Interview: Jeff Parker, Michael Moreci and Dan Parent on ‘Archie Meets Batman ’66’
Gotham City circa 1966 was an almost ideal place to commit crimes. There were always museums, galas, and charity fundraisers to rob, there was a large pool of men of low character willing to adopt goofy codenames and uniforms in order to serve as henchmen, the place was lousy with raw material to build elaborate death traps with, and the entire police force seemed to consist of a commissioner, a chief, and like two to four extras. There was only one problem—The Caped Crusader, and his courageous crime-fighting companions, Robin and Batgirl.
To avoid having to deal with Batman, the four archfiends of Underworld United decided to abandon Gotham for a nearby, Batman-less city, one that should be defenseless against them. They set their sites on Riverdale, using the mind-controlling super-song of the villainess Siren to baffle the brains of the city’s adults, leaving no one to oppose them but the local teenagers.
That’s the premise of the latest Archie Comics/DC Comics crossover event, Archie Meets Batman ’66, pairing the cast of characters from the seminal Batman TV show with that of Archie Andrews and friends. To craft the six-issue miniseries, the publishers turned to writer Jeff Parker, who had written or co-written just about all of the Batman ’66 comics DC published between 2013 and 2016, including previous crossovers with the unlikely likes of the casts of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the 1977 Wonder Woman TV show. Here, Parker is working with co-writer Michael Moreci, who has written original and licensed comics for DC, BOOM! Studios, IDW, and Image.
If Parker is the ideal candidate for writing a Batman ’66 comic, he and Moreci have the ideal pencil artist for an Archie comic: Dan Parent, the long-time Archie Comics artist whose most recent work includes Your Pal Archie and his own (adult) creation Die Kitty Die for Chapterhouse Publishing. Here he is working in his familiar Archie style—albeit tuned to make the Riverdalians appear as they would have in the 1960s. Parent’s pencils are inked by this frequent collaborator J. Bone, and Kelly Fitzpatrick provides the color art.
Issue #3 hit the stands yesterday, so now that we are at the halfway point, we thought it would be a good time to check in with some of the creators. First up, the writing team of Jeff Parker and Michael Moreci…
So first things first, can you guys tell us a little bit about how your collaboration process works? Did you go into the project with a strict division of labor in terms of who does what?
Jeff Parker: Not really, we just bounce an outline back and forth at each other until we’re sure it hits all the story beats we want out of an issue, and then we go “halvsies” on scripting each issue. And that’s usually alternating scenes.
Michael Moreci: Yeah, it’s all pretty casual. Ultimately I don’t think our focus was too much on plot—not that it doesn’t count, but this isn’t a James Patterson novel. We wanted to give fans the best experience of these worlds possible, and that’s all in the characters.
Parker: I bet Michael can remember this better…
Moreci: Ha! Well, I was pretty available after Dick Tracy (tragically) was cancelled before it started; [Editor and Archie Comics Co-President] Alex Segura saw that and inquired about my interest in doing this crossover with Jeff, and I leapt at it. After that, it was just Jeff and I talking about cool ideas that brought these worlds together in the best way possible—a way that incorporated the best of the villains, teens, and heroes. It was fun then, and it’s still fun now.
Jeff, you wrote a lot of Batman ’66 in the last several years, but it’s been a while. Was it like riding a bike for you, or did you have to do anything in particular to get back into a Batman ’66 frame of mind…?
Parker: Oh yeah, it’s pretty easy clicking back into ’66 mode. But still, to get myself really on point I watch a bit of one of the shows or the movie.
Moreci: I pretty much just followed Jeff’s lead! Seriously—no one has the voice down better, and I learned a ton just being around him. Granted, I went back and binged old Batman episodes and Archie comics, but Jeff’s the star I steered by.
And Jeff you obviously have a lot of experience with that component of the team-up. What was your prior Archie experience?
Parker: My experience was all purely reading Archie since I was a tiny kid. I was pretty excited about being able to finally work with the Riverdale gang in stories. I think Michael assumed I’d want to hog the ball on Batman, but really I ended up asking him if he’d do the Bat scenes more so I could tackle Archie, which was probably more fun for both of us.
How about you Michael, did you start this project with a degree of affection for familiarity with Batman ’66 and the Archie characters…?
Moreci: Same—I grew up reading the digests (and have since passed them on to my kids—which makes me feel so old!). I have much more of a kinship to the vintage brand of Archie than the rebooted version, or the Riverdale show. As such, this blending was perfect.
And Michael, how different was this sort of work from your previous comics? This seems like it might be more comedically oriented than many of your other comics.
Moreci: Definitely different from anything I’ve done before. Which is good—you need to stretch your muscles every so often. Like I said, I learned a lot from Jeff, and I had a blast doing this. I love both these universes a ton, so getting to play in this sandbox was a great time. And not only writing, but seeing Dan’s, J’s, and Kelly’s art has been more than I can ask for—talk about a dream team.
