Those of us who are a bit older may have stronger memories of non-superhero comic books, like the adventures of Archie Andrews of the timeless and beloved Archie series. While he’s been around since 1941, the character has aged forward in content and style the most just in the past ten years.
Archie was introduced back in 1941 alongside his blonde, blue-eyed neighbor Betty Cooper, Jughead who is a hamburger-loving misfit and the raven-haired beauty Veronica who was new to town and to Archie’s heart. Generally, the comics and digests (which were comprised issues of the comics but in small book form) followed the daily life of Archie and his friends. Mostly family friendly, teenage type shenanigans. Car washes and beach parties were aplenty and quite often someone (jerky Reggie Mantle, usually) was attempting to thwart the good time of these All-American kids. Nothing too intense ever really went down and because of that Archie Comics was a pretty clean staple of non-Heroic comic formats.
The stories and characters that were mostly ancillary would change and shift through the years, removing or adding faces as the timelines seemed to need it. In the beginning, a panel suggested that Archie liked to be called ‘Chick‘ but most folks would know that ‘Chic‘ is the name of Betty Cooper’s brother once he was introduced in the 1960’s in a spin-off series titled Little Archie. Canon changed on and off for decades and characters that were enemies sometimes spent their time in the sun as friends before having to retreat in order for storylines to remain fresh. There’s only so many beach parties, right?
Then came the 2000’s and a fresh take on Archie was desired, to see if they could revive it for teenagers of a new generation. This meant that mysteries a-la Scooby Doo were now introduced which got some mild love. It also meant that, come 2010, people were getting brave with their own personal adaptations. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote a play called Archie’s Weird Fantasy in which it took the kids of Riverdale and modernized them and added intense concepts that surprisingly weren’t a part of the reboot.
At the same time, Life with Archie was about to be published that July, which introduced the concept of a grown Archie Andrews but offered a look at a marriage to either Betty or Veronica. Seeing as how this love triangle was the main core to the Archie comics, readers could quickly pick up on this and see how a life with either would’ve ended up. The Life with Archie comics were stylized close to the original popular books but with additional themes like same-sex relationships, cancer, death and financial burdens. While it looked like Aguirre-Sacasa’s tone was the right kind of mark for Archie, Archie Comics struggled to define this kind of content relative to their brand. The play Archie’s Weird Fantasy never even got off the ground in its original form thanks to a cease-and-desist.
Come 2015, Archie was completely rebooted with a newer and more current art style and stories that were far easier to catch for a new audience to the beloved series. ‘Archie‘ was part of the ‘New Riverdale‘ universe in which stories could completely start over, even if borrowing names and characters that were from the original but pushing them into different roles. This new series was so popular that it captured awards from places like IGN who gave it the Best New Comic of 2015. Archie was easier to relate to than his goody-goody-with-hormones predecessor from 1941 as he had more going on in his life than soda shops and homework. In fact, Archie was working towards understanding his life in the reboot, contemplating things like love, work and his worth as he grew from being a child into a young adult. He started to find his footing and you watched this Archie stand up to the adults that he would soon have as part of his peer group, learning his place in a world that was once rather carefree and innocent.
And this didn’t halt at just the education of Archie Andrews as his best friend Jughead Jones was also figuring out his place in the world at his best friend’s side. Jughead’s origin story sheds a lot of light as into why he’s such a low-key loner with Loki-like embrace of Riverdale. Betty Cooper undergoes the most warm and fascinating growth as girls of any age can relate to the story of a girl figuring out if she should go with the flow of being like the celebrities and popular girls that boys admire — or just be herself. An entire part of the opening to Archie’s story shows Betty’s point of view about growing up and being loved for who she was and not how she dressed and acted. It was less preachy than you’d think and felt very realistic to the human experience that all teens go through.
Archie is still running this exact same reboot and it has continued with gorgeous panels full of colors and sharp lines, hearkening back to the Pep Comics and early Archie Comics days but with a stylization that absolutely thrills me. The story was so interesting that I found myself up at 3AM, still flipping through issue after issue. Sure, I’m a grown woman but there was something so real about this new Archie series that felt like a full-circle for me. Reminding an adult such as myself of the time where my Mom used to hand me an Archie & Betty digest while I sat in a grocery store cart, distracted while she shopped. Here I was, with a child of my own who was going through very real scenarios that the new Archie was discussing, and still finding it all too enchanting. Try out this series and add it to your usual superhero rotation if you want something effortlessly heartwarming.
Oh, an update about that fella who wrote a very adult version of the Riverdale gang? Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa may have had a cease-and-desist with his edgy play but he ended up co-producing the current Riverdale TV show that is a dark twist on Archie and his pals in their sleepy little American town. This is after his take on Archie and friends dealing with the supernatural in Afterlife with Archie was such a hit. This gained Aguirre-Sacasa a job as Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer. Moral of this story? Stay weird, kids. Stay weird.
Don’t worry, there’s quite obviously room for everyone within Archie Andrews life and times. If Archie can see zombies, werewolves and witches named Sabrina — he can get involved in some murder mysteries as well. Get yourself some Archie in your life and see how grown-up this fella has become after all these crazy years.