What leaps to mind whenever someone mentions Archie comics? Teenagers crammed into a jalopy, driving to the soda shop? A romantic rivalry between girl-next-door Betty and spoiled rich kid Veronica? Bubblegum pop hits like “Sugar, Sugar?” Jughead’s stupid hat?
Or has no one mentioned the name “Archie Andrews” to you in years?
The creative team behind the CW’s high school soap Riverdale hopes you remember just enough about the old comic books to be excited about seeing them radically reimagined. Backed by producer Greg Berlanti (who helps manage the network’s DC Comics properties Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow), the new show takes a wild spin through an unusual variation of the Archie-verse, dropping the classic characters into the middle of a moody murder mystery, designed to appeal to Veronica Mars and Gossip Girl fans. The show premieres this Thursday, January 26th; here’s everything you need to know before tuning in.
Archie comics have a rich, varied history
Because Archie has been so ubiquitous for so long, non-aficionados may not realize how long the character’s been around or how important he was in the history of American popular culture. Introduced in Pep Comics in 1941 as a sort of pen-and-ink version of Mickey Rooney’s Andy Hardy, the all-American teen proved so immediately popular that his publisher MLJ Magazines soon changed its name to Archie Comics Publications. The core premise hasn’t changed much since then: The popular, ambitious, accident-prone Archie tries to skate through his days at Riverdale High. Along for the ride: his woman-hating, eternally hungry buddy Jughead; his competing girlfriends Betty and Veronica; and a teeming cast of eccentric peers and grown-ups.
That concept though has proved flexible enough to allow the gang to change with the times, adapting to rock & roll, disco, breakdancing and beyond. Archie and his friends have anchored a series of evangelical Christian comics, and starred in a musical animated TV cartoon that spawned the hit single “Sugar, Sugar.” Over the years, the cast has expanded to include enduring characters like Josie & the Pussycats and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Even today, at a time when most comics are confined to specialty shops, Archie digests are still available in supermarket checkout lines.