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11 Surprising Facts About Archie Comics

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Ever think while reading Archie comics, "I wonder how Archie dies"? No? Well too bad, because you're going to find out. In issue #36 of "Life With Archie," a series that looks into Archie's future, post-high school days, the character will be killed off. Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater tells CNN, "Archie dies as he lived—heroically. He dies saving the life of a friend."

Even though this is the end of Archie, it won't be the end of Archie—the main, non-"Life With Archie" series will continue to follow Archie and his Riverdale pals. This brief foray into the future is just one of the many things our hero has had to face since his creation in 1941.

1. Archie was inspired by a 1930s teenage heartthrob

Publicity photo of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland for film Love Finds Andy Hardy, public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Archie was based—in part, at least—on the Andy Hardy movie series, starring Mickey Rooney. When Andy Hardy isn’t rejecting girl-next-door Betsy Booth (Betsy/Betty, get it?), he’s dating a slew of Veronica-like girlfriends that include Lana Turner, Donna Reed, and Ann Rutherford. Like Archie, Andy is an average guy who somehow attracts girls who are way out of his league—and thus the Archie universe’s gender dynamics were formed.

2. Archie Andrews was on the radio

From 1943 to 1953, The Adventures of Archie Andrews radio show played primarily on NBC. The show’s intro featured a squeaky-voiced Jughead saying, “Aw relax, Archie, ree-lax!” Oddly, this show for preteens often featured Archie’s parents more than Archie himself. Sample plots include “Archie Gets Dressed for a Date With Veronica,” “Mr. Andrews Wallpapers a Room,” and “Buying a Hammock.”

3. When the Monkees refused "Sugar, Sugar," it went to The Archies

Supposedly, when producer Don Kirshner offered the Monkees “Sugar, Sugar” (which songwriter Jeff Barry denies happened), they refused it, demanding artistic control and a more mature sound. The situation grew so heated, Mike Nesmith put his fist through a wall, saying, “That could have been your face.” So Kirshner went on to create The Archies—formed by the teenagers on TV's The Archie Showa band that couldn’t talk back or hit things. It was the number one song of 1969.

4. Archie was a superhero named Captain Pureheart

Courtesy of Dial B for Blog

In 1966, Archie became Captain Pureheart, a Superman-like character with powerful strength and the ability to fly using "jet-boosters.” Along with Betty, aka Superteen, and Jughead as Captain Hero, Captain Pureheart battled villains like The Ice Cube and Evilheart (i.e. Reggie) using super bad breath, exploding bubble gum, and the power of a pure heart. Not surprisingly, Captain Pureheart was canceled from lack of sales.

5. Archie’s Christian comics existed

Courtesy of Comics Alliance 

In 1973, an artist for Archie Comics named Al Hartley got permission to use the characters in a series published by Spire Christian Comics. In the 49 issues that followed, Archie and friends undergo evangelical hijinks that include converting a hippie to Christianity; convincing a reporter of the importance of prayer; and demonstrating what happens when schools stop teaching the Bible in an Old West town. (It’s okay: They open a Christian bookstore.)

6. Archie cartoons never do that well

There have been six animated Archie TV shows since 1969, ranging in style and theme. The Archie Show was straight from the comic books. The New Archies tried to update the animation to please kids from the 1980s. Archie's Weird Mysteries took on B-movie monsters like mummies and a 50-foot Veronica. Not one show lasted more than a year. Let’s hope the newest animated show, It’s Archie, will fare better.

7. There was an Archie TV movie? Of course there was. 

Archie: To Riverdale And Back Again aired on NBC in 1990. In it, Archie (played by Christopher Rich) goes to his 15-year high school reunion and runs into the gang, now live-action adults. The movie is impressive in its thorough depiction of Riverdale—Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead even perform a song similar to “Sugar, Sugar.” But will Archie finally pick between Betty and Veronica, or stay with his fiancée?

8. Kevin Keller, the gay Archie character, made history

Courtesy of Kevin Keller Facebook

In 2010, Archie comics introduced its first gay character, Kevin Keller, in Veronica 202. The issue promptly sold out, and Archie Comics ordered its first reprint ever in its 72-year history. Clearly, the character struck a nerve. Archie Comics then gave Kevin his own series in 2011, making him the first gay male with a solo series in mainstream comics. Kevin is also going to become a superhero called The Equalizer as part of his ongoing storyline this May.

9. Archie is branching out into Young Adult books

This summer, Archie is entering the young adult market—or Betty is, at least. Diary Of A Girl Next Door: Betty by Tania del Rio will be from her point of view. Betty has always kept a diary, so she seems like a natural choice. The book is a combination of first-person text and illustrations that Betty “drew,” much in the style of Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

10. Afterlife With Archie takes on adult horror

Courtesy of Afterlife with Archie Facebook

Afterlife With Archie is a mature horror comic where Riverdale is overrun with zombies. Hot Dog is killed by a car, so Jughead begs Sabrina to bring him back to life. When she does, zombie Hot Dog bites Jughead, who then turns into a zombie, and the terror escalates from there. Afterlife With Archie has been selling well and is getting good reviews. There are even rumors of a movie. It seems that Archie's afterlives never end.

