As you might know, Archie Andrews recently died after 70 years of wholesome fun. It happened after he jumped in front of a bullet intended for Kevin Keller, newly elected senator and 50 percent of their world's gay population. Archie bled out a hero, but for a comic about well-mannered teens and sock hops, a homophobic political assassin was a pretty insane ending.
... and a hole in the group poop that will never be filled.
What you may not know is that this is not even close to the craziest or darkest thing to happen in Riverdale. In 1956, they started publishing a series based on Archie's younger years, and to look upon Little Archie is to go mad. Here are eight things I discovered while reading this collection of bizarre adventures.
Not a single comic panel in this article has been modified.
We had very clearly defined gender roles 60 years ago, and while sexism was common, if a woman worked hard and believed in herself, she could still be slightly tolerated. Little Archie thought this was feminism run amok. He hated girls so much, the Riverdale day care had to install a battered women's shelter. Betty and Veronica never got a single dime from the tooth fairy -- all their teeth were left on Little Archie's lawn. You probably think I'm kidding and that no one would actually make girl-punching a central theme in a children's comic. Well, they fucking did:
What's strange about this beating, aside from the fact that someone wrote it and another person drew it, is that Little Archie doesn't even address the girls before he attacks. Betty and Veronica went into that fistfight blind. And you can tell it happens all the time because neither of them asks "WHY!?" They skip straight to the "OW! STOP IT ARCHIE!!" and "OW! ARCHIE!"
What kind of a monster just ambushes little girls? Even the Red Skull offers his victims an explanation before he begins murdering them. In fact, now that I think about it, Little Archie's punch-first policy might make him the only effective villain in the history of comics.
That above is a normal battle of wits for Little Archie -- a girl screams something at him, and then he silently punches her. This comic isn't a cute adventure. This comic is an emotional outlet for someone who ran out of wives to kill. It's something a psychiatric guard would find right before he heard a giggle from the shadows and then nothing ever again.
Those panels represent a pretty unusual moment in Little Archie because it's Veronica who's instigating the fight. Most times, she and Betty are only asking him to play before he tells them they're worthless with words and karate. Here, let me show you:
They want to play fortune-teller, and he threatens to punch them in the eye! That seems like an overreaction ... although throwing a punch at a fortune-teller seems like a polite way to help keep their craft honed. Maybe Little Archie is right this time.
Little Archie's hatred of women was ceaseless and complete. But why? I scoured every issue trying to find his origin story. Did a Georgia O'Keeffe painting loom over his crib? Did he fall into a circus train car writhing with old tampons? I never found an answer. But I did find this scene where the writer decided an ordinary day for girls is grunting and panting over a pit of mud, a situation he could only describe as "WORSE than Indians." My point is, this comic was written by a madman from behind a secret hole in an OshKosh B'gosh changing room.
Just think, some of the children in this comic are now old enough to finish their seventh or eighth prison sentence. What are you standing around for, Veronica? Get the fuck out of there!
Before the corn syrup industry rewrote our country's DNA to be mostly pancake, being obese was a bit of a novelty. If you sent a pair of today's average-size pants back to 1950, they would assume it was some kind of 15-man parachute and drop an airborne squad into Korea. So it's understandable that Little Archie and his writers had no idea how to deal with fat people. For instance:
The first fat L'il Riverdale character we meet is named Fatty! And their nickname for him is Fatso! There's no biting analogy for something like that -- when you're a writer and you name your fat character Fatty, that's like a writer naming his fat character Fatty. It's the absolute minimum of human thought ever put into the creation of a thing. If the author named him Somename Whenlunch, it wouldn't be any lazier. It doesn't really matter, though -- Fatty Fuller only showed up in one issue so Archie could call him fat, steal from him, then never see or hear from him again. The real fat star of Little Archie came later when Bubbles McBounce moved to town:
Bubbles was the daughter of the ice cream shop owner, and she was shaped like a family of ovals having an argument. She had a weight problem, and maybe this is a credit to the efficiency of Little Archie's storytelling, but she never went more than two panels without someone mentioning it. It should also be noted that she was absolutely not cool with it. She spilled so many tears about her weight that all of Riverdale smelled like movie theater popcorn.
Bubbles was a great platform for the writers to deal with the issues of childhood obesity, like how Exxon has to spray oil dispersant all over the ground after they cry. Or, as seen here, how their "eating hand" gets stuck in bowls. Wait, what? Fucking what!? That doesn't make sense in two ways. First, it's crazy. And second, if this really is the author's understanding of obese people, wouldn't he just assume she could eat the bowl? I can't respect a comic that's so poorly researched. Have some respect for your craft -- read a book on obesity, or at least eat a case of frosting.
Despite her nearly supernatural weight issues, Bubbles had her fair share of suitors. Unfortunately, the boys were only interested in her ice cream. I think this was supposed to be funny, but afterward the author literally devoted half a page to Bubbles silently crying about it. The note to the artist probably said, "Bubbles plods into the shadows, weeping, her stupid ham face desperately trying to brine itself. She deserves all of this pain. All of it."
Oh holy shit, I thought I was kidding. The author really thinks she deserves all this! Now I feel bad. Let me look through this stack of comics and see if I can find a situation that didn't involve her breaking the laws of nature with her mass and then crying.
OK, this is the best I could do:
In the history of Little Archie comics, the only positive experience the fat character had was when her impossible mass broke through a dock and knocked out a lake of fish. Ambrose proposed on the spot, which strangely didn't make Bubbles cry. I'm still not clear on all these rules, but apparently marrying a fat woman for free fish is more chivalrous than marrying her for free ice cream. I'm just happy she made it five panels without crying.