NELSON RIBERIO: Jughead’s Pocket Sized Pal

nelson-ribeiroNot all comic book readers are familiar with Nelson Ribeiro. He has not won the Wizard favorite editor award yet. However, he edits some of the industries hottest selling comics. The comics he edits outsellSuperman, Batman, and X-Men. He is the Digest Editor at Archie Comics, and he took some time out of his day to talk with us at about his job.

First Comics News: How did you end up as an editor at Archie Comics?

Nelson Riberio: That’s a story that’s over 10 years in the making! I’ll just give you the ‘Cliff Notes’ version. I was a third year student at the “Joe Kubert School of Cartoon Art” when Victor Gorelick (our managing editor) went scouting at our school. I had a meeting with him and was lucky enough to land a job. And I’ve been here ever since! Thankfully, Archie has given me a great opportunity to advance my career and grow as an artist! Let’s just say I’ve come a long way from my days of erasing pages and getting coffee!

1st: Were you a life long Archie fan?

Nelson: Not so much Archie, but I was a lifelong Jughead fan! I remember Jughead from an animated short on ‘Sesame Street’ where he teaches kids about the letter “J”. I did always read the Archie strip in the newspaper.

1st: You have over 60 years of history to choose from, how do you pick which stories to reprint?

Nelson: We try to pick stories that are most relevant to what’s going on with kids today. Sometimes the classic stories are just as funny today as they were 40 years ago! Other times they require a lot of re-writing and re-drawing! Luckily, we have a great staff who are not only really funny but also very creative! So by the time we’re done, technically some stories can’t be considered reprints because so much has been re-drawn and all the jokes are new! And when all else fails we have a giant wheel in the office that we spin!

1st: On what basis do you assess if a story is good?

Nelson: We consider a story to be good if it has the following 3 things: good art, funny plot and the personality of the character comes across correctly.

1st: Why aren’t more Golden Age stories reprinted in the digests?

Nelson: We try to save our best Golden Age stories for our ‘Best of’ Tradepaperback series.

Offenberger I have chatted with Fernando Ruiz and purchased some artwork from him. I would consider myself a fan of his work. Do you find that the artists have different following, and if so, does this effect digest sales the same way comic artist affect sales of superhero comics?

Nelson: We find that our older fans tend to follow certain artists. While it’s not as prevalent with our younger fans who tend to follow their favorite characters.

1st: When putting together a digest with reprints and new material do you try to match styles between the reprint artist and the new artists?

Nelson: We never try to highlight one artist over another. We believe it’s always the characters that should have the spot light.

1st: In digests containing new stories and reprints, are the reprints chosen to compliment the new stories or is a new story comissioned to compliment the reprints?

Nelson: I’ll try to pick stories that compliment each other in any way I have to. If I have one story where Betty has a broken leg I can’t have the next story be about her going sky-diving.

1st: How active are Archie fans in letting you know if you are doing a good job?

Nelson: VERY active! We just recently created a new e-mail address, just for fans to contact us with feedback and the mailbox is full every day! And I love it! They tell us who they want to see more of, who Archie should date, what they like, what they don’t like, they tell us jokes. One person even wrote in to tell me my fortune! I read every e-mail that comes in and I try to respond to each e-mail personally.

1st: How do fans go about requesting specific reprints, and how much impact do fan request have?

Nelson: All they have to do is write in! Sometimes all it takes is one letter! We have a lot of people living in Riverdale so sometimes they don’t all get to be in a comic! Just recently, someone wrote in to see some more Ginger Lopez stories and I said to myself, “You know what? It has been a while since she’s showed up in Riverdale, let there be Ginger!” The more people that write in the faster you’ll see results!

1st: Archie just canceled LAUGH COMICS DIGEST andJUGHEAD WITH ARCHIE DIGEST, replacing them with TALES OF RIVERDALE DIGEST and JUGHEAD & FRIENDS DIGEST. Why cancel LAUGH COMICS DIGEST? Why not just add TALES OF RIVERDALE DIGEST and have another digest on the market?

Nelson: That’s kind of a harsh way of putting things. We didn’t want to cancel LAUGH COMICS DIGEST, we wanted it to evolve into something new. Sure, it would be easy to call it ‘The New Laugh Digest’ but how long would that last? After 5 issues it wouldn’t be new anymore! What if the Fantastic Four got another member? Would you say Marvel cancelled Fantastic Four to make Fantastic Five? No, it would just be an evolution of the same book and that’s exactly what’s going on here!

1st: Do new number ones issues sell better in grocery stores and chain stores the way the do in specialty stores?

Nelson: Well, I haven’t been at Archie Comics long enough to see the original Digests launch their number one issues so I can’t Answer that. BUT we’re all trying our hardest to make Tales From Riverdale Digest #1 and Jughead & Friends Digests #1 sell better than anything else ever! We want to outsell ‘The DaVinci Code’! I actually wore a giant Jughead mask and was giving out free digests in Time Square to help promote our books! What other editor has ever done that? When Tales From Riverdale Digest andJughead & Friends Digest actually go on sale [April 13th & April 26th] I’m going to jump a rocket-car over the Grand Canyon!

1st: I want to see that, I’ll meet you at the Grand Canyon on the 13th. Seriously, many of the digests are purchased by parents for their children; with Jughead, many parents will not notice the different title but Laugh Comics is an old title (dating back to July 1942 with Top-Notch Laugh Comics), does it help to change a title that parents are already familiar with, to new title?

