It’s the holidays and even Archie and his friends in Riverdale are celebrating. This week, an all-new holiday anthology, Archie’s Holiday Magic Special goes on sale and will see Archie deal with the struggle to decide who to take to the Snow Ball with a bit of a festive twist when a spirit guide arrives to take him on an exploration of his past, present and future. A heartwarming book with stories in the vein of holiday classics such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Archie’s Holiday Magic Special features stories by Micol Ostow, Michael Northrop, and J. Torres as well as art from Gretel Lusky, Arielle Jovellanos, and Dan Schoening with colors by Matt Herms and letters from Jack Morelli.
With the book on sale Wednesday, December 8th, ComicBook,com sat down with Ostow, Northrop, and Torres to chat about Archie’s Holiday Magic Special, how the book came together, the book’s art, as well s their own favorite holiday stories. You can check out more about Archie’s Holiday Magic Special below and then read on for our interview!
AN ALL-NEW HOLIDAY ANTHOLOGY PERFECT FOR FANS OF ARCHIE’S MODERN COMIC SERIES!
It’s Christmas Eve in Riverdale, and it’s almost time for the annual Snow Ball, but Archie still can’t choose who should be his date: Betty or Veronica? Has he always been this indecisive? Will he always be? Will his flaws leave him all alone? Everything changes when a spirit guide appears to help him navigate these questions, and explore his past, present, and future in three distinct tales. This heartfelt and humorous holiday tale harkens back to classic holiday stories like It’s a Wonderful Life, mixed with the over-the-top sentimentality of a Hallmark Christmas film.
Script: Micol Ostow, Michael Northrop, J Torres
Art: Gretel Lusky, Arielle Jovellanos, Dan Schoening
Colors: Matt Herms
Letters: Jack Morelli
Main Cover: Gretel Lusky
Variant Cover: Gary Erskine
(Photo: Archie Comics)
ComicBook.com: This holiday special is such a fun mix of classic holiday themes and is framed out like A Christmas Carol/It’s a Wonderful Life. Where did the idea to sort of remix those classic tales/themes come from?
Micol Ostow: I’m a sucker for a good remix! So, the first thought I had when pitching a holiday story was A Christmas Carol. But my first stab at a concept was super unwieldy–dreams and ghosts and latkes, oh my! It was too much. When Jamie and I stepped back, we realized that in fact, the Christmas Carol thing was already happening when we excised the latke-eating contest piece from my bulkier pitch and bundled it with Michael and J’s fantastic stories that focused on past and future Riverdale. With Jamie’s clarity of vision, it was all very organic. As usual, I just needed someone to take my big sloppy mess and trim the fat.
With the issue containing three distinct stories that are also connected to create one large story, the book has a very fresh and unique sort of format. How did you all collaborate to make this kind of storytelling work? What was the process like? Was there anything that changed as things came together?
Michael Northrop: The process was super smooth. The idea for the story came first, and it already fit into that past-present-future framework. So I just wrote the (future) story I always planned to, and we looked for opportunities to tie things together within that. Mostly that was a lead-in and takeaway that fit the story into the book, with one little pop-in moment anchored in the story itself.
Micol Ostow: Exactly what Michael said! We were lucky that we’d each naturally chosen a different moment in time to write about, so once we’d settled on the Christmas Carol overarching theme, it was mostly about finding an emotional through line that would connect each of our stories. But the truth is, it was mostly already there, as we’re all such genuine fans who came to the material with really like-minded affection for the characters. Because my story was the one set in present-day, it made sense for it to be the one that was connected to the wraparound arc, so I took point on that. In my past life I was a children’s book editor and I have lots of experience with anthologies and such, so making sure that my little “cryptkeeper” umbrella unified the story was a fun chance to revisit those skills.
I love that the question about Santa’s existence plays a small, but important part of the story – and I really love the inventive answer to that question (100% stealing it to explain Santa to my own kid!) Where did that come from? Who had the idea of that particular explanation of Santa and whether he’s real?
J. Torres: That’s actually “based on a true story.” My eldest came home upset from school one day because a classmate had told him Santa didn’t exist, and it was just parents leaving presents out for their kids. So, I came up with an explanation on the spot, and it’s pretty much what Archie’s dad tells him.
Micol Ostow: Gotta chime in even though it wasn’t my story – my mother converted to Judaism and I was raised Jewish so on a practical level, there was never gonna be any Santa for me. And religion aside, my family was NOT prone to whimsy (ie no stories of the Tooth Fairy or anything like that). So for my part now, I’m all about letting my kids/all kids (and people of all ages, for that matter) hang on to belief and wonder for as long as possible. My three-year-old nephew had the chance to meet Santa in his apartment complex last winter and we’ve all gone to great lengths to sustain the fantasy that Stuytown, NYC is a portal to the North Pole (even if my father is ambivalent about the whole thing).
