Don’t get too excited about the news that Archie is proposing to Veronica. As Li’l Abner once said, making it look like the hero might get married is “the usual comical strip trick to keep stupid readers excited.” But whatever happens — my money’s on “it was all a dream” — it will be just the latest chapter in the longest teenage romance in history, a story involving love triangles, broken hearts, love beads, motels, and many, many covers that promise more than they can deliver. Here are some of the key events over the last 67 years in the Archie/Betty/Veronica story.
1942: Several months after the creation of Archie Andrews and his girl Betty Cooper, a new girl appears in Riverdale: Veronica Lodge, a stuck-up rich girl with a talent for manipulating boys. Archie soon starts to prefer wealthy, mean Veronica to poor, sweet Betty — even though Veronica looks exactly like Betty, but with different hair.
1950: The popularity of Betty and Veronica, and their battle over Archie, becomes so overwhelming that they get to share their own comic: “Archie’s Girls, Betty and Veronica,” a title still being published today. On the cover of the first issue, they explain, in rhyme, that they’re the ones “pulling the strings” of boys like Archie. Then in the comic itself, they go right back to letting him string them along.
1966: ”Archie as Pureheart the Powerful”, one of the titles created to cash in on the Batman-inspired superhero craze, dares to provide empirical proof that Betty loves Archie more than Veronica does. When Veronica kisses Archie’s superhero alter-ego, Pureheart the Powerful, it saps all his strength; when Betty kisses him, he is once again able to kick villainous tail. As Betty explains: “Her kiss was a vain and selfish kiss! It weakened him! I truly love him! My kiss will give him strength!”
1972: In an issue of “Betty and Me,” Archie and Betty are on a date when Archie’s car breaks down and accidentally falls into the river. The two take refuge at a nearby motel, where Betty gets out of her wet clothes and into a towel. When Betty’s father sees his towel-clad daughter in a motel with Archie, he immediately demands that the freckle-faced whippersnapper do the right thing and marry her: “I heard that this younger generation was a little free with their morals, but I’m from the old establishment and you are going to protect my daughter’s honour!” Their good names are eventually cleared and Archie is not forced to marry Betty, but she ends the story by joking that next time they go on a date, she’ll “bring along a couple of bridesmaids.”
1982: Deciding that it’s not realistic enough to have a dorky red-headed boy pursued by only two beautiful girls, writer Frank Doyle and artist Dan DeCarlo introduced Cheryl Blossom, who is even richer and snobbier than Veronica, but loves Archie in spite of his status as a lowly “townie.” Cheryl immediately fascinates Archie due to her status as a Bad Girl by Riverdale standards (she enjoys skinny-dipping!), while Betty and Veronica team up to keep her away from their man. Within two years, Cheryl was dropped from the comics, but not before giving DeCarlo, a famous pinup-girl artist, an opportunity to draw her with short skirts and cleavage that were definitely not family-friendly.
1994: Archie comics doesn’t usually do multi-issue arcs, or even stories that last for more than five pages, but in the “Love Showdown,” they devoted several issues to what they promised would be the absolute final word on the famous triangle. In the story the writers came up with, the girls finally demand that Archie make up his mind between them, and he dithers and vacillates on a grand, epic scale. Finally he chooses… Cheryl Blossom, back again after being banished from the pages for several years. Of course Betty and Veronica decide they’d rather go back to the status quo than let Cheryl have Archie.
2007: In “Bad Boy Trouble,” the first story with new, realistic (and ugly) designs for the Riverdale gang, Veronica dumps Archie for Nick St. Clair, a “bad boy” who likes cheating on tests, beating up Dilton Doiley, and making animal noises. Nick, of course, is no more decisive than Archie was, and immediately starts making advances towards Betty as well as Veronica. In the end, Nick is sent off to military school and Veronica learns her lesson: Archie may not be good enough for her, but every other man in Riverdale is worse.