11. Archie Gets a 'Girls' Makeover

In 2015, Lena Dunham will write a four-part series for Archie Comics. According to Entertainment Weekly, the story will "follow Archie and the gang when they run into a new reality show filming in Riverdale."

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Space Goat Publishing
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Comics
These Evil Dead 2 Comics Will Look Groovy on Your Bookshelf
Space Goat Publishing
Space Goat Publishing

Bruce Campbell has been quoted as saying the gallons of fake blood poured into his face during filming of the 1987 cult classic horror film Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn led to a week of red-tinged mucus leaking out of his nostrils. Fortunately, no Campbells were harmed in the making of two new comic collections from Space Goat Productions that are now being funded on Kickstarter. The Evil Dead 2 Omnibus features over 300 pages of stories set in the Necronomicon-plagued universe featured in numerous comic book miniseries; The Art of Evil Dead 2 reveals never-before-seen production art from both the comics and ancillary projects.

The campaign is the latest from Space Goat, the Bellingham, Washington-based company that’s made a cottage (or cabin) industry from products spinning out of the Sam Raimi-directed film, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. In addition to the new collections, the publisher has also issued an Evil Dead 2 coloring book; a comic where Campbell’s demon-fighting hero, Ash Williams, encounters Adolf Hitler; and a forthcoming board game where players can navigate Deadite threats while shaking their head at Ash’s questionable competency. (No matter the iteration, he seems ill-equipped to deal with the threat of his own possessed and lopped-off hand.)

According to Space Goat publisher Shon Bury, licensing the Evil Dead 2 property from rights holders StudioCanal in 2015 has been a buoy in navigating the difficult waters of comic book publishing. (Even Marvel, which rakes in billions through its film franchises, struggles to sell more than 60,000 to 70,000 copies of its most popular monthly titles.) One day into its Kickstarter launch, the Evil Dead titles had reached 50 percent of their $20,000 funding goal.

“It’s definitely our flagship on the publishing side,” Bury tells Mental Floss. “The board game is our top seller in the Evil Dead category, and the coloring book sells really well. They’re our evergreen products.”

The cover to 'The Art of Evil Dead 2' from Space Goat Publishing
Space Goat Publishing

Exploring Ash’s adventures in other media comes with a few caveats. While Space Goat is free to explore the characters and situations portrayed in Evil Dead 2, incorporating ideas from the rest of the series (including 1993’s Army of Darkness or the Starz series Ash vs. Evil Dead) is generally off-limits. And while the StudioCanal rights include a likeness of Campbell, the actor has veto power over how he’s depicted on the page. “For some reason, he doesn’t like the dimple on his chin to be drawn,” Bury says. “But he’s very insistent that the scar on his face from the movie is always there.”

Other actors featured in the film—like Richard Domeier, the future home-shopping host who portrayed “Evil Ed”—may not have granted their likeness rights, but his Deadite character design is part of the deal. “You want to inoculate the owner or licensor of the rights,” Bury says. “So we submit drawings and they might say, ‘No, too close to the actor.’”

That development process is part of what makes up The Art of Evil Dead 2, one-half of Space Goat’s current Kickstarter project that follows a successful Evil Dead 2 board game launch in 2016. The campaigns, Bury says, help target Ash fans with material that might not get enough attention if it were released directly to retailers. “Kickstarter is basically social media. It’s direct engagement, our way of saying to fans, ‘Hey, you’re really going to like this.’”

Bury expects fans to be just as enthused about Evil Dead 2: The Doppelganger Wars, a limited series due for release in 2018 that sees Ash and sidekick Annie Knowby enter the mirror dimension glimpsed at in Evil Dead 2 to discover the true origins of both the demon-summoning Necronomicon and the cult surrounding it. A meeting with H.P. Lovecraft may also be on deck, along with other narratives that would carry the license through the end of the publisher’s current agreement with StudioCanal in late 2019.

Still to be decided: whether Ash will ever encounter the werewolves of The Howling, Space Goat’s latest horror license. “Those conversations have occurred,” Bury says. “It would be a natural. But it’s also challenging because the royalties [for the licenses] double.” 

Digital versions of The Art of Evil Dead 2 and the Evil Dead Omnibus will be available to backers pledging $20 beginning in December. Softcover, hardcover, and Necronomicon slipcase editions ($30 and up) ship in May 2018. The Kickstarter runs through November 25.

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Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
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History
How Superman Helped Foil the KKK
Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images

The Klansmen were furious.

