This article originally appeared on AReCafe.
I like Archie Comics.
There, I said it. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’d read stacks of them as child through my middle school years – the single issues, the digests, the double digests. My parents were teachers, and as such we enjoyed lengthy summer vacations on the road. To keep the three of us from killing each other at 55MPH in a VW Microbus, she’d buy a ton of Archies, Jughead Jones digests, Betty’s Diary, Laugh Comics, Betty &Veronica, etc. Desert scenery of New Mexico whizzed past us while we delved into the antics of the gang in Riverdale. We’d circulate the comics among each other, then re-read. Familial harmony, thy name is Archie. I’m sure my mother thanks you.
I used to tell people my first foray into romance stories happened with the Sweet Valley High series. If I think about it now, I’d say Archie Comics was the gateway. After all, nearly every other adventure involved Archie on a date, trying to get a date, or proving he was the better choice of date than rival Reggie Mantle. Archie Comics have no doubt introduced young readers to the concept of the love triangle. Archie was always pressed to choose between Betty and Veronica. Given that Archie’s been around since the 40s, I’m sure any number of storytellers could cite this tense trio as an influence. From Betty or Veronica we probably got Ginger or Maryann, Gale or Peeta, and so forth.
You never saw Archie get to second base, though. For a cute guy with a car and mad guitar skills, he seemed content with smooching while fully dressed. One must wonder if Mr. Weatherbee ever had to schedule special talks during health class.
Of course, the recent series Life With Archie attempts to satisfy everybody with alternate realities in the Archieverse – he is married to Ronnie in one, Betty in the other. The more salacious of us might ask, “What, no three-way?” or “Yo, Arch, what about Jughead?” (come on, this is a hot romance site, I know some of you haven’t given up on the idea that Archie/Jughead could be more than “just friends”). The Life With Archie series actually got me back into comics. Yes, me – over-40 with the goal of reading every Pulitzer winner, waiting anxiously for the next issue of Archie comics. It makes me feel better, though, to know my daughter likes reading them as well. People might sniff at comics, but I don’t understand why you should. Comics are art, they are stories. From Archie one could learn the value of friendship…and how to juggle two people in a romantic entanglement.
So now I hear the powers that be plan to end that series by killing off Archie. It’s sad to hear, yes, but then I think of what happened when Family Guy knocked off the dog, and I figure the death only holds true for this particular storyline. In a later month I’ll check the Archie site and he’s back for another adventure with KISS or Josie and the Pussycats or else’s he fighting off Cheryl Blossom. Truth be told, I’ll be sad for the untimely ending, because dying young is not exactly how I pictured Archie going out. Archie is the ultimate nice guy – he didn’t always get the girl or the gig, and probably spent more time in detention than needed, but he deserved the Happy Ever After. Even if it involved buying a duplex at some retirement villa and shuffling between Betty and Veronica for bingo and Matlock reruns, it’s something.
So if Archie was your first romantic hero as well, maybe the news brings back some fond memories of comics in the back seat or checking the local convenient mart or comic store for new issues. I once thought I’d say goodbye simply by growing up and moving on to other things, but you never forget your first love.
Tell the truth: Betty or Veronica?