Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether Archie Andrews should be with Betty Cooper or Veronica Lodge. In this special edition of this mini-feature, recent Bride Rebecca Henely-Weiss and her Maid of Honor Kayleigh Hearn take a literal trip down Memory Lane to when Archie Comics put that question to rest by choosing one answer, then immediately choosing the other one. What do we think of the couples? The dresses? The…babies? Find out here!
The Couples: Archie Andrews/Veronica Lodge and Archie Andrews/Betty Cooper
Issues: Archie #600-606
Published: October 2009-April 2010
Today: While intended to be “imaginary tales,” the comics explored the outcomes of both universes in Life with Archie: The Married Life, which ran from 2011 to 2014. The series and both timelines ended with Archie dying and leaving his wife a widow after taking a bullet for U.S. Sen. Kevin Keller.
Rebecca: Sometime in the recent past Archie Comics fully committed to a sales strategy of appealing to readers’ morbid curiosity. From diversifying the comics’ white suburban Americana brand to dragging the characters into zombie apocalypse, many Archie Comics have been pitched to us with the general hook of “They’re doing WHAT now?” I feel like the miniseries/publicity stunt Archie Marries Veronica/Archie Marries Betty was in many ways the start of the trend that led us to the CW’s Riverdale. Yet, whether you’re eagerly anticipating the show’s second season this October or wondering when the heck Jughead is going to finally get to eat a hamburger (a promo doesn’t count, guys!), one thing that we can all agree on is that Riverdale and Archie Comics in general haven’t been boring. Unlike this miniseries, which is boring as hell.
Kayleigh: As someone who bought the Love Showdown miniseries in 1994 thinking it would resolve the Betty/Archie/Veronica love triangle (because I was eight years old and had no idea how comics worked), seeing Archie finally settle down should give me some satisfaction, but it doesn’t. This event really makes the case for why Archie Comics needed to be dragged into the 21st century, starting with Kevin Keller’s introduction a few months after this and continuing today with properties like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Riverdale. The first comic books I ever read were Archie digests reprinting classic Dan DeCarlo stories, so I have a lot of affection for these characters, but these issues show just how stodgy and unfunny the franchise had become. They’re rooted in a “malt shoppes and Andy Hardy movies” Americana that must seem totally alien to young readers today. I have mixed feelings on the results of Archie’s rebranding, but I can’t deny that it’s paid off and made Archie Comics feel relevant for the first time in years.
Rebecca: The announcement that Archie and Veronica would wed was met with scorn in some parts of the comicsphere, with one dedicated Archie/Betty shipper selling his Archie #1 in protest. But when reading the comic it became clear (although Archie Comics soon confirmed it anyway) that a Betty wedding was also a possibility. The story begins with Archie finishing high school and walking up a literal Memory Lane, which diverges into two roads that lead to two possible futures. (Yes, there are several Robert Frost references throughout the story.) The first three issues cover Archie’s engagement, wedding, and life with kids with Veronica. The last three issues cover the same exact thing with Betty.
I may be one of the few fans who can’t choose between the girls. While Betty and Archie strike me as more compatible, and she’s definitely the friendlier character, Veronica is more fun to read about. It’s probably not a surprise that most people come away from Riverdale shipping Betty and Veronica, because I think decades of stories have proven them the superior comedic pair to whatever either of them have with Archie.
Kayleigh: I’ve always been unabashedly #TeamVeronica, because she’s more fun and independent. On her own, Betty can be a boring drip who acts like a doormat for Archie’s wishy-washiness. If Archie broke a date with Veronica, she’d bounce back with some beefcake she had on retainer, like “Who needs you, anyway?” But in the same situation Betty would just go to her bedroom and cry. Which is pretty much exactly what happens here! But who are we kidding, Cheryl Blossom is the best.
Rebecca: The writer of this story was Michael Uslan, better known as an executive producer on all of the Batman films from 1989 to Lego. (Fun fact: my mother went to high school with him, although I haven’t met him myself.) He also created the first accredited course on studying comics, and in his afterword for the trade of the miniseries, he basically says he hoped the project would let casual fans of Archie know that the comics are still around. After reading this I think he’s definitely more of a comics advocate than a comics writer. I assume writing the standard Archie high school hijinx story is one of those things that seems easy but is just as easy to screw up. There are people who can make Jughead attending a lamaze class with Archie funny, but Uslan isn’t one of them.
These comics play like sentimental fanfic. That’s not the worst thing, but I hate how generic both timelines seem. There’s a class difference between Archie’s life with the wealthy Veronica versus the lower-middle-class Betty, but despite that all of the stories hit the same emotional beats: proposal, wedding, awkward discussion with the girl who “loses,” rundown of Archie’s jobs, and having twins. (They BOTH have twins? Seriously?) There’s one really annoying panel where Archie and Veronica lay out their formula for a successful marriage, and it comes across as advice you might find on the back of a greeting card: “1. Communication. 2. Sense of humor 3. Work at it like it’s your job. 4. Be each other’s best friend.” It’s not bad advice. I may have gotten it in the run-up to my wedding, but it doesn’t seem like something that would independently come from them.