This might seem like a silly question, but given the success of Riverdale and the resurgent prominence that the rebooted Archie Comics gave those characters, why go with the un-rebooted versions? Was it simply a matter of that’s what the Archie characters of 1966 would have been like?
Parker: I think that was planned way before we came onboard, so it might be a Segura question. I love the new stuff; it could have worked either way.
Moreci: I mean, the vintage brand just feels right—there’s an earnestness, a genuine earnestness, to both Archie and Batman ’66, so it made sense to blend them together.
Jeff, this is something I’ve wondered about since Batman ’66 started as a series, but never had an opportunity to ask: How do you guys generally decide which version of Catwoman and The Riddler are used in a particular story? Or do you just leave it up to the artist to draw the actress and actor they prefer?
Jeff: I did write a bit of thinking out loud on the subject in an email to the group. Often in the ’66 series I would alternate Cat-actresses and it seemed that it was Lee Meriwether’s turn, but also since we were bringing in the villains as their “United Underworld” gang (I always loved that octopus-on-the-world logo) then Meriwether would be the natural choice for this series. But ultimately it was Dan’s call! I admit, looking back on the regular series that I used the [Julie] Newmar version the most, for reasons.
In the first issues we saw the big four of The Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and Riddler, but also appearances by Poison Ivy and Bookworm. How deeply into the rogue’s gallery do you delve in the series? Are we going to be seeing a lot more characters from the show, or “’66” versions of characters that weren’t on the show, like Poison Ivy?
Moreci: I think that’s as deep as we get. We give the classic syndicate, plus Siren, Bookworm and Poison Ivy (who’s not on the show, as you mention), and I think that was the way to go for the first pairing of these worlds—you know, you play the hits. If there’s a second volume, who knows who might pop up…
These are all pretty well established characters, even by the standards of comic book characters. Did the two groups mesh easily for your guys as you were writing them, or did you find yourselves having to really work to get them to talk to one another naturally and fit into the same story space…?
Parker: They synched up shockingly well. It was not hard at all. Maybe that’s the real answer to the question about why use the old version of the gang, they’re already very close to the characters of the sixties TV show. You just have to imagine a world where they all exist together, and in that scenario, of course Archie would be listening to news from Gotham and be a big Bat-fan.
And now let’s check in with Dan Parent on the art part of the project…
Dan, you’ve long since mastered the Archie characters, and you have as much experience drawing Archie comics as anyone I can think of. What was it like tackling the Batman ’66 characters?
Dan Parent: Drawing the Batman ’66 characters wasn’t that much of a stretch, since I’ve been drawing them in my head for decades (not to mention at conventions for fans!).
Like I said, you’re known as an Archie guy. What was your relationship with Batman in general, and this iteration of him in particular, before you started work on the assignment?
Parent: Well, this was the first TV show I believe I was hooked on, according to my mom since I was two when it came on! I’ve been a DC/Batman fan my whole life, with Batman ’66 holding a very special place in my heart!
One of the things that seems tricky for an artist when it comes to drawing those particular versions of the Batman characters is that they are somewhat specific; they’re mostly modeled after particular real, live human beings who played the characters on TV at one point. Did you find yourself trying to draw likeness of the actors and, for example, consciously draw Adam West as Batman, or does that just sort of naturally happen with the characters?
Parent: I tried to follow the Batman ’66 comics. In that, I tried to draw characters resembling those on the show, but not super realistic likenesses. If you get too detailed, it throws off the vibe with the Archie style, so you sort of blend it all together. But the Archie style and Batman ’66 style go together very well.
Did you have to do much in the way of research compared to when you normally draw for Archie or when you draw Die, Kitty Die? Both in terms of all the new (to Riverdale) characters, as well as doing a period piece, to make sure that, say, the clothes and cars and technology were all era appropriate?
Parent: There’s definitely more research. You want the simple things to be time appropriate. But those things are fun to reference and I love all things retro.
This is a somewhat unusual team-up in a lot of ways. As you’ve gotten the scripts, have you been surprised by anything appearing within them, or have you found yourself being asked to draw pretty much what you expected? For example, I wouldn’t have guessed a dragon made out of plants before I read the first issue.
Parent: That dragon was a fun challenge. As unusual as this team up is, it feels surprisingly normal too! Jeff and Michael really make things fun and challenging, all in a good way! I’m just happy they’ve given Batgirl such a big part!
Were there particular aspects of the assignment that you liked more than others, for example favorite characters to draw?
Parent: Batgirl. Batgirl. And Batgirl. And I like drawing the Archie characters in time appropriate styles.
You are again partnered with J. Bone as the inker of this series. Why do you guys think you mesh so well when working together?
Parent: J. is the best. He’s been a good friend for a long time, and our styles just seem to mesh together well. An excellent artist in his own right, he knows how to fix things that need fixing, and he’s one of those guys that can simplify something to improve it, rather than add too much. He has a great eye for design too. He’s great!
Filed under: Interviews
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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