Archie Comics

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Archie Comics

Archie has been a highly successful teenager for close to 60 years. He began life humbly, created by cartoonist Bob Montana and writer Vic Bloom, as a backup feature for the MLJ company's Pep Comics #22 in the winter of 1941. At that point, Pep Comics was inhabited predominantly by serious heroes, such as the Shield, a superpatriot, and the Hangman, a vindictive costumed crime-fighter. The redheaded, freckled Archie Andrews, along with his two girlfriends, the blonde Betty and the brunette Veronica, and his pal Jughead, gradually became the stars of the comic book and within a few years ousted all of the heroes. MLJ, who had been publishing a string of comic books, changed its name to Archie Comics Publications early in 1946.

The public had discovered teenagers a few years earlier, and fictional youths were flourishing in all the media. There was Henry Aldrich on the radio, Andy Hardy in the movies, and Junior Miss on Broadway. The quintessential media teen of the 1940s, clean-cut and bumbling, Archie has remained true to that stereotype throughout his long run in the comics. He came upon the scene with the full requisite of essential props—two sympathetic but perplexed parents, a jalopy, a spinster school teacher in the person of Miss Grundy, and an easily exasperated principal named Mr. Weatherbee.

Archie Andrews pretty much ignored involvement with sex, drugs, and delinquency as several generations of kid readers read him and then outgrew him. His biggest appeal has probably always been not to teenagers themselves but to the millions of preteens who accept him as a valid representative of the adolescent world.

Archie quickly began to branch out. He and the gang from Riverdale High were added to the lineup of Jackpot Comics soon after his debut in Pep Comics and, in the winter of 1942, MLJ introduced Archie Comics. An Archie radio show took to the air in 1943, settling into a Saturday morning slot on NBC. The newspaper strip was started in 1946, first syndicated by McClure and then King Features. Bob Montana, returning from the service, drew the strip. In his absence, several other cartoonists had turned out the increasing amount of Archie Comics material. Among them were Harry Sahle, Bill Vigoda, and Al Fagaly.

Archie reached television in the late 1960s as an animated cartoon character. The first show was called simply The Archie Show, and that was followed by such variations as Archie's Funhouse and Archie's TV Funnies. Later attempts at a live action version of life in Riverdale did not prove successful.

Over the years there have been several dozen different comic book titles devoted exclusively to Archie and his gang. These include Archie's Mad House, Archie's Girls, Betty and Veronica, Archie's Joke Book, Archie's Pal, Jughead, Little Archie, Archie's Christmas Stocking, and Archie's Double Digest. The spin-offs have included Josie and the Pussycats and George Gladir's Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The chief Archie artist for many years was Dan DeCarlo and his associates have included Tom Moore, George Frese, and Bob Bolling.

—Ron Goulart

Further Reading:

Goulart, Ron. The Comic Book Reader's Companion. New York, Harper Collins, 1993.