OMG! Archie breaks Betty’s heart, marries Veronica!
All summer long Archie Comics fans have been in a dither — a dither, I say!– over the news, released in May, that after 68 years Archie Andrews has finally chosen foxy brunette Veronica Lodge over sweet blonde Betty Cooper. Now the time has almost come: Archie 600 shipped last week, its cover showing Archie proposing to Veronica in jewelry store, with a bemused Jughead and a tearful Betty looking on.
Archie 600 goes on sale September 1, beginning a six-issue story arc that promises to climax in the wedding between Archie and Veronica, with poor Betty, loyal to the end, standing by as the maid of honor….Or will it? Call me cynical, but I find it hard to believe that Michael Uslan, guest writer for the “Archie Marries Veronica” storyline, would really tinker with the love triangle that has helped fuel Archie’s amazing popularity for nearly seven decades.
Even as a kid back in the ’60s and early ’70s, I thought the Archie comics looked pretty square and out of date. Yet I must confess I went through a period of several months in which I read the thing compulsively. With its stock characters and predictable, old-fashioned situations, there was something addictively comforting about it. The mac-and-cheese of comic books.
Uslan, a movie producer, comics scholar and sometime comics scripter, hinted in a May 27 interview the “Archie Marries Veronica” story may be taking place in something like a parallel universe. He told comicbookresources.com it’s set five years in the future, when Archie and his pals are out of college. “And it is just, to me, a really, really cool setup where we get to explore what impact, making a decision about who you are going to marry has,” said Uslan.
Mmmm…If Uslan is really serious about that, maybe Archie and Veronica really do get married. Betty, heartbroken, marries Jugghead, in turn ruining the hopes of Ethel Muggs, who finds solace in alcohol and eventually wanders in front of a speeding car…Veronica, meanwhile, tires of Archie’s normality, and takes up with the rakish Reggie Mantle III, now owner of the town’s car dealership. Embittered Archie confides in Midge, married to Moose and a waitress at the local diner. When Midge gets pregnant with Archie’s child, Moose, teaching PE at the high school, goes looking for Archie with a lead pipe. Archie, his soul empty, doesn’t fight back…
What? Oh. Sorry. Lost myself there for a minute.
Happy to say, longtime Archie illustrator Stan Goldberg returns the comic’s traditional look, dropping the “dynamic” contemporary art work of recent years. John Goldwater, a comics pioneer, created Archie in 1941, in part because Superman struck him as “as an abnormal individual and concluded that the antithesis, a normal person, could be just as popular,” he told an interviewer in 1980. He was inspired, in part, by the Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland “Andy Hardy” movies.
Meanwhile, character blogs and message boards at archiecomics.com have been busily debating “Archie Marries Veronica.” “What can I say? It’s so sad,” blogs Betty. Most fan posts favor Betty over the rich and high-maintenance Veronica.
More than one commentator has noted the striking similarity between Archie-Betty-Veronica and the real-life love triangle of Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston-Angelina Jolie. It’s also interesting that Archie comics reverses the traditional stereotype of the sexy blonde and the mousy brunette — one of the comic’s most brilliant aspects, I think.
However things play out over the six issues of “Archie Marries Veronica” (and my money’s on Betty, though my heart belongs to Veronica) the whole bru-ha-ha is a testimony to the enduring popularity of comics and graphic storytelling in general. Miami Book Fair International, Nov. 8-15, will have a full slate of comics writers, artists and experts. Participants are still being confirmed, but you can read about last year’s Comics Galaxy for an idea of what to expect.