Jughead: The Hunger vs. Vampironica concludes at issue #5.

October 15 – Riverdale: The Maple Murders, the third tie-in novel, comes out.

October 23 – Josie and the Pussycats in Space, an AU horror miniseries, debuts.

October 30 – Jughead’s Time Police concludes at issue #5.

November 27 – Archie and Me Comics Digest is cancelled at issue #23.

December 4 – Vampironica: New Blood, an AU horror miniseries, debuts.

December 26 – Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Daughter of Chaos, the second tie-in novel, comes out.

2020:

January 22 – Archie vs. Predator II concludes at issue #5.

February 5 – Archie: The Married Life – 10th Anniversary concludes at issue #6.

February 6 – Katy Keene, starring Lucy Hale, premieres on The CW.

February 12 – Archie 1955 concludes at issue #5.

February 19 – Archie Meets the B-52s, a classic-style one-shot set in the 1980s, comes out.

February 26 – Josie and the Pussycats in Space concludes at issue #5.

April 1 – Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Something Wicked, a New Riverdale miniseries, debuts.

April 7 – A Werewolf in Riverdale, the first novel in the Archie Horror line, comes out.

April 15 – Vampironica: New Blood concludes at issue #4, just barely making it through before Covid shuts down the floppy titles.

April 29 – Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Something Wicked #2 comes out, just barely making it through before Covid shuts down the floppy titles.

May 5 – Riverdale: Death of a Cheerleader, the fourth tie-in novel, comes out.

May 5 – Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Path of Night, the third tie-in novel, comes out.

May 6 – Season 4 of Riverdale concludes at episode 19, cut three episodes short due to Covid.

May 12 – Betty and Veronica: The Bond of Friendship, Archie Comics’ first original graphic novel, comes out.

May 14 – Katy Keene is cancelled after one season of 13 episodes.

June 3 – The last new classic-style story for a while comes out in Archie Comics Double Digest #310.

July 7 – Interview with the Vixen, the second novel in the Archie Horror line, comes out.

July 8 – B&V Friends Double/Jumbo Comics Digest is pointlessly renamed to Betty and Veronica Best Friends Jumbo Comics Digest with issue #282.

July 15 – Red Sonja and Vampirella Meet Betty and Veronica #11 comes out nearly four months after the previous issue.

July 29 – Archie #713 comes out over four months after the previous issue. It is the final issue to date and is officially “on hiatus”.

July 29 – Red Sonja and Vampirella Meet Betty and Veronica concludes at issue #12.

July 29 – Archie Showcase Digest, a very sporadic reprint-only digest, debuts.

August 25 – The Riverdale Diaries, Vol. 1: Hello, Betty!, Archie Comics’ second original graphic novel, comes out in physical format only.

September 23 – Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Something Wicked #3 comes out nearly five months after the previous issue.

October 7 – Archie Halloween Spectacular, a floppy special consisting solely of reprints, comes out.

October 14 – New classic-style stories resume in the digests after over four months with Betty and Veronica Best Friends Jumbo Comics Digest #285.

October 21 – Madam Satan, an AU horror one-shot set in the long-dormant Chilling Adventures of Sabrina title, comes out.

November 10 – Riverdale: The Poison Pen, the fifth tie-in novel, comes out.

November 10 – Katy Keene: Restless Hearts, the first (and possibly only) tie-in novel to the cancelled TV series, comes out.

November 18 – Betty and Veronica Best Friends Jumbo Comics Digest is cancelled at issue #286.

November 25 – Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Something Wicked #4 comes out over two months after the previous issue.

December 31 – Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is cancelled after four parts, consisting of 36 episodes total.

2021:

January 6 – World of Betty and Veronica Jumbo Comics Digest Magazine debuts.

January 20 – The fifth season of Riverdale premieres, delayed because of Covid.

January 27 – Riverdale Presents: South Side Serpents, a one-shot, comes out.

February 3 – Archie 80th Anniversary Jumbo Comics Digest debuts.

February 17 – Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Something Wicked concludes at issue #5, nearly three months after the previous issue.

Aside from a few exceptions due to timing, Archie Comics refused to put out floppy titles in digital format during the shutdown out of support for comic shops, and it seems the delays really took a toll. Of course, Archie Comics had been struggling with the floppy format for years, moving more toward miniseries and even then generally cutting miniseries from six issues down to five issues.

Where Things Stand Now

Remember the New Riverdale Jughead title? It went “on hiatus” and never came back. There hasn’t been a new issue of Archie since July 29, so it’s likely toast.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Something Wicked managed to limp to its conclusion. All told, it took 10.5 months for a five-issue miniseries to run its course.

No new floppy titles, whether ongoing or miniseries, have been solicited. This marks the end of the great New Riverdale revamp. It was a good effort, but it might have been misguided. Why chase the comic shop crowd when comic shops are dying?

It seems the company is still doing one-shots, but the last one (or two, maybe) was a TV tie-in.

The television landscape isn’t much better. Riverdale is the only remaining series still on the air, down from three just last year. But it has been renewed for a sixth season, so that’s good.

