The Most Towering Work of Archie Scholarship This Year

 

 

Long-time ISB readers will no doubt be aware that for a super-hero fan, I’m actually really passionate about Archie comics, which usually translates into thinking way more than I should about Riverdale’s favorite teens. And today is no exception, as I delve into a review of Life With Archie #1 in which I talk about the depression at the core of my generation, the problems with getting older, and parallel worlds.

I tend to put a lot of myself into my reviews, but this time I think I might’ve gone a little overboard, revealing a little too much about my own fears about mortality and failure and the things that keep me up at night, but the end result is something that I’m actually really proud of. As far as my allegedly “serious” stuff goes, it’s probably the best thing I’ve done since the Racial Politics article. Although to be fair, I think it’s also the only “serious” piece I’ve written since then.

There was one thing that I didn’t have room for in the article as it ended up, though, because it had less to do with the underlying aspects of the book and more to do with just being neat. There’s a panel where Betty goes down a list of the boyfriends she’s had since losing Archie to Veronica…

 

 

…and Uslan gives them all the names of pop-culture teenagers. If I may be allowed to steal Jess Nevins and David Uzumeri’s thunder as annotators, Henry Aldrich and Andy Hardy were both characters who were popular from the late ’30s to the ’50s (the latter being Mickey Rooney’s most prominent role), Richie Cunningham is from Happy Days, Zack Morris is, of course, the central character on TV’s Saved By The Bell, and Troy Bolton is the male lead from “High School Musical.”

I think it’s interesting that Uslan ranks them as “clones of Archie” for a couple reasons, most notably that Aldrich and Hardy actually pre-date him, and the others, while they are teenagers engaged in hijinx of one form or another, lack Archie’s most definitive characteristic: His relationship with Betty and Veronica.

Troy Bolton doesn’t have to pick between girls, he just has to (musically) overcome obstacles that keep him from Gabriella, and if anyone’s an Archie analogue on Saved by the Bell, it’s Kelly Kapowski, who frequently has to choose between the blonde Zack and the brunette Slater. Which in turn makes Jessie Spano an ultrafeminist Reggie.

But the underlying idea is solid, that Archie, from his initial surge in popularity to his status as one of the most widely read comic book characters and pop culture touchstones, is in fact the template on which other teen characters are built. Which is what makes his role as the focus of a multiverse so interesting.

Well, to me, anyway.

24 thoughts on “The Most Towering Work of Archie Scholarship This Year

  1. I’m not sure how much money I’d pay to read Nevins’ annotations of an Archie story, but it wouldn’t be insignificant.

  2. It would have been interesting if Betty had rattled off the names of other Archie-types which Archie themselves published over the years: Wilbur, Seymour, That Wilkin Boy, et al. As you say, Archie owes more than a little to Henry Aldrich & Andy Hardy.

  3. There was a really good story a while back where all the kids in Riverdale went on strike from their chores, but Jughead realized that if Archie was on strike, he couldn’t borrow money for burgers, so it became the Archie parody of Marvel’s CIVIL WAR.

    EVERYBODY showed up in it. Sabrina, Josie, Bingo Wilkin, Li’l Jinx…

  4. I remember an Archie story from my childhood in which Archie had two dreams back-to-back: one where he was married to Betty, and one to Veronica. The only detail I remember is that Archie and Betty had at least 5 or 6 kids, and that Archie had to use cranberry juice on his cereal because they couldn’t afford milk. That grossed me out so much that I never forgot it.

  5. Wow, Chris. The admission of your personal fears and insecurities really shook me up. I’m dealing with those same things right now, and it’s nice to see that I’m not the only one drowning in a sea of angst.

    Thanks, and rock on!

  6. Am I crazy, or is that picture of Dilton’s reminiscent of Rip Hunter’s crazy chalkboard back in 52?

  7. I should probably stick up here for Bob Bolling’s “Little Archie,” which is not only the best thing Archie comics ever did (Uslan says it’s his favorite of all the company’s work, and he’s right) but a huge influence on their current direction: Bolling’s creation Mad Doctor Doom (who appeared at the same time as the other Doctor Doom) is the villain of Tom DeFalco’s current Archie arc, Ambrose turns up at the key moment in LWA accompanied by images from Bolling’s 1958 Ambrose spinoff comic, and even the approach of doing cartoony Archie art with more elaborate, realistic detail is sort of a Bolling thing. I can see how the “Little Archie” concept can be annoying, especially since a lot of the comics (by Dexter Taylor) were a little weak, but the Bolling 1956-1964 and 1979-81 Little Archie stories are some of the best comics of all time.

  8. so is archie going to go on being serious, or is this just a bubble?

    i don’t keep up. is archie’s marriage going to keep or is he going to go back to being indecisive kid stuck between two girls? it seems to spell the end of the book if it keeps, doesn’t it? at least the end of its original, light-hearted attempt.

  9. Does this remind anyone of Batman 700? For some reason, all I could think of was Prof. Nichols and the Maybe Machine when reading the summary of Dilton.

  10. so is archie going to go on being serious, or is this just a bubble?

    Oh, the regular (teenage) Archie Books are still going on. This is a parallel universe.

    Where is Jughead?

    Working for Pop Tate, trying to keep Mr. Lodge from buying him out so that he can realize his dream of running the Chocklit Shoppe.

  11. Veronica, despite all the money floating around you and Archie, he is not an ATM! Stop typing in your PIN!

  12. Where Jughead? In the story of Archie Marries Betty it shows that Jughead marry Midge but… what will happen?? Will Jughead be in the time police?? Or will he take over pop malt shop??? What will happen to Juggie T_T

  13. And somewhere, in some dark half-remembered reverberation of the Archie multiverse, the Punisher stirs, and he does not know why.

  14. Since Little Archie will meet both Robin and Batman later this autumn in the Tiny Titans mini…Riverdale is conneted to both Bruce Wayne and Frank Castle…hokey smokes…

  15. And somewhere, in some dark half-remembered reverberation of the Archie multiverse, the Punisher stirs, and he does not know why.

    The storyline in Life With Archie is dovetailing pretty nicely with Punisher: The End.

  16. I am going to feel like a total fool buying a magazine/comic with Justin Beiber on the cover, but after reading this review I know I can not resist it. If you read Archie as a kid you do develop a soft spot for it that does not go away.

    Random serious Archie story that I liked- There was a story in the mid 80′s where Ambrose was coming back top visit Riverdale and Archie didn’t want to face him because he was such a dick to him in the Little Archie days. It was a sweet story and also one of the rare times any kind of continuity was acknowledged. I never did care much for the adventure stories just because I was readng Marvel and DC as well so the Archie stories sort of plaed in comparison.

  17. “Where Jughead? In the story of Archie Marries Betty it shows that Jughead marry Midge but… what will happen?? Will Jughead be in the time police?? Or will he take over pop malt shop??? What will happen to Juggie T_T”

    Okay, first we find out that the Monitor has teamed up with Mad Dr. Doom to eliminate all alternate Archies until all that’s left are WINDY & WILLY stories RE-retouched to change them back into THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS stories!

    Or maybe not…

    (I take over writing the two series from Michael Uslan beginning with the second issue of the magazine, so I do know what happens…all the way through the first year! Expect the unexpected…including a death as shocking as the one in CRISIS #7!!)