WHEN ARCHIE COMICS CEO Jonathan Goldwater took a look at the Archie Comics universe that he had inherited from his father, he decided it wasn’t just Archie, Betty, Veronica or Jughead that needed a reboot, but rather the entire town of Riverdale itself.
High-speed Internet, social networks and smartphones were a part of the new teenage standard. There were many reasons why Archie and the gang could have become irrelevant to the world’s youngest and most techno-savvy generation, but Goldwater wasn’t going to let Archie slip through their fast-texting fingers.
“The social networking was exploding. Communications were becoming easier and easier,” Goldwater told The Post’s Comic Riffs of that time several years ago. “When I looked at Riverdale, I saw that [it] had not moved forward in decades.”
Goldwater led a forward-charge toward Riverdale’s resurgence. Kevin Keller, the town’s first openly gay character was introduced in 2010, and the tales of Keller yielded a GLAAD award for best comic book in 2013. There was an Archie crossover with the hit show “Glee.” A mature-reader content title, “Afterlife With Archie” (think Archie meets the zombie apocalypse), was created for older readers who possibly thought they had outgrown Archie Comics. And it was recently announced that Lena Dunham, creator/star of the HBO series “Girls,” would write an Archie miniseries next year.
Archie Comics would not become old-school on Goldwater’s watch. “A lot of it was gut instinct,” Goldwater said. “We didn’t do focus groups. It was me having so much confidence in who these characters were — and feeling so deeply about what they’re all about. I knew that if we tweaked it, a little bit here, a little bit there, that people would embrace [Archie Comics].”
One of those major gut instincts was realizing that the Archie characters were in good hands with writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who was recently named chief creative officer of Archie Comics after the success of his “Afterlife” series. Goldwater and Aguirre-Sacasa first began discussions about Archie Comics a few years back at New York Comic-Con. It was obvious to Goldwater that the characters meant a lot to Aguirre-Sacasa, who was a writer on “Glee” at the time, and Goldwater saw a chance to bring someone onboard who was at the “forefront of pop culture.”
“I see Roberto being not just our legs on the ground in Los Angeles, but someone who’s really molding not just the Archie brand, but Sabrina, Josie, all of our vast library of characters going forward,” Goldwater said. “Whether it be for film, for television, for live stage or for comic books, I really see Roberto having his hands in all creative enterprises going forward for Archie Comics.”
For Archie Comics, superheroes are also in the mix with the revival of Red Circle Comics, whose heroes include the Shield and the Fox. The Fox miniseries — by Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel — is ongoing, with releases of other classic titles planned.
As for the direction of the Red Circle line, Goldwater will lean on Alex Segura, the former DC Comics publicity director who is back at Archie Comics as not only a marketing/publicity executive, but also as the editor of Red Circle Comics; he will oversee the direction of the Red Circle heroes and recruit talent for future titles.
“The main focus for [Alex] coming back here to Archie was spearheading the relaunch of Red Circle as a stand-alone brand, separate and apart from the Archie brand,” Goldwater said. “It’s certainly going to have a real, darker, superhero tone to the books. Alex is going to work closely with Roberto. We have high hopes. There aren’t that many Golden Age superhero catalogs left. We’re excited about the prospects going forward for Red Circle.”
That so many classic characters in the comic book world are now his responsibility and have been a part of his family for so long is not something that Goldwater thinks lightly of. “To be sitting in this seat right now is an honor and something that’s hard to put into words,” he said. “It means that much to me to carry on the history and the legacy [of Archie Comics]. I’m hoping I’m doing my father proud and that he’s happy with all the different incarnations.”
So what would the elder Goldwater think of everything going on in Riverdale right now? “I think he would be shocked by ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Kevin Keller,’ but shocked in a great way — that these characters that he created decades ago would be able to stand the test of time,” Goldwater said. “And for me to be right here, right now, it’s very meaningful and very important.”