Kayleigh: Uslan tries to be fair to both girls. This isn’t like a Marvel What If issue where choosing Veronica means Dark Milton will destroy the universe with the Infinity Gauntlet. But the cookie cutter plotting makes Betty and Veronica seem interchangeable. A better story would be about why Archie chooses this or that girl, or what makes that pairing great. Does Archie make Veronica a kinder person? Does being Archie’s best friend make Betty a better partner? Hitting the same beats in both futures makes it seem like the girls themselves don’t matter, and Archie only proposes to whoever because he’s aimless after graduation and it’s something he’s expected to do. ROMANCE!
Rebecca: Who would you say had the better wedding? My wedding probably resembled Veronica’s at her father’s mansion more than Betty’s at Pop’s. (Why not take the one day out of your life to dress up really nice and use salad forks?) Still, I think I give Betty’s wedding the edge. It doesn’t feel as “cozy” as it should, yet Veronica’s attempt to smooth over her previous jealous freakout with a new wedding cake for Betty after hers gets ruined is at least memorable. Most of what I remember about Veronica’s is her treating all of her bridesmaids to a mani-pedi and Archie giving Betty the “I love you like a sister” speech.
Kayleigh: Veronica has the big fantasy wedding that I would have loved reading about if I was still that kid in the supermarket reading Archie digests, so I have to give it up to her. Though my hypothetical wedding would be small like Betty’s, getting married at Pop’s just feels vaguely depressing. (I don’t want a wedding dress that smells like hamburger meat.) Veronica dropping everything to make sure Betty has the perfect wedding cake and a nice honeymoon is a good example of why she’s such a great character.
Rebecca: And how about the dresses? I’m kind of bummed that they’re not as memorable as some of the ones we’ve seen in the past, especially since Archie artists often are good at drawing their characters in cute outfits. Betty’s short-cut dress with sparkles along the side is super charming, and I like the heart necklace accessory. (Also, Veronica, you had no cause to diss while wearing a hideous pink dress that looks like an angry baker squirted vanilla frosting across it. The dowdy blue waitress frock was actually an improvement.) Veronica’s wedding dress is more my speed. I like the poofy, almost soft-serve looking bottom of the mermaid dress, and the decoration on the bust is nice. I’m not crazy about the color gold for the wedding party, but the star pattern on the bridesmaids’ dress slit is a nice touch.
Kayleigh: I’ll give this one to Betty, as the sparkly mini-dress is rather cute and stands out among the wedding dresses we’ve covered. Veronica’s mermaid dress is pretty and more traditional, but doesn’t leave much of an impression. Both dresses do reflect Betty and Veronica’s different styles and personalities, so artists Stan Goldberg and Bob Smith deserve credit for that touch of individuality that’s missing from so much of the script. I hate those bridesmaid dresses though; the coloring makes them look more mustard-y than gold, which: yuck. But of course Veronica would never take the chance of her bridesmaids outshining her on her wedding day…
Rebecca: Did you think the storyline itself was more into the Veronica or the Betty marriage? I almost feel like it’s more sympathetic to Betty, because her life in the Veronica timeline is pretty much “struggling to get by single and alone” whereas Veronica has a hissy fit, but eventually marries Reggie in the Betty timeline. I understand the spinoff comic got a lot of conflict from Veronica’s timeline being the “Archie sells out” universe and Betty’s being the “Archie tries to follow his dream” universe, but it’s a bit hard to tell here because the storylines are so similar.
Kayleigh: I think we’re meant to see Archie as Betty’s true love, even if Betty isn’t Archie’s true love. In the Veronica ‘verse she even ends up dating a guy who looks like (an admittedly hotter) Archie, suggesting he’ll always be the one that got away. Archie and Betty’s future is the more realistic and, in theory, more relatable universe, as it acknowledges things like the recession, their jobs in New York City not really working out, and making a more modest living back in Riverdale. It foretells Life with Archie becoming the kind of maudlin soap opera where Cheryl Blossom gets breast cancer and Archie himself gets fucking shot to death. Maybe Archie’s life with Veronica feels less authentic because they don’t overcome those stumbling blocks (she even worries that money really has bought their happiness), but I told ya’ll in the beginning I was #TeamVeronica, so.
Rebecca: I think if anything good came from this comic, it’s that–as much as I don’t find this storyline compelling–Archie Comics was able to spin it off into a sizeable series about marriage and adult life. So perhaps married couples aren’t so boring, after all. Just married couples with poor characterization and limited conflict. Oh well, I wish Archie Comics another 70-odd years of shipping debate! I’m voting for Jughead and hamburgers.
Kayleigh: I’m tempted to look back on Archie Marries Veronica/Archie Marries Betty as a kind of “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” for the classic Archieverse, putting a period at the end of all the “will-they/won’t-they” drama for fans of either pairing before an eventual relaunch. Michael Uslan’s stories are magnanimous to both of Archie’s paramours, but so blandly generic in their domestic bliss that you understand why the Betty/Archie/Veronica love triangle–with all its bickering and broken hearts–is so essential to Archie Comics.