Category: Comics & Books


 

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s not an overstatement to say Francesco Francavilla is the artist who brought Archie Comics back to life.  At the very least he has turned a new generation of readers onto one of comicdom’s longest lasting titles.  Along with Jon Goldwater and Alex Segura behind the scenes and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and later artist Robert Hack in the pages of the monthly books, it was Francavilla’s haunting, brand new look at Riverdale and its teen characters that kick-started reader interest in new titles and take another look at the classic stories, the ones with the traditional Dan DeCarlo look that 70 years of readers were familiar with.  Francavilla, the Eisner Award-winning cover artist, is the focus of a new hardcover book Archie Comics is premiering this Wednesday.  Featuring all of his Archie Comics standard covers and variants, plus selected interior artwork and cover artwork for books outside the Archie universe, The Archie Art of Francesco Francavilla is a must for collectors of his books and neo-pulp styled art prints.

In part because of his use of fantastic colors for his imagery, his designs seem to pop on every page.  You’ll find his several covers for Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vampironica, Jughead the Hunger, Archie Meets Batman, Archie vs Sharknado, Archie vs Predator, Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, Riverdale, Life with Archie, Archie, Jughead, Betty & Veronica, and Josie and the Pussycats.  Other pages highlight Francavilla’s style on the covers of New Crusaders, The Black Hood, and The Hangman.  The Archie Art of Francesco Francavilla also includes some cover and page roughs–preliminary sketches used for approval and story breaking, all shown along with the final versions.  You’ll also find exclusive cover art from convention-only covers and other variants.

Woule we have a Riverdale television series if not for Francavilla’s darker look at Archie?  Probably not.  Here is a first look at some advance preview pages of The Archie Art of Francesco Francavilla for borg readers courtesy of Archie Comics:

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Stepping into the void left between seasons of Stranger Things, Netflix will be releasing a new television series from the creators of Riverdale that could be the next big thing for comic book, horror–and Stranger Things–fans.  Ten episodes of a live-action adaptation of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s fantastic macabre Archie Horror comic book series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (we’ve talked about the comic book series a lot here at borg.com) will be arriving just in time for Halloween.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stars The Legend of Korra’s Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina, with some well-known genre actors: The Lord of the Rings and War of the Worlds’ Miranda Otto (Zelda), Shaun of the Dead and Wonder Woman’s Lucy Davis (Hilda), Doctor Who and Gotham’s Michelle Gomez (Mary Wardell), Beverly Hills Cop and Perfect Strangers’ Bronson Pinchot (George Hawthorne), and Prince of Persia’s Richard Coyle (Father Blackwood), with Ross Lynch (Harvey Kinkle), Chance Perdomo (Ambrose), Jaz Sinclair (Rosalind), Tati Gabrielle (Prudence), Adeline Rudolph (Agatha), Abigail Cowen (Dorcas), and Lachlan Watson (Susie).  Netflix provided a sneak peek at the new Sabrina and Salem the cat, too.

Don’t worry, it’s not a reboot of the 1990s television series.  Initially couched as two five-episode seasons, the updated news is that Netflix viewers will get all ten first-season episodes at once, and IMDb lists 20 episodes in the works total.  Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will draw from the comic book series written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Robert Hack, detailing the compelling and shocking re-imagining of Sabrina’s occult origins.  This dark coming-of-age story deals with horror and witchcraft and will see Sabrina struggle to reconcile her dual nature of being half-witch and half-mortal while protecting her family and the world from the forces of evil.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The most twists and turns, the most clever story arcs, and the most faithful adaptation of a comic book series you’ve seen so far.  After a great first season but a ho-hum sophomore season, the creators of the third season of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina kicked every aspect of the show into high gear, making for the best season of any series so far on the streaming provider (yep, including that first season of Stranger Things).  So often it’s easy to binge watch every new series.  But the best you reserve to savor, and each episode of the third season was like a good movie.  More magic, more of the supernatural, and more gold nuggets from centuries of folklore took these established characters and made them shine in exciting new ways, giving us the rare third season that bettered earlier seasons.  Great characters, great stories, great actors, and great writing as the witches of Greendale must fend off an attack by pagans that could mean the end for them and the mortals over eight action-packed episodes.  The season should put the series on anyone’s contender for best series of the year, even if we are only at February–it’s probably Netflix’s most riveting season of programming so far.

