The Dark Archie-verse: The guilty pleasures of TV’s Riverdale, Sabrina, & Archie Horror comics

QUICK, name four comics properties that began in the Golden Age and have been in continuous publication ever since (it’s a very short list). Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. And…Archie?

Yep, the cartoony, G-rated stories of America’s favorite redheaded teenager and his friends have been in print uninterrupted since his debut in 1941. However, the latest generation of readers has gotten to see more modern takes on Archie, including more visually realistic interpretations by artists like Fiona Staples and Adam Hughes, and most interesting, the Archie Horror line of comics featuring alternate reality Archie characters zombies, vampires, and werewolves. Within the last decade, there have also been two successful and popular live action series that have followed this modern, dark PG-13/R-rated approach.

Many fans (new and old) may find these recent incarnations distasteful or blasphemous, but many (like me) consider them guilty pleasures, and refreshing variations on the classic characters.

Afterlife With Archie (2013), published by Archie Comics.

While the title of this 9-issue series was a cutesy pun on another Archie comic, Life With Archie (1958-1991), there was nothing fun about a zombie apocalypse that begins in Riverdale. The art by Francesco Francavilla was equally dark, horrific, and beautiful. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa would produce and/or write other Archie Horror titles, as well as the tv version of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.


Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2014), published by Archie Comics/Archie Horror.

Inspired by her appearance in Afterlife With Archie, Sabrina got spun off into her own 9-issue Horror title. Greendale resident Sabrina Spellman lives with her aunts in their gorgeously gothic home/mortuary, as she tries to decide whether to become a witch or remain a mortal on her momentous 16th birthday. Meanwhile, a vengeful Madame Satan stalks the Spellman family. Sabrina’s experimentations with magic are spectacular and reckless. Artist



Jughead The Hunger (2017 one-shot and 2017-present), published by Archie Horror.

Playing off of Jughead’s legendary love for hamburgers, Riverdale’s beanie boy is reimagined as a werewolf to explain his insatiable hunger.


Riverdale (2017-2023, 7 seasons), The CW.

Named after Archie’s hometown, this series was the first live-action tv appearance of Archie and the gang since a forgettable 1990 tv movie. These teens may start out living idyllic lives in seemingly perfect Riverdale, but things get dark very quickly with a very Twin Peaks-like murder mystery. Each season features an ongoing battle against a different threat, like the Black Hood, an homage to an Archie Comics character from the Golden Age. Recent seasons have begun to veer into supernatural territory, introducing superpowers, mystical curses, and witches (including a crossover appearance by Sabrina!)


The casting is perfect, including popular teen actors from the 1980s-1990s as the parents of Archie and his friends. This week, The CW announced the seventh season will be Riverdale’s last and they will get a proper send-off.


Vampironica (2018-present), published by Archie Horror.

Veronica Lodge becomes a vampire, and tries to maintain a “normal” teenaged life (but how will she explain not aging???), constantly resisting the urge to feed on her friends. Featuring stellar interior art and iconic covers by Greg Smallwood.


Jughead: The Hunger vs Vampironica (2018), published by Archie Horror.

In this 5-issue crossover miniseries, the long history of vampires and werewolves in Riverdale is revealed, with modern day consequences for the title characters. Nothing is as it seems, it seems.


Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina (2018-2020, 3 seasons), Netflix.

The first season of CAOS follows the plot of the comic of the same name, with a few major differences, including that Sabrina is an orphan. Kiernan (MadMen) Shipka led a stellar cast as a charming and perfectly cast Sabrina. The larger Netflix budget showed in every aspect of the show’s production values and special effects. At times a heartfelt coming-of-age drama with teen angst, the series definitely embraced its horror side, complete with many trips to hell and back.

Like most Greg Berlanti-produced shows, while the events take place in the present day, the clothes, cars and scenic design are a mash-up of past eras, giving an interesting, retro-cool look and feel.


Blossoms 666 (2019), published by Archie Horror.

Popular writer and horror aficionado Cullen Bunn takes sibling rivalry to a Satanic level as twins Cheryl and Jason Blossom compete to be the Antichrist, in this 5-issue miniseries.



 


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