That’s not a sentence I thought I would ever say. But there it is, for the world to see.
And yes, I mean that Archie Andrews.
Archie. The redheaded, commitment-phobe, serial dater and jalopy driver. The kid who was always blundering about Riverdale like he owned the world, despite his penchant for being perpetually in debt.
Growing up I was a huge fan of Archie comics. I liked the stock characters, the predictability, the wholesome town, the fashion pin-ups. I could never decide if I identified more with the loveable and reliable friend Betty, or the selfish and conniving (yet good hearted) Veronica. I always wondered what the appeal was for these striking girls who were so in love with the humdrummery that is Archie Andrews. And more than that, I was perpetually flabbergasted by his ineptitude for healthy relationships. I mean, Dude, pick a girl already!
As I matured, the comics did too. The last decade saw a tremendous shift from the cartoonish short stories about Riverdale shenanigans, to sophisticated and contemplative narratives. My generation of Archie fans was consumed by the soap opera that was Archie: The Married Life, where a walk down Memory Lane gave readers a glimpse into the life he would lead should he choose either Betty or Veronica. This culminated with the tender and retrospective Death of Archie. Later, Afterlife With Archie would rock my post apocalyptic sensibilities with a zombie takeover. But the real deal, the really great reading and visual experience of my life with Archie Andrews is only just beginning.
The first Archie #1 issue in 75 years has hit the shelves this past week. Written by the incomparable Mark Waid (Daredevil) and illustrated by the game changing Fiona Staples (Saga), Archie is no longer just a fun, cartoonish blip in a larger reading experience. Archie is finally a guy I can relate to. A guy I can admire. A guy I want to get to know. I guy I could totally crush on if I was a comic character, too.
Waid brings us to Riverdale in the middle of high school. Archie greets his readers and invites us into his world with an intimacy never before experienced in an Archie comic. Archie looks cool, too. The bowties are gone and he looks just like an ordinary North American teenager, thanks to Staples’ realism.
Also, he’s been dating Betty Cooper since the fifth grade.
That’s right ladies, Archie learned to commit and Betty Cooper was his first true love. It’s on the record, it’s part of canon now, and it’s ABOUT TIME!
But don’t worry, Veronica fans, the series begins with Archie and Betty’s mysterious breakup; which is handled with such maturity that it is my hope that young people reading this new series will glean some insight into healthy break-ups. (Please deliver, Mark!)
Jughead, Dilton, Kevin Keller, and Reggie make appearances, satiating the reader’s hunger for the old Riverdale crew we grew up with, but the cast is much more ethnically diverse, a long overdue necessity underserved in the Archie canon. But perhaps the most interesting plot twist is that Veronica Lodge hasn’t been introduced yet. Instead of picking up a comic long in the midst of a love triangle, this first issue gives Betty a chance to be missed, to be longed for, before the buxom brunette enters the scene.
Archie, at long last, is the character we have been waiting for. The guy next door we can relate to- and want to relate to. Mark Waid and Fiona Staples are giving Archie lovers an icon to admire and a story to sink our collective teeth into.
That’s why I have a crush on Archie Andrews. He is finally the guy he was supposed to be all along. Considerate, humble, devoted and mature. He not only commits, but he loves fully in the process. He handles losing love with reflection and introspection. His friends see it too. And maybe Ronnie will throw us all for a loop, but the damage has been done. Archie is a good guy, better than I have ever known him to be. I won’t unsee that now. And if readers can have literary crushes, than Archie Andrews is mine. And I am crushing hard.
By Leigha Chiasson-Locke