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
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.
I showed you earlier how much Little Archie enjoyed punching girls, but it went deeper than that. He had a pathological need to destroy them. It can't be a coincidence that he always denied them exactly the thing they wanted most. If Veronica was looking for a date for the dance, he would smell it on her and reject her before she even thought to ask. If Betty was leaving for the pet store, Archie was already there, silently squeezing the kittens' final breaths into his mouth.
"And bitch, maybe try crying over in the flower garden. I already watered the lawn."
Archie had an immense talent for crushing girls' souls. He was the Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain of emotional abuse. In fact, if we kept statistics on torturing women, Jordan and Wilt would technically be the Little Archies of basketball. This redheaded monster would attack not only a girl's weaknesses, but her strengths. Watch here how he uses Evelyn's own kindness and bravery against her in a hilarious murder attempt:
All the best Little Archie pranks end with a disgraced girl questioning her self-worth.
"Fuck you, stupid girls! H-hold on ... how am I this comic's protagonist?"
You're probably wondering what kind of effect all this abuse had on the self-esteem of Riverdale's girls. Well, I don't have good news. This next comic is absolutely real and presented in its entirety:
So I'm not saying this Little Archie writer beats his wife, but it seems like a strange coincidence that he perfectly describes the vicious cycle of abuse in a single page. Take a look at it: spitting, caning, unwanted reptile, pelting, apology, repeat. It's uncanny. This is supposed to be some cute story, but if you had a 10-year-old daughter with an alcoholic boyfriend, this is no different from the educational pamphlet her therapist would give her.
So we've established that Archie hated women and the overweight with a passion. But so what? So does every person at the Lane Bryant returns department. What made Little Archie special was that he hated everyone. For every reason.
"If you're shootin' marbles and smackin' bitches with me, you know I gotsta git paid."
He was selfish, conniving, cruel ... you know what? I can save us a lot of time by saying he was, without exaggeration, the literal 9/11 of Hitler rape.
This is a classic Little Archie prank. First, you cut the brakes and steering to a car. Next, several children die. I confess that I don't quite get it. Maybe they were hoping readers would have a rare learning disorder that mixed up their mangled shapes into something fun? That seems like a desperate way to write comedy, but let me give it a shot: triangle, triangle, dying child with forgiving eyes.
Readers of Archie comics know that he spent most of high school being tormented by Reggie and Moose. Well, he deserved it. Back when he was Little Archie, he was a sociopathic criminal. If he wasn't punching you, it was only because his hands were too full of your belongings. And he didn't limit his bullying to humans.
Jesus. The world should hate you so much, Archie.
There really was no warning when Archie would strike. One minute you're his loyal dog. The next you're a stupid asshole. One minute you're his best friend in math class. The next ...
You don't normally see much giant dick and milk squirting in a kids' comic.
If you are a child in Riverdale, you personally are abducted once every 47 seconds. It's the only city in America with 0 percent unemployment because every citizen works three kidnapping jobs. You can't even have a conversation in a Riverdale parking lot over the sound of pounding and screams coming from every trunk. Let's take a look at how a typical Little Archie story starts:
Did you see Archie's smiling face at the start of that story? He's smiling because this is normal. It's not some special issue on stranger safety or white slavery. A man coming into your room and wrapping a rag around your head is how most kids spend their evening in Little Archie's universe.
In Riverdale, they just call it "Sleepaway Camp."
"Gasp! W-who are you!? You're not my regular Wednesday kidnapper!"
This is how you sarcastically say, "Oh great. THIS again," in sign language.
How many tied up children do you need to draw before police fire at you on sight? Ten?
If the artist hung this picture in a museum, it would be called "Self-Portrait."
OK, I bet Little Archie was legitimately surprised by this one.
For the first year, Little Archie was about awful puns and awful PUNches to girls' faces. Then one day they changed the name to The Adventures of Little Archie and he was suddenly an action hero. There was only one problem with this. Archie was a complete piece of shit. He had trouble holding his own in a boxing match against Betty, and he spent so much class time squirting milk that he could barely read. How the hell was he supposed to handle actual danger?
Answer: not very well.
Little Archie's life became a never-ending series of near-death experiences. It was as if the universe read the first 13 issues of his comic and decided he had to die. Every ceiling he walked under fell. Clusters of spider eggs would burst open when he walked near. He never once got in a car with brakes.
"Hurry, Archie! It's only 10 god damn letters! HurAAAIIIEEEEEE!!!!!"
They eventually ran out of normal things to throw at him and Riverdale became filled with wizards, dragons, pirates, robots ... all of them wanting Archie dead. The comic creators tore up the fabric of the entire universe to find something that could kill him, and nothing ever worked.
