After five months of Sabrina the Teenage Witch dating Archie Andrews and taking co-billing on his long-running Archie title, it's coming to an end - with Katy Keene taking her place.
With January's #710, Archie & Sabrina segues to become known as Archie & Katy Keene. And with that, series co-writer Mariko Tamaki is taking the lead from the outgoing Nick Spencer, with Kevin Panetta brought in as her co-writer. Working with artists Laura Braga, Matt Herms, and Jack Morelli, Tamaki and Panetta will be bringing Katy Keene into the Riverdale universe just as CW's Katy Keene show debuts.
Newsarama spoke with Tamaki about taking the lead in Archie Comics' flagship title, working with Spencer and Panetta, and threading Katy Keene into the streets and halls of Riverdale. And Panetta joins in halfway through.
Newsarama: Mariko, back in July 2018 you gave a great interview about how all comic writers "funnel their nerd" into a story, whether their "nerd thing" is history, or art, architecture, etc. What's the nerd you're funneling into Archie?
Mariko Tamaki: To me there's something very nostalgic about writing Archie. Probably more than anything else I'm funneling my Teen Beat, Seventeen magazine nostaglic energy into this. A little bit of that 90210 / 90's energy.
Nrama: In the same vein, your second graphic novel, Emiko Superstar, was about a girl who gets into performance art, which is part of your background. What pieces of your background are you bringing into your run of Archie?
Tamaki: I'm not sure what my performance art background contributes to this, although as a performance artist, I always worked with others, and comics is all about working well with others. You wouldn't think that would be the thing, right? But it is. Also this is a story about love, about being a teenager, about friends, which feels like very familiar territory for me.
Nrama: You're working with Nick Spencer to co-write the finale of Archie and Sabrina, then taking over for him on the Archie book. Can you give us a window into what that hand-off was like? What were your conversations with Nick like?
Tamaki: They are emails. They are very helpful. It's like I'm an actor sitting in on a rough read through, then I try and go and act out what he envisioned to the best of my ability, and add a few jokes.
Nrama: As for the art for the final issues of Archie and Sabrina, you'll be working with series regular Sandy Jarrell to finish upand move onto the Archie and Katy Keene era. How do you usually write for an artist? What's it like working with Sandy?
Tamaki: Sandy is amazing. I love his style. I love his take on these characters. We have never met in person but he is lovely to work with.
Nrama: Now, let's get onto the transition to Archie and Katy Keene in January. What was going through your head when Archie approached you about doing this?
Tamaki: I thought it meant I would get to write plotlines with super cool outfits, play with some new characters, and I was thrilled. I'm also working with Kevin Panetta on this, which has been super fun. We talk about fashion and fashion influences a lot. I am trying to steer the conversation toward Project Runway some more, I'll keep you posted on how that goes.
Kevin Panetta: First of all, writing with Mariko is awesome. She’s the best. Like, actually the best one. And getting a chance to write any Archie is such a great opportunity! Katy Keene is an interesting character with a lot going on. It’s exciting to bring her into the new Archie books! Also, I’m like seven seasons behind on Project Runway. I should really catch up if I want to be a fully qualified fashion expert.
Nrama: Who is Katy Keene in this new era of Archie Comics? What's carried over from her old comics, what has changed?
Panetta: I think our Katy has a lot in common with classic Katy, but the world is a different place now. Moving into adulthood and figuring out who you are is a lot more complicated than it used to be, and we wanted our story to reflect that.
Nrama: Katy's typically a big city type, a trait she'll share with her CW counterpart. So what's she doing in a little town like Riverdale.
Tamaki: I'm never keene on revealing plot points, so...yeah I think you'll have to read and find out.
Nrama: [Laughs] I can appreciate your pun. Let me ask though, how will the Archie gang react to Katy's introduction? Who will like her? Will she rub anyone the wrong way?
Panetta: Katy’s arrival in town definitely makes a big splash. Pretty much everybody in Riverdale has something to say about it. Having a new girl in town rubs someone the wrong way, but it’s probably not who you think it is!
Nrama: Katy's comics have a history of being interactive, incorporating paper dolls and fan-drawn fashion. Could we see anything like that in her future?
Tamaki: There is going to be a lot of fashion. If this turns into a storm of Katy Keene cosplay, I am totally ok with that.
Panetta: We talked a lot about how to take the fashion plate elements of the old Katy Keene comics and make them work in a modern comic. I’m really happy with what we landed on!
Nrama: Finally, out of every Archie character you're going to be tackling, from Archie to Sabrina to Katy herself, to whom who do you most relate? Adults included too!
Tamaki: Honestly, I'm probably more of a Jughead than anyone else.
Panetta: I’m probably a Moose/Dilton hybrid, but deep in my heart of hearts there is a Veronica waiting to be unleashed.