Has anyone done this before?  I’m talking about Robert Aguirre-Sacasa.  From the pages of Archie Comics, in 2014 Aguirre-Sacasa took Sabrina Spellman, a 50-year-old supporting character, and with a lot of love and dedication, and the visuals of artist Robert Hack, made her relevant for comic book readers in a new millennium in the pages of Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Then he took her story to television and created a hit show to match, and kept it going for three seasons (with a fourth season due by year end).  Has any comic book series received this expert an adaptation and a singular champion of a classic character?

In front of the camera, Kiernan Shipka owns her title character and performs at the level of an actress who’s been doing it for 25 years.  Stunningly confident, she carries a swagger when called for as if Clint Eastwood or Arnold Schwarzenegger or some other big movie star’s badass character walked onto the set.  Viewers believe her because she knows this character, able to flip from several versions of a put-upon, angsty high school teen to a genuine leader, fierce manipulator, and ferocious force to be reckoned with–even the forces of evil know to stay out of her way.

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An attractive new comic book based in the 1920s is nearly halfway to its funding goals with 16 days to go in its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.  Portland writer Sunshine Barbito and São Paulo, Brazil-based artist Debora Carita have teamed together to recreate New York of a century ago and the Mafia’s rise to power in the pages of Mafiosa, an original comic book story.  Launching via Kickstarter if fully funded by July 18, 2019, Mafiosa will debut as a 28-page issue, featuring variant covers by Kirbi Fagan (Mockingbird, Shuri) and Eisner Award winning artist Francesco Francavilla (Detective Comics, Afterlife with Archie).

Mafiosa is the story of a woman on her way to becoming not just a moll but a crime boss in her own right.  Following the rise of Nicoletta Marchesi, the youngest of five children in a family of first generation Sicilian Americans who have established a crime syndicate in Brooklyn in the early 1900s, writer Barbito takes on gender roles with the background of mob life.  When Nicoletta confronts her father and announces her desire to join the family business alongside her brothers, a family conflict is formed, and Nicoletta is sucked into the savagery of a life of crime.

 

Carita’s interior artwork has a nicely crafted noir vibe.  The Kickstarter book will be a self-contained story, with Mariacristina Federico as colorist and lettering by Clem Robins.  Take a look at these previews of some of the concept sketch art for the Kickstarter campaign and some gorgeous, completed pages for Mafiosa:

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She’s beautiful.  She’s deadly.  She’s Vampironica.

Next year Archie Comics’ Archie Horror imprint is adding a new title to its dark universe of stories that began with Riverdale television series writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Afterlife with Archie, then continued in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and this year’s Jughead: The Hunger.  The new monthly series Vampironica will focus on Betty’s forever frenemie Veronica when she’s bitten by a vampire and becomes the latest to join the undead of Riverdale.  Her path will be inspired by classic horror films.

“I’d say that our biggest influences are American Werewolf in London and Fright Night.  Both films can be quite horrific but there’s also a lot of strong characterization and humor to them,” said artist and co-writer Greg Smallwood.  “I think horror works best with a small dose of comedy for levity so we’ve used the same formula on Vampironica.”

“Vampironica humanizes Veronica in a way that only horror can,” adds co-writer Megan Smallwood.  “Becoming a vampire is a humbling experience for her and she’s forced to open up and expose a little vulnerability.  “Veronica Lodge is not the kind of girl to join any ranks, let alone vampire ranks.  True to form, Veronica instead relies on her own gut-instincts.  They haven’t let her down in life and they won’t let her down as she navigates the surreal world of the undead.”

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Archie with a crossbow.  Betty with an axe.  Jughead with a wooden spike.

No it’s not some strange version of Clue.  It’s all part of Vampironica, the Archie Comics series, now available as a trade paperback from the Archie Horror imprint.  Collecting Issue #1-5 of the series, Vampironica, Book One introduces the Veronica Lodge you always knew, until she is bitten by a centuries-old vampire.  So then what’s a teenage girl to do?  Turn Riverdale upside down in a search for blood, of course.

Siblings Greg Smallwood (Moon Knight) and Meg Smallwood partnered to co-write the story, adding a new realm to the imprint’s great re-imaginings of the 77-year-old Riverdale characters along with Afterlife With Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, Blossoms 666, and Jughead: The Hunger.  Interior artwork and covers were created by well-known cover artist Greg Smallwood, and he worked on interior art along with Greg Scott, with colors by Matt Herms, and lettering by Jack Morelli.

The series has a great, lighthearted, pop culture vibe, like Scooby Doo and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and it’s not too much of a stretch to swap the leads in Buffy for the leads in this series, for anyone missing their Buffy fix).  The book includes a section with a few of the variant covers for the series, by Francesco Francavilla, Audrey Mok, Djibril Morisette-Phan, Marguerite Sauvage, Robert Hack, Fiona Staples, Matthew Taylor, and a bonus, Issue #4 of Jughead: The Hunger. 

Later this month Jughead: The Hunger faces off against Veronica in the next iteration of the two series, Jughead: The Hunger vs. Vampironica, Issue #1.

 

The Jughead/Veronica crossover will feature a story by Frank Tieri, interior artwork by Pat and Tim Kennedy, Joe Eisma, Bob Smith, and Ryan Jampole, colors by Matt Herms, and lettering by Jack Morelli, and covers by Pat and Tim Kennedy, Bob Smith, and Matt Herms, Francesco Francavilla, Robert Hack, John McCrea, and Dan Panosian.

Here is a preview of the new trade edition of Vampironica, Book 1, Issue #1 of Jughead: The Hunger vs. Vampironica, and some future covers from the series, courtesy of Archie Horror:

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Initially we figured the new Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina would merely fill the void left between seasons of Stranger Things, but this week’s teaser preview looks like the creators of Riverdale may touch on a look and feel from one of the all-time greatest television shows.  You, too, may also feel the vibe of horror similar to the greatest of all teen coming-of-age series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer But you might miss the details even if you don’t blink (like levitating or hanged witches, Sabrina entering a blue portal to another world, the above image of Sabrina entering the woods, and more).  Netflix has sneakily dropped in several brief scene images that look 100% Buffy the Vampire Slayer, including a Hellmouth-esque beast that could have come from the mind of Joss Whedon (and those three nasty characters seem to be from the same realm as the Gentlemen from the episode “Hush”).  How many times have we seen an image of Buffy readying to face demons on her now-classic TV show just like Sabrina in the above image?  At a minimum the new series may make up for the absence of another great horror series we miss, Grimm Ten episodes of the series will be arriving just in time for Halloween.  And along with the teaser, a new poster is out, echoing Sabrina’s 16th birthday as seen in the teaser, all pointing toward a decision to commit to the coven or not, which Sabrina will soon face.

If you peruse most of the entertainment websites over the past several hours you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone mentioning the comic book series the show is based on.  Even comic book sites are still dwelling on comparing this to the 1990s comedy version.  Sabrina was created for Archie Comics 56 years ago by writer George Gladir and artist Dan DeCarlo, and if you’ve been reading borg.com very long (like coverage here) you’re already familiar with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Robert Hack’s fantastically macabre series of the same name published under the Archie Horror imprint.  Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is based on the characters in the comic book series, detailing the compelling and, yes, chilling, re-imagining of Sabrina’s occult origins–not any of the several TV adaptations–mostly comedies–that have aired.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stars The Legend of Korra’s Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina, with some well-known genre actors: The Lord of the Rings and War of the Worlds’ Miranda Otto (Zelda), Shaun of the Dead and Wonder Woman’s Lucy Davis (Hilda), Doctor Who and Gotham’s Michelle Gomez (Mary Wardell), Beverly Hills Cop and Perfect Strangers’ Bronson Pinchot (George Hawthorne), and Prince of Persia’s Richard Coyle (Father Blackwood), with Ross Lynch (Harvey Kinkle), Chance Perdomo (Ambrose), Jaz Sinclair (Rosalind), Tati Gabrielle (Prudence), Adeline Rudolph (Agatha), Abigail Cowen (Dorcas), and Lachlan Watson (Susie).  That’s Salem the cat sneaking around at the end of the teaser, and yes, we hear series star Kiernan Shipka is allergic to cats, so we’ll have fun watching how the show films them both together this season.

