It’s been almost a month since Riverdale, Archie Comics’ small-screen update to its generationally-adored characters, debuted on The CW (and Netflix. Yeah, it’s pretty freaking great). Though the sights (Pop Tate’s Choklit Shoppe) and the names (Archie Andrews, Jughead Jones, Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge) may ring a bell, everything has been overhauled, made over by creative minds far more audacious than the hosts of Style By Jury. Where once there was a squeaky-clean Utopian town full of squeaky-clean people, now there is uncertainty and the flawed design of a harsh reality.
Riverdale doesn’t scream about how fresh and entertaining it is— it just is. As with all the other comic book adaptations, seeing your favourites (whether you lived off Archie digests as a kid, or you’re new to the party with the TV series) will make you want to branch out and read about them. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait a few weeks for the show’s official tie-in comic to be released. But there’s plenty of Archie to enjoy in the meantime! Below, I’ve listed some of my favourite Archie stories (don’t worry, they’re all fairly recent!):
6) Jughead by Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson
Aside from Sabrina Spellman, Jughead Jones is my favourite character in the Archie mythos. Cole Sprouse has certainly made the character a believable aspiring author with a nose for journalistic pursuits, but long before that, he was always just a crown-wearing, wry-comeback-shooting, hamburger-loving dude. I admit, I was a little wary of Chip Zdarsky’s take on Jughead— “If you like classic Jughead,” a peer warned me seriously as I contemplated buying the first volume, “you’ll hate this. It’s all in his imagination or whatever. Kinda stupid.”— but once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. Granted, I will confess: the art, when compared to the rest of the relaunch, is jarring. It’s just as stylized as the rest of the books, but it reminds me of a sanitized episode of Family Guy. But that’s more than made up for (and perhaps positively enhanced by?) Zdarsky’s bust-a-gut-laughing dialogue. Yes, this book is far more fantastical than its siblings, with readers being taken on flights of fancy through Jughead’s subconscious mind. Maybe it wouldn’t work in the hands of another writer, but we’re lucky Zdarsky’s got it covered. This book reminds me why Jughead is my favourite, and after awhile, the art grows on you.
5) Reggie And Me by Tom DeFalco and Sandy Jarrell
Reggie’s role in Riverdale has been pretty small so far, but in the comics, he serves as the resident jerkface and a central antagonist in most of Archie’s adventures (along with Hiram Lodge). You wouldn’t normally think of sleazy Reggie Mantle as having the “It” factor to headline his own series— I sure didn’t— but Reggie And Me, as told from the perspective of Reggie’s rescue dog, Vader, turns that theory on its head. The Dachshund aptly describes Reggie’s snobby attitude, his pettiness, and his awkward teenage yearning for Midge Klump (who is off-the-market and otherwise besotted with Moose Mason)— astonishingly, Vader makes it seem like a good thing. Not only is he proud of Reggie’s tyrannical reputation and bad temper, but Vader casts his boy in a much different light than we’re used to seeing. For perhaps the first time, readers see Reggie as he really is… and yeah, fine, he’s still an absolute brat who needs an attitude adjustment… but through Vader’s eyes, he’s a supervillain with a heart, worthy of redemption.
4) Josie and The Pussycats by Marguerite Bennett and Audrey Mok
I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who enjoys the 2001 Josie and the Pussycats movie, but in general, I’ve always been a fan of the fictitious band. Marguerite Bennett is a stellar author; she’s funny and frank and, in short, the best writer to take the Pussycats’ reigns. Bennett’s Josie and the Pussycats is also the most mature book in the relaunch lineup. It’s a subtle shift between the pages of Archie and Josie’s misadventures: Josie is a little older (think college/legal drinking age) and there are moments where the story reflects that. It’s not anything crass, Bennett’s skill in this department is unparalleled. Most all-ages comics with older characters conveniently ignore age, sacrificing maturity for silly conflict. There’s nothing wrong with that— some of those stories are fun in their own right— but Bennett’s realistic, tasteful take on Josie and the Pussycats is something that readers will be able to appreciate. One thing to note: if you’re in love with The CW’s version of Josie and the Pussycats (as we all are), be prepared for a book that’s less snarky, but just as heartfelt.
3) Life With Archie/The Married Life by Michael Uslan and Norm Breyfogle
If you want to try your hand at more “classic” Archie stories with a modern slant, the Life With Archie series might be your cup of tea. Life With Archie only came about after Michael Uslan and Stan Goldberg set out to definitively answer the question of who Archie would marry: sweet-as-pie Betty Cooper or dream girl Veronica Lodge. The answer? Both! In what was hailed as “the Archie story of the century,” America’s favourite redhead finds himself taking a stroll up Memory Lane, wherein readers are treated to both his future with Veronica and his future with Betty (the international coronary this storyline caused when it was initially reported that he’d chosen Veronica still amuses me). Seeing how much fanfare the story created, author Michael Uslan used it as a springboard to lead into Life With Archie, which offered a more in-depth look at the (grown up) life and times of Archie and the gang.
2) Afterlife With Archie by Roberto Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
If the name Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is familiar to you, it’s because he’s the creator of Riverdale and Archie Comics’ Chief Creative Officer. But before that happened, he wrote Afterlife With Archie and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina ( both T-rated, which is a big deal in the Archie-verse). Afterlife, the premiere book in the Archie horror line, breathed life into the company, which was starting to feel stagnant and dated. It generated interest from new and old fans alike by not only shoving Archie to get with the times but reimagining what would happen if the reliable old characters of Riverdale were smack-dab in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Patient zero? None other than Jughead Jones. Afterlife is subversive and chilling and utterly engrossing— it’s one of my favourite comics regardless of publishing company or genre. Also, the art is phenomenal. Prepare to be blown away. I’m gonna level with you: if you even sort of like Riverdale, you will go nuts for Afterlife With Archie. If you like horror, you’ll love Afterlife With Archie. If you don’t like horror (like me) you’ll love Afterlife With Archie. Thanks to Afterlife, I knew how wicked Riverdale had the potential to be (Aguirre-Sacasa has a history of doing messed up things with/to the Blossom twins). Honestly, this would be my number one recommendation for any Riverdale fan looking to broaden their horizons, if it weren’t for the fact that the delays with the series are more constant than any updates we get. There are often 9-month wait-times (or longer) between issues. But Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s a remarkably busy guy, so it’s not like I can hold it against him or anything.
1) Archie by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples
If I could recommend all of the books featured in the current Archie line, I definitely would. But first and foremost, my loyalty goes to the book that started the reboot. Mark Waid is an author whose longevity and award-winning work in the comics industry precedes him. He has a strange knack for knowing each of the characters he works on at their core— it doesn’t matter if he’s writing DareDevil or an aged Bruce Wayne. He has the uncanny ability to know and express characters and situations in a way that just feels intrinsically right, no matter the landscape. Archie is no exception. Waid gives the characters history, context, and personalities that don’t constantly shift or flip to suit the script. And barring the unanimous praise it got upon debuting, it’s just really fun. Waid’s dialogue is sleek without coming off as a cringey adult trying to infringe upon today’s youth. He makes you care about the residents of Riverdale, and Fiona Staples’ (later other artists take over) art is to die for. But the best thing about it? For the most part, Archie books have always been something the whole family can enjoy. Waid manages to keep that all-ages tone while appealing to teens who might otherwise turn their noses up at the whole thing. Imbued with the lightness of traditional Archie but the struggles of modern teenage life, Waid’s Archie isn’t just a classic-in-the-making, it’s a great intro to the comics for any Riverdale fan.
Riverdale airs Thursday nights at 9:00 on The CW.