Archie: A true comics icon
By Jamil of Jamil's Comics
Everybody loves Archie. Yes, even your sister and your mom love him. But you love him as well, along with Betty, Ron (Veronica), Jughead and even Reggie. Readers of the 1980s may have read as many Archies as they did Batman or Spider-man comics. It is a shame we see less of the so-called 'funny books' like Archies and long lost Harvey comics. Comics should always have space for fun.
Archie Andrews was created in 1941, when he was meekly added as a back-up feature to the mighty Shield in Pep Comics #22. This was after all, the heroic era of Golden Age superheroes like Superman, Batman, Shazam and others. But it did not take Archie time to win the hearts of millions. In 1942 he had his own series Archie Comics (later shortened to 'Archie' - one of the longest runs in a comics title with issue #637 out this month). Archie was recognised as the main character even in Pep, with Shield giving up his dominance on the cover and acknowledging Archie as the main character in #41.
The early stories were written by Vic Bloom and drawn by Bob Montana. And Archie's creator and publisher John Goldwater claims Archie and his pals were created based on characters he met and knew growing up. Archie is an eternal 17 year old red head who studies in Riverdale High School. He is a typical teenager from his era - running into money problems and girl problems - and yes, also with studies. He likes both Veronica and Betty, and both of them like him. He has an always-hungry-girl-hater pal Jughead. He also has Reggie Mantle in his friends list, who wants to put him down. Dilton is the geek, Moose is the muscle who loves Midge, Mr. Weatherbee is his principal.
Archie was one of the best-selling titles in post-WWII America. When the superheroes were losing their appeal, this teenage hero was apparently selling millions of copies. Archie was always a strong title in the world of comics, probably until the birth of direct retailing of the comics distributors, who opted for comics shops than the traditional newsstands in the mid-80s. Stand Goldberg and Dan DeCarlo were two giants in the field of fun comics. But in the decade to follow, Archie lost much of its ground. Today, Archie publications have only around 1% market share of the comics; two publishers - DC and Marvel - together account for around 90% of the market. I believe Archie is still loved by many readers, but losing shelf space in the dominance of the superheroes (you will be hard pressed to find Archie covers in the new comics section in most places) has hindered its popularity. Still, in recent times, the publication is trying to get back into the spotlight. Some recent events include Archie #600-606 where Archie is married. The stories were not continued by the way - Archie is still single. They have created its first gay character, to match the times - Kevin Keller. Archie comics today also come in variant covers, some drawn by leading comics artists.