Apparently, he was too good at fleeing from danger and then tripping.
Seriously, how is he alive?
He escaped this one because a sea monster's only weakness is a pussy on a radio. You know, that might be why the band Muse was never eaten by sea monsters.
If I had to pick a single panel to sum up Little Archie's useless pussiness, this is the one. Even the narrator is like "What the shit is this pussy kid doing?"
Most adventure comics involved the hero doing something clever or brave to defeat the villain. As you're starting to see, that's not how Little Archie handled things. And it wasn't simply that he was cowardly and stupid. He was also incompetent. Another Cracked article mentioned an incident when Archie tried to kill a home intruder. And he did exactly what you think he did: He pointed a gun at his own dad, closed his eyes, and pulled the trigger.
"Urghh ... glub ... honey, how much did you smoke when you were pregnant with this fucking kid?"
Never in the history of storytelling has a main character been as useless as Little Archie. The only character who even came close was older Archie when he started making Christian comics. In those, he would stumble into danger and expect God to kill all his enemies with lightning bolts. You think I'm kidding? You think that's something a sane person could make up? Look!
I would never lie to you about how much Archie sucks.
Long before anyone ever read all 140 issues and saw all 7,000 Little Archie kidnappings, they must have started asking questions. Why would so many kidnappers, none of whom ever had ransom demands, need all these little boy prisoners? Who were these stories intended for? Will some investigator one day consider these comic books "evidence"? Every creepy situation demanded more answers.
Like this one, apparently a scene from Li'l Riverdale's Reluctant Burlesque Performers.
Yes, I can see you're in your swimming trunks. Now I need you to be brave ... who did this to you? Who was the man who drew you like this?
OK, stop. Let's get back to reality for a second. If this ISN'T a way to trick children into drawing inappropriate dicks, then it makes no god damn sense.
I think Bryan Singer found his next comic film adaptation.
"We know these comics aren't for everybody, reader. But if you love Little Archie's tales of underage bondage and want to meet children who share your interests, pick your favorite! Here's their address! We're the only SUPER FAN CLUB with no survivors!"
This is the only image in this article I modified in any way -- it's an entire Little Archie adventure condensed into one explosive page.
There's no one thing that made Little Archie into a monster. It was everything. Every issue had several stories, and each of them added another failure or tragedy to his life. I don't want to speculate too wildly, but there's a solid chance Riverdale is the punishment gingers receive after their souls are rejected from regular hell.
It's where shame is slapped into your ass for all eternity.
Where snakes put on glorious displays of murder for your eyes only.
Where men watch you play. Invisible men. Always.
In most places it would be unusual for creatures to leap out of a bush and silently beat the shit out of your date and his dog. Not in Riverdale.
And what are those things? Cavemen? Aliens? Vikings? Football players? It's like he's being killed by a stupid idea salad. And while this seems sort of fun, you should know that not all the deaths are so whimsical.
"AS THE DUST AND DIRT SETTLE IS THE LIMP FORM OF A GRIEF STRICKEN BOY"? Where did that come from? A minute ago this writer was typing about football cave aliens jumping out of a bush. The guy splatters one innocent dog against a train and suddenly he's Faulkner?
I mentioned earlier that Archie had no talents or skills, and for a long time that was true. But during one of his later kidnappings, a little yellow box suddenly announced to the reader that he had learned some judo. This is all the warning we get before he expertly breaks a person's neck. Think about that. The first time he ever tried anything other than fleeing and crying and it immediately killed someone.
Judo murder became a recurring theme, sometimes with gasoline explosions.
It seems impossible that Archie Andrews was ever allowed into society. He graduated sixth grade with a D average and a police report taller than him. Every missing person and fatality in the city was connected to him and involved some ludicrous story of aliens and witchcraft. He and his friends were abducted with suspicious regularity, and his dog died every day. So let's say you're some ordinary Riverdale detective and you find this grinning kid at every crime scene with a new story about sea monsters or Frankensteins. At what point do you say enough is enough?
When comic book characters get together, Little Archie spends the entire party one-upping Batman in childhood tragedy stories. Archie has only seen seen two human expressions in his life: the face people make when he's disappointing them, and the face people make when the darkness is taking them. "Soon, you will all make both for me," thinks Little Archie.
Oh, this image? I refuse to explain it. Live forever with it in your mind.
Most rich kids just want to be pop stars.
How did these hyper-specific tropes spread so quickly?
The Hollywood rumor mill has been playing games with celebrity deaths for at least a century.
It's easy to work the system and win these awards even if you don't deserve them.