Over the past three years, Archie artist Dan Parent has been at the center of some of the company's biggest events, from Archie Meets Kiss to Kevin Keller. I spoke to him at today's Comic-Con to find out what it's been like to be a key factor in Archie's new direction, and in the process, he told me about Archie vs. KISS, a follow-up to the first crossover, in which the returning team of Parent and writer Alex Segura will pit Riverdale's favorite teens against the rock group, as well as the crossover he'd like to see.
ComicsAlliance: For a lot of people, Archie comics are ubiquitous when they're kids, but I'm always curious to find out how people got into them as a career. Did you grow up reading Archie?
Dan Parent: I did. I started out reading Harvey Comics and Archie Comics, and read those from when I was like five years old to eight, then I went into super-hero stuff. But I always came back to Archie, too. I never really stopped reading Archie, and when I went to art school, I always remembered that Archie style and it was really easy for me to draw, so it never left my interest.
CA: I've noticed in your art that you seem to be really influenced by Dan DeCarlo. Not just in that he's the most influential Archie artist, but also in your approach to pin-ups and the fun that he had in his work. Did you go back and look at those when you got into art?
DP: I always went back. When it came to drawing girls, you always go back to Dan DeCarlo, and I was always really inspired by him. When I was working at Archie back in the 90s, I was working directly with him. I was finishing his stories, so he'd lay them out and I'd finish them, so I got a real grasp of his style. I was always very, very inspired by him, and he's the go-to artist. When you want to do something like a classic Archie, just look back at DeCarlo's pin-ups.
CA: Over the past few years, you've been at the epicenter of a lot of the big changes at Archie. I told someone earlier that if you've heard of a major Archie story in the past few years, Dan Parent probably drew it -- Archie Meets KISS, Kevin Keller. What's that like, being the go-to guy now?
DP: It's been great. I've been at Archie for 25 years now, and most of that was in the background, drawing and writing stories and just doing the best job I could do. Then, when Jon Goldwater came aboard, he really liked my stuff, so he really gave me a lot of permission to sort of take it up a notch. He also wanted new ideas, so I supplied those too. He sort of let me go loose on the stuff that I was working on.
It all sort of started with the B&V Spectacular book. I was working on that in 2005 or 2006, and that was when I sort of... I didn't change my style at all, but I loosened up. A lot of artists try to draw like Dan DeCarlo, and I was guilty of that when I was starting out. Then, when I stopped trying to draw so much like DeCarlo, it loosened up a lot and I found my style, so it was all around that time
CA: As a writer, how do you approach those stories? I've noticed that a lot of the Kevin Keller stories are the sort of classic Archie-style stories, like the one where the two gangs of teenagers both wanted the beach...
DP: Yeah, we've done that one before.
CA: But you also had the twist on it where you went with the story of Kevin Keller having to deal with a bigot. How do you go in there relying on these classic stories, and then twist them into something new?
DP: That's basically what it is. We're still telling the same type of stories but with a different twist. With Kevin Keller, we never want to get too preachy, but we don't want to back away from it either. We still want to do it in the form of an entertaining story without hitting anyone over the head with it. You'll see issues where Kevin's sexuality doesn't come up, and you'll see some stories where it's a big part, just like how there's some Archie stories where he's chasing after Betty and Veronica and some where it's about getting a new car. It's sort of whatever hits us as a good story, but we don't want to be tied down to addressing his sexuality all the time.
CA: Have you gotten any response from readers, for you specifically? Especially with the Prom issue, which I thought had a really strong message that could resonate with a lot of kids.
DP: That issue probably got the most response from a book that I've worked on. It rang true to a lot of people, with the kid wanting to invite Kevin and then backing out because he was shy. It seemed to hit a nerve with a lot of people, in a good way. But once again, it was still a Prom story, it was still a story about being nervous about going to the prom. Kevin's problems are the same as everybody else's, just with guys.
I shouldn't say it's the same, because he has to deal with issues of homophobia and all that, but we do get a lot of feedback from a lot of people, and that helps us figure out where we're going with it, too.
CA: You did Archie Meets KISS, and you're doing Archie Meets Glee, too. So what has it been like to work with those crossovers? Those were two unexpected moves.
DP: You can't get any more different than Glee and KISS. But yeah, we've always been a pop culture company, and I don't think we ever really embraced it fully. We are now. We are pop culture, and why not do stuff like that? If it's KISS, Glee... I think a Big Bang Theory crossover would be great. I think it's great to cross over with whatever's current in pop culture and I hope we keep it up. We're getting great response, Archie Meets Kiss was hugely successful, and we're doing another one.
CA: You're doing another one?
DP: Yeah: Archie vs. KISS.
CA: Oh, nice.
DP: That'll be after Glee. It's just a lot of fun. There's nothing wrong with the old five and six page stories, but this is sort of new for us, and it's a nice challenge.
CA: With the transition from the shorter stories to the single-issue stories to the longer, multi-part stories, you've been there for 25 years, so you've been there for that entire change. Has that been difficult for you to adjust to, or have you always wanted to have more room?
DP: It hasn't been difficult at all. I love it. I still love the classic stories, but there have been millions of them that are still in the digests. I don't want them to come to an end and I would like to see continuing to do them, but the multi-part stories are a lot more fun for me. It's also an economic reality, with the trade paperbacks and the way comic book companies work now. Everything seems to be collected for trades, so Archie Meets Glee will be four issues and that'll be in a trade, just like Archie Meets KISS. But I like being able to tell a longer story, you can get more character development, I find.
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