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SYFY WIRE Interviews

Ramble down to Riverdale in The Archie Art of Francesco Francavilla

By Jeff Spry
Archie Art Hero

The unlikely marriage of Archie Comics and the pulp noir aesthetics of Eisner Award-winning artist Francesco Francavilla seems like a union of divine intervention — even if it started with the living dead.

Francavilla first illustrated Archie in the fall of 2012 with Life With Archie #23, a zombie-filled, horrifying variant on the classic Archie formula that would later become Afterlife With Archie. Since then, the acclaimed creator's portfolio has redefined the wholesome All-American teenagers in myriad ways no one could ever have imagined.

To honor Francavilla's inestimable achievements, Archie Comics' is presenting a new 104-page premium hardcover book titled The Archie Art of Francesco Francavilla on Aug. 20. It's a beautifully designed celebration of Francavilla's past decade of artistic fortitude, fashioned to appeal to a broad spectrum of hardcore Archie fans, comic book enthusiasts, and horror aficionados worldwide.

Archie Art Cover

A vibrant record of Francavilla's time at Archie Comics, this premium, oversize coffee-table art book showcases the entire collection of the artist's striking comic covers and interior art starring Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and the whole Riverdale gang. In addition to providing behind-the-scenes looks at Francavilla's work, the book also places it in Archie Comics' long history, while also looking toward the future. 

Archie Art 2

SYFY WIRE spoke with Francavilla and Archie Comics Co-President Alex Segura about the new art book to learn how it was conceived, what makes this pairing so remarkable, and what the artist's interpretations have meant to the franchise.

Tell us how this Archie art book came about, and what can fans anticipate.

Francesco Francavilla: My dear friend (and Archie Comics Publisher/CEO) Jon Goldwater has been talking about making an art book with my work for a few years now, and in 2018, we finally decided to nail down details to put the book on the publishing schedule and bring it to readers. Thing is that since the first time we talked about making it, I've been working on several more Archie-related books, so the material was so big that we decided to make this Vol.1 (of more to come).

Originally we were thinking "The Archie Cover Art of FF," but we ended up expanding the content to more than just covers, so the reader will find a behind-the-scenes look at the making of covers and pages for several Archie titles. We divided the content into several chapters: the Horror, the Superhero material, the Riverdale-related titles, etc. Lots to see in this book.

How has Archie helped form and focus your art style and advance your career?

FF: I think my art style has been always the same. It's that style that I brought to the Archie titles and applied to characters who have had a specific house-style look for 70 years. In a way I think it was the new artistic, more mature approach to these characters that brought almost like a new life to them and made everyone (publisher and readers) realize that lots more could be done with these evergreen comic world icons. Personally, speaking of Afterlife With Archie in particular, I got to do the horror comics that I always wanted to do, inspired by the classic Warren and EC horror magazines I grew up with. 

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What are you most excited to share with fans in this new retrospective?

Alex Segura: The book is an Archie timeline in many ways — it shows the evolution of the brand from the moment Archie CEO/Publisher Jon Goldwater took over, and a major part of that success was Francesco. He reimagined how Archie was perceived visually, from that first Archie Meets KISS cover right up through today. He's a master, and deserving of this honor and much more. I think fans will get a kick out of seeing his art presented in this special way, thematically and thoughtfully, to give a clear sense of the sheer breadth of work he's done for the company.

How has Francesco helped define Archie for a new generation, and what has he meant to Archie Comics?

AS: He means the world to us. He's our rock. A visual genius. From one day to the next, Archie evolved beyond his "classic" look to something that felt different, vibrant, modern, yet also timeless. He showed the world that Archie can do anything and be in any setting as long as you know it's Archie. That's a huge accomplishment.

Archie Art Slice 1

Why do Archie and the gang match up so well with your dark pulpy style?

FF: I dunno why they do, but again, I never expected my noir, pulp aesthetic to fit superhero books, and yet I got to work on Batman, Swamp Thing, Black Panther, Cap America, Hawkeye, and more. I'm just happy my style works with all these characters, either straight-up DC/Marvel superheroes or Archie's slice of Americana pop culture.

With so much amazing work to choose from, how were the pieces curated for the book, and what was the criteria in the selection process?

AS: We worked extremely closely with FF, who was the creative director on the project. He hand-selected the pieces he wanted in the book and the sequencing. It was a very collaborative workflow, and FF did an amazing job designing and crafting this book. It's a fitting tribute to his work with Archie.

Enjoy SYFY's special preview of The Archie Art of Francesco Francavilla in the full gallery below, then tell us if you'll pick up a copy celebrating the masterful artist's decade at Archie Comics.