This week was all about Archie on The Wednesday Club, with hosts Taliesin Jaffe, Amy Dallen, and Matt Key settling in to discuss the denizens of Riverdale. Amy, Matt, and Taliesin chatted about this long-running teen comic that’s just about as American as apple pie, although it’s never afraid to venture into new (and weird) territory.
Archie Comics started in 1941 and introduced the world to Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, and Jughead Jones. There’s also an incredible cast of side characters that are just as memorable, like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Josie and the Pussycats.
“I love Archie. I love the characters, I love Josie and the Pussycats, I love Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” said Taliesin. “I’m probably going to end up with a Riverdale letterman jacket at some point. It’s that bad.”
And each of them speaks to nostalgia and youth in just about anyone who picks up an Archie comic. “I grew up on Archie… [The characters are] in my DNA,” said Amy.
Even though the gang has been in high school since the 1940s, there’s more to the story than just the love triangle between Archie, Betty, and Veronica. “There isn’t a character in this universe that doesn’t have some depth,” Taliesin said.
This 2010 comic is a landmark issue in the series, introducing Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character in Archie. When Kevin moves to Riverdale, Veronica is charmed by his handsome good looks and sets her sights on him. Kevin mentions to Jughead that he’s gay, and Jughead sees the opportunity to prank Veronica. “They play it out as a mistaken identity comedy,” said Amy, “and then settle down into what you hope would be the dynamic,” which is Veronica deeming Kevin her “new best friend.”
“It sold so well that it became the first time Archie Comics ever had to do a second printing of a book,” said Taliesin.
(Archie Comics, Dan Parent)
Jughead Jones is currently starring in his own solo series that was first written by Chip Zdarsky, and the book recently explored his character’s sexuality. “Jughead just admitted his sexuality in a casual conversation with Kevin Keller,” said Amy. He’s asexual, declaring he has no time for relationships or hormones.
The Zdarksy run has been followed by Squirrel Girl writer Ryan North. “It’s good stuff,” said Taliesin.
(Archie Comics, Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson)
“This is where things get weird,” Taliesin says.
Sabrina Spellman is literally a teenage witch, raised by her witchy aunts. In the past, Sabrina helped the gang go on some of their most crazy adventures, sending them through time to meet KISS and other pop culture figures. While the character and situations were played as comedy, things took a very dark turn recently in the Archie Horror comics.
“It is chilling,” said Matt. “It is so good.”
(Archie Horror, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Robert Hack, Jack Morelli)
After years and years of wondering who Archie will choose, Betty or Veronica, Archie Comics decided to go there by having him pick both Betty and Veronica. This experimental storyline had Archie looking at the two different paths his life would take, one where he marries Betty, and one where he marries Veronica.
“Both are essentially happy stories,” said Amy. “The meta-narrative here is, both of these are valid choices, he could be happy either way, but his life would look different, obviously.”
(Archie Comics, Paul Kupperberg, Michael Uslan, and Norm Breyfogle)
Another experiment was Afterlife With Archie, which took Archie Andrews somewhere he’d never been: The pages of a horror comic.
“It starts with Jughead. He just wants to save his dog… so he goes to his best friend with magical benefits, Sabrina, and asks her to save the dog,” said Matt. After Jughead convinces the teenage witch to bring his beloved dog back to life, the resulting spell unleashes something unnatural.
“It’s amazing,” said Taliesin. “And this art, oh my God, this art.”
(Archie Horror, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla)
If The Wednesday Club had to pick just one title to get started reading Archie Comics, they agree it should be the current run by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples. The series starts with Archie’s never-before-told origin story, updated for a current audience. “It captured everything Archie needed to be… It’s modern without being cynical,” said Taliesin. “The stories are more mature without being adult.”
“They’re treating the characters with realism and development… that the other comics weren’t trying to do,” Amy said.
“I got so sucked into this story,” Matt agreed.
(Archie Comics, Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, Veronica Fish, and Annie Wu)
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What’s your favorite comic featuring the Riverdale gang? Tell us in the comments.
Top Images: Geek & Sundry
Other Images: Archie Comics