When I was growing up, I read Archie comic books and other high literature such as Richie Rich, Nancy and Sad Sack.
Archie was a well-meaning dork, with a tic-tac-toe design etched onto the side of his head. He’d chase after Betty and Veronica at the malt shop, while Reggie and Jughead made wry observations, such as “I need another malt.”
In short, Archie was not that interesting, because, first, in 1969, these kids were so not like real high school students, and, second, who could relate to a guy with a tic-tac-toe design on his head?
All the high school students I knew were the older brothers and sisters of my friends, and they were busy listening to Steppenwolf, smoking weed and tending to their beautiful hair (here baby, there mama, everywhere daddy daddy). There were no malt shops. Just mall shops.
Archie had his own TV cartoon show, and a fabricated pop group called the Archies created a Billboard No. 1 song called “Sugar, Sugar,” which I have inserted into your head as an earworm. Sorry.
I lost track of Archie until this week, when I read that he was inadvertently shot by a gunman trying to kill Archie’s gay friend.
When I read comics in 1969, there were no assassinations. Those were for real life. Comics were an escape. The only people who got shot in comics were soldiers in Sgt. Rock. If there were any gays at Archie’s Riverdale High School, the gang didn’t know about it. There was only Archie’s unrequited love for Betty and Veronica, not Reggie’s thwarted love for Jughead.
And nobody died in comics.
I am not sure precisely who is reading Archie now. None of my friends have brought up Archie since the Nixon administration, and then it was only to observe how laughably irrelevant Archie was or to inquire about the tic-tac-toe design on his head.
I guess I applaud the new emphasis on relevance in comics. Kids need to know it’s not all some 1941 worldview. I just wish Archie didn’t have to die saving a friend who was a gay senator and favored gun control.
If only Sgt. Rock had been around, he might have saved the day. Then again, I read Archie once more, which probably was the point.