Some readers might say that one of the scariest parts of Archie's The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina wasn't just the story, but the the seven month delay between the debut issue and #2 which was finally released last week. Now, however, things seem to be back on track with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2 on-stands now and a new horror imprint at Archie to house it and sister title Afterlife of Archie.
The new The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2 giant-sized issue starring the teenage witch contains plenty of content about Sabrina and especially, what will become one of her preeminent enemies, Madam Satan. Readers will find artist Robert Hack’s art reminiscent of mid-20th Century horror comics evolving more from the likes of Johnny Craig than Bob Montana. Likewise, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s narrative approach finds a place more alongside Bill Gaines than John Goldwater or Vic Bloom.
Newsarama spoke with Aguirre-Sacasa about the delay in release of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2, some of his thoughts on the series and its influences, as well as some sneak previews of what’s to come for their other horror series, the smash-hit, Afterlife with Archie.
Newsarama: Roberto, to kick things off, we’re looking at an over-sized issue of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina this month with a storyline that seems to operate almost as a standalone story while still complementing the story you began with #1. Given the six-month delay between issues, was this intended to help ease readers back into this world?
Aguirre-Sacasa: It happened organically. When I realized there was going to be a time-jump in the actual story (a few years pass between the events in #1 and the events in #2), I thought it might be fun to write the second issue as Madam Satan’s origin story—the mirror-image of #1, which was Sabrina’s origin story. I didn’t write it to be a stand-alone issue, but you’re right, it does have that feel—and almost functions as one. It’s an added bonus that people who might’ve missed the first issue—or forgotten it—could pick right back up with #2 and not skip a beat.
Newsarama: You mentioned in a previous discussion with Newsarama that there were a number of reasons for the delay. What exactly happened here?
Aguirre-Sacasa: A lot of things. We wanted to get the first issue out in time for New York Comic-Con (and Halloween), so we put it out there in the world without having subsequent issues finished. (A calculated risk that, admittedly, didn’t work out.) Then, I got into the weeds with pitching and writing Riverdale, the Archie pilot we’re doing with Warner Brothers. And a lot of other random things stacked-up. It was poor planning on my part. Also, and this sounds like an excuse, but it isn’t—I’m a sloooow writer. And I re-write – a lot. That’s not an excuse, truly, just the reality. We’re course-correcting.
Newsarama: At this point, how far ahead are you in terms of issues completed?
Aguirre-Sacasa: #3 is written and I’m working on #4. Robert’s almost done drawing #3.
Newsarama: Now, you’ve mentioned before that the world of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is one that will operate apart from the Afterlife with Archie storyline. This means we should be seeing more of the Riverdale gang crossing over, no? What hints about this can you give us with how you see Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica factoring into Sabrina’s story?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Well, we’ve seen Betty and Veronica and have referenced “High Priestess Grundy,” and I can say with certainty that we’ll be seeing more of them. But for the first few issues, they’re going to be spices we sprinkle on top of the main dish—which is focused on Sabrina’s core-cast. Her aunts, her parents (yes, her parents), her classmates, Harvey, the whole sick crew… There is a big story we’re going to tell with Betty and Veronica and Sabrina, but that’s our second arc.
Newsarama: In this new issue, we see Edward’s past coming back to haunt him in the form of Madam Satan. Now, this is a character who predates Archie, Riverdale, and its entire cast of characters, given her first appearance in Pep Comics #15. What inspired you to dig so deep into the catalog to bring this character back into the fore front?
Aguirre-Sacasa: You know, I credit two people for that. One is Mike Pellerito, Archie’s president, who knows Archie’s catalogue backwards and forwards, and I think mentioned to me, casually, that there was a character in Archie’s history named “Madam Satan,” which obvious piqued my interest. The second person is Dean Haspiel, who re-introduced Madam Satan to contemporary readers in the pages of The Fox. At first, I was pissed—“Dean got to her first! And he gave her tentacles!”—but you have to give the devil his due, so hats off (with gratitude) to Mr. Haspiel. (And by the way, please read “Fox Hunt,” it’s so good.)
Newsarama: Although you also have the highly influential role the Chief Creative Officer at Archie, was there any sort of push back in terms of how dark and disturbing you were looking to take this series? Let’s be honest: There are some scenes in this second issue that look, sound, and feel as if Robert’s drawing them out from some of the most disturbing EC Horror comics from the 1950s!
Aguirre-Sacasa: No pushback whatsoever—so far. But you’re right. We’re creeping into some very dark, disturbing territory. Both in terms of the horror and violence, but also in terms of the…sexuality of the comic, for lack of a better word. Sabrina’s sixteen, she and Harvey are teenagers, so they’re having well, the discussion, at a minimum. And witches, in general, and Madam Satan, in particular, are quite sexualized, so…yeah, it’s threading a needle. But we’re all conscious and respectful about it.
Newsarama: This issue also contains a number of various literary allusions from Edgar Allan Poe and Henry James to Ray Bradbury and Truman Capote. What about these writers and others informed your writing of this issue and this first arc as a whole?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Listen, both The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Afterlife With Archie are dialogue- and caption-heavy. Especially The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. And I think that’s partly because my background is writing plays, which are dialogue-drive. And partly because some of my favorite horror comics—books like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman—are caption-heavy. Same, of course, with EC horror comic books, which are super-dense. Now whereas Afterlife With Archie references horror movies all the time, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina references horror movies, as well, but it’s also a bit more…literary, if I dare use that word to describe this comic book. So I reference horror literature a bit more directly. Shirley Jackson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Richard Matheson, the classics. Books and stories I love that are also period-appropriate, like In Cold Blood.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about your long-term plans for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina?
Aguirre-Sacasa: To keep growing Sabrina’s world and expanding her mythology. And to get the book out on a regular schedule. And, of course, to have a nice, loooong run on it.
Newsarama: Of course, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina isn’t the only series where you have a new issue coming out this month; there’s also Afterlife with Archie #8. Now, Archie and Riverdale go hand-in-hand, but with the zombie outbreak, the hometown seems to be a lost cause. Where will the gang go next?
Aguirre-Sacasa: Funny you ask that. #8, which is set in a deserted hotel—the gang’s trapped in it during a Christmas (yes, Christmas) snowstorm—deals with that question directly: Is Riverdale just the actual physical town, or is it a state of mind? Something the kids carry with them, wherever they go?
Newsarama: The previous issue also seemed to spend an awful lot of time developing Betty’s backstory … and as fans of the horror genre –or even reality television - know when the story suddenly begins to focus on one character for an extended period, it often means the writing is on the wall. Is killing Betty off limits? Are there still major shake-ups lurking in the not-so-distant future for Archie and his friends on the run?
Aguirre-Sacasa: In terms of dying, no one is off-limits. No one. And there’s a major death coming in #9, which may or may not be Betty. In terms of Betty, I’ll say this: When we announced Afterlife With Archie, we announced the first two story arcs’ titles: “Escape from Riverdale” and “Betty RIP.” I have no idea why I did that, it just came out of my mouth. And now, I’m really regretting it, because we’ve promised something that makes me literally sick to my stomach: The death of my favorite Archie character.
Newsarama: Last question: You’ve tackled zombies and now witches. With the creation of the horror imprint, does this mean we can expect some sort of lycanthropic take on Josie and the Pussycats? Are there other titles you’re developing for this imprint?
Aguirre-Sacasa: There is a third book coming, in the works, but that’s all we can say at this point. But werewolves, Josie and the Pussycats, lots of possibilities…