Clear and cold. October cold. Too early for this “Crisp” crap.

In the mail at work: a copy of “Archie: the Married Life.” Well, of course it’s a copy; don’t think they’d send the original. Please return after reading so we can print it.! The story concerns the possible destinies of Archie if he married Betty (struggling musician) or Betty (upper-class go-getter.) These are apparently the only two choices for Archie. Betty or Veronica. These comics are SERIOUS BUSINESS, and people die. Jughead kills six people while he drives stoned and plows into a farmer’s market.

Okay, no. But they are serious.

Downbeat. (Jughead is a short-order cook who faked a marriage to get a “stimulus loan” to pay for college.) Because that the Archie spirit: failure and regret, right? The accompanying letter says it’s for Archie Fans, past and present. Wonder how many there are. They must exist. (Wikipedia quotes the publisher on their traffic: 40 million hits a month.) The cover blurb says “The most fascination Archie comic ever printed,” and that’s AOL Comics Alliance talking there. I went to the site to search for “archie,” just to see what the story’s about – the book is thick, and I haven’t the time or the interest – and the first result was about an Archie fan in his 50s who was so irritated by the marriage storyline that he sold his copy of the first Archie comic for $38K.

Then I found the review.

I actually wasn’t much of a fan of the wedding storyline. Part of it comes from the fact that I’m way more fannish and nitpicky about Archie than I probably should be and I tend to dismiss stories that I consider to violate the premise of the characters as teenagers (I don’t even like “Little Archie”), but beyond that, it just seemed to fall flat.

You know we’re in comic-nerd territory when someone says “I don’t even like ‘Little Archie.’” Whoa: dude’s hardcore. Really, how can you be nitpicky about freakin’ Archie? At least the author has a sense of humor about it. Or so I think. I really hope this sentence is sarcastic:

In part, that manifests itself as a litany of tragedy so relentless that it’s almost Funky Winkerbeanian in scale.

He’s not kidding: Moose and Midge divorce, Betty fails at everything, and that old teacher, Miss Grundy, gets cancer and dies. The last picture in the book is principal Weatherbee, weeping. But that’s not all; there’s a subplot about a parallel universe:

Keep in mind that the “Married Life” stories are based on a weird little device that was introduced a couple years ago called “Memory Lane,” an actual street that Archie or Jughead would walk down and end up meeting their counterparts from the original 1940s stores. In Uslan’s story, Archie instead walked up Memory Ln. until it reached both a literal and metaphorical fork, with each side leading to a marriage with one of his two girlfriends.

Here, Uslan is actually codifying that as the formation of an Archie Multiverse, and looping other stories into it.

Oh, good Lord. On the other hand, why not? I like taking one-dimensional figures, imagining all sorts of stories and possibilities beyond the stick-figures who populate the panels.

Nah, it’s still Archie. Don’t dislike Archie; don’t like; it was just the comic book favored by kids who didn’t understand what a deep and meaningful medium this was. High-school gags. Perhaps I didn’t like it because I associated it, and its sibling titles, with the 60s stuff that was going on over my head.

You know. Doing the Frug. Scooter. Everything “mod” and “groovy” left me utterly unmoved. I liked the art of the earlier strips – spare and 40s in tone and hue – and of course Dan DeCarlo’s work was candy for the adolescent eye (although I like Jetta better than Betty OR Veronica.)

As for whether a comic in the 40s could address real serious topics, as they would do in the 60s: this isn’t a comic, but it’s Archie. Plus Nazis!

He’s right about this, though:

And seriously? “Love or hate… life or death… Betty or Veronica” is quite possibly the single greatest line in comic book history.

But not for the reasons he might think.

Today we complete the TV Guide site. It’s done and will sit there as the links rot and the videos are removed from YouTube, probably. I’ve added some pages to the front and the back, including the DeForest Kelly interview. The first series of additions is HERE, and HERE. The back of the book additions start HERE. That’s almost 20 pages of additions.

And that’s not all! Heavens now. There’s an update to the Black & White World section, subsection TV, subsection Perry Mason, which has a pertinence to the TV Guide addition. It’s quite sweet, and can be found HERE.

