INTERVIEW: Jamie L. Rotante talks Archie Horror and CHILLING ADVENTURES IN SORCERY

It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years since Archie Comics‘s horror line came shambling back to life with the debut issue of Afterlife with Archie. The series by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla reminded readers of the versatility of Archie’s stable of characters, and led to a number of other new Archie Horror titles including VampironicaJughead: The Hunger, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Now after a brief hiatus the Archie Horror line is back in time for Halloween with a new one-shot, Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, an anthology of stories ‘hosted’ by Archie’s resident Queen of Hell, Madam Satan.

Main cover art by Julius Ohta

The Beat spoke with Archie Comics Senior Editorial Director Jamie L. Rotante about what went into assembling the Chilling Adventures in Sorcery anthology, what she thinks makes for a good horror story, and what’s next from Archie. Check that out, as well as a preview of one of the stories from Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, “Living On, Part Time” by writer & artist Evan Stanley, colorist, Matt Herms, and letterer Jack Morelli, below.

Joe Grunenwald: What sort of things are you thinking about when you’re editing an anthology title?

Jamie L. Rotante: That’s a great question, and it’s funny because my mindset shifted from what I was originally thinking to what my approach became when I started working on these. For this particular anthology, I always wanted Madam Satan narrating the tales, acting as our horror host, but I figured each individual story could be about anything as long as it was in some sort of genre of horror. And that remained true, but as I pieced them together, especially with Eliot [Rahal] infusing elements of his wonderful story from last year’s Madam Satan one-shot, it made sense for there to be some sort of narrative thread that tied the stories together—and so the characters representing the different circles of Hell became an integral part of the overall theme.

Grunenwald: How did you go about assembling the creative teams for Chilling Adventures in Sorcery?

Rotante: Assembling the teams are always some of the most fun parts of putting together anthologies. As mentioned, we knew we wanted Eliot Rahal to return, since he did such a fantastic job previously writing for Madam Satan. And we worked with artist Vincenzo Federici on a Sabrina the Teenage Witch variant cover and knew he could do a spectacular job on Madam Satan and her journey through Hell.

Artist/writer Evan Stanley was one of the first people we thought of when putting this title together. She had done some designs for us many moons ago based on the idea for a Li’l Jinx horror story where her stuffed animals came to life. A few of those same characters that were slated to appear as Jinx’s monstrous stuffed animals were repurposed in “Living On, Part Time”—all of which happen to also be classic Golden Age Archie Comics’ characters!

We really loved the work the incredible Amy Chu did on Red Sonja & Vampirella Meet Betty & Veronica (and I’ve been wanting to work with her in general, since she’s such an excellent writer and lovely person). Finding out Jughead is one of her favorite characters just made her story “Midnight Snack” all the more appropriate. And Derek Charm has become the modern master of Jughead art. Getting to see him flex his horror skills was so fun to watch, and the end result couldn’t be more perfect.

I’d also be remiss not to mention the team on our fun bonus one-pager “Demonic Dipsy Doodles.” Pat and Tim Kennedy are some of the greatest classic-style artists who also proved themselves to be masters of horror thanks to their gorgeous work on Jughead: The Hunger.

And, of course, we’re always honored to have the team of Matt Herms on colors and Jack Morelli on letters, both masters of their trades and people we’re always happy to work with time after time.

Variant cover art by Francesco Francavilla

Grunenwald: Were there any non-Archie-related stories or media that had a particular influence on this one-shot?

Rotante: Oh totally! When I originally pitched this, I thought of it as a sort of American Horror Story-meets-Tales from the Crypt. Horror just lends itself so well to the anthology format. And as for the stories included, they are definitely reminiscent of Five Nights at Freddy’s and the Twilight Zone.

Grunenwald: Archie Comics is no stranger to anthology titles. What unique challenges, if any, did you encounter while working on this specific book?

Rotante: It’s been an interesting experience shifting from ongoing series to the anthology format. I think the biggest challenge (which has, thankfully, been very manageable thus far) is just keeping tabs on the individual teams and not letting anything fall through the cracks with so many different moving pieces. That being said, I’m very fortunate that the teams on Sorcery (as well as all the teams I’ve been working with so far) have been incredibly professional and excellent to work with.

Grunenwald: What to you makes a good horror story? What scares you?

Rotante: Jump scares get me all the time, but they’re one of my least favorite tropes in horror. I find myself more drawn to the psychological aspect, where the monsters are internal rather than external. Likewise, if there is an external factor, I tend to find it more horrifying if it’s a regular person than any sort of monster or entity (unless those monsters are representative of something about the human condition); basically, anything that could be grounded in the real world. Lately I’ve been diving into the work of Junji Ito, who does all of that so well. It’s been a great inspiration, especially his horror comic collections!

Grunenwald: Archie Horror has a long and storied history. What’s your personal favorite Archie Horror story, and what sets that story apart from all the rest?

Rotante: Oh gosh, that’s a tough one! The full Archie Horror line so far is filled with amazing titles, one better than the next. And I would be remiss to not give major credit to Afterlife with Archie, for putting Archie Horror on the map and showing everyone that Archie Comics can not only dip its toes into the horror genre, but excel and tell new stories no one could have ever predicted.

Going back to the classics, though, I have to make mention of Madam Satan’s first appearance which was all the way back in Pep Comics #16 (that’s six issues before Archie’s first appearance!) What’s especially interesting about it (aside from being delightfully dark) is that it was drawn by Archie legend Harry Lucey, who is known for being one of the most iconic of Archie artists—especially any images depicting the love triangle! It’s quite a shift, to say the least!

Grunenwald: What’re you excited for readers to see in Chilling Adventures in Sorcery?

Rotante: We’ve seen some of the Archie characters in their own horror series in the past, but I think people will be excited to see these iconic characters in new, scary settings and situations. I’m also just so excited for people to see the different types of horror portrayed and how each creative team / art style lends itself to the kind of story it’s telling. It’s a perfect comic for anyone looking for a variety of horror tales!

Grunenwald: And finally, can you tease any of the other upcoming anthology one-shots you’re working on?

Rotante: In December we have our next anthology title, Archie’s Holiday Magic Special. It’s definitely a lot more wholesome than Sorcery, but just as fun. The stories in that anthology follow the popular style of holiday favorites like It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, mixed with the over-the-top sentimentality of a Hallmark holiday movie, all with the trademark Archie heart and humor fans know and love.

And after that? Well, let’s just say there’s a holiday all about love in February, which means a romance anthology can’t be too far away…

The Chilling Adventures in Sorcery one-shot is due out from Archie Comics on Wednesday, November 3rd. The issue is available for preorder from your local comic shop until next Monday, October 11th.

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