75 fascinating facts for the 75th anniversary of Archie Comics

Archie turns 75 this year, so we've opened up our Double Digests for a birthday tribute.

Riverdale, a dark television adaptation of Archie Comics, premieres in Canada on Netflix on January 27, 2017 with new episodes to be added on a weekly basis. Based on the trailer and early reviews, the neo-noir drama is a far cry from the bright, affable comics fans know well. In fact, Netflix Canada promised on Twitter to "crush your childhood dreams."

Archie Comics celebrated their 75th anniversary in December 2016. To mark the milestone we curated this list of 75 fascinating facts about the origins and evolution of Archie and the gang.

(Image courtesy of Archie Comics)

2. The concept for Archie came from John L. Goldwater, who had started a comic book publishing company with two associates in New York. He wanted to publish a comic about a teenage Everyman, rather than yet another superhero.

3. Bob Montana was a 21-year-old comic strip artist working for Goldwater when he was given the assignment to create Archie and his gang. Montana used his own sketchbook of high school life in Haverhill, Massachusetts from 1936 to 1939 as inspiration for Riverdale and its inhabitants.

4. For instance, Jughead Jones was based on a friend of Montana's named Skinny Linehan. Moose was based on Montana's friend Arnold Daggett.

Mickey Rooney and Diana Lewis in the movie Andy Hardy Meets Debutante. (Wikimedia Commons)

6. Goldwater attributed the success of Archie to the fact that "[Archie is] basically a square, but in my opinion the squares are the backbone of America... [and] strong families."

7. In 2003, American TV and comic book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote a play called Archie's Weird Fantasy, which portrayed Archie Andrews as gay. The play was to be performed at the Dad's Garage Theater Company in Atlanta, but they shut it down after receiving a cease-and-desist letter threatening about $1 million in fines for copyright infringement.

8. In 2014, 11 years after that cease and desist letter, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa became the Chief Creative Officer of Archie Comics.

(Courtesy of Archie Comics/Nicholas Hunt for Getty Images)

10. Dunham is a self-professed diehard Archie fan, but has admitted she now has some problems with the original series: "It's like, two really hot, intelligent women fighting over a redhead."

11. Archie cartoonist Bob Montana's four children were encouraged to dream up plotlines for the Archie series. They would put their suggestions in a box in the kitchen and if Bob used one, the child who suggested it would get 25 cents.

12. In 1983, Archie dissuaded Jughead from joining the punk movement.

(Image courtesy of Archie Comics)

14. There was a Christian Archie series, which ran from 1973 to 1982. Even though the head of Archie Comics, John L. Goldwater, was Jewish, he felt the "sentiments were in line with his wholesome family message."

15. A 2009 Archie comic features Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" in its entirety.

16. Though Jughead's love of food is legendary, he's generous if others are hungry. He's given a bag of candy to a penniless boy and donated pizzas to a soup kitchen where he volunteered.

17. The iconic Archies song "Sugar, Sugar" was rumoured to be offered to the Monkees before the Archies.

18. "Sugar, Sugar" was the most popular song in the U.S. in 1969, holding the #1 spot on the Billboard chart for four weeks. It was co-written by Montreal native Andy Kim, who was just 16 years old at the time.

19. Riverdale's first black character showed up in 1971. Chuck Clayton is the son of Riverdale High School's sports coach, Floyd Clayton, and a friend of Archie's.

20. The first black character in the broader Archie universe — which includes the Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina comics — was Valerie Smith, the Pussycats' bass player. She first appeared in 1969.

Left: Cover of Marvel's most recent Black Panther series. Right: Chuck Clayton. (Courtesy of Marvel/Courtesy of Archie Comics)

22. Canadian writer Jewel Kats, who died earlier this year at the age of 37, inspired the character of Harper Lodge, Veronica's cousin and Archie Comics' first character with a physical disability. As a nine-year-old, Kats was in a car accident and read Archie Comics while recuperating in the hospital.

23. Big Moose's real name is Marmaduke Mason.

24. True to his Scottish roots, Archie can play the bagpipes and has worn a kilt.

(Courtesy of Archie Comics)

26. Archie Andrews died in the July 2014 issue of the Life with Archie series, which featured more serious storylines.

27. Archie was killed saving his friend Kevin Keller from an assassin. Kevin, the comic's first gay character, had become a United States senator bent on tougher gun control laws.

28. Archie's ancient red jalopy — which was forever breaking down and being repaired by Betty Cooper — was a 1916 Ford Model T. In more recent comics, he's seen driving a red Ford Mustang from the 1960s.

(Courtesy of Archie Comics)

30. In 2009, Dave Luebke, an Archie fan and comic store owner in Richmond, Virginia, sold his copy of the first-ever Archie comic book for over $38,000 in anger, to protest Archie's proposing to the wrong girl, Veronica, in the No. 600 issue. "Not Veronica," he said. "This is serious."

31. We imagine Luebke felt some seller's remorse after seeing that Archie also proposes to Betty in No. 603, published in 2010.

32. In one Archie future, Andrews doesn't marry Betty or Veronica. Instead he marries and has a daughter with Valerie Smith from Josie and the Pussycats. Depicted in Archie No. 633, it isn't the first interracial marriage in the series. The first was gay character Kevin Keller's marriage.