Enjoy! See you around.


45 Responses to Archie vs. Reality. Also Nazis

  1. 70 degrees as I sit outside on the deck here in El Dorado hills at 10:15PM. De-lite-full.

    As long as Archie and his cohorts don’t invoke the discovery of a tachyon pulse to explain the timeline/alternate universe shenanigans, they can continue to do what they will with their stories. I will continue to ignore them, as I did in my youth.

  2. I never bought many comics for myself besides CARtoons, but Jetta might have made me a comic fan…

  3. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – page 57 seems to be lost in 404-land…

  4. jamcool says:

    AYDS was a caramel candy laced with benzocaine-an anestethic. The AYDS plan was 3 meals, of which two consisted totally of 2 AYDS candies and a cup of tea.

  5. chrisbcritter says:

    Jana Wasile apparently did have “more dates than days in the week”… although she eventually married.

  6. Yael says:

    Whoa there. For a few seconds I had to check my address bar to make sure I wasn’t actually on the Comics Curmudgeon. Nice. :)

  7. Cory says:

    I thought the line was “love or hate…life or death…Ginger or Mary Ann”

  8. hpoulter says:

    My favorite Archie comic is, of course, “Starchie” by Bull Elder and Harvey Kurtzman in Mad Comics #12, 1954. You can see the whole story scanned here:

  9. Bob Lipton says:

    Shouldn’t that be “Funky Winkerbeanesque”?


  10. S.T. Mum says:

    Surprised there was no mention of the live-action Archie movie – Return to Riverdale (?). Class reunion, I believe. Archie married neither Betty or Veronica, and has returned to Riverdale with his child (no wife), and it’s Betty-or-Veronica all over again.
    I also always thought, if it ever did come down to that, it would be Betty – no matter how much Veronica may love Archie, he’d never be able to support her in the style in which she wants to live.
    But, it’s best to keep them forever in high school. Look how “Happy Days” lost its fun once the boys graduated.

  11. wiredog says:

    “an Archie Multiverse”
    I see a future entry at Tor.

  12. Jim T says:

    Whew, those are some fugly-looking Beatles.

    IMHO Archie had run its course (“jumped the shark?”) by the time the Fab Four arrived on the scene. I know. I was there.

  13. PersonFromPorlock says:

    Incidentally, James, if you “like taking one-dimensional figures, imagining all sorts of stories and possibilities beyond the stick-figures who populate the panels,” and haven’t discovered him yet, try Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ books. Natalie would enjoy them, too.

  14. Tom says:

    This is a classic example of what’s wrong with comic books as well as comic strips now. The fact that the reviewer used “Winkerbeanian” as an adjective furthers my point. Why can’t “funnies” be funny anymore? Why do we need drama, reality and tragedy in comic strips? What happened to escapism? I grew up on comic books and strips. I even read (and enjoyed!) Archie and Little Archie. I quit reading about 20 years ago, disgusted by what they had become. Today there a only a few (if that many) comic strips that get what they are supposed to be. Pearls Before Swine and Scary Gary come to mind. Strips like Funky Winkerbean and For Better or Worth went from amusing dailies to long drawn out and tiresome dramedy. I had always hoped my kids would read comic books, but I’ve looked and there’s nothing there for them.

  15. Ross says:

    OK, so where’s the Kelly interview?

    WWW: as a kid, it always bugged me that the animated Jim West was dressed in traditional oater style(not the proto-spandex, Gayest of the Caballeros outfit Conrad ended up in–which likely would’ve resulted, in the actual Old West, in sarcastic inquiries like, “Fell off Mr Wilde’s stage, didja?” from the Anglo wits in the crowd, and a stabbing from the local vaqueros, for dressing like a camp bullfighter).

    Ah, ABC in the sixties: the new kid on the network block, desperately trying to convince the under-40 crowd that they were the hip/now/happening network. We didn’t watch much of their shows in my house, but even a child could see the lame “youngness” of their programming, on a par with “youth ministries”. Also, their lighting always looked kind of cheap & plastic(CBS went for warm, sunny lighting & NBC was crisp, obviously a studio–but an _expensive_ studio; interestingly, I noticed as a kid that the local affiliates, esp the news, maintained the look of their networks).

