Archie Andrews is getting married – to ..?
The great ‘Betty or Veronica’ question will finally be settled after seven decades, writes MICHAEL CAVNA
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