?Archie comics have been around for 70 years because of fun storytelling and likable characters. Plus, the company really knows how to adapt well to the changing times. Unless some Children of Men-style shit happens, there’s always going to be a new generation that wants to read comics about dating and friends. The various Archie Americana Series books illustrate how the Riverdale gang has adjusted to societal and social shifts across the decades, and Archie Comics have committed themselves to being as inclusive and non-discriminatory as possible — gaining new fans along the way.
But the company’s core approach to business was turned on its head recently when Michael Uslan gave the Archie world a true game changer by resolving the eternal love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica in his Archie Marries storyline. The stunt was a huge success, and allowed readers to find out what would happen if Archie wed both of the main women in his life. And so the clich? of what happens after happily ever after was trotted out, resulting in Life with Archie: The Married Life. When the title debuted last year with stories by Michael Uslan (Paul Kupperberg has since taken the writing reins), it offered readers a magazine-styled format that featured two complete stories per issue — one chronicling the aftermath of Archie’s nuptials to Betty and the other one where he and Veronica wed. In both timelines the characters are crippled by career woes, dysfunctional relationships and other real life problems.
The magazine turned out to be something completely unexpected given the company’s love of safe, and as some would have it, milquetoast stories. It turned out to be edgy. Well, edgy for Archie anyways (at times the thing seems like the comic equivalent of that Riverdale fan trailer that was recently released). Even though only eight issues have been released at the time of this writing, it seemed right to focus on the nuttiest moments that have happened so far. If you’re a longtime Archie fan, this shit will blow your mind.
10) Moose Is the Angriest Mayor in Riverdale History
?Given that Big Moose’s primary personality traits are dimness and a nasty temper, politics are an ideal fit. So after Midge dumps his ass due to his anger issues that are left sadly ambiguous, he rebounds quickly by taking up with a blind yoga instructor who throws around New Age-isms about how he should get in touch with his “Inner Duke” and become his best self. Before you can say Alicia Masters, he starts a mayoral campaign that yields success after his opponent is revealed to be as crooked as Pop Tate’s moustache. As of now in the book, Moose is still settling into his new position. But here’s hoping that the writers decides to make Moose’s reign as mayor as packed with scandal and Daily Show-style political commentary as possible. So will Moose become the JFK of Riverdale or the R. Budd Dwyer? I suppose either is possible at this point, so keep on reading.
9) Archie and Ambrose Reunite
?Perhaps the most charming aspect of Life with Archie is a true respect for Archie Comics’ 70-year-history. The best example of this is how Michael Uslan resurrected Ambrose Pipps, a regular from the Little Archie books who, for the most part, has been absent from Archie lore for decades. That the writers continue to develop Ambrose in both the Archie Loves Betty and Archie Loves Veronica portions of the comic shows a true commitment to the character that goes above and beyond the usual fan-wanking. Slowly, we are learning about how Ambrose’s childhood sucked once he left Riverdale. He is growing from a cipher to a decent guy whose love for his old friends has never diminished. Too bad he’s an absolute shit businessman. Take a look:
?Wanting to give Archie his shot at making it as a singer/songwriter, Ambrose decides to add a performance space to his New York City restaurant. Unfortunately, he and Archie’s dreams of success don’t override realities like the necessity of obtaining permits and obeying zoning laws. (As the above panel shows, even the comic he appears in is mocking his lack of business acumen). Nevertheless, it’s nice to see Ambrose back — even if he is doomed to bankruptcy. Now if only Eye-da would make her return…
8) Cheryl Blossom is Destined for the Casting Couch
?In the debut issue of Life with Archie, Cheryl Blossom (the redhead who threw a sexy monkey wrench into the Betty/Veronica/Archie love triangle) briefly turns up to bullshit over the phone with Betty about her experiences in Hollywood. She brags about her successful modeling/acting career before mentioning that she is dating “a talent agent, a baseball player and a famous playwright all at once.” As a lovesick Betty swoons at what she perceives to be a dream life, the truth is revealed: Cheryl is stuck working at a shitty waitress job. She always seemed a bit loose, so maybe the thing about dating the three guys was actually true. However, it is more likely that Cheryl’s delusion bubble will eventually burst in a bit of “it’s tr?s jolie Coco” melodrama and result in her inevitable descent into porn/Charlie Sheen’s bedroom. Or maybe Uslan just included her in the first issue to illustrate that, no matter how insignificant, every Archie character will be subject to the writing staff’s sadistic whims.