It’s so refreshing to see Hanukkah included in this story as it’s not always incorporated in holiday specials – and here it’s done very naturally so it doesn’t feel like an addition. It feels normal. Was it important that the holiday be included in this way? Tell me a bit about the process behind that.
Micol Ostow: Honestly, when Jamie first mentioned a holiday round-up, I asked her straight up, “what do you NOT need more of, and what would you LOVE to see more of?” Maybe it would have been different if I’d had a specific story in mind, but when you’re working from a blank slate you may as well try to address a void, IMO. And Hanukkah was mentioned and as I think my answer to the Santa question above shows, questions of cultural observation and traditions and blended communities have been at the forefront of my mind for… well, ever, now, so it felt pretty natural to have the kids at Riverdale feature a latke-eating contest alongside their secret Santa exchange. I think it’d be pretty self-aggrandizing to say it was ‘Important’ with a capital ‘I’ to incorporate it that way, but then again, Hanukkah really doesn’t feature heavily in pop culture that often. And when it does, it tends to be the focus in a very, “let’s learn about the miracle of the oil lamp in the temple!” kind of way. So to be able to sneak it in as a casual plot point *is* kind of… cool? Anyway, it was fun for me, so I hope it’s fun for others!
One of the things that I especially enjoyed about this book is that while it’s definitely Archie’s story and a very “Archie” story at that, the three most significant people in his life also have their own stories – we just get more deeply how Archie is an important part of those stories. With the holidays often being a time that some people feel disconnected, lonely, or like they don’t have an impact on others, was it a conscious decision to show the magic of friendship like this? Why was it so important to have that core friendship as the center of the true holiday spirit of this story?
Michael Northrop: The holidays can really highlight that tension between loneliness and connection, and I wanted to explore that a little. In Archie comics, the closeness of the characters is usually a given, both in terms of friendship and proximity. I started my story with the puzzle pieces a little scattered. Archie left, and when he did, he kind of disconnected from both the town and the people. It’s this rare opportunity for us to consider him on his own, and to consider Betty independently from him. I didn’t want to show the comfort of a long, familiar, unbroken connection. I wanted to show the possibility of reconnection, how even years later, the pieces can click right back into place.
Micol Ostow: As usual, Michael hits it – holidays are always a little bit warm and fuzzy, and a little bit melancholy, and it made perfect sense that Archie’s existential ennui would be the through line of all three stories – that, as you say, it’s a very “Archie” collection, and he’s somewhat plagued by his persistent “Archie-ness,” but in journeying through the stories with his holiday spirit guide he’s reminded that it’s his Archie-ness that his friends value, and that by being exactly who he is, he’s improved the lives of everyone around him. These last few holiday seasons – all the seasons! – have been challenging, and I think it’s important for us all to remember that we’re doing our best, and that even if it doesn’t feel like enough, it’s more than enough for more people around us than we realize.
Is there something you especially love about this book?
J. Torres: I love the art! Gretel, Arielle, and Dan did such a great job. Plus, props to Matt Herms for the terrific coloring job. Every story has its own look and feel, but it all comes together wonderfully.
Michael Northrop: I totally agree about the art! The whole thing looks amazing, and the styles fit the stories beautifully. And just personally, this is my first story for Archie. I was a very reluctant reader as a kid. Comic books were the first things I read for fun, and the first comics I read were Archie. I don’t think I’d be a writer without them, so this is really an incredible full-circle moment for me.
Micol Ostow: I will echo the point about the art, which is so dynamic and alive! And this was my first time writing original-flavor Archie as opposed to Riverdale, which was a little stressful as a longtime fan, but thrilling. And it was truly joyful to collaborate with Michael and J! Writing is so solitary, it’s rare to be working on something in tandem with others. Co-workers! What a world!
And, just for fun, what is your favorite holiday story?
J. Torres: Old school classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. New school classic, Elf. That’s a great Christmas Day double feature right there if you ask me.
Micol Ostow: I am… not very sentimental about these things. After the kids are in bed, it’s usually a glass of wine and Gremlins. Or Die Hard. If they’re awake, Elf or Home Alone.
Michael Northrop: A Christmas Story. It has, like, a hypnotic power over me. The warmth and humor are just perfect. Poor Flick!
from Ultimate Comic Blog