The Archie comics were created to be funny stories about life as a teenager. They take place in the ordinary American town of Riverdale, with a cast of relatable characters meant to remind readers of people you know. Archie Andrews is a red-headed teen who can never make up his mind about which of two extremely attractive girls he likes more. Betty is the blond girl-next-door, while Veronica is the brunette minx. Archie also has some male pals, of course. Jughead is the class nerd, Reggie is the narcissistic jerk, and Moose is a great athlete but a lousy student.
While the premise is fairly innocent on the surface, Archie Comics have heavy sexual undertones. Betty and Veronica are often shown wearing revealing clothing, and Archie drools over them like a dog drools over a steak. (Here's Exhibit A. And Exhibit B. There are plenty more.) The gang will certainly bring that quality to the new CW series Riverdale, which presents a subversive, live-action take on the popular characters.
Whatever the show dishes up, it'll have a hard time matching some of the crazy stories that have made their way into the books over the years. What follows are fifteen unusually bizarre tales told in the pages of Archie comics.
Here are Archie's 15 Most Messed-Up Stories.
You have to hand it to the Archie writers. They certainly weren't afraid of teaming the Riverdale gang up with unlikely characters from other pop culture circles. In August of 1994, for example, Archie Comics collaborated with Marvel for a one-shot crossover called Archie Meets the Punisher. That's right, the unrepentantly violent vigilante crossed paths with America's favorite four-color teenagers.
The story finds the Punisher traveling to Riverdale in search of a drug dealer named Red who's hiding in the town. Red, however, looks a lot like Archie, which ends up putting our boy in great peril, not only from the vigilante, but from Red and other local dealers, as well. Once the Punisher realizes that they are not the same person, he works with Archie to save Veronica after Red kidnaps her. Tellingly, no one gets killed in this story, marking perhaps the first and only time the Punisher let his prey live.
One other tidbit: Archie Meets the Punisher ends with a brief Wolverine appearance, indicating that he, too, would be having an adventure in Riverdale. That one never panned out.
Time travel stories are a reliable source of excitement. There's something about the idea of going back to a previous point in history -- or forward to a period that has not yet arrived -- that is irresistibly fascinating. Not surprisingly, then, Archie Comics decided to hop aboard that train with a short-lived series called Jughead's Time Police. And yes, it's as weird as it sounds.
In this alternate universe tale, Jughead is given a special version of his trademark cap that allows him to move telepathically through time. His missions often involve making sure that the time-hopping sorceress Morgan Le Fay is foiled in her attempts to disrupt history. Helping him is January McAndrews, a future descendant of Archie's that Jughead has a crush on (this happened back before the character was revealed to be asexual. The first issue sees him trying to preserve his family tree, and another has him in a spoof of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. While certainly quirky, the series didn't fare well with fans, lasting only six issues.
Archie was always a little different than most comic book characters, in that he is essentially a normal human being, as opposed to a crimefighter or macho action hero. In 1966, the decision was made to experiment with his image by turning him into something more conventional. He therefore briefly became a superhero known as Captain Pureheart.
The intent was to spoof superhero tales, which the story does fairly well. Captain Pureheart possesses "the PH Factor," a superpower available only to those who are pure of heart. Thanks to his jet boosters, he can fly, and he also has super-strength. The only hitch is that if he does something impure, the powers fail him. A kiss from a thankful damsel in distress, for instance, causes him to drop the car he's lifting on himself.
A good superhero needs a good supervillain to match, of course, and Captain Pureheart has one in the oppositely named Evilheart, also known as Archie's pal Reggie. Another baddie is the Ice Cube, Riverdale's answer to Mr. Freeze. All in all, it's a fun riff on both superhero adventures and Archie Comics.
In Archie Comics, Miss Grundy is a white-haired spinster teacher at Riverdale High School. The earlier books depict her as a stern disciplinarian who almost seems to enjoy making her students miserable. She was softened up over time, with later stories casting her in a more sympathetic light. She could still be tough, but it was done to get the most out of her students, rather than to torment them.
Waldo Weatherbee, meanwhile, is Riverdale High's principal. He's overweight and wears slightly outdated clothes. Like Miss Grundy, he is also single. After many years of working side-by-side, the two eventually fell in love and got married. It should have been a wonderful occasion for two longtime Archie supporting characters. Such happiness was not to be, however. Apparently seeking to achieve some sort of dark, twisted irony, the writers had Miss Grundy die of kidney disease not long after the two were wed, leaving Principal Weatherbee a broken-hearted widower. It was, without a doubt, one of the saddest moments in Archie history.
There are a lot of crossovers in Archie comics. Some of them feature timeless characters from film, music, and other comics. Others are based more on fads, or things that weren't around long enough to prove whether they would have long-term staying power. Such is the case with the multi-part series Archie Meets Glee, released in 2013. Yes, it was a popular show, but will people be watching reruns of it in twenty years? Impossible to say.
