C2E2 2017: Writer Cameron DeOrdio Talks Rocking Out to Josie and the Pussycats
Although his day job is a PR associate, Cameron DeOrdio is currently the co-writer of Archie Comics’ Josie and the Pussycats. He was handpicked by Marguerite Bennett to work on the comic with her, which is a modern reimagining of the all-female band complete with a fourth wall that is constantly getting broken, a heavy dose of pop culture and genre savviness, and some fabulous fashion and costume work from artist Audrey Mok.
Towards the end of Sunday at C2E2, I had the chance to talk with Cameron about how he broke into comics, his work on Josie and the Pussycats, the collaborative process with Marguerite Bennett, and why every other line in the comic is a pop culture or literary reference.
Graphic Policy: What’s your backstory with Archie Comics? Did you grow up reading them?
Cameron DeOrdio: I grew up reading some of the digests growing up in supermarkets. I loved the 2001 Josie and the Pussycats movie with Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson. Also, more recently, I started reading Chilling Adventures of Sabrina when it came out [in 2014]. It’s probably one of my favorite current comic books. I loved the Archie comics growing up, kind of fell out of it in my teens, but really got excited with the “new Riverdale” launch.
GP: How did you become the co-writer of Josie and the Pussycats?
CD: [laughs] Dumb luck. I was getting my MFA in Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence, and I was in Scott Snyder’s comic book writing class alongside Marguerite Bennett. When we moved to Yonkers to go to Sarah Lawrence together, we independently were renting rooms in the same house without having any idea. She, I, and Christina Trujillo were the three genre writers in the program, formed a core unit, and stuck together.When Marguerite got called up on the Batman Annual, she took us aside and said, “Listen, I’m going to do everything I can to get you guys up here with me.”
She’s great. When Archie offered her Josie and the Pussycats, she said, “I really don’t have enough time to write it on my own. I know exactly the person for it.” I guess she thought that person was me.
GP: That’s an amazing story. Going off that, what’s the division of labor in scripting Josie between you and Marguerite?
CD: It recently shifted. For the first five issues, we would get on Skype, have a Google Doc open, and bounce ideas off each other. A lot of the time, she would block and I would throw in dialogue. Of course, it would go back and forth differently. Starting with issue six [which came out on April 19], I took the lead. She and I would talk out a general summary, then I would write it up, and she would look at it, and then we would wrap [the script] up.
GP: So, she was kind of a plotter. Who came up with the amazing Golden Compass polar bear joke in Josie #6?
CD: I’ll admit it. That was me.
GP: The payoff of that joke in the end was amazing. I know it had nothing to do with the plot, but it was my favorite part of the issue.
CD: I love it when comics have those jokes that aren’t exactly part of the plot, but you can see them there. I was glad I could slip one in.
GP: It makes you feel clever.
CD: I love to feel clever.
GP: [laughs] Why did you and Marguerite decide to make the cast of Josie and the Pussycats young adults instead of the “cool teens” like the other new Riverdale books?
CD: Part of it was that there were stories about love and relationships that we wanted to take a more mature angle with. Not to say that there’s not maturity going on in the other Riverdale books. There’s something totally different about relationships in your twenties than in your teens.
You can see that a lot in issue four where Alan and Josie get together briefly. That would have played very differently if they were both in their teens. We wanted to play with that and look at maturity in relationships and kind of figuring things out in your twenties.
GP: How do you go about making Josie the “villain of her own story” while still making her likable, and a character that readers still want to follow.
CD: I think it helps that all of us working on these comics are freelancers. You have to have that ambition and drive and recognize that sometimes you get in your own way. We kind of tweaked and adapted that to a character that sometimes loses the forest for the trees. She loses sight of what’s truly important: her friends and that relationship dynamic.
I think a lot of times we’re the villains of our own stories so [I like] the idea of a character who gets her own way, but has her friends there to back her up. Because female friendship is so important to this book. Marguerite said that we have to hone in on that, and I couldn’t agree more.
GP: Yeah, having Valerie as a friend helps Josie out.
CD: Valerie is a treat.
GP: I also love Melody. She comes off as kind of dumb, but knows all these obscure references. How did you come up with that personality for her character?
