There are few comics that seem as American as the Archie comics. For many, Archie and his friends presented the keys to the door that would lead to a lifetime love of comics. Dan Parent, who has been working on the Archie titles for quite some time, understands Archie’s place in pop culture, and continues to press new boundaries with his expansion of Riverdale and its citizens.
Dan, you’ve been working with Archie comics for about how long now?
You are absolutely responsible for creating the Archie we see today, obviously, including breaking down a lot of barriers. You introduced the first openly gay character in Riverdale. You created the first biracial story in the Archie comics. Did you start out trying to make waves or were these ideas that you believed had a place in the story?
Well, I’ve always tried to do storylines that push the envelope a little bit but we have new management now who are very open to new ideas. That’s really where the change came forth. You can come up with as many ideas as you want but if management isn’t responsive to it, then no one’s really going to know about them. But new management told us to be forward thinking. Think of what’s going on in the 21st century. Not necessarily be ultra progressive, just be current.
So, be aware of your surroundings?
Be aware of what’s going on in society. So we thought, you know, adding, the first call to order was to add more ethnicity to the Archie characters, diversity. Then, to start thinking of other ways to be diverse and that’s when Kevin Keller came up. So, I came up with the idea to have a gay character and [management was] on board with it as long as we made it in a cohesive storyline…that we didn’t just throw a character out there just for the sake of being gay. We wanted it to be an ongoing character in the series. So, I came up with a story idea which they liked, and then we went with it, and the response was good. Then, it was just forward from then on.
If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t Veronica #202 the fastest selling out of any Archie comic ever?
Right, yeah, it was the first [Archie] comic to ever sell out, the first comic that we ever did that went to a second printing.
The last image in the storyline you were just speaking of, when you began integrating more diversity into Riverdale, the last page you see [President] Obama and Sarah Palin drinking a soda. How did that particular image come about?
Well, I knew we were doing a storyline…we did a Veronica book with Obama when he was, when he just became president, which sold very well. They wanted to do another thing with Obama but throw Sarah Palin in there to get both sides of the spectrum. So, I knew we were doing an Obama/Palin storyline and they wanted an iconic image to go with it. Something that would be attention getting. So, our classic image is Archie, Bettie and Veronica sharing a soda, so I thought Obama and Sarah Palin sharing a soda.
Well, it worked! I think it was one of the most viewed images of the year.
Yeah, it got a lot of hits and it made a lot of people mad. The idea was just to show that in Riverdale everybody gets along and there are no politics. But yeah, in doing it, you know, I knew it would be attention getting, to say the least.
When you are doing something like that, the controversy that also comes along with it, is it something that you can laugh and shrug it off or does it upset you that people missed the point?
Well the main thing is to do something you think is good. I mean, you know, like with Kevin and other things, as long you’re doing something that you believe in and think it’s good, then most people come along with it. If they don’t, well, then you’ve done the best that you can do. And as far as the Obama/Palin image, I just wanted to do something that was true to Archie, and that’s a very Archie image. So, it wasn’t like I wasn’t reaching that far, but, like I said, some people got mad.
It was brilliant in its simplicity.
Yeah, right! It was very simple, it was a very simple image.
Is there any other genre that you may want to branch out to or is Archie home?
Archie is definitely in sync with my style because I’ve been there so long. I do other work. I’ve done work for Marvel before, I’ve done a lot of Barbie and Mattel stuff, a lot of kids books before. And I’ve done a lot of graphic design work, which I like, but Archie is just a very good fit. It’s a really good fit for me. I grew up on Archie and I grew up a big comic book collector in general. So, the Archie thing just feels right. It just feels really good. I’m very comfortable with the characters, so I hope to continue.
Okay, most important question: Betty or Veronica?
(laughs) Veronica all the way.
A big thanks to Dan for taking a few minutes to talk to us and, even bigger thanks for expanding Riverdale. To stay up to date on Dan’s current and upcoming work, check out his website and like him on Facebook.