Man of Many Hats: Archie's Alex Segura on writing, editing and promoting comics

You think you're busy? Try being Alex Segura.

Segura is the triple threat of the Archie Universe. As the Senior Vice President of Publicity and Marketing for Archie Comics, he oversees all the PR needs of the comics line. As editor of the Dark Circle imprint, he supervises the updated tales of classic Red Circle superheroes like Hangman and The Shield. And as writer, he's scripted offbeat best-sellers like Archie Meets Kiss and Archie Meets Ramones. His latest comics work, The Archies one-shot, examines the formation of that legendary fictional band. The 48-page issue hits comic shops on March 17.

Somehow, he also finds time to be an acclaimed crime novelist. The third book in his "Pete Fernandez" series, Dangerous Ends, hits bookstores on April 11, and no less than Brian Azzarello gave it his stamp of approval.

We cornered Segura to ask him about all of his various gigs. He shared which artists he would love to see adapt Pete Fernandez into graphic novel form, addressed the delays that hit the Dark Circle books and what's next for the imprint, and even revealed which real-life band reminds him of The Archies. Read below, then check out the gallery featuring the variant covers for The Archies one-shot!

Let's talk about The Archies one-shot you're writing with Matthew Rosenberg. Is it like the origin story of the band?

Alex Segura: Basically. The story Matt and I cooked up is the starting point. You find out how the band came together and why. It's in the new Archie universe, which is a first for Matt and I. We had a blast writing Archie Meets Ramones, so this is an opportunity to cut loose and define what makes the Archies a great band, even if we're only getting a peek at their beginnings.

You're building off of what Mark Waid is doing in Archie. It must be a unique challenge providing a fresh take on these characters while still being true to the classic Archie history.

It is, because you know why people pick up a comic called The Archies - they want to see the band play. So there's plenty of that, but there's also parts that Matt and I find interesting: like band dynamics, the challenges that come with any creative endeavor, interpersonal drama. It's very rooted in Mark's take on Archie and we've tried our best to honor all that's come before without getting hung up on continuity. It's a fun book and stands on its own, which will hopefully appeal to people looking for more fun, rockin' comics like Archie Meets Ramones.

You're a big music fan - you're in a band and you've also written Archie comics involving other bands such as the Ramones and KISS. Do the Archies bear any similarities to a real-life band, and if so, which one? I'm thinking Fleetwood Mac, but maybe I'm way off.

Yes! You read my mind! I was listening to a lot of classic Fleetwood Mac while writing the script. The only other band that I can think of is Rilo Kiley - where you know there's some kind of underlying drama between the band members and it's spreading out into their songs and how they behave. If we get to do more Archies comics, I think you'll see that explored more. One thing that's interesting is that bands - at least when they reach their main form - are rarely identical to how they started. Rosters change, songwriters gain momentum, etc. Look at Uncle Tupelo -- by the end of the band, Jeff Tweedy was ready to start Wilco. It's an ongoing, developing process. Lots of stuff to play with.

With Riverdale now on The CW, attention on Archie is as high as it's been in a long time. Have you pitched any ideas tied to the series?

Y'know, it hasn't crossed my mind! I'm just sitting back and enjoying the show -- it's really a perfect mash-up of Twin Peaks, Gossip Girl and the lush Archie mythology. It's a dramatic treat each week. So glad people are digging it.

One of your other responsibilities for Archie is editor of their Dark Circle superhero line. You're taking a TV-like approach with these books with each new storyline labeled a season. Can you give us a progress report on the Dark Circle books?

The benefit of a place like Archie is that there's a built-in library of great characters, including superheroes. Our CEO, Jon Goldwater, definitely wanted to make use of those characters. But we didn't want it to feel like just another Big 2 comic. We wanted them to feel more like a TV series, with more grounded approaches to these characters. So it's more of a genre exercise -- Black Hood is crime/noir, The Shield is espionage/spy/thriller, Hangman is horror and so on. It was a big learning experience, and it's no secret that it's a challenge to bring new superhero books out now, with the market getting really jammed with more identifiable books. So you have to put your best effort in, put the strongest talent together and promote strategically.

