Archie's man of music & mystery talks crime novels and musical team-ups

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May 11, 2018

Free time is a foreign concept for Alex Segura.

By day he helps run Riverdale as co-president of Archie Comics, where he oversees the company's increasingly diverse line of comics. He also handles the writing duties for titles like The Archies. By night, Segura's other gig as a crime novelist continues to reap rewards. The fourth installment in his hit Miami crime noir novel series is out now. In Blackout, Miami private detective Pete Fernandez finds himself embroiled in a notorious cold case with ties to a creepy cult that happens to be somewhat inspired by true events because… Miami. (Seriously, take a trip down the Nation of Yahweh cult rabbit hole if you want to be disturbed for days.)

Segura's Pete Fernandez books have built up a loyal following and critical acclaim; the third installment, Dangerous Ends, was recently announced as a nominee for the prestigious Anthony Awards at the World Mystery Convention and the books have just been optioned for television. As for his comics work, Segura is searching for his next writing project.

A planned Dick Tracy comic he was going to co-write fell through at the last minute due to an issue with the licensing rights. That was a major disappointment for Segura, who described the chance to write a Tracy comic as "a dream come true." He recently wrapped up a much happier experience, co-writing The Archies with Matthew Rosenberg. The final issues of the series, which features the fictional band meeting real-life musical entities, hits comic shops on May 16.

"It's been a rare opportunity to blend all the things you love — comics, Archie, music, friendship — and create a story that not only had the big moments like celebrity guest stars but also felt like a human, personal tale," Segura says.

SYFY WIRE caught up with Segura during the middle of a typically full-throttle week working on Archie's latest hit books like Jughead: The Hunger to talk whether he's thought of an Archie noir pitch and the bands he wished he could have teamed up with Riverdale's rockin' outfit.

Credit: Polis Books

The latest installment in your book series on beleaguered Miami private detective Pete Fernandez just debuted. What is the theme of Blackout?

Blackout is a book about trying to fix the damage you've caused and the mistakes you've made and hoping that by doing so, you can turn around and start to live. That's the big, over-arching theme. When we find Pete in the beginning of this book, he's living in suburban New York, working as a P.I. and not really interacting with his friends or hometown. But a small clue tied to a case that he failed to solve years ago pulls him back to Miami and allows him to try and find the truth behind a story that's haunted Miami for decades. At the same time, it puts him in the sights of a deadly, dormant cult known as La Iglesia de la Luz.

This book seems more politically driven than the first three. I know you were probably working on this before the 2016 election, but did the current political climate we're in influence the direction you took?

A bit, though I tried to have it carve out its own path. Earlier drafts of the book had Trevor McRyan serve as more of a Trump analog, but I lost interest in that early on. I wanted to comment where appropriate, but also tell the story I wanted to tell, which was really personal, and focused on Pete and his journey. But yes, you're right — this book does tackle politics more directly. At least a different part of it.

Archie Comics' Alex Segura at NYCC 2017

The Pete books always offer great insight into a side of Miami, your hometown, that non-locals often don't see. You've had plots that involve Fidel Castro-funded groups and even flashbacks to the days when the city was a cocaine playground. So why did you move him to upstate New York for this book?

I wanted to contrast Miami a bit — and really show that while Pete was doing "better" in terms of his drinking, he was running away — to a place that's very unlike Miami: cold, quiet, sometimes gray... all the things Miami is not. And I wanted him to be alone because at the end of the third book, Dangerous Ends, there's a flicker of hope that things might really start to settle into a nice life for Pete. So I wanted to pull the rug out from under him a bit. Miami is a part of the book, of course — he comes back. And even when Pete is somewhere else, the presence of his hometown is strong. It's as big a part of the series as he is, or Kathy, his partner, is.

It's just been revealed the books are being optioned for a TV series. Congratulations! What can you tell us about it, and your potential involvement?

Yes! The Pete books have been optioned by television writers Eduardo Javier Canto and Ryan Maldonado (Chicago PD, Code Black). They're looking to develop them into a Miami-based crime series, which is amazing, and what I've always wanted. I know Ryan and Eddie well. We have similar backgrounds and love for Miami, so it's a great pairing. I'm excited to see how things go. It's too early to figure out anything else, as you can imagine, but it's a really awesome development for the books. I hope we have some news soon.

Why haven't we seen a crime noir take on the Archie characters? That's right in your wheelhouse!

It's something I think about, for sure! I just need to figure out the right story.

Credit: Archie Comics

Your latest comic series was The Archies, co-written with Matthew Rosenberg. It's coming to an end with issue #7. That was a real passion project for you, considering your love of music and close ties to the characters.

Yes, The Archies was really a special book. We're all really proud of it, and Matt and I were lucky to be paired with an artist like Joe Eisma and a great colorist in Matt Herms and letterer in Jack Morelli. I hope people come back to that run and enjoy it over time.

You had some great real-life bands appear in the series, like The Monkees and Blondie. Give me a dream musical team-up you didn't get to do in this run, that you hope to do in a future one-shot.

We were so lucky with the comic and one-shots. KISS, Ramones, CHVRCHES... even The Monkees! But, of course, not every band said yes, for whatever reason, be it scheduling, confusion about what the idea was, or just disinterest. For the most part, the bands were excited and curious, even if they didn't close the deal. But all that said, yes, there were some bands we would still love to do down the line. My pie-in-the-sky groups: The Beatles, Talking Heads, The Replacements and, hey — why not? — Beyonce.

What's the next comic we'll see you scripting?

I don't know. I have a few ideas in different stages, but nothing extremely concrete. My focus now is on making sure the books are the best they can be, and launching new takes on our characters that are compelling, like Jughead: The Hunger and Vampironica. It makes it hard to think about my own writing, but I'll carve out some time, for sure