For the first time in its 70-year history, Archie Comics will publish an original graphic novel later this year—a major change for a company that still leans heavily on newsstand sales of single-issue comics and digests for the lion's share of its revenue.
The new graphic novel, Archie Babies, will be written by Mike Kunkel, who wrote and drew Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! for the DC Comics' DC Kids line. The artist for the project is Art Mawhinney, who has worked for DC, Marvel, and Nickelodeon. The book will be distributed by Random House.
While Archie Comics is best known for its monthly comics and digests, the staple of newsstands and supermarket checkouts everywhere, it has been publishing graphic novels for a few years, both under its own name and through licensing deals with other companies, such as Abrams, which published a deluxe slipcase edition of its Archie Marries… story last year. However, Archie Babies is the first time the company has taken material direct to graphic novel form, without publishing it as serialized comics beforehand.
The Archie Babies graphic novel will take the familiar Riverdale characters—Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead—a step further into the past than the Little Archie series. "It's the gang of babies," said Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater. "It's terrific stuff."
Most of the publisher's stories begin in its single-issue comics and are then reprinted in its small-format digests and its larger, more deluxe graphic novels. "The 32-pagers are the beginning," said Goldwater. "They are all brand new stories, and that is the impetus for everything we do."
Archie Babies was originally announced as a monthly series at San Diego Comic-Con last July, but Goldwater said the company is putting renewed emphasis on graphic novels since signing a distribution deal with Random House last September. "We are going to put a lot of emphasis on our graphic novels," he said. "It is a very, very important part of our business here at Archie Comics."
"When we began our partnership with Random House, one of the things that came to mind was 'what upcoming projects or series work better as OGNs?,'" Goldwater said. “Archie Babies was the first one that popped out for us, since it was a new interpretation of our characters and a great jumping-on point for new readers. So, we made the switch. We're excited to see it presented in this format and looking forward to the fans' response.”