  16. Suellen says:

    I read Archies avidly during 1966 and 1967, before I hit junior high. Mainly loved it for the girls’ outfits, to see what they were wearing–they got to wear miniskirts!

    Would love to know if anyone else remembers a comic called “Thirteen Going on Eighteen,” from the mid-sixties, about a girl named Val with a blond ponytail. They were hard to find but they were very funny; the humor was droll, not in-your-face. It wasn’t necessarily a “girly” comic. I only had a couple but still remember them.

    And I am impressed with the caricatures of the Beatles on the Archie cover above. They actually look very much like them! I’ve seen a lot of renderings of them throughout the years that don’t even come close.

  17. Andrew says:

    I want to point out that the review you linked to is by Chris Sims. He is, as you intuited, a massive comics nerd, but is also far more self aware and tongue in cheek than you are giving him credit for being.

  18. rbj says:

    I’d love to be irritated enough to sell a comic for $38K.

    So when are we going to have a college course that dissects the Archie oeuvre?

  19. Patrick McClure says:

    C’mon James, it’s Archie. To say you don’t care for it one way or the other because it isn’t as deep as the serious comics is the equivalent of saying you don’t care for whipped cream one way or the other because it isn’t as filling and nutritious as a steak. Archie, at lest in the 70s and early 80s when I was reading it, was enjoyable for what it was. I hope it still is. And just like I enjoyed DC’s alternate universe/imaginary/possible future stories for their “what if” quality toward the charactars, a speculative Archie book might be interesting for the same reason. Of course comic book prices are so high now I won’t buy to find out. But that is a completely different gripe for a diferent day. And incidently, I’d choose Betty.

  20. Cuneo says:

    “It’s the end of the world!”

  21. Antonio says:

    Hello, Mr. Lileks. I’m sorry to be writing on your blog and completemy out-of-context, but I couldn’t find an e-mail adress where you could be reached in your ginourmous site. I have but one simple request: please post again in your Regrettable Foods Gallery that delicious-looking meat pie with bloddy meat on top of some bloodier meat. “Meat makes the crust. Indeed.” – I realize you have a huge site with a gazillion files to deal with but I beg of you, spend some sime on putting back that wonderful picture.



  22. JohnW says:

    Thank you, Cuneo. I was hoping someone would say that.

  23. LS says:

    Archie is the AOL of comics.

  24. If Archie goes in that direction, I guess Chris Ware will be forced to start writing happy ending story arcs for Rusty Brown.

  25. winterhawk says:

    Re: the TV Guide article–Wow, I had no idea that Woody Woodbury had a show! Before my time, but when I was growing up my dad had a record album called “The Booze is the Only Answer Club.” It was very Rat-Packy, wink-wink-nudge-nudge typical ’60s “being drunk is COOL!” stuff, and as a young teenager I listened to it and completely missed the point. This is the only other place I ever heard the name “Woody Woodbury.” I figured he was some obscure lounge act who managed to record one album. Guess I was wrong!

    I want to read that Archie book. I should try to track it down–I used to be a big Archie fan when I was a kid. More of a Harvey fan (Richie Rich–they’ve rebooted him too, and turned him into an Indiana Jones/James Bond-style world adventurer…I kind of like it, but a lot of fans don’t) but I had plenty of Archie digests. This one sounds very surreal and depressing, and I need to check it out.

  26. Wramblin' Wreck says:

    Jetta became the Target Lady IRL. I believe James would agree.

  27. @winterhawk, find a copy of “For Those Who Think Young” (1964). Early surf film with Bob Denver at his best as James Darren’s buddy. Woody Woodbury has a large part that includes his act and pretty much steals the show. Has Tina Louise too.

  28. GardenStater says:


    And Mary Ann.

  29. Tim of Angle says:

    I never did warm to a comic that had Veronica attend the local High School rather than scooting off to Sweet Briar or Miss Porter’s. My disbelief doesn’t suspend to that degree.

