Archie Comics: The Hippest Publisher on the Block? Lena Dunham, Zombies, and More….

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The term "mainstream comics" probably conjures images of Superman soaring or X-Men angst, or any number of other properties in which folks were their underwear outside of their clothes.

But Archie Comics may encapsulate a mainstream ideal, that of “the good ol’ days,” a snapshot of ’50s/’60s America in which teens share sodas at the malt shop, students proudly display school colors, and in which a red-headed icon still can’t decide between the cute blonde next door or the bitchy, raven-haired beauty from the right side of the tracks.

In recent years, though, Archie Comics has not been afraid to break out of the mold. In 2010 it introduced Kevin Keller, an out gay character, into the Riverdale fold — not as a one-off, but as a recurring, important cast member. The company married off Archie  – granted, to both of his loves in separate yet simultaneously running story lines — and showed us the gang’s future. And, most recently, the company launched Afterlife with Archie, a monthly horror comic that transforms idyllic Riverdale into the backdrop for a zombie apocalypse. Really. Like, Jughead’s a zombie now. And it’s more or less the fault of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

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Cover of Afterlife with Archie #1 by Francavilla

Afterlife with Archie forgoes the classic Archie Comics art style in favor of the dark, moody and deft pencils of Francesco Francavilla. The story line comes from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a longtime writer both in (Sensational Spider-Man, Archie Meets Glee) and out (many plays, HBO’s Big Love, Glee) of comics. Yesterday, Archie Comics announced that Aguirre-Sacasa has been named the company’s chief creative officer. With ‘Afterlife’ under his belt, it’s no surprise that Aguirre-Sacasa’s first move as CCO was outside of the box. According to Archie, Aguirre-Sacasa has arranged for Girls creator and star Lena Dunham to write a four-part story slated for publication in 2015.

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Other new avenues for Archie that Aguirre-Sacasa will be exploring involve the company’s Red Circle superhero properties, along with writing a new ongoing Sabrina title. He revealed to the Hollywood Reporter that his new Sabrina series is far closer to ‘Afterlife’ than traditional Sabrina comedy books, calling it an “homage to Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, Carrie and The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane.” Yikes!

All in all, it seems that the long-established comics company that’s traded on ’50s/’60s nostalgia for decades is taking chances and keeping itself as relevant as anyone.

(Dare we hope an updated Josie & the Pussycats isn’t too far behind?)

Images: HBO, Archie

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