Archie Andrews: The Beginning

Popular culture loves its icons.  Archie Andrews is one of them.

He doesn’t have superpowers like Superman or Spiderman.

He’s not a vigilante like Batman or the Lone Ranger.

He can’t save the universe like Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers.

He’s just a mere mortal.  Riverdale’s favorite son.  Archie.

As the United States entered World War II in December 1941, Archie debuted in Pep #22.  He prefers to be called “Chick” as he explains to Betty, who also makes her debut along with Jughead.

MLJ Comics published Pep, the company’s name deriving from the founder’s initials — Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John Goldwater.  They complemented each other with their experiences.  Coyne — Accountant.  Silberkleit — Publisher.  Goldwater — Reporter/Editor.

Bob Montana, an artist, gave the Archie franchise its center.  For fodder involving story, character, and setting, Montana used his own experiences growing up in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  Truth be told, Montana gave the Archie stories their soul and appeal.

In Archie:  The First 50 Years, Charles Phillips credits Montana with being the force behind Archie’s initial years.  “A rootless child who loved his high school years, Montana gave more than the statue of The Thinker, the hometown soda shop, and a number of his teenage pals to Riverdale.  He gave the strip the emotional strength of this own nostalgia to create an idealized picture of teenage life that we all recognize, but none of us quite lived.”

Montana and the Archie creative staff introduced new characters for the adventures of Archie.  Waldo Weather bee, Riverdale High School’s beloved, bald, benign principal, first appeared in Jackpot #5 (Spring 1942), specifically, a story containing the mainstay Archie elements of slapstick, Weatherbee’s rotund shape, and Archie’s penchant for getting in hot water with the “Bee” as the students call him.

Jackpot #5 also introduced, albeit briefly, Riggie Mantle.  Pep #26 (April 1942) first showcased rich girl Veronica Lodge, comparing her to Egypt’s Cleopatra and Hollywood’s Hedy Lamarr.  Although Pep #26 depicted Veronica’s first appearance, Archie #1 (Winter 1942) revisited her origin in a story entitled Prom Pranks.  It outlines the best known Archie hallmark — the Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle.

Where familiar themes provide reliability, continuity, and comfort, signs of the times reflect the ever-changing world, continually challenging writers to keep pace.  For example, Archie stories in the 1950s depicted cultural benchmarks, including the hula hoop, sock hops, and beatniks.

A 1970s story entitled A Matter of Prejudice reflects the issue of racial prejudice, a common topic for the decade.  Veronica explains that some of Archie’s friends are not welcome at her party.  She uses the phrase simply don’t fit in to describe these people whom she excludes.  Instinctively, Archie thinks that she is referring to Chuck Clayton, a black student at Riverdale High.  In fact, Veronica likes Chuck — He’s welcome at my house anytime he pleases to come!

Jughead, on the other hand, is a different story.  He needs to change his slovenly ways for the party.  Chuck and Archie tell Jughead that Veronica is, indeed, prejudiced — against slobs!

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