Archie An­drews is get­ting mar­ried – to ..?

The great ‘Betty or Veron­ica’ ques­tion will fi­nally be set­tled af­ter seven decades, writes MICHAEL CAVNA

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

SO THIS is how the end be­gins. When it comes to af­fairs of the heart, we are gath­ered here to­day to bear wit­ness that Archie An­drews, that long-iconic teenager of Riverdale High, that sput­ter­ing chas­sis of eter­nal chastity, is a com­plete and ut­ter jug­head.

Af­ter nearly 70 years in one of pop­u­lar cul­ture’s most cel­e­brated three­somes, Archie is about to ask Veron­ica, that shal­low, con­niv­ing, ma­te­ri­al­is­tic tease, to marry him.

Archie will pop the ques­tion in Is­sue 600, which goes on sale this week at Amer­i­can comics spe­cial­ity shops.

The six-part sto­ry­line cen­tres on Archie fast-for­ward­ing five years into the fu­ture, when on bended knee and seem­ingly not on a two-day bender, he will ask for Veron­ica Lodge’s trust-fund hand in mat­ri­mony.

And how does Veron­ica re­spond to her let­ter­man-sweatered suitor?

DC Comics gives us the news in an on­line preview: “Fu­ture Archie” will wed and pro­cre­ate with the “Fu­ture Mrs An­drews”. Good­bye, 67 years of vir­gin­ity; hello, red­headed ru­grats and hefty tu­ition bills for Riverdale Day School.

But is this re­ally news? Is it still cul­tur­ally rel­e­vant? Isn’t this merely a stunt in the grand tra­di­tion of comics to re­vive broader in­ter­est in an el­derly ti­tle, short of ic­ing Archie out­right?

The an­swers: yes, yes and, of course, yes.

The “Betty or Veron­ica?” ques­tion has been wo­ven so deeply into the Amer­i­can so­cial fab­ric that it’s about much more than a sin­gle story arc. The Betty-or-Veron­ica puz­zler, so famed and in­grained that one would never re­verse the or­der of the names, long ago took on the aura of a com­i­cal Zen koan. Pre­cur­sor to count­less mod­ern pop cul­ture three­somes – think Rachel/Ross/Emily of Friends and Car­rie/Big/Ai­dan of Sex and the City – it has drawn its mys­tique from be­ing both highly de­bat­able and ul­ti­mately un­know­able.

“Eighty per­cent of the (100 or so) peo­ple I’ve talked to say they are in agree­ment with me,” says Dave Lue­bke, noted “Pick Betty” pro­po­nent and shop­keeper at Dave’s Comics in Rich­mond, US.

Lue­bke, 54, does not take this sto­ry­line lightly. He’s so in­vested, lit­er­ally, in Archie’s love life that he protested against the pro­posal by sell­ing his prized Archie Comics No 1 is­sue (“fine to very fine con­di­tion, best in ex­is­tence”, Lue­bke as­sures). The 1942 comic fetched $38 837 (about R3.1 mil­lion) at auc­tion this month.

A Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity alum­nus who says he stocks about a mil­lion comic books, Lue­bke ac­knowl­edges that the cash is a boon in the eco­nomic down­turn. But he sold the comic book pri­mar­ily be­cause he is peeved that Archie picked the wrong woman.

“Betty sym­bol­ises nat­u­ral beauty – she’s very Amer­i­can, ap­ple pie. She’s not us­ing her beauty as just a lure for Archie,” says Lue­bke, who has been read­ing the comic for nearly a half-cen­tury.

As for Veron­ica, “she’s ma­te­ri­al­is­tic, her daddy can buy her what­ever the hell she wants”.

So maybe that’s it. In tough eco­nomic times, even Archie, not un­like Lue­bke, is “sell­ing” Archie.

And, of course, Archie Comics, the pub­lish­ing em­pire, is sell­ing, too.

“We knew it might be con­tro­ver­sial,” says Vic­tor Gore­lick, ed­i­tor-in-chief and co-pres­i­dent of Archie Comics.

“We wanted to do some­thing ex­cit­ing. But we can’t do what comics like Su­per­man or Bat­man do and kill off Archie. Seven (decades) of peo­ple have been read­ing this thing.” (For his part, Gore­lick, 67, has been work­ing at Archie Comics since he was 16.)

Be­fore “The Pro­posal” came a pro­posal – from Michael Us­lan, comic-book his­to­rian and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the Bat­man films.

“Michael pre­sented me with some out­lines and we went over the story, word for word, page by page, panel by panel, bal­loon by bal­loon,” Gore­lick says of the mar­riage arc. “And he said: ‘To start out, let it be Veron­ica’.” (Note his use of “to start out”.) Can we read that to mean there’s hope for Betty yet?

Gore­lick says sorry, but Archie Comics “is in lock­down”.

So what does the Betty-orVeron­ica ques­tion mean to a man who’s been at the comic’s groundzero for a half-cen­tury? What do th­ese char­ac­ters sym­bol­ise?

“Veron­ica has al­ways had Archie wrapped around her fin­ger, telling him what to do,” Gore­lick says. “Betty helps him with home­work, with cars, with life.”

But we just can’t ac­cept that the Betty-or-Veron­ica ques­tion is sim­ply some shal­low blondes-or-brunettes de­bate that’s been co-opted in beer ads. This goes far deeper than the “Gin­ger or Mary Ann?” ban­ter – that other “guy talk” short­hand filched by ad­ver­tis­ers.

Per­haps this is about whether we as peo­ple make healthy choices that foster our well-be­ing and sense of true con­nec­tion, or whether we want all that glit­ters and tit­ters. In short, then, this is about where we want to set­tle down: Des Moines or Las Ve­gas?

Archie ap­par­ently wants to gam­ble on Sin City. And over a six­part se­ries, what weds in Ve­gas might not stay in Ve­gas. Who knows? Archie could come to a cross­roads, make an­other Ma­jor Life De­ci­sion, then spend years back­track­ing to learn from his mis­take and ul­ti­mately earn that golden Sec­ond Chance.

Af­ter all, comics are all about the prom­ise of a brighter next chap­ter. And like the Betty-or-Veron­ica ques­tion it­self, what could be more Amer­i­can that that? – Wash­ing­ton Post

THE BIG MO­MENT: Af­ter 70 years of celibacy, Archie makes his move.

GREAT EX­PEC­TA­TIONS: Pub­lic­ity for Archie is­sue 600

THE WOMEN IN HIS LIFE: Love ri­vals Veron­ica and Betty

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