Doing the Math

As before, let’s calculate the value of each storytelling format. They will be listed from best to worst value:

Archie Horror: Interview with the Vixen digital novel = $5.99/336 – $0.017827380952381 per page

Sabrina: Path of Night digital novel = $5.99/320 – $0.01871875 per page

Riverdale: The Poison Pen digital novel = $5.99/304 – $0.0197039473684211 per page

Katy Keene: Restless Hearts digital novel = $6.99/288 – $0.0242708333333333 per page

Archie Horror: Interview with the Vixen paperback novel = $9.99/336 – $0.0297321428571429 per page

Josie and the Pussycats (cartoon series) DVD = $10.43/344 = $0.0303197674418605 per minute

Sabrina: Path of Night paperback novel = $9.99/320 – $0.03121875 per page

Riverdale: The Poison Pen paperback novel = $9.99/304 – $0.0328618421052632 per page

Riverdale season 3 Blu-ray = $31.12/929 = $0.0334983853606028 per minute

Katy Keene: Restless Hearts paperback novel = $10.25/288 – $0.0355902777777778 per page

Riverdale season 4 HD or SD full season = $28.99/(42*19) = $0.036328320802005 per minute

Josie and the Pussycats (2001) digital film rental = $3.99/98 = $0.0407142857142857 per minute

Katy Keene HD or SD full season = $24.99/(42*13) = $0.0457692307692308 per minute

Riverdale season 4 SD single episode = $1.99/42 = $0.0473809523809524 per minute

Josie and the Pussycats (cartoon series) Blu-ray = $19.76/344 = $0.0574418604651163 per minute

Riverdale season 4 HD single episode = $2.99/42 = $0.0711904761904762 per minute

Sabrina: Something Wicked digital collection = $10.99/110* = $0.0763194444444444 per page

The Riverdale Diaries: Hello, Betty! paperback OGN = $11.68/128*** = $0.09125 per page

Sabrina: Something Wicked trade paperback collection = $14.99/110* = $0.0999090909090909 per page

Josie and the Pussycats (2001) DVD = $9.99/98 = $0.1019387755102041 per minute

B&V: The Bond of Friendship digital OGN = $12.99/111** = $0.117027027027027 per page

B&V: The Bond of Friendship paperback OGN = $14.99/111** = $0.135045045045045 per page

Josie and the Pussycats (2001) digital film purchase = $14.99/98 = $0.1529591836734694 per minute

The Riverdale Diaries: Hello, Betty! hardcover OGN = $24.99/128*** = $0.195234375 per page

monthly comic book = $3.99/20 = $0.1995 per page

*I don’t have this collection and am using an estimated page count based on an assumption of 20 story pages per issue.

**I’m using the total number of full-artwork pages related to the story itself only, excluding the cover page.

***I don’t have this book and am going by Amazon’s listed page count, which is likely inflated.

As you can see, the best value for the consumer is in digital novels, followed (roughly) by physical novels, TV DVDs, TV Blu-rays, full digital seasons, digital movie rentals, single digital episodes, digital comic collections, trade paperback collections, movie DVDs, digital OGNs, paperback OGNs, digital movie purchases, hardcover OGNs, and finally, right at the bottom at worst value, single-issue comic books.

The Future

I don’t know what the future holds for the Archieverse. However, based on current trends, I can make some guesses as to what might happen:

The floppy format, except for full-sized reprints of digest stories and the occasional one-shot, will go away.

The digests will continue with new short stories thrown in.

There will be a greater focus on original graphic novels. Indeed, a new one based on Riverdale (The Ties That Bind) is scheduled for May 4, and a second entry in The Riverdale Diaries (Starring Veronica) is scheduled for November 16. It makes sense to go in this direction. While they’re a bit more expensive than collections, it’s a good way to ditch the floppy format (and the comic shop ghetto) entirely. There might even be OGNs done in the classic style, though I wouldn’t hold my breath.

While Archie’s TV fortunes have been reduced, I could imagine Katy Keene and even Sabrina Spellman making guest appearances on Riverdale. Their stories could even conceivably continue in novels. Speaking of which…

Novels, novels, novels. I can’t emphasize this enough. Novels are the best value for the consumer, and they’re probably the cheapest to produce. Continue with the horror titles and TV tie-ins. There could even be an Archie Novelverse with its own cohesive continuity. Novels can provide hours upon hours of entertainment at a fraction of the price compared to comics and even television.

Conclusion

So that’s my take on where Archie has recently been, where it is right now, and where it might be headed. I want to see the characters continue in some form, even if the current flavor is grittiness and horror. While I love the characters in comic format, it’s because I love the characters, not because of the format itself. I would gladly wait months for a new novel or OGN to come out – and months between TV seasons – just to visit Riverdale again.

One thing’s for sure: if the Archieverse is to survive, the visits to Riverdale had better be well worth it.

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Author: markmooreauthor

I love watching anime and superhero movies, and I love playing video games. I also write fan fiction and original fiction.

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