The thing about the world of Archie Andrews is that it never changes. If, like the unfortunate all of us, Archie had been subject to ageing, he would be in his mid 80s now, bald, grey, with dentures, a heart transplant and, maybe, just maybe, Veronica and viagra. Instead, he has remained a freckled teenager through a world war, the Cold War, the war on terror, the radio, television, the sexual revolution of the 60s, through country, pop, heavy metal, reggae, rap and hip hop. Even George ‘Dubya’ Bush couldn’t change him.
Something unusual, however, has now happened. Archie Comics, which has sold 1.5 billion comic books and sells 800,000 every year, recently announced that from 1 September, in happy little Riverdale, there would be a gay student named Kevin Keller. Kevin would be just as much at ease as anyone else and would hang out with Jughead, who by the way remains asexual. The only person hurting would be Veronica, puzzled at Kevin not being attracted to her.
The first Archie comic appeared in 1941. It was, for a change, in the US, the triumph of the ordinary. Co-publisher John Goldwater wanted an everyday American boy, the opposite of Superman. Archie, the two women in his life, Betty and Veronica, his friend Jughead, the school and the town became a runaway hit. It became so popular that the publishers changed the name of their company from MLJ Magazines to Archie Comics.
The question is: does Riverdale exist? Goldwater is supposed to have spun off the community from his travels across mid-west America when he was a young man. He also went to school in an area called Riverdale, but that was in New York, not a quaint little town. In 2002, the company ran a contest where it dropped hints to its location and finally said that it didn’t exist. In response to a reader’s query, an editor of the company said: “Riverdale is more of a state of mind than an actual physical location. It could be anywhere that kind people live and just have fun, like Archie and his friends.”