Arthur Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, who have brought their unique "little" treatment to everything from Tiny Titans to Hellboy to Battlestar Galactica, are now "kid-ifying" the Archie gang from Riverdale.
Little Archie and His Pals, a new oversized one-shot from Archie Comics, will hit comic book shops April 5. The first of several one-shots to carry the Little Archie title, the comic book will bring Archie, Veronica, Betty, Jughead and all the Riverdale kids into the Art and Franco "little" universe after their debut appearance in a Tiny Titans/Archie crossover back in 2010.
Newsarama talked to Aureliani and Baltazar about their new one-shot, what Easter eggs DC fans might see, and whether there's a chance of an ongoing Little Archie.
Newsarama: Art and Franco, it feels like the Archie characters are everyone now — even in your universe?
Arthur Baltazar: Yeah! They're showing up in our universe.
Nrama: Are you guys Archie fans?
Baltazar: Yeah! I grew up on Archie Comics. They were part of a pack my mom used to buy. You'd get, like, 20 comics for a dollar or two at the grocery store, but they wouldn't have covers. So some of them were Archie Comics in there.
Franco Aureliani: I liked the superhero comics, but all the Archie Comics were purchased by my uncles and cousins and stuff like that, and those were always around. And I'd always go steal them from those guys and take them home and read them.
Baltazar: Seemed like when we had them, my mom would come in the room and say, "Give me the Archies." She'd take those and go read them, you know? Bring them back when she was done. She liked them.
Nrama: And you guys drew Little Archie characters before, right? For a crossover with Tiny Titans?
Baltazar: This takes place right after Tiny Titans, actually. Well, that's what we think it is.
Aureliani: That's the way we approached it anyway.
Baltazar: And there's one hint of the crossover in Mr. Weatherbee's office — you see on his coat tree, his coat rack, you see his Bumblebee outfit he wore in Tiny Titans. You know, 'cause they called him Beehive. So there is a connection.
Whenever we cross over, I like to have something like that, a little thing that connects the universes.
If you read Tiny Titans/Archie, you're going to get it, but if you've never read it, you might wonder why he's got a Bumblebee costume hanging on his coat rack.
That's the one little shout-out to Tiny Titans.
And then in the Tiny Titans universe, Cyborg has the hamburger eating trophy that he won from Jughead. So we cross over, we connect. Those are Easter eggs.
Nrama: So when you were given the opportunity to do what you wanted with the Archie characters, what kind of things did you come up with?
Baltazar: The stories revolve around Sabrina's cats. They're the ones who cause the problems for Archie and the gang.
But man, I have more notes in my sketchbook that we couldn't even fit into the comic, because there were so many story ideas that we came up. We were given 40 pages but still, I have more story than what is in the book.
Nrama: Are there more books coming, where you can use them?
Baltazar: We have three 40-page one-shots.
Aureliani: But we came up with enough stories to do an ongoing, with double-sized issues every month if we needed to. We came up with a lot of stuff.
We had to take it down a notch — we thought they wanted, like, Riverdale stuff.
Nrama: From the TV show?
Aureliani: Yeah, we had, you know, Archie killing people and stuff like that.
Baltazar: [Laughs] Yeah!
Aureliani: They said, no, no, we want you to do your version — kid-ified. Turn them down, like, 11 notches. We thought we were doing the show stuff.
Baltazar: But we did — when we first talked to them about two years ago, this was a pitch in the making. Maybe about two years we've been kind of talking and flirting back and forth with the ideas.
And when I first talked to them, it was back when Francisco Francavilla was drawing Afterlife with Archie. So John Goldwater gave me all the trade paperbacks — he said, "Here, read these." He said to read the one where Archie gets shot.
He said, "Read all these and then just make fun of them."
I was, like, really?
So we were thinking all that stuff. We had all those stories in our head. And I really like the Afterlife with Archie. So even though it's kind of changed, we've got a little bit of zombie influence.
Nobody dies, though. [Laughs.]
Doesn't somebody die in, like, the first issue of Afterlife with Archie? And then in Archie vs. Predator, they all get killed and wasted. It's crazy!
So we pretty much knew anything goes. But we're going to keep them alive.
We're going to make them fun and tiny and keep them in school.
Nrama: So the setting is the school?
Baltazar: Yeah, mostly it takes place at the school. It's like a day at the school.
Nrama: If I were to mention Jughead to you, what would you think of?
Aureliani: OK, the second thing?
Aureliani: Hamburgers, right?
There are going to be lots of hamburgers in this one. They practically fall out of trees. That's how many there are.
Baltazar: We don't have any scenes yet in Pop's Chock'lit Shop in the first issue. Oh wait, maybe we do. The last page is there.
But we have two more 40-pagers, and we'll revisit some places. It's twice the size, so it feels like I'm drawing two books every time. So together, there are 120 pages of Little Archie. It's like a trade paperback.
And if people really like it, there are rumors — or from what I've been hearing — they could possibly be turned into an ongoing series, which would be really cool.
Nrama: And if that's successful enough, maybe you could spawn another TV show.
Aureliani: No, then we'd have to kill off characters and stuff like that.
Baltazar: And they're floating in the water on TV, aren't they?
Maybe we could give them water-wings so they could float.
Aureliani: The Riverdale series is actually really good.
Baltazar: We saw the cast in San Diego. They were all there hanging out.
Nrama: So maybe not a TV show, since they already have one. But an ongoing comic book series?
Aureliani: If people dig it and pick it up. But that's up to the fans.
Nrama: What else do you guys have coming out right now? You've got some Superpowers still coming out?
Baltazar: I just finished Superpowers #6 yesterday. And that one will be coming out in a few weeks, and it'll wrap up the series.
And then we don't have more Superpowers yet, but the way it always seems to work is that after we do a trade, and the trade gets into kids' hands, and the trade sales come in, that's usually when we get the chance to pitch again.
Aureliani: But we've got some things cooking. We've been talking to DC, and also to Dark Horse about maybe doing some more Itty Bitty Hellboy — a whole bunch of things that aren't finalized yet.
Baltazar: We're working with IDW on Aw Yeah Revolution, which is Hasbro characters, with the Micronauts and G.I. Joe and Transformers, and they're all fighting a bad guy. I'm actually drawing that right now as we're doing the interview.
I really like working on this. It's kind of a different style, because it's a superhero style. The cool thing is editors and fans seem to really like it. And with stuff like this, and Superpowers, which is also superhero style, they have an adventure story, but they're still funny. We can't be serious, I guess.
Nrama: Are you doing more Aw Yeah! Comics, your self-published title?
Aureliani: Yeah, we plan to release those through ComiXology. Issue #13 is going to be coming out in the next few months.
Baltazar: I only have four pages left to draw for Aw Yeah Comics #13. It's going to be digital first. We have five books coming out with ComiXology — a lot of our self-published stuff, with Cray Baby and Captain Camel and possibly Weirdsville (but I'm still scanning Weirdsville pages). We've got 15 issues of Weirdsville that we're going to be releasing. And some of Scoot McMahon's stuff.
Aureliani: A lot of stuff! A lot of stuff!
Baltazar: And digital stuff is cool because it allows us to do things ourself, and we don't have to save money to print. And people still buy them. They're digging them.