Nelson: If parents are familiar with Laugh from 1942 than it pretty safe to say that they know the name of the town that Archie lives in is Riverdale. A new fan might not have been around in 1942 maybe not even around for 1992! So even if they pick up any digest, somewhere within those pages will be the fact that their town is called Riverdale. So when they go to the supermarket, bookstore, mass merchandiser or the comic book store and they see, Tales From Riverdale Digest #1 they’ll be able to make the connection.

1st: I noticed that in the solicitations for the digest that most say featuring “new stories and classic tales”, but TALES FROM RIVERDALE DIGESTand JUGHEAD & FRIENDS DIGEST do not have the same statement. Do these two digests have only new stories?

Nelson: While it may have been left out in error, these new digests will have the same mix as our other digests.

1st: Is there any difference in a story done for the digest and a story done for the regular size monthly comic?

Nelson: There is somewhat of a difference and I’ll explain. Artists draw a comic page on a piece of paper that’s 10”x15”, when the story prints it’s 4”x6”. That’s 40% of its original size. So while something might look cool when it’s first drawn, by the time it’s reduced everything closes up and looks muddy. So I try to have them keep their panels a little more open and clean than they normally would for a regular comic book page.

1st: In past years, Archie had done things like Super Hero Digests. Why does Archie now limit the digests to the Archie alone?

Nelson: All of our other characters appear in our digests as well as Archie.

1st: Where does the assumption come from that there is a market for a Sonic, Shield, and Mighty Crusaders trade paperbacks but not a Sonic, Shield, and Mighty Crusaders digests?

Nelson: We find that adventure characters lose something in a smaller digest format.

1st: On the subject of Trade Paperbacks, they are also reprints. How do they relate to the digests?

Nelson: That’s easy! A Trade Paperback can’t fit in your back pocket!

1st: The TPBs are re-colored, is any touch up work done to the stories for the digests?

Nelson: We try to keep the Trade Paperback stories as authentic as possible. The only corrections we make are to make sure all the colors are consistent throughout the whole story. Sometimes Archie’s hair was 3 different colors on the same page! I could understand a secondary character, but ARCHIE?! He’s the flagship of the company! That’s like making Batman yellow!

1st: If a story is reprinted in a TPB it will stay in print from years, does that put the story off limits for use in the digests?

Nelson: Yes, once it’s in a Trade Paperback we try to make sure it never appears in a Digest.

1st: The digest market is an attractive one, but with all the comics sold on a returnable basis, it is risky. DC Comics sent out a press release last year “Starting in September [2004], the world-famous characters from Warner Bros. Entertainment and the Cartoon Network, will star in a new series of
digest-sized (5 1/8″ x 7 9/16”) trade paperbacks. The line kicks off that month with two 112-page volumes spotlighting The Powerpuff Girls. Upcoming months will draw from such perennial favorite series as SCOOBY-DOO, JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES, CARTOON NETWORK PRESENTS, and others.”

Does this grow the market or just cut up the same pie smaller. In other words, has this had any effect on sales of the Archie Comics digests?

Nelson: We always welcome competition. Our sales department continues to advise me that our digest sales remain strong.

1st: Archie puts out eight different Digests, ARCHIE DIGEST, ARCHIE’S DOUBLE DIGEST, ARCHIE’S PALS-N-GALS DOUBLE DIGEST, BETTY & VERONICA DIGEST, BETTY & VERONICA DOUBLE DIGEST, JUGHEAD & FRIENDS DIGEST,JUGHEAD’S DOUBLE DIGEST, and TALES FROM RIVERDALE DIGEST. Is there one you would recommend to first time purchasers? Is one better for boy and one better for girls? Is one better for older readers? I know Archie does not like to give out circulation numbers, but I see the digests in every grocery store and Wal-Mart.

Nelson: I think their titles say it all. If you’re a Betty & Veronicafan then Betty & Veronica Digest or Betty & Veronica DoubleDigest are the books for you. Like Jughead? Then you needJughead’s Double Digest or Jughead & Friends Digest! LikeArchie? Then you need Archie Digest or Archie Double Digest? Can’t Decide? Like everybody the same? Like our other great characters like Sabrina, Josie & the Pussycats, then you need Tales From Riverdale Digest or Pals ‘N’ Gals Double Digest. Are you a Super-fan? Then you need all eight! Are you a fanboy like me and would never dream of cutting up your comics and only hold them with your fingertips? Then subscribe online at ArchieComics.Com!

1st: Do the Archie reprint digests outsell the new Archie comics?

Nelson: There you go with the horrible ‘reprint’ word again. I already told you our stories are ‘re-freshed’ or ‘re-imagined’. But to answer your question the digest books sell very well.

1st: I have also heard that with the strong newsstand business the digests outsell, Superman, Batman and X-Men; is this accurate?

Nelson: Yes, it is accurate. For millions of kids all over the world, Archie Digests offer them a glimpse of what it is to be an American teenager.

1st: One last question and this one is somewhat personal. Who would you choose, Betty or Veronica?

Nelson: Everyone around the office tells me I remind them of Reggie. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment because Reggie is the egomaniac, materialistic jerk. But if they’re referring to my affinity to brunettes then yes we are the same. It’d have to be Veronica hands down! She’s classy, beautiful, just the right amount of attitude and plenty of bling! Sorry, Betty I only like you as a friend!

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