Since relaunching to bring more realism into the title, the ongoing Archie title has dealt with some pretty difficult topics since it kicked off with a different look and feel in 2015. But even with the success of the more street-level Riverdale TV show, few fans ever expected what's happening in Archie now - the apparent death of a central character.
This week, readers find out the results of the cliffhanger from June's Archie #21, where it was revealed that Betty was fatally injured by a crash during a drag race between Reggie and Archie. As characters begin to reflect on what Betty meant to them during her life, the aftermath of the tragedy starts to sink in.
Archie #22's heart-wrenching scenes - crafted by series writer Mark Waid - are being handled by Pete Woods, who joined the title with Archie #18 earlier this year. Picking up on the look of the title established by Fiona Staples, Woods came on board just in time to deal with one of the more high-profile and shocking events in Archie history.
Newsarama caught up with the artist to find out more about his approach to the crash, how he's depicting the characters' reaction to losing Betty, and what comes next for both Archie and the artist himself.
Newsarama: Pete, before you started this project, what was it like approaching these characters who were so iconic?
Pete Woods: Beginning a project with iconic characters like the Archie crew is always a bit intimidating. You want to be able to catch the essence of them while still giving it your own spin. Fortunately, Fiona Staples did a lot of the heavy lifting at the start of the series. She managed to bring the Archie cast into a modern setting and breathe fresh life into them. That was very inspiring.
Nrama: What was the biggest challenge as you started drawing Archie?
Woods: Throughout the series, I was always drawing too much. Being used to doing superhero books with lots of rendering, I had to keep going back and take out facial lines and over-rendered clothing. In the end, the experience taught me some valuable lessons in simplifying things.
Nrama: With the events leading up to this week's Archie #22, you're dealing with a tragedy in a comic that's traditionally known for its humor. What do you think was the most important thing to remember while approaching this subject in this format?
Woods: Keeping the characters in mind while drawing is always the most important thing. Everyone knows who these people are and how they think, and Mark has done a fantastic job of enhancing that. As long as you’re true to the characters, then they’ll remain believable no matter the subject of the story.
Nrama: Let's talk about drawing the actual accident and the aftermath. What was the secret to making it work visually?
Woods: For the accident itself, the trick is clear storytelling while communicating a sense of speed and franticness. Cars can be difficult since it’s very easy to make the image too static. Forced perspective and tilted cameras can help a lot with that.
As far as the aftermath goes, that’s all in the characters’ reactions. Mark’s scripts are fantastic so he made that part very easy. I could really feel what the Archie cast were feeling.
Nrama: Did any of the art team's methods change for these scenes and issues? Or wait…are you doing all this?
Woods: I handled all the art chores other than lettering during my run on Archie. I had the idea I wanted each place and event to have it’s own feel so no matter where we were in the story arc, readers could recognize a location immediately.
Nrama: OK, so any color changes, line changes on your part for these scenes…anything specific you can point out, particularly for this week's Archie #22?
Woods: In #22, as characters are reliving their memories of Betty, I bumped up the saturation of the colors a bit and used a golden light to light the scenes. I wanted to communicate the positive, almost magical effect she’d had on their lives. To contrast this, I kept the hospital scenes a bit more muted with a slightly olive green color overall.
Nrama: It's a powerful issue. Do you know what comes next for Archie - or can you tell us what comes next for you as an artist as you move on?
Woods: Archie and the gang are going to have a lot of heavy things to deal with as a result of the accident and its aftermath. I’m anxious to see where Mark and Audrey Mok take things. Audrey is a brilliant artist! They will make a fantastic team!?
For me, I’m wrapping up the superhero satire series Hero Killers from Dynamite. Still trying to figure out where I want to go after that, but one thing is for sure — my family needs a vacation!
Nrama: I hope you guys find the time to do it. Is there anything else you want to tell readers and fans about Archie #22 or your time on Archie?
Woods: I just want to say that Archie has the best fans out there. I’ve never met a more positive, loyal, supportive, and enthusiastic group of readers. Everyone on the Archie team appreciates them more than we can express. Thank you!