Interview: Archie Comics’ Alex Segura talks Archie meets The Ramones, crime fiction, his love for hometown Miami and a long career in comics.
Alex Segura is a hometown boy done good. After cutting his teeth working for The Miami Herald, Alex took his life long love of comics and made the jump into that very industry, quickly becoming a professional and working with some the medium’s biggest publishers. Also an accomplished crime novelist, he has written two books in an on-going series. Alex is one prolific scribe. He was kind enough to take some time during this busy comics convention season to sit down with us here at TuffGnarl and answer some questions about his work.
TuffGnarl: TuffGnarl is a South Florida based community of writers, for those that don’t know, you are a homegrown guy. Give us a quick history of your extensive connection to South Florida.
Alex Segura: I was born and raised in Miami to Cuban parents. I spent my first 25 years in Miami and I come back at least once or twice a year to visit family and friends. Miami is a big part of who I am – I went to school down here and I still feel very connected to it. Part of the reason I write crime novels set in Miami is because I want to keep that relationship going, and it gives me a good excuse to keep tabs on what’s happening in town.
You’re also an accomplished novelist, and have written two crime/noir books set in Miami, Down The Darkest Street being most recent. You even have a series character, Pete Fernandez. I’m a big crime novel junkie and I feel the best books always have the city or town be as much a character in the novel as anything or anyone else. As a fellow native, what is it about Miami that makes it such a great setting for a crime story?
I love the dual nature of Miami. On paper, it’s this tropical vacation getaway. But Miami also has a dark side. The city has a really interesting criminal history and I want to show readers the Miami I know, as opposed to expanding on the perception of Miami that you see in some other places. It’s a very complex, conflicted place. Not all daiquiris and Cuban coffee.
Who would you say were your biggest influences in crime fiction?
Oh boy, it’s so hard to list them all. I’ll go with a few: George Pelecanos, Laura Lippman, Ross Macdonald, Dennis Lehane, Lawrence Block, Megan Abbott, Charles Willeford, Reed Coleman, Margaret Millar and, of course, Raymond Chandler.
So how did you get into reading comics?
It started with picking up Archie digests at Publix when I was really young – my mom bought them for me as a kind of prize for behaving when grocery shopping. Eventually, I graduated to super-hero books like Spider-Man and Batman. My dad had been a comic book reader as a kid, too, so we bonded over that and it soon became an obsession.
Now Archie is not your first comics gig right? You also worked at DC, Wizard magazine and some work for comics website Newsarama correct?
That’s right. I started freelancing for Newsarama right out of college – I saw it as a way to merge my then-career in journalism (I was working as a copy editor/designer for The Miami Herald’s International Edition) with my passion, comics. That eventually lead to full-time work at Wizard and after a brief jaunt back to Miami, as a publicist for DC. I’m now at Archie, where I oversee the company’s communications, write some books and chip in on other stuff as needed.
Archie Meets The Ramones is also not your first musical Archie crossover. You were also one the folks behind the Archie Meets Kiss book. What is it about Archie that makes the property such a great fit for all these nutty crossovers? And why do you think it works well with music?
The Archie characters are extremely flexible – and that’s something that I think has come to light over the last few years under the supervision or Archie CEO Jon Goldwater. I mean, Archie’s dealt with a zombie invasion, died, met KISS, met Sharknado, Glee – you name it. These characters – as long as they’re true to themselves – can be in many situations and make it work. Plus, the Archies are a rock band! So musical crossovers come extra-easily.
Okay so tell us all you can about Archie Meets The Ramones (due out October 5th), which you are co-writing with the great Mathew Rosenberg (writer of one of last year’s best comics, We Can Never Go Home Again)?
Yep! – I’m writing it with Matt and it’s drawn by the amazing Gisele Lagace, who handled the art on some of my earlier Archie issues. It’s a time travel tale that features the kids going back in time to meet the Ramones and – hopefully – learn what it takes to be a great rock band. There’ll be a lot of fun hat tips for Ramones fans and some really cool visual moments courtesy of Gisele.
What was it like working with Matt? What made him such a good choice for this punk rock story? Where you a fan of his work for Black Mask Studios?
I love Matt’s work. He’s an old friend and he’s the one that got us in the door with the Ramones. We’re both major fans of both Archie and The Ramones, so this book has been a dream. Matt was super-easy to partner with. We sat down for a few hours, mapped out the book and then split up the script. It was completely painless!
Archie as a property has found a huge audience in the last few years. Not only do we have the new modern take “main” book written by Mark Waid, but we have the mega hit horror title Afterlife With Archie, and the upcoming CW show Riverdale. What do you think makes this property so flexible and so relevant over all this time?
I think the characters are icons. Everyone knows Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead. They’re also willing to see those characters in different lights as long as certain things remain true. This opens things up to different interpretations and takes on the characters, which, in turn, allows for more creative opportunities.
What are the plans for the Dark Circle line of superhero comics? You have some excellent creators working on some overlooked characters.
Black Hood is relaunching with a new #1 from writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Greg Scott – that book has been an absolute pleasure to watch and has really taken on a life all its own. I think it stands tall next to the best crime comics out there. Really worth a shot if you’re looking for something along the lines of The Fade Out or Stray Bullets. We’re also closing in on the finales for the first arcs of The Shield and The Hangman. I’ll be honest, it’s a real challenge launching new super-hero titles in a crowded market, but I’m blown away by the positive and fervent fan response. We’re looking at a few things so expect some Dark Circle news as we get closer to the end of the year.
What comics are you reading these days? Anything that blows you away?
I loved the first issue of the new Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips series, Kill or Be Killed. I’ll buy anything they do. Anything by Greg Rucka, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, the Hernandez Bros., Scott Snyder and JRJR on All Star Batman. Also Sex Criminals, Moon Knight, Stumptown, and Boys Club. Those are the things that come to mind immediately.
What’s next for you personally with your writing?
The third Pete novel, Dangerous Ends, is hitting sometime next year and Archie Meets The Ramones lands in October – should be a busy time! Thanks for letting me swing by!
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