The hue and cry was heard across the world.
It was the proposal that reached into the foundations of many a childhood and gave it a good shaking; indeed, you might have heard: Archie proposed to Veronica.
For over 50 years and 600 issues, the backbone of the Archie-verse had always been the constant love triangle between the eponymous redhead of the series and the two archetypes known as Betty and Veronica.
Rather than joining the masses in outrage at this sudden change in Mr. Andrews heart, I looked at this “event” for exactly what it is: a comic-book cash-grab.
You see, those of us of the dorkier set, the regular comic-book readers of the world, are used to this sort of thing. In the world of Green Lanterns and Flashes, we’ve become inured to these types of “shock” events in comics.
It’s such a common occurrence to find a beloved character getting bumped off, mainly as an attempt to boost comic-book sales. It’s all quite soap-opera-like, especially when the bigger cash-grab arrives much later, when the company decides to resurrect that same character, thus creating another “must-have-this-issue” event.
In the worlds of the big two comic-book companies, DC and Marvel, character death, resurrection, marriage, divorce, etc. has become so commonplace as to almost become a convention of the form.
Naturally, I took the cover of Archie #600 with the grain of salt intended. Sure, I was an Archie fan when I was a kid; Who wasn’t? And, yes, having exhausted many a digest in my time, I, too, felt a pang of sympathy seeing Betty’s eyes well-up with tears at the sight of her only obsession bending to one knee in front of her “frenemy”, Veronica.
If I could comfort Betty, it would be with a strong sense of dramatic irony. For I know, as most people should have been able to figure out if they weren’t too busy burning their “Grab Bags”, that our Betty’s going to have her turn to walk down the aisle, as well.
“Wha,” you say?
I actually flipped through the issue via the usual place you’ll find other thirtysomethings re-exploring their youth – the grocery checkout. And I quickly realized I was reading a “What If” issue.
Here’s another cheap tool in the comic-book editorial arsenal. Send the established character into a tailspin of a story arc, then explain everything away as a daydream, fugue or “reality burp”. Seriously, they do it to us geeks all the time. Remember St. Elsewhere? Dallas?
So why couldn’t hundreds of screaming and wailing Archie fans notice what was going on? It could be that their devotion to the 50-year-old status quo made them oversee the obvious.
In the issue in question, while walking around Riverdale, Archie decides to head up “Memory Lane” instead of down. His path up the lane suddenly splits and he decides to follow the left path, saying, “I’ll save the right one for another day.”
Do you need a Robert Frost book dropped on your head, people? I learned about metaphors in English, just like everyone else, and this Archie issue is a pretty heavy-handed one.
The moral of this story: Lighten up, Archie fans, Betty will have a turn at matrimony soon enough.
And just so you know, I’m a “Betty” guy.