  30. hpoulter says:

    Sweet Briar? That’s a college. Right down the road from here on the nice side of Lynchburg.

  31. Chuck says:

    Funkie Winkerbean….that is the comic that blamed Rush Limbaugh for the Oklahoma City bombing.

  32. Chuck says:

    My mothers Looney Tune and Disney comics from WW2. They delt with things like shortages. Mickey Mouse having to wear a suit that is way too small for him because of the clothing shortage (apparently Mickey put on some weight between 1940 and 1943). Donald patching up his tires so he can drive his car. Pretty interesting actually.

    You’ve heard of the mother throwing away her sons baseball cards from the 50s and 60s…’s a twist. I asked my mother where her WW2 comics are as I wanted to read through them. She said she sold them to an antique dealer. Sounds like she didn’t get much. She kept them for 65 years, then a few months before I wanted to acquire the comics, she ditches them for pennies.

  33. ech says:

    “It’s the end of the world!”

    Film at 11.

  34. ech says:

    The B&W World Perry Mason with the Skipper and Bones was interesting, as we forget how it used to be that the “second through” the door actor could end up co-starring.

    My brother lent me “Inside Star Trek”, a behind the scenes memoir by the two top executives that brought ST to NBC and then kept it on the air. They mention that playing Bones was DeForest Kelly playing against type – he usually was a heavy.

    Great book for Trek fans. Lots of inside info on the infighting among the cast and executives, but also great tributes to some of the crew that made it a success such as the designers, cinematographers, etc. Roddenberry comes in for an equal mixture of praise (his vision, rewriting skill, etc.) and condemnation (greed, philandering ways, etc.).

  35. pentamom says:

    “Thelma Lou or Juanita?”

    You forgot Velda May. But Juanita never appeared, so it’s hard to judge.

  36. That is what makes Juanita so appealing, your imagination runs wild ;)

  37. Terry Fitz says:

    I read a lot of Archie, Jughead, Pep and all the other related comics (except Little Archie – that was creepy). Like most people, I read my last one probably pretty close to the time I started spending time with real girls. But I picked up 3 of them at an antique store last year. meh. It wasn’t very funny or very interesting at all. Sometimes, you just have to leave it in the past. The ads were kind of neat. I sent away for some of that stuff – the mini camera and the box of 100 (as it turned out tiny, weak) magnets…good times, good times. Betty. Or Veronica. Both? See? It’s no good to hang on to these things – best leave them as a part of a long-ago rainy Saturday.

  38. xrayguy says:

    When I was young, I didnt like Archie comics for two reasons-1) not one wore a cape, flew or had guns i.e. nothing happened in them (as far as I was concerned) and B) my sister liked them. ‘Nuf sed.

  39. GG says:

    Forget Jetta…take a peep at Blondie! I can’t understand why ol’ Dag would ever leave the house.

  40. MJBirch says:

    Was it National Lampoon that did the Prince Charles/Princess Diana marriage/catastrophe as an Archie comic?

    (Prince Charles was played by Jughead, Betty was Princess Diana.)

  41. buzz says:

    If Archie really wants to be edgy, the proposition shouldn’t be “Betty OR Veronica” but “Betty AND Veronica”

  42. jamcool says:

    @winterhawk, find a copy of “For Those Who Think Young” (1964). Early surf film with Bob Denver at his best as James Darren’s buddy. Woody Woodbury has a large part that includes his act and pretty much steals the show. Has Tina Louise too.

    Basically a feature length Pepsi-Cola ad (“For those who think young” was the Pepsi jingle circa 1963-64)

  43. Patrick McClure says:

    Archie and Jug have Brooklyn accents?

  44. Rick says:

    Yet ANOTHER remake into “Dark and gritty” territory. What is with people remaking things and it has to be dark & gritty. I was watching something with my wife the other night and a commercial for the Charlie’s Angels remake came on, and of course it’s darker and grittier. My wife says “Why is Charlie’s Angels dark & gritty, yet vampires sparkle?” Got to go with her on that

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