Fans of the Archie Comics mythos have been hit with some heartbreaking news as of late, with two live-action television series inspired by the comics publisher being cancelled in as many weeks. First was The CW's axing of freshman series Katy Keene, although reports have indicated that the series could potentially continue at a new home. Less than a week after, Netflix confirmed that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will be ending after its upcoming "Part 4", with the final eight episodes expected to debut sometime later this year. Once those episodes air, the fledgling "Archieverse" of shows will be pared down to just Riverdale, the publisher's first (and arguably most zeitgeisty) modern live-action TV show, which was renewed for a fifth season earlier this year.
For some, there was always a sort of asterisk to the idea that Riverdale, Sabrina, and Katy Keene were connected in a shared universe, as each show had a wildly different approach to acknowledging its contemporaries. Ever since Sabrina started debuting episodes in 2018, the series has played it fast and loose with acknowledging the events of Riverdale, with every Easter egg primarily boiling down to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it visual cue, or a character cameo that raises more questions than it solves. The cast and crew of both series also played coy about whether or not there would be an official crossover, arguing that Sabrina was too tonally different from Riverdale. (The fact that Riverdale has weaved in plotlines of ancient curses, organ-stealing cults, and a season's worth of lore around The Gargoyle King seems to suggest otherwise.) Katy Keene, on the other hand, was established as a sort of more upbeat sister series to Riverdale, and the fact that both were on the same network allowed for slightly more concrete crossovers. Katy Keene herself popped over to an episode of Riverdale the week of her show's series premiere, while Josie McCoy's (Ashleigh Murray) role on Katy Keene led to cameo appearances from several other Riverdale characters still in her orbit.
Still, the connections between the "Archieverse" have been a bit of an enigma, as it was somewhat unclear whether the shows wanted to canonically be tied to each other or allowed to stand on their own. (The CW's Arrowverse of superhero shows and even some of Marvel's TV shows have arguably proved that there is a way to fully lean into both of those options, to varying results.) To an extent, it's understandable that each show wanted to find its own footing -- Riverdale has cemented itself as a buzzworthy, teen-friendly send up to David Lynch, Sabrina has leaned much more into Lovecraftian horror and witchcraft, and Katy Keene felt like a glamorous spiritual successor to Sex and the City and Glee. To some, the trio of shows simultaneously came across as too standalone from each other to necessitate following each episode, and too interconnected to each other to be instantly accessible. If there's one thing that future Archie Comics adaptations (because there will inevitably be more) can learn from Sabrina and Katy Keene, it's that leaning into those standalone qualities - and the variety of the entire Archie Comics brand - might be the way forward.
Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater previously likened Katy Keene to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Iron Man, in terms of adapting a character from their catalog that might not yet be a household name. While the fruits of that labor might not have been exactly the same, it's an admirable approach to building out a multimedia franchise -- and one that could apply to whatever else the company chooses to adapt in the future. While a lot of the unused Archie Comics characters essentially exist as offshoots of Archie and his friends, the company does have a handful of other Archie-like properties, like Suzie, Ginger, and Li'l Jinx. Granted, none of those titles would necessarily translate over to a Riverdale-like series, but that's not to say that they don't have potential in some other sort of storytelling context. There's also the nature of Archie Comics' many superheroes (some of whom have been recontextualized on Riverdale), and other genre titles like Cosmo the Merry Martian and Super Duck. It would be oddly fitting to see Cosmo or Super Duck or even The Mighty Crusaders inspire some sort of modern-day adaptation, especially given the decades of reverence that some of those characters have.
There's also another corner of Archie Comics adaptations which has been untapped for essentially the past decade -- animation. For a generation of fans, their reverence for Archie Comics characters come from the late '60s/early '70s Saturday morning cartoons like The Archie Show, Josie and the Pussycats, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. With both iterations of Josie currently available on HBO Max (and with animation arguably having a resurgence amid the COVID-19 pandemic), it certainly stands to reason that a modern-day version of The Archie Show or Josie would find an audience, regardless of whatever tone it ended up taking. There also are countless recent Archie titles that feel perfectly suited for animation, whether it be the horror-tinged content like Vampironica and Jughead: The Hunger, the sci-fi romp Jughead's Time Police, or the various crossover comics that remain popular to this day. (Come on, you know you would watch an Archie Meets KISS or Archie Meets Flash Gordon animated movie.) While Riverdale is undoubtedly setting a specific standard for how people think of Archie Comics adaptations, there's no reason for animation to not also embrace the fandom even more, in the same way that shows like Star Trek: The Animated Series, X-Men: The Animated Series, and even Teen Titans GO! don't detract from their live-action counterparts.
Archie Comics' prominence in the television space is certainly impressive (especially considering the fact that it's only been three-and-a-half years since Riverdale first debuted), and there's so much from the adaptations of Sabrina and Katy Keene that's worth celebrating. But the "Archieverse" is arguably at an interesting crossroads going forward -- one that could capitalize on the undeniable success of Riverdale, while also embracing the variety and iconic nature of the Archie Comics brand.