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NYCC 2015: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Interview

Interview conducted by James Ferguson

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is currently writing both of the Archie Horror titles, Afterlife with Archie and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, while also serving as the Chief Creative Officer for Archie Comics.  I had the chance to speak with him at the Archie booth at New York Comic Con, chatting about what's in store for the horror titles in the near future.  You can really hear his passion for these books and the overall Archie Horror line.  Spoilers abound for both Afterlife with Archie and Sabrina below, so if you're not caught up, consider yourself warned.  

James Ferguson: Afterlife with Archie quickly established itself as much more than a zombie book, branching into other aspects of horror.  Are there any other sub-genres you're interested in tapping into?

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Yeah.  Both Francesco [Francavilla, Afterlife with Archie series artist] and I are horror fanatics.  We love all kinds of horror.  In the first issue we had witches with Sabrina and her aunts.  Then we expanded to include some Lovecraftian horrors.  There's no horror genre that's off limits to us.  Issue #9, which Francesco is drawing right now and focuses on Reggie Mantle, is a very, psychological horror story.  It deals with Reggie's guilt with a very Edgar Allan Poe Tell Tale Heart theme to it.  Sabrina and the Lovecraft mythos is very prominent in it.  

The one thing I will say is that since we have Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which has such a strong witchcraft element to it, we probably won't do too much more witch stuff in Afterlife.  If we do it, it'll be in Sabrina.

JF: My next question was, “Was there anything that you ruled out?”, but clearly you haven't.  [Laughs] Do you have a favorite moment of Afterlife so far?

RAS: Wow.

JF: There's a lot to choose from.

RAS: Yeah. Not a favorite. I will say that people really responded to issue #4, which is the issue where Archie's dog sacrifices himself to save Archie and Archie kills his dad.  For me, I'm very proud of issue #6, which focuses on Sabrina in which she becomes the bride of Cthulhu.  I feel like that was our attempt to tell a self-contained perfect horror story and that was pretty successful.  With every issue, we try to top the one before.  

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JF: Those and the recent Shining homage issue really stand out.  Again, it could have been just a zombie book.

RAS: We really do agonize over these issues.  One thing that I love about Archie Comics, which is very different from my old Marvel days, is if an issue is 28 or 30 pages, that's what we publish.  We never do 20 or 22-page comic books.  They're always whatever they need to be.  That's part of Archie's commitment to this.  Giving Francesco the room to draw and me the room to go a little bit deeper with these stories has been really nice.  

JF: Part of the success is that you can identify immediately with these characters as you have such a rich history with them.  It's something that you maybe don't have to work as hard getting the audience to get to know them.  

RAS: Right, there's an emotional attachment to them.

JF: Actually, that wasn't really a question. Just more of a statement. [Laughs] Was there anything you felt that pushed the boundary too far?  

RAS: I will say that Archie editorial has never vetoed anything.  Issue #9 is the darkest and most upsetting issue.  It really flirts with a couple of very dark ideas, especially in terms of Reggie / Midge / Moose...which I've always thought of the dark love triangle that's kind of like the dark version of Archie, Betty, and Veronica.  Francesco and everyone that's read it in-house loves it.  For me, it probably has the darkest and most boundary-pushing things.  I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing.  

JF: Well, it's working out well so far, so probably.  From all these different aspects of horror, is there something that you want to include, but just haven't figured out how to pull in yet?  For example, something like J-Horror might be interesting, but tough to incorporate.

RAS: That's a good idea.  I had never thought of that, but that would be a great issue that's sort of done in that style.  But no, again, I think the sky's the limit.

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JF: Shifting gears to Sabrina for a moment, from the get-go there was a conscious decision to separate that from Afterlife.  They are not set in the same world.  Can you talk a little about that decision?

RAS: Rather than spin Sabrina out of Afterlife where I knew she was going to continue to play a role, we wanted to give her her own book.  One thing we landed on early was that it was going to be a period book set in the 1960s; the same time that the original Sabrina book came out.  That immediately set it apart from the Sabrina in the Afterlife universe because it was a different time period.  It allowed us to give the book its own retro voice.  Personally, the artist I thought of, and Archie agreed, was Robert Hack because he has a great retro-horror style.  Even though I write both books, they are written differently and more importantly, they look and feel completely different.  Both have a classic style, but there's no mistaking Francesco's work for Robert's, nor Robert's for Francesco's.  They have real, unique voices which I'm really proud of.  

JF: There have been some great variant covers for both books so far.  What's that process like?  Is it the artist?  Or a theme?

RAS: It's the theme.  We have maybe the best covert artist in the industry right now with Francesco.  He always does one or many.  He usually has a good idea for what he wants the cover images to do.  With Sabrina we have had a little more fun doing homages to things like the Carrie movie poster or Creepshow.  That book is almost a love letter to those '60s and '70s horror movies.  For Afterlife with Archie #8, the original cover is the one that has Jughead as he's poking through the door ala The Shining.  It's the first time we've done an homage to a horror movie that directly.  Ultimately, that became the variant cover and we did another cover.  Francesco is so good that we don't want to start doing homages.  He's a master.  We'd rather see a Francesco poster.  

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JF: Being that the two books are separate, if they encountered one another, who would win?  Sabrina or Jug-Dead?

RAS: Very good question.  Sabrina.  

JF: You had teased another book with Vampironica.  Anything going on there yet?

RAS: It's down the line, but it's definitely happening.  As with Afterlife and Sabrina, it's about finding the right artist and making sure that artist is available to do it.  

JF: Would you write that one as well?

RAS: I would try or co-plot it perhaps.  The success of the horror line will be having different writers working on it.  I'm very protective of Afterlife and Sabrina.  The true success will be for it to be like Dark Circle [another Archie imprint], which is a whole array of writers and artist working on it, not just me.  We have such great artists working with Francesco and Robert and we want to protect that quality. 

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About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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