[Editor's Note: Welcome to Archie's House of Horror! We're thrilled and chilled to team up with Archie Comics for this recurring column written by Jamie L. Rotante, writer and Senior Director of Editorial at Archie Comics. Each column takes a closer look at the ever-expanding world of Archie Horror, with this month's column focusing on Chilling Adventures Presents... Strange Science, now available from Archie Comics!]
Let’s talk about sci-fi, baby.
Sci-fi as a genre is one that’s often eluded me. I feel like more of an interloper than a tried-and-true fan. Science was never my forte growing up, and from my earliest forays into reading sci-fi, I couldn’t get past that aspect. Even if the science is fictitious, having to learn the “rules” was enough to dissuade me from engaging further. I loved reading, but I hated doing homework—which, to me, was akin to homework—the antithesis of reading for pleasure.
But the older I get, the more I understand the appeal.
Science fiction doesn’t just have to be science-based stories, and the rules don’t have to dictate the plot. They can aid in moving it forward, but you don’t need to feel like you have to study for an important exam to enjoy what’s happening. When the science involved is rooted in some truth, it helps form a solid backbone for storytelling but by no means has to detract from the enjoyment of the plot and what message, if any, it's trying to convey. Sci-fi as a genre lends itself to telling wonderfully complex and poignant, layered stories. It only makes sense, then, that the beautiful mash-up of sci-fi and horror would lend itself even more to that.
There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief in horror and many things that certainly can’t be explained by scientific means. But it’s when both are grounded in reality that things really start to take shape, as strange as that may seem. Some of the best horror media out there acts as a reflection of the world in which we live, holding a mirror to some of the ugliest truths. Science fiction often does the same. Consider, for example, the incredibly popular Netflix series Black Mirror. The anthology series presents a multitude of thought-provoking arguments, including the dangers of rapidly advancing technology, the ever-blurring lines between reality and fantasy, the importance of human connection, and others. In a world where our efforts are being challenged by AI designed to steal the very work humans fight so hard to produce, a lot of what once might have been considered “fiction” is becoming all too real.
Strange Science, a new title from Archie Horror, at its core, is a very real story for many. But not necessarily in the sense of encountering alternating timelines and humanoid monsters—although, yes, you’ll find both of those in this 20-page story. That’s what I love in particular about Strange Science; it invokes a variety of different ideas, like alternate timelines, temporal paradoxes, and potential timeline-altering MacGuffins, and tosses them all into a big sci-fi/horror soup that never once detracts from the story. It takes all the “rules” I thought you needed to know to enjoy sci-fi and throws them out the window.
Because most rules are dumb. And many are made to be broken.
Our main character Danni Malloy is by no means interested in following “rules.” She originated in the Dilton’s Strange Science miniseries in the late ’80s, where she was defined by being equal in genius to Archie’s resident inventor/science expert Dilton Doiley, and was always assumed to be a boy because of her name. In the new Strange Science, she rejects what she’s been (a scientist-in-training, a boy) to do what she truly loves: play drums, make art, and be a girl.
Why? Because she decided to embrace her truth and be herself, be who she’s always been, and not what anyone wants her to be. And that’s just about the most punk rock thing anyone could ever do… but there’s a reality where maybe that’s what she didn’t get to do. And that’s where our sci-fi and, more importantly, the horror, really shines in this story. It’s been tough to talk about it without giving away some key moments, and I’m not about to spoil anything here, but there’s a real horror that can only come with exploring what could have been.
I cannot sing the praises of writer Magdalene Visaggio enough. Mags’ beautiful writing (which, btw, if I wasn’t a recent convert, this book, and specifically her writing, would have been the thing to change my outlook on sci-fi as a whole) and artist Butch Mapa’s brilliant character, world, and monster designs brought this story to vivid life. Add in colorist Ellie Wright’s excellent job of creating the three-dimensional style of the warped Riverdale, and veteran letterer Jack Morelli’s overall amazingness, and you’ve got a story for the ages.
Strange Science is so much more than just a time travel story. It utilizes genre to tell something so incredibly powerful and so reflective of what many people experience. But it is thanks to the transcendent nature of sci-fi that a story like this can not only be told, but manage to horrify, delight, pull at the heartstrings, and leave readers feeling fulfilled all within 20 pages. I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next for Danni on her journey in life.
Also, Danni’s best friend’s dad just so happens to be Satan, but we’ve already been over that.
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Danni Malloy is Jinx Holliday’s best friend, and where one goes, the other is sure to follow… even if that means through hell and back and forth through the depths of space and time. When Danni receives a mysterious message from former friend Dilton Doiley, Danni is horrified to learn that he’s built a time machine and it’s gone terribly wrong—and now the three of them have been transported to warped version of Riverdale, where nothing seems quite right. It’s up to Danni to set things right and bring them back to the present day, and the hometown they know and love… and she might have to explain a thing or two to Jinx about what’s going on, too! STRANGE SCIENCE explores Danni’s personal history, time travel, and the importance of being to be true to yourself and what matters most to you.
Script: Magdalene Visaggio
Art: Butch Mapa
Colors: Ellie Wright
Letters: Jack Morelli
Main Cover: Butch Mapa, Ellie Wright
Variant Cover: Skylar Patridge
On Sale Date: 8/16
32-page, full color comic
Cover by Butch Mapa and Ellie Wright:
Variant Cover by Skylar Patridge: