Growing up, I was a voracious comic reader. Like any sensible boy my tastes leaned to DC and Marvel superhero comics, but I bought whatever was available. If I arrived in at the supermarket or convenience store and the only comics available were Archie or Pep or Laugh, I would buy them. My theory was that any comics are better than no comics. Archie tested that maxim. The art was lame. The stories are cornball and not at all funny. The lead character makes time with the two best looking girls at Riverdale High despite wearing a bow tie to school. Other things struck me that I didn’t have the language for at the time such as Archie comics being heavily dependent on (unhealthy) archetypes and stereotypes. Still, I read them.
While drafting this I wondered if others shared my complicated relationship with Archie Comics so I polled a number of people via Facebook to get their thoughts. Here are some samples:
I read them as a kid, and I’m embarrassed about that now. (Sexist, demeaning, traditional gender roles, lack of diversity all the way around.) I guess it was mostly because they were readily available that I read them. And maybe it’s crap like that, and growing up in the Catholic Church, that helped me to become/realize I was a feminist, which I am grateful for. Better to be awake than in the dark.
I read them and liked them but I always thought they promoted ‘the American dream’, white Pickett fence type of thing… Also had horrible values for women… Archie would getting loving from the hot evil woman and when she didn’t want him he ran back to the girl next door who was waiting for him always… They always made fun of the dumb, ugly and out of town people… Riverdale was a place you had to earn your stripes greaser style and be home in time for supper… Fun to read though haha
I loved Betty & Veronica story lines best, like all the girls. I was reading them probably between the ages of 8-12?? I think they informed my understanding of male vs female roles….hmmmm, that explains a lot!
I never understood a freaking bloody moment of that crap and HATED it….still do. I also hate anyone who read it. Hate.
Loved Archie comics as a kid, and have bought the odd digest as an adult for mindless reading on long flights. I identified with Betty and thought of my older sister as Veronica. I was mostly interested in all of the female characters (B & V, Josie + Pussycats, Sabrina, etc)- their hairstyles, fashion choices, taste in boys, etc. For some even stranger reason, I loved the beach comics the best in a kind of a ‘Beach Blanket Bingo’ way.
The outright sexist content is too much. recent readings of current issues prove they reinforce negative gender stereotypes, female competition, bad self image values lower class putdowns, and many more negative aspects. The sunny, vintage illustrations hide a truth based out of bad values & sexual manipulation. We have put a stop on them in our house.
I read them and remember thinking at one point how odd it was that I continued to do so despite never really laughing.
Ok so Archie Comics. My best friend … used to read them. She and her sister had dozens and they would be scattered everywhere; piles of them under the bed and being a voracious little reader, of course I checked them out. Yes, I was a kid who would go over to play at someone’s house and start reading their books. Ok so I HATED those comics. And I was shocked. How could I hate something my best friend liked? I hated everything about the comics : the story line, the graphics, and the characters. I had a sense that I was supposed to relate to either Betty or Veronica and I had a sense it was supposed to be the dark haired one that I would relate to, but I still hated her. I felt like the stories were about a world that didn’t fit with mine at all, and I could sense what the comic wanted me to think and feel but that it Just Wasn’t Right. And on some level, it frightened me that there was this Thing in my world that was clearly cool with lots of others, that I wished didn’t exist. At that age I was still frightened by being ‘a little different’ but the evidence was mounting. Thank you for this little morning homework assignment. I still hate Archie.
I never ever touched it, I recall picking one up when I was a kid and thinking how out dated it seemed. Looking back now, the themes are relevant, but it obviously screams of an era.
My friends’ responses encouraged me that I’m not being unduly critical of Archie Comics. To me, the most annoying thing about Archie comics is that nothing bad ever happens. Archie’s car might get a flat tire. Jughead’s belly aches from eating 100 hamburgers. Reggie takes a beating. No big whoop. It rung false when I was a little kid and it sure as hell rung false when I actually entered adolescence and learned what kind of horrible bastards fill this mortal void.
Riverdale is a weird version of the suburban white bread American Dream. While we see the dark side of this in movies like Blue Velvet and Pleasantville, bad things don’t happen in Archie Comics.
Bad things do happen In Afterlife with Archie #1. The worst things you can imagine. Awful horrible stuff, drawn grotesquely, gruesomely, and gloriously. Archie’s still a player, but he’s dropped the bow-tie and the sweater. Reggie’s still a weasel, but, for the first time, has remorse for his craven actions. The story pivots on Jughead, his friendship with Archie, and mainly his relationship to his faithful mutt, Hot Dog. I’m not going further discuss the plot except to say that Sabrina the Teenage Witch features prominently and her aunts Hilda and Zelda are finally portrayed as proper witches and not just a couple of odd ladies in funny hats Afterlife with Archie #1 is hands down the best Archie comic I’ve ever read. It’s hands down the best comic I’ve read all year. If you haven’t read it, read it. And place your order for #2. These suckers are selling out fast.
Philip Girvan used to buy a comic book and bag of chips with a dollar bill and get change.
His writing has appeared in Collected Miscellany, DECAY, the Halifax Media Co-op, and CBC News.
Recent titles he’s purchased and enjoyed included X’ed Out, The Hive, Berlin: City of Stones, Berlin: City of Smoke, Scalped, Fatale, Hawkeye, Criminal, Incognito, and Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew
Philip tweets @pgirvan