[WARNING: This list contains SPOILERS for the premiere of Riverdale]
It may have seemed an unexpected property when a TV adaptation was first announced, but the stars of Archie Comics have made their leap to the small screen with the premiere of Riverdale. Picking up on the strange, experimental styles of the modern Archie Universe, the titular hero and his surrounding cast find themselves embroiled in a murder mystery (and more than a few romances) in an otherwise idyllic small town. And if there were any doubts the creators cared deeply about the legacy being adapted, the first episode put them to rest.
If the modern sensibilities shaping old plot lines like the Betty/Veronica rivalry weren’t enough, then the sheer volume of comic book easter eggs, homages, and pop culture references definitely were. There were so many, in fact, that it’s hard to imagine any fans, new or old, actually caught them all. To show the level of detail that was lifted from the comic book page to the screen, we’re breaking them all down.
Needless to say, there will be SPOILERS in our look at the Riverdale Premiere: 15 Archie Easter Eggs You Missed.
15. The River’s Edge
The first inside reference actually comes before the show even starts rolling, based purely on the title of the pilot episode. “Chapter One: The River’s Edge” is a literal starting point, considering that the show’s narrative begins when Cheryl Blossom is discovered shortly after her terrible tragedy(?) on riverside rocks. But it also happens to be the title of the 1986 film River’s Edge, a film following the torrid exploits of a group of young adults, embroiled with murder, drugs, and all-around disillusionment and deception.
The movie also opens with a doll being dropped into a river, offering a literal and thematic parallel – and the same is expected of the episodes that follow. “A Touch of Evil,” “Body Double,” and “The Last Picture Show” are all tied to episodes with literal interpretations of the titles, while also connecting the TV series to classic films dealing with pained romance, dark mysteries, and an old version of small town America (coming face to face with the darker, modern reality).
14. The Riverdale Register
As the episode begins, the audience is treated to an epilogue delivered by Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) on the day that Cheryl and Jason Blossom took their fateful boat trip. The first image after the establishing shot of Riverdale flies by in a second, but there are a few reason to pay close attention. For starters, The Riverdale Register looks to be a newspaper publisher, scaled to the size of the town. In the world of Archie Comics, it’s Reggie Mantle’s father, Ricky, who owns the newspaper publishing company responsible for The Riverdale Gazette.
Apparently, the TV show may be changing that classic formula, since it’s clearly Hal and Alice Cooper out front. Viewers may not recognize them yet, but it appears that with the papers printed, Alice is locking up, before handing the keys to Hal as they exit. Are the Coopers the new arbiters of news in Riverdale? And more importantly, what deeper meaning could their first appearance hold?
13. Established 1939
The Blossoms continue their drive through the city in the early hours of July 4th, cruising slowly past the Sheriff’s Station, an imposing red brick building on the town’s main strip. The year the station was established is a significant one, since 1939 was, fittingly, the year in which the publisher of Archie Comics was founded. Though known today as simple Archie Comics, the publisher debuted as one of the earlier waves of superhero comic books, releasing its first title in November, 1939.
That first release, Blue Ribbon Comics covered a variety of genres and stories, while January 1940 saw the launch of Pep Comics, a book focused squarely on the superhero known as the Shield. Archie Andrews would make his debut as a relatable lead character in Pep Comics #22, and his popularity skyrocketed. Shield would hold onto his covers until 1944, when he gave way to the ginger-haired young man – the publisher changing their name to match just as soon.
12. MLJ Comics
Next up on the list should come as a less of a surprise now, but at the time is guaranteed to get a laugh from viewers, wondering what kind of comic books these comic book characters enjoy in their spare time. MLJ Comics is, of course, named for MLJ Magazines founded in 1939 by Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John L. Goldwater (using the initials of their first name). The logos are obviously of very different times, but now seems as good a time as any to give credit to the minds behind Riverdale not actually chasing the comic book craze, but helping to start it.
We mentioned the superhero known as Shield in the previous section, but as much as he may seem a rip-off of Marvel’s Captain America (dressed in the American Flag, and using a triangular shield to deflect bullets), Shield debuted more than a year earlier. Still, Captain America became a bigger hit – a debut cover punching out Adolf Hitler will do that – and after MLJ complained about the similarities, Marvel gave Cap a round shield, and the rest was history.
11. “The Town With Pep!”
