When you ask Alex de Campi about her favorite part of writing Archie Vs. Predator, she sums it up in a handy, headline-ready quote: “Horribly gory, and then very wrong and funny.” That’s the high concept of this matchup, which hits stores tomorrow in Dark Horse and Archie Comics' Archie Vs. Predator.
A proven horror writer like de Campi was important for the title's execution, but classic Archie artist Fernando Ruiz, who's well-versed in the publisher's house style, strikes a balance that makes the mash-up’s vicious and graphic violence all the more surprising and brutal. the writer makes it clear that the team is having a blast with the project, not to mention pushing the limits of what anyone would expect to see in a comic book with Archie on the cover (even with the new horrorverse titles out there).
Alex de Campi spoke with ComicBook.com to detail just what readers will see, talk about the book's appeal, and of course, promise some glorious death scenes. Indeed, de Campi makes it clear that the team is having a blast not just with the project, but also pushing people's expectations for a comic with Archie Andrew on the cover (even with the new horror-verse titles out there). She brought along an exclusive first look at the covers for the fourth issue as well, from Andrew Pepoy, Faith Erin Hicks, and Joe Quinones.
Alex, the series' general appeal is obvious, with just this zany mashup. But what appealed to you specifically about bringing these two properties together?
Alex de Campi: I have to be clear – I wasn't the person crazy enough to think this crossover up. I was just the first person that the geniuses at Archie and Dark Horse thought of to make it succeed from a story viewpoint. The appeal for me, obviously, is it falls right into line with a lot of the work I've been doing in my Grindhouse series – everyone thinks Archie/Predator is such an insane mashup, but really, it's a summer camp slasher. Once you see it through that lens, everything works. And, of course, there's the appeal of both writing and horribly killing the Archie characters. It's truly a case of having your cake and eating it too.
Having Fernando Ruiz on the project keeps it within the Archie house style – what was he able to teach you about Riverdale's characters and how they look and behave?
ADC: Fernando can do anything. Comedy? Well, your comedy script just got 400% better because he's added background gags you never even dreamed of. Action and gore? Yeah, he can do splatter. Atmosphere and tension? Well, wait until you see all the “darkened school” stuff in Issue #3. This project would not be the wild, runaway success it is without Fernando on pencils and Rich Koslowski on inks. Full stop. It is very rare to find a penciller who can go from three-deep teen physical-humour gags to splatter, and make it work. We are blessed to have Fernando with us on the book, especially as it has so many jump-scares and rapid mood changes.
So we know this is all about the Predator hunting down the Archie kids, but they can’t just lay back and take it – does anyone step up as a leader in the group?
ADC: Well, it is an Archie book, and the thing about Archie books is... it's always about Archie. (Something we gently parody in Issue 3.) Unless, of course, it's about Betty and Veronica leading Archie around by the nose...
Based on how you're descriptions, along with the preview pages, it seems like there really aren’t any limitations here. Was there anything that Dark Horse, Archie, or your editor said was off-limits?
ADC: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa from Archie and Brendan Wright at Dark Horse have had my back on this book so hard. I owe them something huge at the end of it. I have been allowed to get away with, well, murder. (Lots and lots of murder, in increasingly creative and graphic ways.)
There were a few things where the combined editorial teams came back to me and said, for example, “Alex, you can't make jokes about child predation in an Archie book”, and “Alex, that line about the threesome can't stay." I mean, Roberto is laughing as he says these things because he has a baaaaad sense of humor, but he is very careful to maintain the Archie gang's traditional innocence and purity of friendship. It's my job to push things as far over the line as possible. That's why they hired me – so the fact that a couple things have been pushed back on? Yeah, that's par for the course. In one case, it made for a significantly better story arc for an issue. I rewrote after notes and was much, much happier with the rewrite than I was my original draft.
Most teen horror flicks have the characters fit into a trope or general role; what role does each Riverdale inhabitant fulfill for you?
ADC: The Riverdale kids already have very codified roles and relationships, which we were careful to maintain. We have our dumb jock, our munchie-having stoner, our blond dip, our brunette snarkasauras, our decent guy... our creative nerd with solutions... it's all there already, even more so than Cabin In The Woods. If you love Archie? Archie vs Predator reads as a great Archie book. If you love Predator? Lulz dead kids!
With such an uneven matchup here, what are you doing to keep things surprising and exciting for a full 4-issue mini series?
ADC: That, m'dear, is for me to know and you to find out. All I can say is, each issue gets crazier than the last by an order of magnitude. After issue #1 you might be like, “OK, fine, I can see that”, but after issue #2 you'll be wondering how in hell we can top that. And then issue #3? Issue #3 will make grown men squeal like little girls...If they haven't already done that while reading issue #2.
This is ultra-specific to the preview art, but I loved that the Predator’s mask has emoji to demonstrate what he’s looking at – whose crazy idea was that?
ADC: That was mine! People went nuts for that idea! Which made me happy. I still can't believe the licensors approved it. I did it because writing garbage-speech or filler/symbol dialogue is just so boring. The Predator sees something, says something nobody can read in a made-up symbol font. Yawn.
You want to know a secret about alien/symbol dialogue? It's always swear words. Lots and lots of swear words. It's the writer writing “
”. So to keep me from swearing in an Archie book, I used emoji instead. And suddenly, everything's more fun! There's a reason our chappie uses emoji, which is revealed in Issue #2, too.
Is that fairly indicative of the overall tone of the series that there are these constantly warring dashes of humor and horror?
ADC: Yep! I call this the Archie Splatterverse. It's not the grim-dark feels of the Archie Horrorverse (Afterlife and Sabrina, both of which are FABULOUS); it's not the fun fun of the normal Archie crossovers (nobody died in Archie meets Punisher! Other than Frank Castle's self-esteem.) It's humor, edgier humor than a normal Archie book--and then, well, flayed human corpses. What are the best things in life?
I noticed the original title was Archie Meets Predator, but was changed to Versus – why the shift?
ADC: We just all kept calling it Archie vs Predator, and someone slapped the Archie “A” on top of an old AvP logo at New York Comicon last year when it was announced, and it just felt so right. Also, nobody died in all the “Archie meets” books. And in this one, there's so much death. SO MUCH.
Any specific scene (or maybe a specific death) that you’re looking forward to hearing reader reactions for?
ADC: Ooh... I haven't seen the art for #3 and #4 yet (Fernando is working on #3 right now) and I'm super excited about my reaction to seeing some of our concepts brought to life! There are some gags in #2, also – a line “especially the turtlenecks” which... well, it's a great sequence. Horribly gory, and then very wrong and funny.