Dozens of them had congregated in a nondescript room in Atlanta, shaking cloaked heads at the worrisome news that their sect leader had just shared: An act of gross subterfuge had transpired over the airwaves. Millions of Americans had now become privy to their policies, their rankings, their closely guarded methods of organized hatred.

All of it fodder for some comic book radio show. Their mission had been compromised, sacrificed at the altar of popular culture. Kids, one Klansman sighed. His kids were in the streets playing Superman vs. the Klan. Some of them tied red towels around their necks; others pranced around in white sheets. Their struggle for racial purity had been reduced to a recess role play.

Stetson Kennedy listened, doing his best to give off irate body language. He scowled. He nodded. He railed.

The covert activist waited patiently for the Klan to settle down. When they did, he would call radio journalists Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson, offering the results of his infiltration into the group for public consumption.

He’d also contact Robert Maxwell, producer of the Superman radio serial. Maxwell, eager to aid the humanitarian mission of the Anti-Defamation League, would promptly insert the leaked information into his show’s scripts. In between fisticuffs, his cast would mock the KKK’s infrastructure, and the group’s loathsome attitudes would be rendered impotent by the juvenilia.

The Klan roared, demanding revenge on their traitor. “Show me the rat,” their leader said, “and I’ll show you some action.”

Kennedy cheered, just as they all did.

And when he returned home, his Klan robe would be traded for a cape.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Kennedy, born in 1916, was an unlikely undercover operative. After a back injury kept him out of World War II, the Jacksonville, Florida native decided he wanted to combat anti-American forces on the home front. With Klan members alleged to have assaulted his family’s black maid when he was a child, the Klan—once again gathering steam in an era of segregation and racial divisiveness—was a favored target.

Having convinced a “Klavern” in Atlanta, Georgia that he shared their bigoted views, Kennedy donned the ominous attire of a Klansman, attended cross burnings, and covertly collected information about the group that he would then share with law enforcement and media. Radio journalist Drew Pearson would read the names and minutes of their meetings on air, exposing their guarded dialogues.

Revealing their closed-door sessions was a blow—one that Kennedy didn’t necessarily have to confine to nonfiction. In 1946, Maxwell, who produced the Superman radio serial broadcast around the country, embraced Kennedy’s idea to contribute to a narrative that had Superman scolding the racial divisiveness of the Klan and airing their dirty laundry to an enraptured audience.

“The law offices, state, county, FBI, House Un-American Activities Committee, they were all sympathetic with the Klan,” Kennedy said later. “The lawmen were, ideologically at least, close with the Klansmen. The court of public opinion was all that was left.”

Ostensibly aimed at children, Superman’s daily radio dramas were often broadcast to assembled nuclear families; one phone poll showed that 35 percent of its audience was composed of adults.

But regardless of whether parents listened, the activist believed the younger demographic was worth attending to. “Even back in the ’40s, they had kids in the Klan, little girls dressed up in Klan robes at the cross burnings," Kennedy said. "I have photos of an infant in a cradle with a complete Klan robe on. It seemed like a good place to do some educating.” 

In “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” a 16-part serial airing in June and July of 1946, Superman opposes an organized group of hatemongers who target one of Jimmy Olsen’s friends. Exploring their network, Clark Kent uncovers their secret meetings and policies before his alter ego socks the “Grand Scorpion” in the jaw. The idea, Kennedy wrote in his account of his work, The Klan Unmasked, was to made a mockery of their overblown vernacular.

When traveling, for example, Klansmen might identify one another by asking if they “knew Mr. Ayak,” an acronym for “Are You a Klansman?” Although Kennedy may not have actually shared their code words on air—a longstanding myth that was debunked in Rick Bowers’s 2012 book, Superman vs. the KKK—their histrionics were perfect for dramatization in the breathless structure of a radio drama. Given shape by actors and sound effects, all the clubhouse tropes of the Klan seemed exceedingly silly.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As Kennedy continued to serve up Klan secrets to Superman, he watched as Klan morale dipped and membership enrollment ebbed. Desperate, the Klan tried calling for a boycott of Kellogg’s, a new sponsor of the show, but racial intolerance was no match for the appetites of post-World War II homes. Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes remained breakfast table staples, and Superman’s battles with the close-minded continued. Emboldened by his success against the Klan, Superman took aim at Communism, a favorite target of the show’s anti-Red star, Bud Collyer.

Kennedy would go on to burden the Klan using proof of uncollected tax liens, and eventually convinced the state of Georgia to revoke their national corporate charter.

Kennedy died in 2011 at the age of 94. While some of his accounts of subterfuge in the Klan later came under fire for being embellished, his bravery in swimming with the sharks of the organization is undeniable. So, too, was his wisdom in utilizing American iconography to suffocate prejudice. Fictional or not, Superman may have done more to stifle the Klan’s postwar momentum than many real people who merely stood by and watched.

Portions of this article were excerpted from Superman vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon by Jake Rossen with permission from Chicago Review Press. Copyright (c) 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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