Archie Comics’ fictional teenagers Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and their buddies may date from 1941, the year the publisher was founded, but the Riverdale high schoolers continue to be among the most widely recognized characters in popular culture. The company has managed to keep the antics of the teenagers fresh for each new generation of fans. And while the publisher regularly updates their look and fashion, and adds diverse characters, it also uses partnerships of all kinds to expand the ways its stories are delivered, adding book formats (graphic novels as well as prose adaptations) and TV series. More recently, it has created a host of new partnerships to develop its characters for podcasts and audio dramas, new digital comics platforms, and educational content and workshops.
Like every other publisher, Archie Comics survived the last year under a pandemic by staying flexible, said Archie Comics copresident Alex Segura. The publisher spread out its publishing schedule into 2021, worked to increase direct engagements with fans, and, Segura said, “web sales, subscriptions, and newsstand sales to grocery stores and big box outlets really grew during this really unpredictable moment. There are some positive signs that we hope to build on as we get through the pandemic.”
Among those positive signs are an increasing number of media partnerships that reimagine the Archie characters and make them accessible in new ways to a new generation of fans.
“My goal for Archie has always been to make sure these characters and stories were accessible to everyone, everywhere,” said Jon Goldwater, who joined Archie Comics in 2009 as CEO. “And these partnerships, with industry leaders like Scholastic, Spotify, WebToon, and more, are helping to make that a reality.”
Archie Comics copresident Alex Segura said that in 2018, the publisher partnered with Scholastic to create prose novels based on the TV shows (Riverdale, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Katy Keene) and novels inspired by such Archie horror comics (also a new development) as Jughead: The Hunger, which has been adapted into A Werewolf in Riverdale. He added that 11 titles have been released by the partnership to “acclaim and solid sales.”
Also in 2018, Archie Comics teamed with indie children’s publisher Little Bee Books and its BuzzPop pop culture imprint in a partnership that has produced board books ((Kevin Keller’s Favorite Colors and Everything I Know I Learned from Archie), activity books (Archie Andrews, Where are You?), and young reader graphic novels (Riverdale Diaries, Vol. 1 by Sarah Kuhn, illustrated by J. Bone).
Archie Comics was also one of the first comics publishers to go “day and date” (release print and digital editions simultaneously) in 2011. In 2020, the publisher began offering all off its titles day and date on Comixology Unlimited, Amazon’s digital comics subscription service. Segura described the subscription platform as a contemporary version of traditional comics retail channels, such as newsstands and grocery stores, where Americans purchased comics in the past. Digital versions of Archie comics are also available on the library subscription service Hoopla, Archie Unlimited, (the Archie subscription service), and elsewhere. “We’re seeing over 750,000 pages of Archie Comics stories being read digitally through these subscription services each month,” Segura explained.
In 2020, Archie Comics reached a licensing deal with WebToon that will allow the fast-growing South Korea–based digital comics platform to create new native comics based on the Archie crew. “It’s early days, but hopefully we’ll have some stories this year,” Segura said. “WebToon offers YA and teen drama, and it’s a good fit for Archie. [WebToon comics are] in a different art style, but it’s very much an Archie audience.”
There are also recent partnerships with Spotify and with audio drama producer GraphicAudio to develop, respectively, scripted podcasts based on Archie IP and audio adaptations of classic Archie comics, such as the bestselling 2010 graphic novel The Archie Wedding, in which Archie marries Betty and Veronica in alternate stories that imagine what would happen to each couple.
Archie Comics is also developing educational programs and workshops featuring its characters. This year the house partnered with the 92nd Street Y in New York City to begin offering online after-school programs with longtime Archie artist Dan Parent, who instructs the students on how to make their own comics. Last year the company teamed up with the nonprofit Children’s Tumor Foundation, which supports treatment for neurofibromatosis, to create an eight-page comic book in the traditional Archie drawing style that is used to promote awareness of the disease.
“Over a decade ago, Archie was nowhere in the cultural zeitgeist,” Goldwater said. “Today we are one of the most pop-culturally relevant and energized IPs out there. That’s a testament to the hard work we’ve done to raise that brand awareness through publishing and media.”
Correction: the board book Kevin Keller's Favorite Colors was described incorrectly in an earlier version of this story.