7) Big Ethel Got Hot
?In Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again, a running joke had Jughead avoiding his longtime suitor Big Ethel only to discover that she has gotten hot since high school ended. Oddly enough, Life with Archie draws inspiration from this largely forgotten telefilm — both with its portrayal of Mr. Lodge (see below) and how Ethel is now a bit of a catch. Unfortunately, her newfound good looks (which I’m betting are going to be eventually revealed as the result of plastic surgery and a pretty severe case of bulimia) aren’t enough to overcome her low self-esteem. The comic has her involved with Fred Mirth, a shitty business acquaintance of Archie’s who is using her for some nefarious purpose that hasn’t come to light as of yet. Poor Ethel, first she spends her teen years pining away for a gay man, now this douche. For the record, my money is on her storyline ending in a vodka-fueled murder/suicide.
6) Reggie Has Become the Peaked-in-High-School Loser We Always Knew He Would Be
?In both of the parallel worlds featured in Life with Archie, Reggie is, to paraphrase a line from Scrooged, having problems making his miracle happen. He is a twentysomething failure who can’t quite seem to find his place in the world. He struggles with his career, is subjected to making subtle fat jokes like the ones you see above (seriously, does Brigitte Reilly know about this panel?) and then this happens:
?Yep. Reggie is arrested. Not for statutory rape as you would expect either. Instead, Reggie is the patsy for crimes related to the increasingly sinister Mr. Lodge. And by giving the character something real adversity to face, the writers have done the impossible — they have humanized Reggie. Readers sympathize with him and understand where he is coming from. Sure, he’s been a complete dick in the past. But Life with Archie’s Reggie is in both storylines a selfless guy who realizes that his best years may be behind him. This all sounds a bit grandiose, but the writing staff’s attempts to give Reggie and the other characters some real depth in these stories is fascinating. If a bit completely schizophrenic and uncharacteristic. Which leads us to…
5) Mr. Lodge Is EVIL
?Remember when I mentioned To Riverdale and Back Again? It really was a terrible attempt to rebrand the Archie characters as twentysomethings with issues in hopes that a weekly dramedy series would take off. Instead it just alienated fans and subjected viewers to Jughead’s hip-hop version of “Sugar Sugar.” Anyways, in the flick, Mr. Lodge a greedy sociopath, a portrayal that Life with Archie is happy to run with. Basically, Hiram Lodge spends his scenes discussing how he is going to “crush” Archie and make Riverdale into a bustling metropolis overrun by chain stores. I think that artist Norm Breyfogle has shown remarkable restraint by not having Mr. Lodge twirl his mustache in every panel as the character’s evil traits become more and more defined. If he isn’t shooting lightning bolts at Archie by the time issue 15 rolls around, I’m gonna be really pissed.
4) Jughead Marries Midge
?Suspension of disbelief is the key to enjoying comics. Without it, you’d never believe that Superman could actually fly or any of the shit that went down in Spider-Man comics over the past decade. Which brings us to the case of one Forsythe P. Jones. A longtime bachelor, Jughead, as he is known to his large group of (mostly male) friends, would rather spend his time eating hamburgers than romancing the fairer sex. While many readers suspected that the introduction of the Kevin Keller character was the first step in Juggie’s journey of self-discovery, Life with Archie tossed aside expectations and definitively stated once and for all that he is all about the ladies. Specifically, Midge, Moose’s old emotional — and maybe physical, we don’t know yet — punching bag/girlfriend. Jughead and Midge’s relationship first started as a business agreement but quickly blossomed into love. Or so we are told. Outside of Jughead’s Chok’lit Shoppe we don’t really get much of a sense of their relationship. Unlikely though they may be, the pair is Riverdale’s most stable couple at this point. As for Moose, the big oaf actually seems okay with their nuptials, even going so far to attend their wedding — a low-key affair in which they tied the knot alongside of Mr. Weatherbee/Ms. Grundy and Ms. Beazly/Mr. Swenson (does anyone give a crap about these two?). So yeah, Jughead is straight. Sorry fellas!
