a love letter to archie comics

A fun fact about me: I read a lot of Rookie. I’ve always felt like the site’s content really meshed with me (it might be because it’s “a website for teenage girls” and I happen to be a teenage girl). (I know that this description of the website is not meant to be exclusive in any way—which is, incidentally, another reason why I love it so much. But I digress.)

ANYWAY. I really enjoy their Literally the Best Thing Ever series, and I felt like writing my own. I’m posting it here for posterity. ☆彡

Ah, Archie Comics. Where do I even begin? From the old-timey shakes and jukeboxes at Pop’s to Riverdale High to the rivalry as old as time (a.k.a. Betty Cooper vs. Veronica Lodge), Archie Comics have survived the passing of almost three-quarters of a century and the changing of the world. They’ve hugely influenced how I draw and how much I love comics, and they’ve been an important part of my life for the better part of it. They are literally the best thing ever—for about a billion different reasons.

First of all, can we just talk about The Archies band? “Sugar, Sugar” was basically my Archie anthem and the thing that made me start to think jam sessions with my friends would be a good idea…because it would probably result in a song like Sugar, Sugar! Hey, if Archie Andrews and the gang can do it there’s no reason I can’t too, right? The music video just hits all the high points for me: the kitschy-cool 60’s fashion, the simplicity of early animations, the sweet melodies of bubblegum pop—all mixed with the Archie gang! Everything from my dreams and more.

In the age of digital everything, there’s still some kind of incomparable excitement that comes with getting a physical copy of a magazine or a book or a comics collection. Years after I first started collecting them, I still get that same whoosh of happiness every time I get my hands on an Archie digest. Maybe it’s the fond memories I have of reading them in my bed, religiously following the adventures and misadventures of the gang at the beach and in high school and at The Chok’lit Shoppe. They influenced me in a lot of other ways, too: Archie Comics gave me my first taste of comics in general (which eventually spiraled into an uncontrollable love for graphic novels and manga) and were my first references when I began my journey of learning how to draw. On top of all that, I always appreciated the plot of the strips, too; it didn’t matter if they were only a page long or several books long. The storylines were always so simple and sometimes a little predictable, but they always managed to make me feel better if I was having a less than stellar day. It’s probably for this reason that I continue to love them so much.

This is basically me. No joke.

And the characters. OH MY GOD, THE CHARACTERS. Archie Comics started out with a relatively white-dominated cast, but have since grown to include different types of characters and a more racially balanced group of friends. One triumph of Archie Comics was the introduction of their first openly gay character, Kevin Keller. For a strip that is so widely distributed and so prominent in American pop culture, this was a big move and a great step in the right direction. The strip still has a ways to go to successfully represent different sexual orientations, races, and genders, but the changes they’re slowly making are having an impact.

The cast as a whole is totally lovable, and reading about their escapades is a guilty pleasure of mine. Even the zany stuff. ESPECIALLY the zany stuff.

Archie Comics have taught me some great lessons over the years. Because they revolve around a main character who lives a pretty average life but who tries to do the right thing, a lot of the more plot-driven lines of the comics go into more depth about the complexities of the character and his decisions than the regular digests. For instance: In the Life with Archie spin-off series Archie dies while taking a bullet for the people he cares about, which the creators decided to do to drive home the ideas of selflessness and bravery. HOW COULD ANYONE DISLIKE THAT???

It also taught me from a very young age that RELATIONSHIPS ARE HARD and that SOMETIMES IT’S HARD TO PURSUE A GUY YOUR FRIEND LIKES TOO. It seems trivial, but it’s a common issue a lot of girls face. The earlier comics were generally about how the spoiled and rich Veronica would try to trip up the more genuine Betty to ruin a date she had with Archie, but they also showed the eventual triumph of the better person with Betty usually coming out on top. And although it’s true the characters started out identified as “Archie’s Girls” and had lives that revolved entirely around this passive-aggressive fight over Archie, more recently the comics have dived into the complicated relationship between the two girls and how deeply their friendship and loyalty to each other runs, even though they compete over the same boy. It explores a very “grown-up” concept in a medium that reaches a younger audience, and that’s important. What’s best about them is that their identities have diverged and branched out from their original moniker. They’re growing more and more as separate characters, and there are storylines that centre on their adventures as independent women and don’t necessarily denote motivation driven by a guy.

Plus, they have movies. And TV shows. ALL THIS AND MORE. Don’t know what to watch on a Halloween night when you’ve exhausted your trove of spooky movies? Watch an Archie Halloween special—if not for the storyline, then at the least for the EPIC NOSTALGIA that comes with watching old-timey 90’s movies. (C’mon. You know you love that aesthetic.)

It’s safe to say that my childhood would not have been the same without Archie Comics, and the proof of that can be found in my room: I have a pretty impressive collection of old and new comics, busts, and merchandise of all kinds that my mom is always on me to get rid of. But, for the reasons I’ve touched on here and more, I just can’t. It’s just a part of my life and how I grew up, and I can’t just let ’em go like that. Archie Comics are a sort of constant in my life: it’s comforting to know that, even now, they’ll always be there. Even if other things change, Riverdale and its citizens will stay the same—and Archie and the gang will always welcome me back.

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Victoria

Writes words mostly on the go. Lentils are life.

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