The large, wooden sign welcoming travelers to the town called Riverdale is guaranteed to send some bells ringing. Whether it’s an homage, for some, to the original Twin Peaks (which the show has openly pointed to as an inspiration) or too dissimilar to make the mental connection, the town’s tagline is easy to spot. “The Town With PEP!” might be a strange slogan, marked by a word nowhere near as popular today as it was when Archie Comics was gaining steam. But the word is yet another link back to the very start of the comics company that would make Archie, Betty, Veronica, and the rest of Riverdale High’s student body household names.
For those curious, the word “pep” is used to describe things with high spirits, energetic, or lively. It fit the marketing of the original comics, but in the context of Riverdale, it adds one more layer of subversive foreboding. Take one look at the moodiness, the angst, and the volume of nighttime scenes in the apparently-Pacific-Northwestern setting, and “pep” isn’t what comes to mind. However good things may have been back in the 1950s, things have changed.
10. Twin Peaks Alumni
Considering just how often Twin Peaks is going to be brought up when discussing the many shows, films, and settings drawn upon by Riverdale (Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars, etc.), the fact that a key actress from the series makes her return has to be pointed out. Alice Cooper – yes, Alice Cooper – is played by actress Mädchen Amick, originally playing waitress/battered wife Shelly Johnson on Twin Peaks. And while her character in that series began as a sweet, innocent young girl, her role in Riverdale is far more honest about her darker side.
Aside from the introduction outside the Register early on the morning of Jason Blossom’s death, the audience meets Alice stating aloud just how much she hopes that Jason’s death was a painful one. What’s more, he’s due for eternal damnation in her eyes – the reasons for which are explained later, in another dark, twisted take on existing Archie Comics lore.
When Veronica Lodge makes her arrival in Riverdale, she does so not of her own volition, but accompanying her mother in the backseat of their car. The events that led to her arrival are soon made clear, with her father, Hiram Lodge, being charged with embezzlement and any number of other financial crimes (not a stretch for the character, given how he’s been presented in modern Archie books). Since the property in the upscale apartment building is in Veronica’s mother’s name, it remains both a legal and emotional safe haven – and even comes with its own doorman.
Not just any doorman, of course, but a kindly old gentleman by the name of ‘Smithers’ – a clear nod back to the Lodge Family butler of the comic books. Although Smithers was typically seen carrying luxury items for Veronica to and fro, or kicking Archie and his friends from the Lodge mansion on Mr. Lodge’s request, his depiction here is far more kind. Hermione Lodge is obviously fond of him, so hopefully Archie won’t have to deal with so much abuse this time around.
8. The Pembrooke
The apartment building itself is actually an easter egg, too. Although the Lodge mother and daughter being forced to move into an apartment following their father’s legal problems is something new (Veronica’s mother is certainly a lesser known character than her father– sorry, “Daddykins”), the minds behind the TV show still found a way of paying homage to the comics. It comes in the form of the apartment building’s name: “The Pembrooke” – as classy a name as we’ve ever heard for a town as small as Riverdale.
The name is a reference to the town close to Riverdale from which Cheryl Blossom and her brother, Jason, hailed in the world of Archie Comics. Following the system of American cities, school towns, and suburbs, Pembrooke was reserved for the wealthy of the area, who generally looked down on the Riverdale “townies.” Those divisions have yet to be established on TV – and likely won’t be, since Pembrooke Academy divided the kids into two different schools – so The Pembrooke is a clever way of keeping the spirit alive.
7. Polly Cooper
The first mysterious mentions of Betty’s older sister arrive when her mother is doing her best to encourage Betty follow the rules (and her curfew), lest the unthinkable happen to corrupt her future… or bring her anywhere near those horrendous Blossoms. Eventually, the full story is given: Betty’s older sister, Polly, fell in love with Jason Blossom, became too invested and attached, and things spun out of control for her soon afterward (it was her mother who actually caused the most significant damage). In the comics, Betty does have a sister – but her future was far brighter.
In the comics, Polly was one of two older siblings of Betty, who moved out west to California to become a TV news reporter. Versions differ on whether she landed in San Diego or Los Angeles, and whether she was a supportive sister or an often bullying one, but either way, her life wasn’t brought to a standstill due to a boy.
6. Vegas The Dog
It’s a blink and you miss it cameo, but as Archie descends his staircase for his first day of school – observing that he’s starting the year off running late – he takes a single moment to give his dog a good morning, too. He refers to the pooch as “Vegas,” and while visible in background shots of the following scene, the dog is relegated to a supporting role (only for this episode, we hope). Although Jughead’s dog, Hot Dog, may be the most famous canine of the comics, Vegas is an adaptation – and a tragic one, at that.
