Note: Spoilers (and pages) for issue No. 20 of “Archie” ahead.
Mark Waid needed to know he truly cared about Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and the rest of the teenagers he oversees in “Archie” before adding a little darkness to the recently revamped Archie Comics series.
So now, two years into his “Archie” writing run, Waid says he is finally ready to bring a little bit of pain and consequence to Riverdale.
“I needed my first couple of years to really get to know and love these kids before I put them through hell,” Waid told The Post’s Comic Riffs.
“Archie” no. 20, available Wednesday in print and digitally, debuts the first part of a three-part story line titled “Over the Edge,” written by Waid and illustrated by Pete Woods.
The three issues will deal with what happens when Archie and his constant rival Reggie turn their never-ending war of words into a war on wheels. A car race between the two will end with a major character being seriously injured and near death.
Candidates for who that character might be are the racers — Archie and Reggie — plus Betty, who, if you’ve been reading Waid’s “Archie,” you know would be a better racer than Archie. Betty actually zooms toward Archie, trying to prevent him from participating in the race, knowing the redhead isn’t as fast and furious as he thinks he is.
Waid points out that just because other classic Archie characters, such as Jughead and Veronica, are safe from the high-impact car accident, it doesn’t mean they won’t be affected drastically.
“I realize this sounds like oversell, but I mean it — the events of ‘Over the Edge’ change all the kids, and most of the parents,” Waid said. “I would, that said, keep my eye on Mr. Weatherbee, Archie’s father, and Veronica Lodge.”
As for how he decided which character would have a life-changing event, Waid says he began looking at residents of Riverdale that had the least amount of strife going on in their lives. After two years, he felt, it can’t just be all fun and laughs in “Archie.”
“I love these kids as if they were my own, and I’m very protective of them, but no one wants to read nothing but stories about people who are always happy and untroubled,” Waid said. “With that in mind, no one should be safe from plot twists and turns except for maybe the kid whose name is on the cover, and even then, I can and have heaped lots of problems on his head.”
And yet, the world of Archie is a comic book universe. And with that come the assumptions that whichever character is impacted the most in “Over the Edge,” the moment won’t stick, and things will be back to normal soon, as comic book worlds are at times quick to hit the reset button.
Waid points out that he is not writing in an alternate Archie universe where it is easy to take chances (like when Archie “died” in a parallel future timeline in the “Life With Archie” series) and that his “Archie” series is the Archie universe, and with that comes the possibility of a horrible event sticking and not going away for these characters.
“The gang will not be the same, I promise,” Waid said. “These kids did something stupid, and there are consequences.”
“We have a responsibility to make even the craziest parts of [“Archie”] grounded and realistic,” Waid added. “The moment we succumb too much to fantasy, it just throws the balance of the series off and the next thing you know, Dilton [“Archie’s” biggest brain] will be inventing time machines or whatever.”
Don’t expect this new dark chapter to change the tone of “Archie” too much, though. Waid says some aspects of “Archie” are timeless no matter the drama.
“We’ve done a pretty good job so far of juggling comedy and genuine heartbreak,” Waid said. “No matter what grim trials we visit upon these kids, there’s always going to be some moment where Archie ends up with a paint bucket over his head.”