Written by Glee staff writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the plot finds some of the Riverdale crew and some of the New Directions crew swapping places after mutually getting sucked through a magic portal invented by nerd Dilton Doiley. All kinds of complications ensue from mixing up the worlds. Puck falls in love with Betty. Sue Sylvester gives Jughead a hard time. Veronica is repeatedly doused with slushies. Because he was an Archie fan as well as a Glee writer, Aguirre-Sacasa's tale is true to both properties, making for a clever, if weird mash-up. Readers of the future may or may not get the joke, but for now, it's fun.
You may not know the name Glenn Scarpelli. He was a child star in the 1980s. Well, sort of. Scarpelli was never as big a name as other young actors from that era, like Gary Coleman or Drew Barrymore. He was best known for playing Alex on the popular sitcom One Day at a Time, and he also made a few appearances on The Love Boat.
In Archie #330, published in July of 1984, Scarpelli made a visit to Riverdale, where he promptly earned the affections of Betty and Veronica, much to the dismay of Archie and Reggie. From there, he occasionally reappeared in Archie Comics with his own side story, entitled "Glenn Scarpelli in Hollywood," that found him hanging with pals like Mr. T, Cyndi Lauper, and Brooke Shields. So why did this B-list teen star keep popping up in Archie's world? The answer is simple: his father, Henry Scarpelli, was a longtime artist on the Archie series.
Most of the time, Archie's biggest concerns were trying to choose between Betty and Veronica, or attempting not to get called into Principal Weatherbee's office. He and his pals had problems similar to those of real teenagers. That was not, however, the case on Archie's Weird Mysteries, an animated TV show that ran on the PAX network from 1999 to 2000.
The forty episodes find a physics lab accident at Riverdale High turning the town into a haven for all kinds of monsters, which Archie (voiced by Girls co-star Andrew Rannells) has to get rid of. Among the creatures are a potato monster, a gargoyle, a mutant alligator, a ghost librarian, and a blob creature made out of the tapioca pudding served in the school cafeteria. In another episode, Veronica is zapped with a growth ray and becomes fifty feet tall. They weren't kidding when they put the word "weird" in the title.
Music has always been an important part of Archie Andrews' life. After all, he had his own band, appropriately called the Archies. The fictional group even had a (real) hit song called "Sugar Sugar" that went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1969 and remained there for an astonishing four weeks. Of course, the Archies performed bubblegum pop. That didn't mean that they weren't fans of edgier stuff, though.
In 2016, they met one of the greatest punk bands of all time. Archie Meets Ramones finds the Archies performing poorly at a Battle of the Bands competition. They are then magically whisked back to the past, where they encounter the Ramones, the legendary group behind songs like "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "Blitzkrieg Bop." They get some advice from Joey and the gang on how to embrace their inner rockers so that they can return to their own time and slay. It's hard to know what the real Ramones would have thought of this plot, given that the original four members (i.e. the ones portrayed here) are all deceased. Gabba Gabba Hey!
The story "Campaign Pain" from Archie #616 and #617 (published in 2010) finds Archie and Reggie locked into battle at Riverdale High. Both are running for student government, and their individual campaigns get increasingly nasty. Tensions escalate as the election draws near, and the guys' philosophies on the issues affecting their school are far apart.
Everything becomes so heated that two real-life politicians swing by to see what's going on and possibly lend a hand. One of them is President Barack Obama, called in at the behest of Veronica. The other is Governor Sarah Palin. Their presence thrusts the Riverdale High election into the national spotlight. Obama takes Archie's side, while Palin offers guidance to Reggie. But lest you think the noted politicians take swings at each other, the cover of the first issue shows Obama and Palin sharing a milkshake at the local ice cream shop. "I guess anything's possible," Archie says as he looks on. As for how the election plays out, we'll let you read the issues for yourself.
Archie has traditionally been a print and cartoon franchise. However, there was a live-action TV movie made in 1990. Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again aired as the NBC Sunday Night at the Movies feature on May 6 of that year. Christopher Rich (Murphy Brown) played Archie, while Lauren Holly (still a couple years away from her breakthrough on the hit show Picket Fences) took on Betty.
The film took the bizarre step of following the characters as adults, making sure to give them all various forms of dysfunction. Set fifteen years after graduation, the story envisions Archie as a lawyer returning to Riverdale for his high school reunion. Betty is now in a verbally abusive relationship, Veronica is a four-time divorcee, and Jughead has a fear of women. Archie's romantic feelings for both Betty and Veronica re-emerge, threatening to put an end to his engagement to a third woman. The Archie series has always tried to incorporate real-world concerns into its storylines, but making the characters adults for this movie takes away a primary part of the appeal. The innocence that tempered the real-world stuff is gone.