We got hit with some delays, which is never ideal, but I think we powered through it and I'm really proud of the 15 issues of BH and the first arcs of The Shield, The Fox and The Hangman. We're retooling a few more properties and you should see them pop up later this year. And on the Dark Circle side, I can confirm we'll be launching a few new series over the next few months. So stay tuned."

The Dark Circle books are really a departure for Archie, and Hangman and The Black Hood show a major crime noir influence. That can't be a coincidence, since you're a crime novelist yourself …

Right. Those are the kind of stories I enjoy, and I think there's a place for that in comics -- stories about flawed heroes who are struggling with themselves internally as much as they're battling back villains externally. Coming out of the gate, we really wanted to show that these books weren't going to be held back by people's perceptions of Archie. These were dark, modern takes on these classic characters, so we had to come out strong. Now it feels like people are ready and curious about what we're going to do next, which is exciting.

The third book in your crime novel series about journalist-turned-PI Pete Fernandez, Dangerous Ends is coming out on April 11. You've put Pete through the ringer. He's a drunk, lost his job as a journalist … now he's making a living tailing cheating spouses. So he must be a blast to write, yes?

Cover to Dangerous Ends, by Alex Segura

Totally. By the time you get to the third book, Pete's in a better place, or you think he is. He's got his drinking under control, has finally decided to try being a private eye and is slowly but surely settling into a quieter life. That all goes out the window when his partner brings him into a case involving a controversial Miami crime, the murder of Carmen Varela. Her husband, Gaspar Varela, a Miami cop once thought to be a golden boy on the force, has been in jail for almost a decade for the crime. But Pete gets hired to hopefully find some new info to exonerate him. Pete takes the gig with some hesitation, and it only gets worse from there. As he delves deeper into the crime, he finds that it's tangled into a much bigger problem -- a deadly gang of pro-Castro street assassins known as Los Enfermos, and it might all tie into Pete's own past, and his family's roots in Castro's Cuba.

Much like Riverdale the town is a major element on the TV series of the same name, Miami is another character in your novels. You're a Miami boy but you live in NYC now. Why not just set the story in New York?

The idea of a Miami PI series just struck me as more interesting to write, and the kind of thing where I could actually add something new. Not to criticize any New York crime novels, but when I started writing the Pete books, I didn't think I knew enough about New York to really say anything of note. Miami is my hometown and I know it well, so I wanted to showcase aspects of the city that maybe hadn't made it into movies or TV shows about the place. Miami's as big a character as Pete is, in many ways.

Did you ever consider doing a noir graphic novel centered on Pete or was it always a prose novel in your mind?

I tend to keep the two things as separate as one can, in terms of my brain, but I wouldn't be opposed to it. I'd be curious to see how the novel would translate into a graphic medium. I think it could be pretty cool. I know I write with the visuals in mind, and that's probably because of my comic book background. So, I don't think it'd be a problematic adaptation.

If you did turn it into a graphic novel, who would be your first choice to draw it?

Oh, man. So many names come to mind: Sean Phillips, Stuart Immonen, Becky Cloonan, Michael Lark, Ryan Sook, Cliff Chiang, Greg Smallwood ... those are all pie-in-the-sky situations. But you never know.

How easy can you 'flip the switch' when you're juggling your crime writing and comic book scripting?

I try to give myself time between comic book and prose projects, but I also don't overthink it. I work on what's in front of me. Comics work different parts of my brain than prose, but I also feel like they inform each other really well. Writing comics makes me think more visually as a novelist and prose helps me structure scripts better. So it's all one stream of ideas.

As if you don't have enough on your plate, you also oversee publicity for Archie Comics. And you have a young son! When do you sleep?

What's sleep? :)

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