Interview with Mike Pellerito, Young Salem Editor

Mike Pellerito, Archie Comics Managing Editor and editor of the Young Salem series, was kind enough to answer my cheeky questions about the project and its place in the Sabrina the Teenage Witch title.

Q: What’s the premise of the Young Salem storyline? It runs four issues, correct?

A: Yes, four issues in Sabrina #101-104. Most people who know Sabrina really love Salem; he’s usually a lot of reader’s favorites. Once fans find out Salem the cat is really a warlock who tried to take over the world that then was stopped and punished forced to stay in the form of a cat, it gets a lot of reaction.

Basically, Sonic and Sonic Universe writer Ian Flynn is a huge fan of Tania Del Rio’s take on Sabrina and was just talking out loud about some cool ideas. I asked him to come up with a pitch, and Chad Thomas, artist, was brought on board after his two-issue stint, which we both loved.

The story is when Salem was mischievous, but still a good boy, before he tried to take over the world and was turned into a cat. Think of it as a “year one”-type story.

Q: Why keep the Sabrina title if you’re going to change the premise, the creators, the main character, the art style… It seems the only thing continuing is the numbering! Wouldn’t it make more sense just to put out a Young Salem title?

A: We changed the premise and the art style when Tania took over Sabrina and gave it a manga influence and kept the numbering. It never seemed to be an issue. Archie has done what a lot of critics have said all comics should do by staying on the newsstand and not giving up on the mass market. The costs of doing business on the newsstand are monstrous and not always the best environment for a new title. If we came out with a new series for 4 issues on the newsstand, the costs are, as mentioned, enormous, and the direct market doesn’t have that same fanatical approach to our books. At least the good comic stores know what’s up, but not enough stores. Doing Young Salem this way gives us the mass-market reach of the newsstand and helps us target the comic stores too.

We originally wanted to launch Young Salem as the first issue of an “Archie Presents” title and keep the newsstand distribution intact. The plans changed, and with Tania’s run ending at 100, it seemed logical to put the four-parter in Sabrina. It wouldn’t fit in Archie or Betty & Veronica. So Sabrina 101 is where Young Salem started.

Q: The preview pages give the impression this story, about a boy wizard’s adventures, is aimed at a young male audience instead of the teen girls Sabrina was better suited for. Is that what Archie’s aiming for?

A: All our books are aimed at kids — Archie, Jughead, Betty & Veronica, Sonic, and so on. Some go more male than female and vice versa. Sabrina had a lot of girl readers, but a lot of boys and older males, too. Same with Sonic: lots of girls read it, maybe 40%. And a lot of adults, 20-somethings and up, are devoted readers.

Because Salem is a guy, that shouldn’t turn away any female readers. Look at Twilight, Harry Potter, and so on. Even go to our youngest readers, they watch Dora the Explorer and they watch Diego. Hey, even the Archie title has a lot of female readers, probably more than male. Salem is just a really good comic, really good, and anyone should be able to appreciate that.

Q: What happens in issue #105? What’s next for the Sabrina title?

A: 105 is up in the air for now. If Salem turns out to be as big a hit as it is capable of, some more stories seem a natural.

Q: I like reading about a teen witch drawn in a classic Archie house style. When will I be able to read Sabrina comics like that?

A: The classic Sabrina stories are in Archie’s Pals ‘N’ Gals Double Digest, and the animated Sabrina appears in Tales From Riverdale Digest. And Little Sabrina with the Little Archie stories in a lot of the Digests.

Q: Given that the manga audience is used to buying thick volumes in bookstores, why was there only one slim Sabrina collection released, and that years after the manga-style story started?

A: That’s a tricky situation; a lot of manga fans are biased against American-created manga. Add the fact that it is full color, and it doesn’t really belong racked next to a lot of manga. Ultimately, it is a really great comic, and many reviewers, you included, saw this. With hindsight, it would be great to repackage it a little differently and commit to more volumes. But that is up to the powers that be, and most importantly, the Sabrina readers.

Q: What did Archie learn from the manga Sabrina run?

A: Can’t speak for Archie, but personally, it’s “take more chances”. We get a lot of flack for always doing the same old Archie stuff. But we don’t — we do the New Look Archie where the characters look realistic, the manga Sabrina, Sonic the Hedgehog, the TMNT reprints are coming out, Archie Freshman Year gave a whole new dimension to the characters, and so many more things coming up. And Young Salem is just another part of that, something new and something comics fans of all ages will enjoy!

6 Responses to “Interview with Mike Pellerito, Young Salem Editor”

  1. Ed Sizemore Says:

    I’m still sorry to Del Rio’s run on Sabrina end, but the first Salem comic was actually very good. It was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the story.

  2. Eric Gimlin Says:

    I really wish they would reprint more of the early manga issues. Archie had most of the issues, and I could find some others online. But I CANNOT find copies of 62, 63, and 66 anywhere; online or local stores. (It was you and Chris Sims who convinced me, after the fact, to look for it. I wish I had listened earlier.)

  3. Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources - Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment » Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes Says:

    […] Publishing | Johanna Draper Carlson talks with Archie Comics Managing Editor Mike Pellerito about the “Young Salem” storyline in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and what will happen to the title afterward. [Comics Worth Reading] […]

  4. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » New Rumiko Takahshi manga to launch online Says:

    […] continuing to tweak the formula, and managing editor Mike Pellerito tells Johanna Draper Carlson what’s in store for Sabrina and her compatriots at Comics Worth […]

  5. Ed Catto Says:

    I really love Tania’s style, and so does my daughter, and I wish she’d do more comics!

  6. ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch’ Gets a Superhero Spin – | NextMovie Says:

    […] who was sent to live with Sabrina and her aunts for very naughty behavior. At one point, there was a comic series about Salem before he was turned into a cat, but that shorted out. But a prince? We think […]




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