Check out all of these scene images that you may have missed, followed by the full teaser:

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If you are a fan of Italian comic book artist Francesco Francavilla, you probably make sure you’ve kept up with his work on series like DC’s Detective Comics, his creator-owned noir series The Black Beetle, Dynamite’s Zorro, Marvel’s Black Panther, Archie Horror’s Afterlife With Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and loads of other series and comic book covers.  In July you’ll even be able to purchase his variant edition of the forthcoming comic Archie Meets Batman ’66.  Francavilla burst onto the comics scene a decade ago, and quickly his trademark style–a mix of classic pulp, noir, and retro color combinations and designs–helped earn him the Eisner Award in 2012.  But if you’re a completist, get ready to for a brief course change this week.

Here’s something to think about: Not all comic book artists stick exclusively to the comic book medium.  Today Francavilla’s artwork is taking on the non-fiction route, as the artist is the featured creator of visuals in today’s issue of The New York Time Magazine.  It’s a clever pairing as the magazine’s annual money issue is taking on the mystique of the classic Crime Does Not Pay comic book series of comicdom’s Golden Era, instead of featuring images of the criminals themselves in its pages.  Titled “Crime Pays,” today’s issue has plenty of Francavilla’s unique imagery for his fans to soak up.  And–what a concept–get caught up on the news at the same time.  Here is the new cover image compared to a classic 1940s cover design:

   

For Francavilla’s comic book fans, he says there’s nothing to worry about.  Via Twitter Saturday he responded to one fan, “I’m not leaving comics at all – working on the new @TheBlackBeetle mini right now as matter of fact 🙂 #IheartComics”.

The New York Times Magazine created this video look behind the scenes at Francavilla’s contribution to this issue of the magazine.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It had a promising first and third season, twists and turns, clever story arcs, and a contender for the most faithful adaptation of a comic book series from the past decade.  The creators of the fourth and final season of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina gave 2020 a much-needed batch of two complete seasons, and we already gave the third season kudos in the 2020 Best of TV review here at borg.  Kiernan Shipka proved to be one of TV’s best young actors, embodying a character that is next in line after Buffy Summers, Veronica Mars, and Liv Moore as young genre heroines who led series you can count on the first time and after re-watches.  Already a contender for one of the best TV series of this century, and one of Netflix’s most creative efforts, how did the final season fare for our heroine Sabrina Spellman?

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If you loved CW’s new Riverdale series as much as we did, then you probably have a new appreciation for Archie’s pal Jughead Jones.  The classic Jughead has always had an insatiable appetite, practically living at the Riverdale diner.  Earlier this year Archie Comics’ Archie Horror imprint–the folks that brought us the brilliant otherworld series Afterlife With Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina–took Jughead to a dark place and asked: What if Jughead’s hunger came from a sinister place?  The result was the one-shot comic book issue, Jughead: The Hunger. 

Writer Frank Tieri (Wolverine) and artist Michael Walsh (Secret Avengers) teamed-up and delivered a new Jughead whose ancestry was full of werewolves.  Unknown to most of his friends, Jughead was the “Riverdale Ripper,” murdering townies one by one, including poor Miss Grundy.  But the biggest surprise was Betty Cooper, who hailed from a line of werewolf hunters.  Where we last left Archie and his friends, Jughead had left town.  And Betty was on his trail.

    

Usually one-shots hit the comic book stores, maybe get a reprint.  But this week Archie’s new Madhouse imprint revealed the surprise return of Jughead: The Hunger as a new ongoing series.  “We purposely left the door open with the one-shot, we told you if you made Jughead: The Hunger a hit we’d make more– and since you more than held up your end of the bargain– here we are,” said writer Frank Tieri.  “Fans can expect more of everything they loved about the one shot now as we expand our universe–more werewolf Juggie, more bad ass Betty, more conflicted Archie and more twists and turns than you can shake a severed arm at.”

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