Everything’s coming up Archie it seems. One of America’s longest running non superhero title is starting to make a heavier mark on American pop culture, with the premier of Riverdale coming up soon. But Archie hasn’t always been Archie. In fact, Archie started as MLJ Publishing in 1939.
Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John Goldwater are the brain children behind MLJ, each with a previous background in publishing. MLJ originally started with publishing superhero books, with the first book they ever published being Blue Ribbon Comics in November of 1939. After that MLJ started publishing other superhero comics, such as The Sheild, Shield Wizard Comics, Top Knotch Comics, and of course Pep Comics. While I personally enjoy their superhero titles, they can be perceived as a little generic. Of course one thing leads to another, and with Goldwater being inspired by the Andy Hardy radio show, and an old childhood pal, he came up with the idea of Archie. It was Bob Montana who gave Archie his signature red hair, buck toothed look. In December of 1941, Montana, writer Vic Bloom, and the rest of the MLJ team introduced Archie to the world in Pep Comics #22. He was just some ordinary American kid, used as a backup story.
Archie was a hit. His normal life was a welcome change to soldiers reading Pep overseas during WWII. It was only a year later when Archie got his own title. By this point the core cast was in place, with room for growth. And grow they did. In the 1940’s, Archie got his own radio show, ‘The Adventures of Archie Andrews”. The radio show is still enjoyable even today, if you can find it. Archie tie-ins were becoming more popular, and there was even an Archie fan club that ran for a while as well. Through the 1940’s and 50’s, Archie remained a hit at news stands. The white picket fence world of Riverdale was wholesome and fun, in comparison to other comics being published at the same time. You could escape your problems in Archie, and audiences loved it.
For me personally, the lesser known Archie characters are my favorites. Outside of the gang we all know and love, Archie also gave us Katy Keene the Pinup Queen, Wilbur, Suzie, Ginger, Super Duck, Lil Jinx, and That Wilken Boy. Katy Keene has been in and out of the Archie lineup since her debut. Her charm made audiences love her, and Bill Woggon’s inclusion of fan created fashion was a great way to hook readers in. To this day artists and writers still include fan made fashion in any new Katy stories. And let’s not forget Archie’s other popular characters; Sabrina and Josie and the Pussycats.
Sabrina entered the world in Archie’s Mad House #22 in 1962. She was just like any other teen at the time, except she was also a witch. But she proved early on that she had a good heart, and stayed in the Archie spotlight since her debut. Josie first appeared in Archie’s Pals n Gals #23 by comic legend Dan DeCarlo. He had tried to sell her as a syndicated comic strip, but one thing led to another and that never happened. However, all wasn’t lost for our heroic red head. She found new life in the pages of Archie comics, and then in February of 1963, She’s Josie made it’s debut.
When the 70’s hit, Archie became a public company, and with that came more merchandise than you could shake a stick at. My personal favorite items from this time were the Welch’s Jelly Jars and the toy model of Archie’s Jalopy. During the 70’s Archie was publishing up to 34 titles, an impressive feat for a company not backed by either of the big two publishers. On television, Archie reached more people with their various cartoons from Funimation. Starting with The Archie show, and then followed by The Archie Comedy Hour, Archie had a solid few years of being a popular cartoon show. Josie and the Pussycats also had the same success as Archie, and in some cases was maybe more popular.
For me personally, I got into Archie around 1993. Rex W Lindsay’s art in Jughead is what initially drew me in, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I lived through various love triangle stories, Cheryl Blossom making her fabulous debut back in Riverdale for the second time, and Kevin Keller coming in and shaking things up. I’ve enjoyed Archie’s Weird Mysteries, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Josie and the Pussycats in theaters. And let’s not forget the team up they had with MAC. I still own a ton of that makeup! But nothing has excited me as much as Afterlife With Archie, Chilling Tales of Sabrina, and now Riverdale. At first I was unsure, as I really do hold these characters close to my heart. But, change and growth is good. And I can’t wait to finally see the gang on television every week.
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