In the 1940s, a red-haired, freckled young man, termed “America’s newest boyfriend” took the comic book universe by storm. Over the decades, the lovable, perfectly ordinary Archibald Andrews and his equally appealing friends, neighbours and teachers have amused and entertained several generations of teenagers and spun off many successful comic book series.
Archie Andrews and his gang of buddies were created by John L. Goldwater, publisher and editor of MLJ Magazines. Goldwater’s inspiration for the stories was the hugely popular Andy Hardy films featuring Mickey Rooney. Archie’s personality and looks may have been based on a red-headed friend of Goldwater. The characters were drawn by Montana, with dialogues by Vic Bloom. As the popularity of Archie’s adventures soared, the company changed its moniker to Archie Comic Publications. Its headquarters are in the Village of Mamaroneck, New York.
Archie’s adventures are set in a town called Riverdale. Betty Cooper, the girl next door and Veronica Lodge, a young millionairess, are respectively Archie’s blonde and brunette loves, forever engaged in a battle of wits to win over their innocuous target of fascination. Archie’s best buddy is Jughead Jones, whose laidback humour and enormous appetite in a skinny frame made him so popular that he acquired his own comic series. Reggie is Archie’s mean-spirited rival in love; other memorable characters from Riverdale High are Miss Grundy, Mr. Weatherbee, Dilton, Moose and Midge.
The lives of Archie and his friends revolve around love, friendship, family, dating, heartbreak and fun, themes that teens around the world can identify with easily. Wholesome, light-hearted yet often astonishingly insightful, Archie comics had a whole pre-television generation hooked on to them, with the characters acquiring the status of cultural icons.
Among well known Archie comic books are Archie (1942-1960) and Archie’s Madhouse (1959-1969). Nostalgic readers may be interested in acquiring the Archie Americana Series (June 1995 onwards), a paperback series that offers a history of the publication, notable stories from specific decades and introductions by well known authors. Other collectibles are Betty and Veronica (June 1987 onwards) and Jughead and Friends Digest (June 2005-July 2010).
On July 16, 2010, the United States Postal Service honoured the comic book heroes with the release of a stamp featuring Archie, Betty and Veronica sipping a chocolate milkshake. This year, an Archie Comics #1, published in 1942, sold for R1,332,829.29 at an auction, a record for a comic book which does not include a superhero!
For those of us adults who grew up reading Archie Comics, the characters and stories carry a warm, nostalgic appeal. For some, they’re still a guilty pleasure. And why not, there’s a little bit of Archie and his friends in all of us!