While Thomm gets the Valentine’s Day post this year, I get the privilege of having the all-important day-before Valentine’s Day post. Why is it all-important? Well, it gives you a chance to still go out and shop for your loved one, in case you’ve been slacking…or shoveling. I’m halfway there as I purchased my wife’s dark chocolate peanut M&M’s days ago! So, in honor of the big V-day (previously known as the “12th day of Groundhog” when I was single), I’m going to talk about married life.
Oh, you’re probably expecting some personal account of my wonderful love affair with my spouse of 17 years. But no dear reader, I’m sticking to this blog’s focus this time-a-round and will be talking about the most surprising and entertaining comic book storyline begun in 2009…”Archie Marries”! Stop laughing, I’m serious.
The six-part storyline began in Archie #600. The first three issues depict what happens if “Archie Marries Veronica” and the last three issues depict what happens if “Archie Marries Betty”. Now, you may be wondering how this could even happen, after all, the Archie-Betty-Veronica love triangle has been around for over 65 years. Well, it’s really simple. Archie takes a walk UP Memory Lane comes to a fork in the road and picks a path. He started the walk when he was just about to graduate from high school, but by the time he finishes his walk, he’s about to graduate from college.
What I really like about the storyline, is the growth in the characters. Archie and his gang are iconic and they easily adapt for each new generation (just change the fashion and the “lingo”), but they’ve never (to my knowledge) moved forward before (although, they’ve gone backwards into the “Little Archie” storylines). Not only is there growth, but there are some real heartfelt emotions too. Of course, there is also the usual Archie slapstick comedy, which keeps everything fun.
Rather than go through issue by issue in sequence, I want to touch on some of the important points of the two storylines in parallel:
Popping the Question
Issue #600 is entitled “The Proposal”. There is a nice scene where Archie and Veronica are discussing the upcoming changes post-graduation, which really boils down to life isn’t going to be just about themselves anymore. This is a very “mature” development and is certainly a big departure for Veronica. Archie is later seen contemplating a future with the whole Riverdale gang scheduled to depart for different locations (Veronica is going on a three-month round the world cruise, Betty is going to New York City for a job, etc.) His parents give him a large check for his graduation present and it totally gives him a new opportunity. We next see him about to see Veronica off on her cruise (leaving from New York), but first he needs to borrow her for an hour. He takes her to a fancy jewelry store (which she reminds him is not in his price range) and he pulls out a ring. Unfortunately, Betty and Jughead happen to walk by at just that moment and witness the whole thing. Betty is crushed and Jughead is mystified as to why his friend wouldn’t even confide in him. The way Betty grips the back of Jughead’s shirt is particularly painful. Most of us have experienced rejection before and know exactly how she feels. Worse, the whole town is asking the question “What about Betty?” which is humiliating. Veronica calls Betty to tell her the news (not knowing she already knows) and Betty says sadly, “Congratulations, Ronnie…You – You Won.”
Issue #603 is entitled “Will You Marry Me?”. Archie steps out of the other path he took at the end of issue #602 (more on that later) and it’s graduation time again. He’s driving his friends around and they tease him that “He’ll NEVER make up his mind between Betty and Veronica”. He replies, “Gulp! I already did!!”. “WHAT?!” “WHO?!” “No Way! I’m not telling ‘til I talk to the girls first!” Betty runs up to him and he asks her where Ronnie is, which leaves her dejected. Veronica is surrounded by admirers, but he gets her alone and tries to have a heart-to-heart with her, but she’s keeping things on a superficial level. Jughead and Reggie are watching from a distance and they can’t tell “if he’s proposing or letting her down gently”. The talk is cut short by an impromptu performance of “The Archie’s” and when he tries to start it up again, Veronica informs him that she’ll be moving to Paris after her cruise. So, he doesn’t tell her what he was going to. Based on one of Reggie’s comments, it would appear that Archie was going to propose to Veronica and then changed his mind. I’m not entirely sure. Maybe he was and her response was what he needed to see that Betty was the one for him. Still, at first it makes it seem like Betty is a little like a consolation prize. Archie invites Betty for a malt and they talk about their relationship (“always friends sometimes more”). “I always liked the ‘More’”, Betty confesses. She thinks he’s going to ask her to go steady (although they’re too old for that), but then he pulls out the ring. There are 10 hearts surrounding his word balloon, so whether he was going to ask Veronica or not, it’s clear that his heart is now fully embracing Betty Cooper. The crowd in the soda shop is ecstatic, except for Veronica who is visibly shaken. Betty is entranced for a moment until she jumps up and shouts more “yes’s” than Meg Ryan. Veronica is extremely angry and slams out of the building after saying something belittling to Archie. You see her real anguish when she gets home. Archie choosing Betty, the all-American girl-next-door, really sparks romance in the entire town. When Betty asks Veronica to be her maid-of-honor, she refuses. However, she says yes when she sees how much Betty is hurt by her response. “You’re just too darn nice to be mad at! Darn it!” It’s hard for me to imagine that two women can be such good friends and such rivals, but the scene still works.
