Interview with Archie Comics editor Jamie L. Rotante
Jamie, it is such a thrill to be able to interview you for the Valkyries. My sister, Lily, and I are HUGE fans of your work and we’d like to start this interview by asking you what is YOUR secret origin story? How did you break into comics?
First off—it’s an honour to be interviewed by you both! Thank you so much for this opportunity. My secret origin story isn’t too thrilling (if only comic tropes were true!)—I had been a lifelong Archie reader. When I was fresh out of college as a Literature major, I had NO clue what I wanted to do. I just knew that I wanted to work in publishing—preferably editorial, and if writing opportunities were there it would be a bonus. Despite growing up in Westchester, it wasn’t until I was in college that Archie was located there too. So when I discovered an internship opportunity there on my college’s website, I knew I had to go for it. And I just kind of worked my way up the ranks from there. As an intern, I was given a few opportunities to write some features for the Life with Archie magazine which led to more in-house writing opportunities. And I moved from proofreader to editorial assistant and then to editorial over time. It’s been a very rewarding process!
As an editor at Archie Comics, what is a typical day for you? Has your routine changed since the world has entered lockdown?
The main difference now vs. “normal” time is that we’re all working remotely, which I’m grateful for. Communication is now all-digital, but we weren’t too far off from that, to begin with, so it wasn’t that wild of a jump. An average day for me changes each day based on what’s a priority at the time, but an overview of what I typically handle consists of proofreading whichever books are coming up for print (there’s usually a digest a week) from early stages, to the final product, communicating with freelancers to makes sure writers and artists are on-target with their deadlines, keeping track of billing and invoicing, etc. Then tackling any special projects that arise. Those are the backbone that comes up the most often. Maybe not super fun or glamorous sounding, but all essential parts of the comic-making process!
Over the years, the cast of Archie Comics has teamed-up with all-star guests including Glee, Kiss, Red Sonja, Vampirella, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. What has been your favourite crossover so far?
We’ve done so many amazing crossovers in our history, but I think some of my most favorites have come out in the last few years alone. There are so many good ones to choose from, but if I had to pick I’d say either Archie Meets Ramones or Archie Meets the B52s. Mostly because they sync up with my personal tastes, but also because those are just two crossovers filled with pure fun.
With the recent success of the Riverdale TV show, Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica have become household names for a new generation of fans. Where do you recommend these fans should start reading Archie Comics? And for those wishing to one day create for Archie Comics, where should this new talent start?
When it comes to where to start, you can’t go wrong with the Best of Archie series. We have quite a few volumes of them available (and in different formats) and it’s just a perfect introduction to the classic characters and stories. Likewise, we did a collection to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the company called Archie: 75 Years, 75 Stories which gives some cultural context for each story, featuring intros written by Archie himself (ok, maybe I’m a little biased towards this one since I “ghostwrote” as the character of Archie). But to really bridge the gap between Riverdale and Archie, it’s definitely worth checking out the reboot that started in 2015 by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples. It’s what really brought Archie into the 21st Century in terms of look and style.
In the Eisner-Nominated ‘Life of Archie’ Magazine, you wrote various articles ranging from horoscopes to hot debates including ‘Harry Potter vs Sabrina’. Where did you take inspiration from for these articles and what is your favourite one published?
The topics were often chosen by the editor of the series and assigned to me, so I can’t take any credit for how creative the ideas themselves were! But in terms of my favorite, I think I had the most fun writing the fake horoscopes. It was a fun exercise in flexing my humor writing muscles!
Were there any pop culture influences for Betty and Veronica: Vixens? If so, what were they?
Yes, a ton! That series was definitely an homage to many things, namely some classic B-movies like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Hell’s Belles and Satan’s Sadists (as you can imagine, I was beyond thrilled to have artist Robert Hack contribute a variant for the first issue in that style). A few other influences that come to mind are Crybaby (and John Waters-esque aesthetics in general) and Tarantino’s Deathproof, and Eva Cabrera (the series artist on the first volume) did such an amazing job of nailing those vibes. She was so great to collaborate with. I also realized very recently that the scene that kicks off the whole war between the Serpents and Riverdale was subconsciously influenced by Peewee’s Big Adventure.
You have previously described ‘Betty and Veronica: Vixens’ as a comic about “Women Helping Women”. In today’s comic book industry, how can female creators do more to support their female colleagues?
I feel like any time I say this applies “now more than ever,” that seems to be more and more the case every subsequent time. I think the best women and those who identify as women can do to support each other is to keep reading and recommending their work. And not just to friends/other readers, but to editors and publishers as well. Give them the space to get a start or advance their careers, everyone needs to begin somewhere and deserves a shot or opportunity to grow.
Betty and Veronica: The Bond of Friendship is the first of Archie Comics’ all new Blue Ribbon imprint of Young Adult Graphic Novels. What can readers expect from the book and will there be more titles to follow?
This book was so much fun to work on. I think, first and foremost, readers can expect some of the most beautiful art they’ve ever seen. Seriously, I’m so blown away by Brittney Williams’ work. The story follows Betty and Veronica exploring their futures during career day. In doing so, they get into some wild imaginary scenarios, but it’s also grounded in the real-world work people have done to achieve their dreams. I’d say this title is an in-between of our classic and new work. It’s accessible and lively to appeal to classic Archie readers while also having the modern sensibilities of our rebooted titles.
Outside of Archie Comics, you also contribute to Razorcake Magazine, the first and only non-profit DIY punk rock magazine in America. Can you please tell us more about this awesome project?
Of course! A few years ago I got a shot to do a live reading at a series called “The Worst” that my friend (writer Cassie J. Sneider) had put on. I decided to write about my various nervous ticks and panic attacks I had experienced as a young adult. Putting that all into writing was one of the most cathartic experiences. I had started doing some work for Razorcake writing live music reviews. The magazine’s co-founder Todd kept the door open for more writing opportunities if I was interested. I pitched the idea of doing a mental health series and he was all for it and has been a huge champion of it since. It was a little scary at first being so vulnerable “on paper,” but any time someone lets me know they connect with what I’m writing, I know it’s worth it. It’s personal in that I go in-detail about my own individual struggles, but I’ve learned that so many of them are more common than I ever realized before. It’s also a cool experience being a part of a DIY ethos that’s been ongoing for so many years. It’s been such an amazing resource for me that to be a part of it in any capacity is an honour.
Finally, do you have any further stories or advice to share with the Valkyries or any links to your pages for readers to follow?
Don’t be afraid to shoot your shot! It can seem intimidating at first. But if you have a story to tell I guarantee there’s someone who wants to read it/look at it. It also never hurts to reach out to the people whose work you like to see if they’re open to chatting about their process… but be patient and respectful people’s time (and make sure people give you that same respect in return)!
As for links–I’m always open to chatting with people more on Twitter (@Jamitha) or Instagram (@jamieleerotante) and my website www.JamieLeeRotante.net
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