Hero Initiative's Jim McLauchlin Talks "ARCHIE: FIFTY"

Hero Initiative Pres. on "ARCHIE: 50"

Spider-Man..!  Wolverine..! Archie..!?!

If you’re looking for a common denominator between these three iconic comic book characters, it’s they’ve all lent their visage to help the Hero Initiative continue their mission of helping comic book creators in medical or financial need.

This week, the Hero Initiative and Archie Comics announced Archie Covers: Fifty Times An American Icon, a project in the spirit of earlier popular volumes featuring those two Marvel superheroes. Archie has printed 50 blank covered copies of the recent landmark “Wedding” issue Archie #600 and Hero Initiative will have 50 artists from comics and animation – artists like Neal Adams, Darwyn Cooke, Sam Kieth, Jerry Ordway, George Pérez, John Romita and Tim Sale – creative original Archie covers. The originals will be auctioned off at a later date to benefit Hero, and a book will be published, collecting all 50 covers.

Newsarama recently caught up with Hero Initiative President Jim McLauchlin for a few quick words on the project..

Newsarama: So Jim, Spider-Man and Wolverine are one thing. How does it come to be that Hero Initiative is doing one of these with Archie Comics?

Jim McLauchlin: We really have the talent to blame, in this case, Mark McKenna. Mark’s a great guy who’s been around the block a million times. He’s worked for Marvel, DC, Acclaim, Archie, you-name-it. In fact, he has a great kids book coming out from Image soon called Banana Tail. I have a 16-month-old son now, and I definitely have a copy already on order.

Regardless, Mark did one of our recent Wolverine covers, and asked if we might be interested in doing similar with Archie—he said that he’s been doing some work there, and would be happy to put in the word. I figured, “What the heck. Never hurts to ask, right?” So Mark put in a call or two, and I got a call from Mike Pellerito over at Archie. Seems they were pretty stoked by the idea, and seeing as how interest in Archie has really been spiking since Archie #600, we decided to do a “blank” variant on that. I think we got all the details worked out just before they were going to press on that book, so we got in just under the wire.

Nrama: Now with your Marvel projects, you do 100 artists. Here, you’re only doing 50. Why is that?

McLauchlin: At least in terms of the direct market, where we’re strongest, we know the market is deeper for Marvel than it is for Archie. And Archie knows that, too. So it seemed a good way to hedge the bet. Fewer covers, and we’ll see how people react. I think they’ll dig ’em.

Nrama: And the plan is same? You’ll auction off all the originals, and publish a book collecting them all?

McLauchlin: Yep. Dates on both of those are still to be determined. The one really interesting thing is that even though Archie might not be a direct-market juggernaut, their Main Street appeal is probably second to none. Everyone from six-year-olds to your grandma knows Archie. As such, we’ve had some very preliminary discussions with a few museums and major art galleries, and there’s a good possibility we’ll do a major museum or gallery show with all the covers once they’re in. It’s an interesting hook, to get 50 interpretations on the characters that really run the gamut. A lot are going to be out-of-the-freakin’-ordinary. I mean, we have Jim Mahfood. We have Bill Sienkiewicz doing one — Bill Sienkiewicz!

Nrama: How’s Archie feel about that?

McLauchlin: Super-cool. The first thing I got off the table when I talked to Mike Pellerito at Archie was that there was only one way to do this that made sense, and that was to let the artists be artists. If it was 50 guys doing style sheet…what’s the point? Mike said that was 100% of the reason they wanted to do it. They want to see some very personal interpretations as well.

Nrama: You mentioned Mahfood and Sienkiewicz. Who else do who have who’s off the beaten path?

McLauchlin: Skottie Young. Jill Thompson — she’s got a big thing for Jughead! Neal Adams. At Archie’s request, we skewed to a few animation artists. We even have a few noted underground artists working on these — really! It’ll be a way more crazy, eclectic mix than most people might be thinking.

Nrama: And it looks like you’re getting George Pérez as well.

McLauchlin: Yeah, George is on our Board of Directors, and absolutely wanted to do one of these. DC was kind enough to let us use a couple of their contract guys for this, George and Jerry Ordway. And through that, we’re breaking new talent, too. Jerry has a 17-year-old daughter, Rachel, who loves to draw. So she did one, too! It’s pretty damn cool.

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