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.
The CW’s Riverdale premieres on January 26, and continuing our string of interviews related to the series, today the spotlight falls on Lili Reinhart who plays the role of Betty Cooper. In the comics, we know Betty as the “nice girl,” and on Riverdale she is literally the girl next door, albeit with a mom who is not too fond of her hanging out with that Andrews boy.
“There’s a lot more to Betty than just wanting to be with Archie,” Reinhart says about her character. “That’s very important for us. It was important that we set that tone for our show, that Betty has a lot more going for her than just Archie. Both the girls – both Betty and Veronica, because in the comics it’s just kind of a back and forth between which girl Archie wants which day, but in our show, it’s definitely not the case. These girls are very strong and independent women. They don’t get walked all over by Archie,” she assures.
One added depth to Betty in the TV series is that she has some issues at the Cooper household. “Betty is dealing with a lot of family problems in the show and in this season, she’s dealing with her sister who was sent away, and Betty’s trying to discover why. Certainly someone’s keeping secrets from her, and there’s a very big divide between Betty and her parents, and that’s a big arc for Betty,” Lili teases. In exploring this storyline, we will see some of Betty’s inner strength. “Betty’s strong in her own sense and you see that throughout the season when she fights against her parents to find out what happened to her sister. She’s maybe not as confident and as bold and blunt as Veronica, but she’s strong in the sense that she’ll do anything for her sister, specifically, and she’s just a really good friend,” she says.