If you thought The Punisher was the weirdest Archie crossover, think again. There were several other especially kooky ones, including one from 2015 in which Riverdale's teens meet Predator. Yes, that Predator. The one that famously made Arnold Schwarzenegger say, "If it bleeds, we can kill it." The one who fought the xenomorphs from Alien in two sub-par movies, a bunch of comic books, and a series of novels.
In the crazy four-part tale Archie vs. Predator, the Predator arrives on Earth, looking for new trophies to collect. He ends up in Riverdale, where he begins to hunt down the local teenagers. Several teens actually die (often gruesomely) as a result, marking this as an unusually dark entry in the franchise. Upon realizing what's happening, our red-headed hero bands his crew together to fight back. Here's the sick twist: the story ends with Predator killing Archie, and it is revealed that the creature is attracted to Betty. Where-oh-where is Arnie when you need him?
One of Archie Comics' longtime writers, Al Hartley, became a born-again Christian in the 1970s. He subsequently developed an interest in telling faith-based stories in the comic book medium. Hartley went to John Goldwater, the president of the company, to request the right to license the Archie characters to Spire Comics, another company where he had been penning Christian-themed works. Goldwater gave the okay, leading to nineteen comics in which Archie and friends spread the word of God.
The Spire Comics had the characters expressing indignation at the pornographic fare playing in Riverdale's grindhouse theater section, converting people of other religions, and liberally quoting Bible verses. At one point, Veronica even tells Archie that "Betty is going steady with Jesus." Perhaps the craziest of the stories involves a stranger they meet on the beach. We can safely presume that he is Christ come to Earth in disguise. After advising the gang to love their enemies, he makes Liberace appear in a field of flowers. (Your guess is as good as ours on the meaning of this one.) Perhaps needless to say, the Spire comics were not aimed at mainstream Archie fans. As part of the deal with Goldwater, Hartley promised to sell them only in Christian bookstores.
Having the main character die is a long-standing tradition in comic books. Even Superman met his maker in a famous early-'90s run. It's a way of shaking things up, in addition to drawing attention to a series. The trick to making it work is to have a solid story that justifies the death, so that it doesn't come off like a cheap stunt. In 2014, Archie bit the dust in an acclaimed tale that garnered a lot of recognition.
Issue #36 of Life With Archie takes place in an alternate timeline. Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character ever to appear in the series, is now a U.S. senator. One of his key platforms is gun control. This, of course, is a hot-button issue that raises strong emotions on both sides. A disgruntled constituent attempts to assassinate Kevin. Archie, spotting the assailant and wanting to protect his friend, jumps in front of the bullet. His dying words, delivered to Betty and Veronica, are "I've always loved you." Writer Paul Kupperberg handles the story with intelligence and sensitivity, crafting a meaningful end to a beloved character's life.
Here's yet another kooky mash-up. Sharknado created a sensation when it first aired on the SyFy network in 2013. There have since been three sequels, as audiences apparently can't get enough of the intentionally outrageous concept and over-the-top action sequences. (Or maybe they can. The movies epitomize the "so bad, it's good" category.) Since hanging out at the beach was always a popular activity with the Archie gang, it made a perverse kind of sense to have them encounter one of those shark-filled tornadoes.
Archie vs. Sharknado is a one-shot in which Riverdale is the victim of this peculiarly unpleasant weather condition. Sharks begin falling from the sky to munch on its citizens. Archie and friends interrupt their beach vacation to fight off the sharknado and protect their town. Thankfully, they have chainsaws, axes, and other weapons at their disposal. The story was written by Anthony C. Ferrante, the director of the Sharknado movies, so you know the comic has the same off-kilter spirit fans have come to expect.
Without a doubt, the most messed-up Archie story is the one that completely reinvents the entire franchise. Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who also did the Archie/Glee mash-up) and illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, Afterlife with Archie is a full-fledged zombie story packed with George Romero-esque undead horror. Published in 2013, the series is consummately done, creating a nightmarish vision of Riverdale in which no one is safe.
It begins with Reggie accidentally running over Jughead's dog. The grieving Jughead then asks Sabrina Spellman (a.k.a. Sabrina the Teenage Witch) to bring the pooch back to life, which she does, defying witchcraft rules by utilizing the Necronomicon. The dog comes back as a zombie and kills Jughead, who also reanimates. From there, Jughead goes on to spread the zombie contagion. Archie, Betty, Veronica, and the other key characters attempt to survive as their friends, family members, and neighbors succumb to the outbreak.
Afterlife with Archie takes its zombie concept 100% seriously, with no winking at the reader. That creates real dismay when beloved characters die at the hands of the undead. It's a brilliant, disturbing reimagining of Archie's world.
What's your favorite messed-up Archie story? Do you have any other crazy Riverdale tales that you like? Give us your thoughts in the comments.