Archie Comics' Editor-in-Chief, Victor Gorelick told us about some of the challenges Archie is facing in the New Year with the rising costs of everything, the decision to have their superhero comics published by DC, Archie's similarities to Andy Hardy [points to any PULSE reader other than Steve Chung if you know who Andy Hardy is!] and more in this PULSE interview ....

THE PULSE: It seems as if almost every comic company has felt the sting of these rough economic times. How has Archie fared during these times? Have you noticed any significant cut backs or sales problems as a result of the financial problems facing a lot of the economy?

Nobody is recession proof anymore, not even comics. Luckily we run a tight ship and were able to avoid any layoffs or salary cuts like a lot of other companies in comics have been doing. We have certainly seen a change in things and readersí requests reflect what we are all feeling. Everybody gets a little nervous at times like these, even those earning allowances. One good thing about tough times is the need to make our material better to make sure everything we do at Archie is the best it can be.

THE PULSE: What are some of the challenges you're facing when the whole world seems to be tightening its purse strings? How do you continue to keep your books at US$2.25 when most other comic publishers are selling theirs for .75 or more cents more per single issue and US$5.99 for most digests ...?

We are still the best price out there by far but we had to make some pricing changes. Our 32 page comics are going to $2.50, Digests $2.69 and Double Digests $3.99. On the newsstand and in the direct market, Archie is still the best bang for your buck. Hopefully, the market and readers will bear it.

THE PULSE: Archie seems to have experimented with new characters and looks and imaginings of some of its classic properties. Which of those "experiments" have fared the best with your company?

Thanks for mentioning that; it is great that people see how much we have to offer. The manga Sabrina, by Tania Del Rio really did great and brought the company a lot of attention. Tania is wrapping up her run with issue 100, and it is a big story. Nothing comes close to the attention we received from the NEW LOOK Archie. A lot of the hardcore comic readers were talking about it, especially the Archie loyal and just about anyone who ever read Archie. So far with names like Steven Butler, Al Milgrom, Joe Staton, Tod Smith, Rod Whigham, Norm Breyfogle, Rick Burchett and Terry Austin all contributing, people have really taken to these longer Archie stories with a more realistic style.

THE PULSE: Looking back as a Monday morning quarterback, which of the ideas was a great idea at the time, but didn't come across exactly as you envisioned?

When you think about it, not everything comes out the way I envision it; this is a collaborative medium after all. Sometimes, more often than not, the different ideas come together for something better than any of us could come up with on our own.

THE PULSE: Why do you feel it's important to continue to experiment and try new things when your established product has been a hit longer than most of us have been alive?

That is the secret to Archie, it has always been about doing things different, but unlike a lot of companies, we never forgot our audience. The early days when I started at Archie, we had Wilbur and Katy Keene. Josie and Sabrina came later. Archie has always tried different incarnations of Archie such as, Little Archie, Pureheart the Powerful, The Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E., Archie 1, and many others. Nothing stays the same forever, but it can always be fun.

THE PULSE: What are the biggest challenges of staying competitive in a market with a product aimed at kids when the average comic reader is now a Gen Xer?

We have never been an average company. JUST LIKE Archie we have our own way of doing things. For years the medium has been moving away from kids but we always kept our audience in mind. Now, many publishers, with origins in traditional publishing are coming after younger readers and material for All Ages. The smart Direct Market stores, the successful ones, keep Archie on hand at the holidays and summer camp time. They also keep plenty by the front of the store and register waiting for those Gen Xers to grow into lifetime comic readers.

THE PULSE: We've seen Little Archie and Archie Freshman Year, do you ever have any plans to show Grandpa Archie or an older Archie so we can see how he might have turned out?

Everybody always wants to see Archie, the college years. It could happen. We actually have something planned, which will be announced soon showing Archie in a very different age direction. We do have something really great starting with Archie #600, that if anyone ever wanted to know what happens to Archie, this is one story arc you have to read!

THE PULSE: Who do you think are some of the most underrated comics creators you have working currently at Archie Comics?

All of them! Most people think it is one person doing all the work. Itís really is a team of so many great creators. What Batton Lash and Bill Galvan have done on Freshman Year, more is coming by the way, is terrific. What Alex Simmons and Fernando Ruiz are doing with the Cartoon Life of Chuck Clayton in Archie & Friends is great. Great work from George Gladir, Barbara Slate, Craig Boldman, Rex Lindsey, Dan Parent, the Kennedy brothers and the list goes on and on. One of the best books we publish is Jughead (Boldman & Lindsey), which seems to be a favorite with the press.

I would also like to mention we have a new story Arc, the Adventures of Young Salem starting in Sabrina #101-104. Both the story and art are terrific. Plus, donít forget about the Sonic books when thinking about Archie. The list goes on and on.

THE PULSE: Why did you want to make a deal with DC to have your superhero characters incorporated into their universe? I mean, I'm sure it was great for the pocketbook, but why not just publish your heroes under your own imprint?

It is knowing your audience, we know ours and they know superheroes. A lot of readers see The MLJ Heroes and just won't give them a chance with an Archie logo or as an imprint. We have had some of the very best creators in the business work on them over the years, Kirby, Toth , Siegel, Simon, Morrow, Wood, Giacoia, Steranko, Davis, Ayers, Ditko, Waid, Immonen, Parobeck and on, but maybe over there they will have a chance to shine. The MLJ heroes are a great group of characters.

THE PULSE: With those characters being at DC now, does that mean you can't reprint new volumes of the classic adventures? How long does DC hold the rights?

They have the rights for a few years, and I believe they have the rights for reprints. Those folks have always handled those reprinted editions well; maybe the MLJ heroes will get a crack at that treatment.

THE PULSE: What are some new titles or storylines you're jazzed about at Archie in the New Year?

Well, more Freshman Year stories, and NEW LOOK as mentioned, but Archie Drama Club will have the Archie characters doing their takes on great classics of literature, but is not like you have ever seen the classics illustrated. The New Sonic monthly Series SONIC UNIVERSE kicking off in March is really great.

THE PULSE: After watching marathons of it on TCM, I've been curious if Archie Andrews was created kind of to model Andy Hardy, the character Mickey Rooney brought to life in dozens of movies?

As the story goes, way back in 1941, John Goldwater was influenced by both Andy Hardy and Henry Aldrich as well as his experiences growing up. With the aid of a young artist named Bob Montana they created Americaís Typical Teenager, ARCHIE. The rest is history.

THE PULSE: Hah! I figured!

A variety of Archie Comics are in stores monthly.