[Reading time: 5 minutes]
“Archie’s here, Betty’s here, Veronica too! Reggie’s here, hey Jughead, where are you? We wanna dance, and we wanna sing, have some fun and go adventuring, and everything’s Archie!” Picking up where last week’s column left off, I will now attempt to present a few important storylines and authors from ARCHIE COMICS’ 75-year-long history… But first, SPOILER WARNING it turns out my RIVERDALE series finale predictions were wrong: Sabrina Spellman wasn’t in it after all. I hate being wrong!
THE PEOPLE WHO MADE ARCHIE GREAT
- The Goldwater Dynasty: John Goldwater was the first CEO of MLJ Magazines, Inc., before it became Archie Comics in the 1950s. When he died, his son Richard took over: it was during this time that Archie began adapting its properties for TV, and signed lucrative licensing deals for Sonic the Hedgehog and the Ninja Turtles. Richard died in 2007 and was succeeded by his own son Jon.
- Bob Montana and Vic Bloom: the original author and illustrator of the comic, respectively. Bob created Archie based on his experiences as a teenager in Haverhill, Massachussetts. In these early days, Archie was characterised by crude and rather ugly artwork, but still, Bob and Vic invented Archie, so that’s that.
- Harry Lucey: the main illustrator on the Archie magazine from the 1950s to his retirement in 1976. His drawings were characterised by a vivid, expressive style of movement similar to that of Hergé (the creator of Tintin); under his pen, Archie’s pals & gals had motions as dynamic and fluid as professional athletes.
- Dan DeCarlo, Sr.: if Lucey drew the Archie characters as athletes, Dan DeCarlo drew them as Greek statues! One of the most talented cartoonists ever, he was a master at drawing the human figure: he embraced the comical qualities that made these characters so likable, with a frisson of sexy that perfectly complemented the series’ humour, which was often rather risqué for a “children’s comic”. DeCarlo’s beautifully funny art is lavish enough to make even a terrible story worthwhile.
- Samm Schwartz: best known for drawing the Jughead comic, Samm gave his characters an angular, lanky look that contrasted with DeCarlo’s and Lucey’s. He gave the crown-topped burger-muncher a signature nonconformist and slacker attitude in his poses, which still influences the character’s depiction today.
- Frank Doyle and George Gladir: these two men wrote at least 90% of all Archie stories in every single Archie Comics magazine. Gladir also co-created Sabrina Spellman, with Dan DeCarlo – a frequent collaborator of both Gladir and Doyle.
- Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: the man behind the “Archie Renaissance”, Sacassa created the Archie Horror line, and served as both chief creative officer at Archie Comics and executive producer on Riverdale. His vision of the characters was unique and mature, and contributed into shaping the CW series’ distinctive tone and feel.
- The Archies: a band composed of lead singer Ron Dante and a few revolving session men, The Archies were formed at the request of Filmation TV producer Lou Scheimer to make songs for The Archie Show in 1969, and ended up recording several successful albums and singles including such great hits as, um, well, the only one you’ll know is “Sugar, Sugar”, an infectious earworm of a jingle that everyone remembers, even if they’d rather forget it –your parents’ equivalent of Crazy Frog.
THE GREATEST STORYLINES IN ARCHIE COMICS
- Love Showdown: following DC’s excellent Death of Superman arc, this four-part 1993 epic chronicled the war between Betty and Veronica as they vied for Archie’s heart, promising to resolve the eternal love triangle. Excellent artwork and humour throughout make this a great jumping-on point for newcomers.
- Life with Archie: starting with the six-issue “Archie Marries” arc for the 600th issue of Archie, before jumping to its own magazine, this series depicted the bleak reality of married life for Archie, in two separate timelines (one where Archie married Betty, another where he married Veronica). It’s far more dramatic and poignant than the normal Archie, and the ending is heart-wrenchingly tragic.
- Afterlife with Archie: Riverdale is overrun by zombies who kill and eat most of the supporting cast, Josie is a vampire, and Sabrina is forcibly married to Cthulhu. This was the first adult-aimed Archie magazine, and its suspenseful serial storyline, vivid gore and macabre imagery made it an instant cult favourite among YA readers.
- Archie’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Romance: a trilogy of story-arcs in which The Archies and Josie & the Pussycats go on tour together, and Archie and Valerie fall in love, becoming the first interracial couple in Archie history (with the second arc even including a fantasy about their marriage). Cute, heartwarming fuzz all around.
- New Riverdale: the 2015 reboot by Mark Waid, in which Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica, and Josie & the Pussycats all got a long-overdue makeover. These new versions of the characters were a huge influence on the Riverdale TV show.
- Over the Edge: a three-part arc which just began this week, in which Archie and Reggie have a car-race resulting in a fatal accident, the victim as of yet unknown.
ARCHIE ON THE BIG AND SMALL SCREENS
- The Archie Show (Archie e Sabrina): a Filmation 1960s cartoon so ugly it might as well be animated by gorillas in a Cambodian sweatshop, with black empty eyes on the characters, janky movements and one hell of an annoying laugh track. Yet it was enormously popular at the time; much like Peppa Pig today, it lasted 10 years in reruns, despite being a festering pile of mouldy Pepper Jack cheese. Got a spinoff in the form of Sabrina Superwitch and its sequel Sabrina & the Groovie Goolies, and another in the form of the “live cartoon” Archie’s Funhouse (stock footage of children clapping in a theatre spliced with Archie cartoon skits, because drawing actual cartoon characters performing in a theatre is a terrible strain on the animator’s wrists…), all of which were produced by Filmation’s Lou Scheimer.
- The New Archies (Zero in Condotta): in this awkward 1980s cartoon, the Archie characters are troublemaking middle-schoolers in ridiculous 80s fashion costumes, kind of like Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Diario di una Schiappa) but with even simpler writing and stories, and packed to the brim with cringeworthy 80s iconography.
- Archie – To Riverdale and Back: to date the only live-action movie adaptation of Archie, this train-wreck telemovie was a rom-com in which a happily-married adult Archie returned to Riverdale and reunited with the sexually-frustrated Betty and Veronica, a depressed single-father Jughead, and other pathetic, melodramatic bastardisations of the series’ classic protagonists. Avoid it like the plague.
- Archie’s Weird Mysteries: an excellent cartoon series in which Archie, as a reporter for the school newspaper, investigates paranormal happenings and fights monsters,. Its biggest strengths are its gorgeous animation and affectionate homages to cheesy horror B-movies… in other words, it’s The Cinematic Calamity: The Animated Series.
- The Archies in Jugman: a rip-off of Encino Man (Il mio amico scongelato) in which Jughead’s prehistoric ancestor, who had been dormant in ice, goes wakey-wakey eggs-‘n’-bakey in modern-day Riverdale, and hilarity ensues – wait, no, it doesn’t.
- Riverdale: a darker, noir-infused high school detective-drama take on the Archie Comics mythos with subversive and edgy elements, available now on Netflix.