Vampironica: Greg & Meg Smallwood Talk Delay, Blending Archie and Horror
Vampironica debuted in March of this year from the brother-sister creative team of co-writer Meg Smallwood and artist and co-writer Greg Smallwood. The latest in the Archie Horror line that was birthed by Afterlife with Archie, Vampironica delivers on exactly what the title implies: Veronica Lodge becoming a vampire.
The book has also fallen victim to a curse not unfamiliar to Archie Horror series: delays. But! Fans won’t have to wait too long for the second issue of the book, as it’s now scheduled for release on May 30, shifting from its original April 18 date. Final orders are due with retailers on May 7. Also on May 30, Archie will release a second printing of issue #1, making that day a big one for fans looking to catch up on Veronica’s vampiric exploits.
CBR caught up with Greg and Meg Smallwood to talk the reception to Vampironica thus far and how it’s affected the trajectory of the series, the reasons for the issue #2 delay and the importance of retaining recognizable Archie elements even in a totally new, sometimes scary, setting for the characters. Additionally, CBR has a look at issue #2, which brings Dilton Doiley into the Vampironica mix.
CBR: Greg and Meg, at this point, people are used to seeing Archie characters in unfamiliar — and often scary — situations, and obviously Vampironica fits right in that pattern. But even if people may be used to it, you never know how a comic will be received — for whatever amount you monitored such a thing, what did you think of the reaction to issue #1?
Meg Smallwood: I only asked my dad what he thought. Just kidding. I was really happy with the reception for Vampironica #1! My friends would all exclaim after turning the last page, “Agh! What happens next?” That one anticipatory exclamation was music to my ears, as successful storytelling should always leave the readers wanting more.
This interview coincides with word of issue #2 being delayed — what contributed to the schedule shift? Are things back on track for issue #3 and beyond?
Greg Smallwood: I think we were all so excited about getting Vampironica out there, we neglected to create a buffer with a few issues in the can before release. That said, Meg and I have finished writing the scripts for the first arc and I’m working furiously on art. The silver lining to all of this is the fact that Meg and I were able to go back and tweak the script to issue #2 after getting fan response back on issue #1. Vampironica is now a better comic because we were able to hear what readers thought about the debut while we were working on the very next issue.
For me as a longtime fan, the thing that works about the nontraditional Archie stories of recent years — from Afterlife with Archie to Riverdale — is that despite the unfamiliar situations, there are still plenty of elements of the classic Archie dynamics at play. You see that in Vampironica #1. What’s your personal approach to that? How do you push things as far as you surely do in this series — but also stay true to the heart of these characters, to whatever degree you deem appropriate?
Meg Smallwood: The first thing to remember is that the majority of these characters are in high school. The problems that teenagers face are going to be different, yet timeless — much like the Archie universe. You can always rely on Archie having the hots for two equally attractive girls who enjoy giving each other a run for their money. Veronica literally has money and glamour in her arsenal and Betty uses her girl-next-door innocence and charm to keep Archie’s affections. Reggie is always willing to swoop in when a damsel is being ignored by other potential suitors. These things will never change. What we don’t get to see everyday are these classic characters’ reactions to larger than life events, which is what Vampironica focuses on.
Greg Smallwood: It certainly helps to be a fan. Meg knows Veronica so well that if I suggest something out of character for her, Meg is quick to correct me. If you understand these characters well enough, knowing how they react to extraordinary situations can be instinctual. I love the Archie characters, but I never would have attempted this without Meg being on board.
The same goes for the art style — there are certain visual hallmarks of these characters, even if this looks radically different from the classic Archie style. What’s the philosophy on how to tell this story visually?
Greg Smallwood: These characters have seen a lot of physical changes over the decades, but we’re still able to recognize them because of those visual hallmarks. Keying in on trademarks like Archie’s grid pattern hair allows me to break away from the Archie house style without the characters looking like strangers to the readers.
We’re now in a world with comics where Jughead is a werewolf and Veronica is a vampire. What made Veronica the ideal Archie character to star in this story? And as we’ve been discussing, how do you retain her essential qualities while presenting her in this very different light?
Meg Smallwood: I’ve always seen Veronica as alluring and dramatic, whereas Betty is more comforting and tomboyish. Between the two, Veronica is the obvious choice to adopt the vampire lifestyle.
Greg Smallwood: I think it goes back to knowing the characters well. If you really understand Veronica as a character, it’s fairly easy to imagine how she’d react to being bitten by a vampire. I actually think it’s more work to reinvent the character and ignore those essential qualities.
Issue #1 was clearly just the start of the journey Veronica is on in this series — what can you tease for issue #2 and beyond?
Greg Smallwood: Readers can look forward to the introduction of a classic Archie character and expect to learn a lot more about the vampire mythology of the series.
Vampironica #2 is scheduled for release on May 30.
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