Nancy Silberkleit makes it a point to wear a lot of orange since it matches with Archie Andrew's hair. She's also the co-CEO of Archie Comics, a company her father-in-law co-founded and her husband worked in. And even though the iconic comic character, Archie, has been around for 70 years, Silberkleit says that he, along with his gang, has a bright future ahead.
Q: What is your role at Archie comics?
Nancy Silberkleit: After my husband, Michael Silberkleit - who was co-CEO of Archie Comics - passed away in 2008, I took over the reins of the company and literally stepped out of a classroom into a boardroom. I'd been an art teacher all my life and never had any formal business experience or training. When I joined the brand, I realised how big a part Archie played in a young adult's life. Wherever I went, people always said, "Oh it was my first comic I read when I was young." Even today, it's nice to hear that.
Q: What impact has Archie had on people's lives?
NS: Our readership spans between seven-year-old children and 70-year-olds. In India alone, we sell 12 lakh copies a year. This figure has been consistent for the last three years.
Q: Does the Archie magic hold as much sway as it did in the '80s or '90s?
NS: Children, even today, refer to Archie and the gang as if they're real people. And as long as there will be children, there will always be Archie. The best part about Archie is that even if fans read the comic 40 years ago, they'll still find the same underlying formula: Archie can never decide between Betty and Veronica. And if you ask me, Veronica and Betty have a lot of patience!
Q: How has Archie kept up with the time times?
NS: Our fans no longer have to go to stores to access comics -- our iPhone app has had over 10 million downloads alone. It offers both free and paid comics. We are also taking most of our back issues and digitising them. Archie, the character, has a new Mustang, an iPad and a phone. His phone helps organise his life.
Q: How have you ensured that the comic is socially progressive?
NS: The storyline in the series Life with Archie deals with serious issues such as using recycled plastic or how Cheryl Blossom deals with breast cancer. It's targeted basically at children who have moved to advanced reading.
Q: In 2009, Archie married Veronica. The oldest romantic triangle in comic books came to an end. Why was that done?
NS: People didn't read the fine print of that novel. It was a 'what if' story, a fantasy part: 'What if Archie took that road and married Betty or what if he married Veronica?' He's still exploring that in Life with Archie, which prints 11 new issues a year. We saw a lot of fan interest when we did this series. But in all other series, Archie is still a bachelor.
Q: Are there any serious collectors of Archie comics left in the world?
NS: I don't know if there are any serious collectors but I recently met a lady whose husband had passed away and she wanted to give me his collection. It was very touching since I had just lost my husband too. I can't say how much it's worth but it's very touching that she thought of me. I am going to hold on to them.
Q: What does the future hold for comic books and for Archie?
NS: There is such a need for people to get lost in a moment of fun, in something light and something that puts a smile on their faces. Archie Comics is a wonderful entertainment company and as long as there are collectors and those who 'heart' Archie, there will always be Archie Comics.