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Archie Andrews, the titular character in the Archie comics, has been stuck as a teenager for well over a half a century. The seemingly eternal comic follows his misadventures in a town called Riverdale as well as his troubles managing two incredibly attractive girls who constantly compete for his affection. He also has a friend who eats a lot of hamburgers.
This is all I know of Archie.
So, out of morbid curiosity and the fact that they're cheap, I decided to check one out and see why this comic has lasted six hundred-and-forty-goddamn-seven issues. Let's take a look:
I'LL BE THE JUDGE OF THAT
So the issue starts with Archie and... Betty? Who's the Blonde one? TO WIKIPEDIA! Awesome, Betty, guessed right. Okay, so they've arrived at some kind of giant carnival that we're told closes that night, despite the fact that there's clearly a roller coaster and spinny-ride that looks everything but movable.
But it seems like the start to a nice night anyway, Betty's casual racism aside.
She says, worriedly glancing at an unassuming Asian lady
Then they spot Archie's old pal Jughead who carries heaps of food in his arms.
How do you eat a hotdog loudly?
Archie and Betty "America for Americans" Cooper laugh off Jughead's question, failing to address his blatantly obvious food addiction. An addiction that has robbed him of real human relationships outside that of food vendors and the cloying, disingenuous friendship of Archie Andrews. What pain could have caused this? Is it because everyone calls him Jughead? Has he fallen in love with either Betty or Veronica, but knows that he can never have them because they only have eyes for the waffle-iron-haired Archie. Maybe he, much like most of this universe, has fallen in love with Archie himself, and is forever torn apart by it.
Anyway, forget all that because OH SHIT, here comes Veronica!
Confused Boxer prepares for the inevitable brawl
So, to save you some time, Archie committed the classic sitcom sin of promising two girls the same date. Yet, somehow, the fight moves to be between Betty and Veronica even though, by all accounts, the fault lays with Archie. He betrayed both of them. He's the one trying to have his cake and his OTHER cake and eat both at the same time, two different, unique, frostings covering that supple, moist sugar bread underneath, forever forbidden to mix but how can any mortal man choose only one? Ahem, um, right.
Having lost the ability to become aroused at Betty and Veronica fighting three decades ago, Archie decides to wander off until they cool down or realize that Archie is the actual cause of the fight and call Confused Boxer into action once more.
He finally settles on a hall of mirrors, somehow -- seriously what is it about this kid? -- turning the heads of attractive ladies along the way.
"Who's that boy..."
From there, it's the standard house of mirrors stuff, looking at warped reflections, etc. He meets what appears to be the dude version of Veronica, some guy named Reggie. He's spent all day in there, admiring himself, but Archie shrugs that off and looks for an exit. Yet again, another victim of crippling mental illness -- this time some kind of compulsive narcissism -- completely ignored and untreated. Riverdale's youth is filled with more mental instability than the Lohan family.
As Archie, unheedful of his cry for help, walks away, Reggie begins to weep
It's then that the comic takes a turn from banal teen drama to crazy space-time adventure story. Archie is confronted by some kind of Hipster-Scene Kid version of himself who pulls him through a mirror and down a wormhole where fragments of alternate lives -- weird superhero, Archie-but-in-a-tuxedo, Girl Archie, ya know, the basics -- dance around him like taunting phantoms.
Girl Archie does not look like she wants to be there
He appears back in the Hall of Mirrors and thinks nothing wrong has happened because when you spend your life ignoring obvious problems, it's kinda hard to stop.
This isn't really a major plot point, but he finds Reverse Reggie eating what appears to be a urine-soaked hotdog.
W-why is he looking at that boy like that? WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!
Look, I doubt the same person has been writing these since the beginning, but it's obvious that this comic is going for wholesome, All American values. It's a safe comic, a comic for people who remember when kids had good clean fun and said things like "gee!" and "this place is bats!"
Old people, I'm talking about old people. Sure, people of all ages probably read this for one reason or another, but the point of view is very old fashioned. It's like if my grandparents were writing a teen drama comic with some crazy left turns into Fantasyville.
Which is probably why this strange, awful Mirrordale is filled with hipster, punk, goth versions of everyone. It's all stuff my grandparents don't get about some facets of youth culture. It's the ultimate perversion of Riverdale. Kids who aren't as they'd like to remember them being, but rather what they think today's kids are like. All scary with tattoos, dyed hair, piercings, and facial hair.
So Archie tries to keep his sanity together as he navigates this hellish, Sum 41 fan-esque landscape. At first he seems to resign himself to being stuck there, pouting and making friends Mirror "Water Sports" Reggie. It's only when he finds out that his Mirror version isn't the center of this universe that he commits to finding his way out again.
One quick thing: everyone seems pretty normal in this universe. Jughead is class president and is dating, Betty and Veronica get along, and no one seems to have underlying mental health issues. Other than Archie not being the King of Everything, it seems like an improvement on Riverdale.
Regardless, they find a big dude named L who is "way smart" (I think he's probably a big dumb guy back at Riverdale. If this is truly opposite, wouldn't he be really small and smart?). They tell him Archie comes from another dimension and he instantly believes it. When asked about it later, he gives an unsettling reply:
Listen kids, if someone you're with trails off after saying something like this, just run away
So the genuis-who-may-or-may-not-be-on-a-list deduces that since he came from a mirror, he can probably go back through a mirror. Smart.
BUT WAIT! Mirror Archie is there waiting! Why? I'm not sure! He says that he's going to take Archie's life in Riverdale because, why wouldn't he? Archie is a god there. Why didn't he just go to Riverdale the second Archie got to Mirrordale? Once again, I'm not sure!
To be fair, if Mirror Archie showed up in Riverdale, his tats and haircut alone would either get him a John Rambo at the beginning of First Blood type treatment or just a covered up murder that no one in the town mentions again.
"I'd like squiggly lines tattooed on my arms, please." ~ Andrew six months ago
So there's almost a fight, but because we're almost to the end of the comic, Archie screams out "Archies attack!" and the warped reflections in the mirrors COME OUT OF THE MIRRORS, distorted abominations, their mere existence an affront to nature, and tackle Mirror Archie.
Torn apart by living nightmares... a fitting end for his kind...
Other realities, even other Archies bend to the will of Prime Archie. If we could capture a tenth of his power, we'd all live as gods.
So Archie gets back to Riverdale and shatters the mirror, forever damning Mirror Archie to his Hot Topic themed world. He meets back with Betty and Veronica who are still fighting over the right to spend time with this two timing sonnovabitch, and when asked where he went, Archie refuses to tell them anything (remember what I said about it being hard to stop?).
Archie suggests all three of them go on a roller coaster together and I realize the inevitable way this love triangle is going to end. Polygamy.
Jughead continues to fill the hole in his soul with processed foods.
Final impressions from my first Archie comic?
I didn't expect it to take such a fantastical route. I honestly expected this to be about Archie and Betty and Veronica. In fact, I was under the impression that that was the central conflict in the whole series. Who would he choose? A question they've been asking that since the 40s. How could that keep readers for 647 issues? Well it turns out by just throwing in dimension hopping, that's how.
What are your thoughts on Archie? Are you a life long fan? Do you think the situation with Archie and Riverdale is similar to the town in The Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life"? Let me know in the comments below.