34. In Life with Archie No. 280, published in September 1990, Archie and the gang vacationed in Newfoundland as guests of Veronica's father, who moved his "international conference" to the ragweed-free province on account of his allergies. 

35. Archie Comics is now run by Jon Goldwater, whose late father, John L. Goldwater, founded the comic in 1939.

36. Jon has rehauled the brand since taking over, saying he found the old Archie "to be dusty, irrelevant and watered-down."

(Courtesy of Archie Comics)

38. Goldwater's updates to Archie, like the grittier Life with Archie series and the zombie series Afterlife with Archie, have paid off. Since 2008, bookstore sales of Archie comics have increased 736 per cent.

39. Jughead's real first name is Forsythe.

40. Betty is allergic to strawberries. Veronica once fed them to her so that she could steal Betty's modelling job.

41. There was a really depressing TV movie made in 1990 based on the Archie characters as adults. Called To Riverdale and Back Again, it showed Jughead as a balding psychiatrist, Archie longing for his lost youth and Veronica's dad trying to have Archie murdered.

42. Today, there are a number of highly successful Archie spinoff series, like Afterlife with Archie, in which Jughead is a zombie.

43. Of the series' many recent spinoffs, CEO Jon Goldwater (the son of original publisher John L. Goldwater) says, "Archie and his friends are flexible — you can put them in a comic with zombies, KISS, Sharknado, you name it, and people know who the characters are."

44. In 2004, Veronica lost her bikini top to a wave. Racy!

(Courtesy of Archie Comics)

46. The statue of "The Thinker" outside Riverdale High is almost identical to one that still stands outside Haverhill High School.

47. In the documentary Archie's Betty, filmmaker Gerald Peary looks into the roots of Archie and the Riverdale gang. You can rent or buy it on Vimeo.

48. Peary believes that Betty Cooper was inspired by a woman named Betty Tonkar Jankovich, who dated Archie cartoonist Bob Montana in 1939.

50. Bob Montana produced his Archie daily comic strips far in advance. As a result, his new strips continued to appear in newspapers over a month after he died of a heart attack in 1975, at the age of 54.

51. In a 1968 comic, Reggie Mantle — Riverdale's resident chief of mischief — turns into a hippie. He tries to offer Archie a flower, but a bee buzzes out and stings Archie on the nose. Typical Reggie.

52. Moose Mason was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia.

54. In a comic where the Archie characters become superheroes, Veronica Lodge's alter ego is Miss Vanity. She transforms when she gets stressed out, and has super strength and a supersonic scream.

55. There are at least two Archie podcasts. One is called The Riverdale Podcast. In it, diehard fans and special guests review the latest titles in detail. In the July 30, 2016 episode, the host, Jonathan Merrifield, announced that the podcast would be wrapping, with the last episode airing on September 3.

56. The other Archie podcast we love is Canadian: Radio Free Riverdale, co-hosted by Toronto author Evan Munday and bookseller/comedian Lucy Cappiello.

(Courtesy of Archie Comics)

58. Indie designer Rachel Antonoff has a Betty and Veronica-themed line launching in fall 2016: "I think Betty and Veronica were fashion icons in their own right," says Antonoff, a longtime Archie fan. "The illustrators were true designers."

59. It hasn't been all about Betty and Veronica for Archie. A wealthy redhead named Cheryl Blossom was introduced to the series — and to Archie's love life — but then removed, because she was deemed too promiscuous. She was later returned to the series.

60. The Afterlife with Archie horror series starts with the death of Jughead's dog. An attempt to raise Hot Dog from the dead inadvertently sets off a zombie apocalypse. Oops!

61. We really like the Wilson Pickett cover of "Sugar, Sugar," which came out a year after the original and put the it back on the Billboard chart.

62. Jughead's trademark hat is called a "clubhouse beanie," a kind of Depression-era makeshift hat that children would make at the time by scissoring up their dads' old fedoras.

63. Jughead's love of food translates to being a gourmet cook himself — in one issue of the comic, he wrote the Forsythe P. Jones Cookbook. It was a bestseller.

64. There's an Archie musical in the works, written by Adam McKay, the writer/director behind Funny or Die and Anchorman.

(Courtesy of Archie Comics)

66. Other core members of the new Riverdalecast include Camilla Mendes as Veronica Lodge, Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy and Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom.

67. The Archie Show, which aired in 1968 for one season, was the first-ever Saturday morning cartoon to use a laugh track.

68. Whether or not it's about Archie Andrews, we think that "Archie, Marry Me" by the Canadian indie pop band Alvvays should be Archie's new theme song. (It helps that the lead singer, Molly Rankin, looks a little like Betty.)

70. Hostess's cake division used to regularly advertise in Archie comics, with plugs for the cakes embedded in Archie strips.

71. The Archies' rock band consisted of Archie Andrews on lead guitar and vocals, Reggie Mantle on bass, Jughead Jones on drums, Veronica Lodge on keyboard and Betty Cooper on tambourine.

Luke Perry (left) plays Archie's father Fred Andrews on the TV series Riverdale. (Dimitrios Kambouris for Getty Images/Courtesy of Archie Comics)

73. In a recent special issue, the Archies travel back in time and meet legendary punk band the Ramones.

74. The actor who's playing Archie Andrews in the CW's upcoming series Riverdale, KJ Apa, called his dad, a huge Archie fan, to prep before his audition.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.