Archie Comics has been enjoying a serious renaissance in recent years. The long-running icon of wholesome, teenage Americana began his reinvention through the Life With Archie magazine format series in the early part of the decade, which explored what his life might look like if he finally chose between girl-next-door love interest Betty Cooper or rich society girl love interest Veronica Lodge. The surprisingly robust creative effort led to a left-field spin-off called Afterlife With Archie, which imagined Archie and the Riverdale gang forced to survive a zombie apocalypse–an idea that sounds goofy on paper, but which worked surprisingly well as both an Archie story and a horror tale.
More recently, Archie’s tapped the talents of big name comics pros to redefine its characters for the comics-reading public. The launch of Archie #1 with All-New Avengers author Mark Waid and Saga artist Fiona Staples kicked things off, while Jughead‘s solo title–by Howard the Duck writer Chip Zdarsky and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl artist Erica Henderson–quickly followed. Both titles offered serialized, extended storytelling the kind to which comics fans have been accustomed in their non-Archie reading, while remaining true to the core of the characters. And in July, the next title in the series–Betty & Veronica #1, written and drawn by longtime DC Comics creator Adam Hughes–will reach the market.
Hughes is providing covers and interior art to the series, but to celebrate the launch, Archie Comics also commissioned a whopping 25 alternate covers with art by stars like Cliff Chiang, Ryan Sook, Francesco Francavilla, Chip Zdarsky, and more. In addition to names of guys familiar to readers of comics from Marvel/DC/Image/etc, the list of artists tapped for the alternate covers are also more diverse than the usual lineup on the comic book shelves–of the 24 artists brought on for the alternate covers (one of the 25 is a blank cover for convention sketches), a full half of them are women. That’s appropriate for Betty and Veronica, who suffer no fools and have served as role models to boys and girls for 75 years–and it’s another sign that, as Archie progresses through the 21st century, it’s one of the best surprises in comics.