CD: Marguerite once spoke to it as Melody is dumb like a court jester is dumb. She’s allowed to say things that other people aren’t allowed to say because she says it in such a cute, charming way. Melody’s not so much dumb as she sees things so differently from everyone else. Hence, having the fourth wall breaks with her.
Melody thinks so differently, and so many things go over her head, but she sees so many things that others don’t.
GP: She’s such a unique character. Josie and the Pussycats has so many pop culture references and jokes. What have been some of your favorite ones to use in the series so far?
CD: That’s a hard question. This reminds me of when [Marguerite and I] were in workshop. We were in separate workshops at the time and pressed for a deadline to turn something in for a professor. She basically turned in a transcript of me, her, and our other roommate Christina talking. The professor said, “This is far too quippy. There is no way that real people talk like this”But we do. We’re just dumb like that.
I did love slipping in the Golden Compass reference that you mentioned earlier. My favorite joke was Alexandra coming in issue one and saying, “I thought I heard something dying, but it was just Josie’s dreams.” I love to write Alexandra so much.
GP: Is she your favorite character to write in the series?
CD: Definitely. I love them all so much, but Alexandra is my favorite because deep down I could be a very good mean person. But I don’t wanna be. I’ve got that little mean, clever person inside of me ready to come forth.
GP: She’s such a fun villain. And at the end of each issue, I always think that maybe she’s a little bit right about things.
CD: You hear from writers all the time that your villains have to be real people and have motivations. Alexandra rightfully feels wronged, and that’s why she’s in Josie’s way.
GP: So, your day job is a PR associate/content developer. How did your career in this field influence your comic book writing?
CD: Good question. I guess that always having to think of not only what a character is trying to say, but how they think it would be perceived. Obviously, we’re doing PR for ourselves constantly whenever we’re talking to people. But the idea of thinking how that might be interpreted helps with Josie more than anyone else because she’s always thinking of branding. She’s always thinking of image and how to stay ahead.
GP: What’s your go-to song from the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack?
CD: I’m gonna say “Three Small Words”. I love the entire soundtrack and have it on CD.
GP: It’s so hard to find.
CD: I couldn’t find any place to download it so I’m like, “Hey, Mom. Can you send me the CD that I had back in the day.”
GP: Do you listen to the soundtrack while you script?
CD: Sometimes. When Marguerite and I were scripting, she doesn’t love listening to songs with words in them so we would listen to a wide range of things. At one point, we were listening to the It Follows soundtrack because it’s so good. Although, it is kind of funny to be listening to a horror soundtrack.
I listen to a wide range of music when I’m scripting. Occasionally, I will slide in a Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack song in there.
GP: What do you have coming up in the next arc of Josie and the Pussycats?
CD: We have Josie continuing to mature like in the first arc. But we show how other people mature, how their lives change, and how this changes the dynamic they have with other people. Because the Pussycats are now international superstars. That inherently changes a lot of the ways they interact with each other and with other people who aren’t superstars. And it’s going to change the level of their adventures.
I think a lot of the second arc is going to be about changing relationships, growing, and the sense of alienation you get when you change from the person you were. And you can still be friends with people who are changing from who they were.
GP: Any plans to use any Riverdale characters, or are the Pussycats gonna stay in their own world?
CD: Without showing my hand too much, there will be more Riverdale characters.
GP: My final question is that almost every issue of Josie and the Pussycats has done a spoof on different genres for part of the story. Do you have any genres you want to explore in future issues?
CD: I was a horror and sci-fi kid growing up and still write them on the side. So, maybe work one of those in there. We haven’t done a spy thriller yet. It’s so much fun to play with genre because Marguerite and I were the genre writers [at Sarah Lawrence] when we first met. So, it’s the idea of taking that to its logical conclusion.
GP: It’s so cool that you guys have that connection.
CD: I remember once that we threw a party with only a couple weeks’ notice, and she was hesitant about it because she wanted to give more notice. But, then, a bunch of people came, and she said, “I think we’re the cool kids now.”
We have that rapport for knowing each other so long, and it helps the co-writing process, I think.
Cameron DeOrdio is the co-writer on Josie and the Pussycats from Archie Comics.
You can find his Twitter here.