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.