The dog made his debut in Archie’s Double Digest #244 (2013), but his most iconic scene came in Afterlife with Archie, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who led development on Riverdale). The story is based on a zombie apocalypse that begins when Hot Dog is turned to the undead, and eventually tries to kill Archie in Issue #4. Vegas comes to the rescue, urging his loving master to escape (in his own head) and trading his life instead. A memorable moment… that we hope never happens on the show.
5. Established in 1941
Another yearly easter egg this time, once again hearkening back to the very first days of Archie Andrews and the Riverdale gang. When Better begins giving Veronica a tour of the school (having already met the night before), she starts things off with some historical context. The first fact offered about Riverdale High School is that it opened its doors in 1941– at which point their tour is interrupted both by Veronica’s lack of interest, and Kevin Keller’s arrival.
The very first appearance by Archie, Betty, and Jughead just snuck into December 1941, making the school’s founding a match. The school didn’t actually appear in that comic, since the story involved Archie – then preferring the name “Chick” – embarrassing himself in front of his brand new neighbor, Betty Cooper.
4. Riverdale Bulldogs
It may seem like a stretch to picture Archie Andrews as a football star, but Archie has carried on a football career in the comics. There, as in the show, he played for the Riverdale Bulldogs, and while the team isn’t actually named in the premiere episode (the football team is still going through tryouts, so Archie’s first actual game may be a ways off) the name can be seen on the wall of the gym during Cheryl’s speech and Betty and Veronica’s cheerleading tryout.
The team name is a match for the comics, as is the color scheme of blue and gold. Whether Reggie Mantle winds up being as much of a pest on the field remains to be seen, since this incarnation of Archie’s arch-nemesis actually seems to be in high spirits concerning the red-haired rival. For now, perhaps?
There’s no question that this new take on Miss Grundy is going to get most of the attention where updated teachers are concerned (turning a white-haired old woman into a young teacher sleeping with a student over the summer will have that effect), but she’s not the only member of the Riverdale High faculty mentioned. During conversation, there’s a clear reference to “Weatherbee” – as in Mr. Weatherbee, Archie’s famous rotund, and constantly enraged principal.
There’s no actor announced in the actual role just yet, so it would seem that Mr. Weatherbee will be kept to outside of our main story for the time being (although that could change down the line). We would imagine that Archie’s tryst with Geraldi– we mean Miss Grundy will gain the attention of the school’s staff before too long, so the arrival of the one authority figure most guaranteed to be destroyed over the news seems like a must.
It’s the moment that some fans were no doubt waiting for, and it came in the most unexpected way. As Betty and Veronica approach Archie on the football field having just earned their way onto the cheerleading squad, Veronica pushes her newfound friend to ask Archie out (since everyone know they’re “endgame”). Betty deflects the pressure by suggesting a group date to the formal, but Archie is too caught up to even consider it. Until, that is, Veronica informs him that passing on the offer is “totally unacceptable, Archiekins.”
It’s a clever delivery of Veronica’s famous pet name for her boy toy, as much of an update as any other aspect of Betty, Veronica, and Archie’s early relationship. Where the name used to make readers’ eyes roll as Veronica clearly tried to manipulate Archie with sweet nothings, here it’s a teasing jab only possible with a girl boasting as much confidence as the young Miss Lodge.
1. Jughead’s Signature ‘S’
Jughead makes a brief appearance or two in the premiere episode, supplying the narration, but only speaking in one scene with Archie. The exchange heavily implies that the two had a falling out some time before the episode begins, with Jughead admitting that had Archie simply tried to talk things out, the two could have remained friends. Jughead’s interest in the Blossom murder will be bringing him deeper into the focus of the show, but his first appearance already offered one easter egg that he couldn’t have done without.
If Archie is famous for his jalopy, his red hair, and his ‘A’ sweater, then Jughead is just as well known for his appetite, his spiked hat, and his sweater boasting an enigmatic ‘S’. The hat is re-imagined as a spike beanie in the TV show, but the famous ‘S’ can be spotted first on Jughead’s laptop, as well as his t-shirt. While the ‘S’ is an unsolved mystery in the comics, but according to creator Bob Montana who first gave him the letter, it stands for Squirrel Hill, a playful reference to Skunk Hill in Haverhill, Massachusetts. The full reference is actually to their sports team, the Squirrel Hill Independent Tigers… but the full acronym can’t really be used.
So there you have it, our breakdown of each and every easter egg, comic book nod, and hidden detail in Riverdale‘s first episode. If you’ve spotted anything we’ve missed, or have questions unanswered, let us know in the comments!