3) Miss Grundy Dies
?Um, spoiler alert! Unlike the recent death of the Human Torch, Miss Grundy’s passing went unreported by the mainstream media. This is a shame, because the event wasn’t a publicity stunt but rather a genuine plot point that would facilitate Betty getting Grundy’s old job at Riverdale High. It created some drama for Mr. Weatherbee as well, helping to make him a, um, more well-rounded character. For longtime Archie fans, her demise was shocking because people just don’t die in these comics (you wouldn’t expect to read an issue of Sonic the Hedgehog and suddenly discover that Tails has died from cancer, and the same mindset applies here). Perhaps the deepest tragedy is how the folks over at Archie Comics have ignored my repeated requests for a public memorial service. Without grieving, how can we possibly move on?
2) Betty Is Officially a Starfucker
?So, if Betty has dated a plethora of teen heartthrobs over the past 70 years but not aged considerably, does this mean that Riverdale is a purgatory where times passes differently than how we normally perceive it? This makes a lot of sense actually. I mean, I know this panel is a clever throwaway gag for most people, but it’s really disturbing to me. How old are Archie and the gang supposed to be in Life with Archie? In their 20s right? Then why do they look exactly like they did when they were teens? Is Mr. Lodge secretly profiteering from a Fountain of Youth that lies somewhere within Riverdale’s city limits? If only the city had a resident genius who could sort this shit out for me. Wait a minute…
1) Whatever the Hell Dilton Is Up To
?When the first issue of Life with Archie was released, the biggest shitstorm it stirred up involved Riverdale’s resident genius, Dilton Doiley. In the dual storylines featured in the book, Dilton is missing. Archie takes his disappearance especially hard, spending one issue crafting an e-mail to his vanished pal that may or may not ever reach him. My guess is on the latter; because Dilton is, wait for it, alive and actually traveling between several of the convoluted universes that Archie comics have featured during its 70 years (from the Little Archie stories to the spy-themed offshoots). Jesus.
Like a nerdy, Mennonite-bearded version of The Watcher/Sam Beckett, Dilton observes events in the timeline where Archie has married Betty/the one where Archie tied the knot with Veronica. Sometimes Dilton pushes a character in a certain direction, like when he places a newspaper in front of Midge that helps her assist Jughead in his quest to buy the Chok’lit Shoppe. By doing this, he sets in motion a course of action that allows the pair to fall in love with each other. But does Dilton have knowledge of future events, and is he trying to make things right? It certainly seems so. The above picture of the Riverdale gang indicates that Veronica may be marked for death as well. The prospect of a Riverdale without her is shithouse bonkers, and you’ve got to admire that Michael Uslan would even fuck with the fans by suggesting this. It was a great way to rope in readers of the comic, and it certainly hooked me and I haven’t picked up an Archie comic since he fought the Punisher.
Unfortunately, Dilton’s shadowy antics have been noticeably absent for the past couple of issues. I hope that it hasn’t been decided to drop this storyline, because my desire to find out what he’s up to is reaching Lost finale proportions. This odd little storyline packed inside of the soap opera that is Life with Archie has utterly captivated my imagination .Whether this reflects poorly upon me or the comic industry in general is best left unexamined, but maybe throw down the $4 and experience what strange and sublime pleasures the title has to offer and make your own mind up. Frankly, I’m dizzy from all the thinking about this I’ve been doing of late.