Both issue #601 and #604 are entitled “The Wedding” and they really highlight the contrasts between the two girls. Veronica’s wedding is the best money can buy and Betty’s is what can be done on budget. They also detail the differences in Archie’s employment. With Veronica, he has to work for her father in a high-pressure job, coming home exhausted all the time. With Betty, they eventually make it back to Riverdale, both getting teaching jobs (his is music) at the high school and he thrives at it. When Betty catches the bouquet at Veronica’s wedding, she is very upset, but she’s big enough to still be happy for the new Mrs. Andrews. While Veronica goes to Betty’s wedding to show her up in a gorgeous gown, but ends up wearing a waitress dress instead when Betty’s homemade wedding cake flops (Veronica orders a new cake on the spot). Archie gets to talk to Betty about how he loves her as a friend and “sister” and he gets to talk to Veronica about how she was his “fantasy girl”, but that he couldn’t fit in her world. Both issues end with Veronica and Betty telling him that they’re pregnant.
Issue #602 is entitled “It’s Twins”. There is a lot that could be said about some of the “Rickie and Lucy” baby birthing comedy, but the important thing is that Archie and Veronica are very happy raising Little Archie and Little Veronica. It’s a little sad at the end when Archie kisses Veronica before going out for a walk in the snow, where he encounters the fork in Memory Lane again. You know he’s going off to marry Betty in the next issue, but you hate to see him walk out of this life.
Issue #605 is entitled “Happily Ever After”. Again there is more baby birthing comedy, but this issue also mentions what’s going on with Veronica. She’s still the jet setter, but after some failed romances, she’s actually going to marry Reggie. There is a great scene with Betty and Archie driving home after Veronica’s announcement. “I saw your face back there! You thought you’d never fit in her upper class world…now Reggie’s gonna do just that!” Archie replies, “It’s all wrong…” “Wrong?! You think it should’ve been you, don’t you?!” “That’s NOT what I meant!! (she runs crying out of the car) BETTY!”. “Even now…It’s all about Veronica!” she sobs. “I meant it’s all wrong for them! I’m afraid it’ll end badly and my friends will get hurt! Betty – It’s You. ONLY you.” Betty has twins too, Little Archie and Little Betty (personally, I would have liked to see a redheaded girl and a blonde headed boy, rather than identical clones of the parents). Soon after (way-to-soon), Veronica marries Reggie in a quickie Vegas wedding officiated by a guy dressed up like Elvis. There is a great depiction of Archie and Betty going through the sleepless nights of new parents.
[Now there were several things in this issue that took me out of the story:
1) Jughead mentioning that he got help with his small business through “stimulus” money.
2) Moose’s new age yoga anger management classes, and
3) Veronica hiring nurses to care for Betty and Archie’s twins in Riverdale the week after Betty delivers, so they can attend the wedding in Vegas. What mother would leave her kids after a week? What about breast-feeding? On their tight budget Betty would have at least tried to nurse her kids. It was ridiculous.]
The issue ends with Archie taking another walk this time DOWN Memory Lane and he ends up back in high school.
All in all the series was fantastic and the covers were very eye-catching too. I also got to enjoy the story with three of my four daughters. Two of which would eagerly be clamoring for the next issue each month. The consensus around the house is that Betty was the better choice for Archie. I suspect that’s because most girls identify with Betty, rather than Veronica. I’ve got to admit that when I started thinking about this post, I was certain that Betty was the better choice too and suspected that the writers had a bias for Betty also. However, looking it over again, Archie was just as happy in both lives. Work was less rewarding with Veronica, but the family life made up for it. Betty adjusted better to Veronica’s marriage, then Veronica did to Betty’s.
The next issue (#606) will be an epilogue to the series called “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. I don’t know what’s going to happen in that issue, but here’s what I would like to see: a new Archie comic entitled “Married Life with Archie”. The first half would be a story with Veronica and the second half could be a story with Betty (or alternate every other issue). You can’t really be “torn between two lovers” in real life, but in comics you can have “the best of both worlds”. I started reading comics with Archie and would like to continue, but I want the stories to matter more like they did in this series.
There will be a trade of the series soon.