By Brittney Reed-Saltz
If it weren’t for the Piggly Wiggly in my hometown, I might not be the comic book reader that I am today. Every shopping trip, I would situate myself in the magazine aisle while my mom gathered our family’s groceries. Alongside the teen magazines and copies of the incomprehensible-looking Farmer’s Almanac was a spinning wire rack of comics. And that’s where I would amuse myself.
I didn’t actually know anyone else who read comic books. My dad and I both liked the funnies in the newspaper, but I was on my own when it came to figuring out which comics to read. As a result, I often came into arcs in the middle, or would pick something based on the cover only to find that I didn’t know who any of the characters were.
But I always knew that I was safe with Archie comics. I could pick up any of them without losing the thread. There was consistency: Betty and Veronica would always have their own brand of embattled friendship, Archie would always be clumsy, Jughead would always be jonesing for another hamburger at Pop’s, Reggie would always be a jerk. But regardless of the unchanging nature of Riverdale and its denizens, I was never at a loss for a new adventure to read.
Years have passed. Archie, already old for a perpetual teen back then, is now over 75. Plenty in the world has changed, even that old Piggly Wiggly, which has moved across town. But as I recently discovered, I still love Archie comics as much as an adult as I did back then. Luckily, there is plenty of new and exciting material to choose from in the Archieverse now.
Here are some that I’ve enjoyed so far.
Archie by Mark Waid
The new Archie updates the characters in a way that doesn’t ignore modern realities like social media while refusing to sacrifice the integrity of the characters. While there are serious and emotional moments, Waid doesn’t try to write a grimdark Archie here. This series is big on humor and on heart, telling new stories about the same characters that readers have loved for years, and reading it feels both fresh and reassuringly timeless.
Riverdale (TV show)
If you want a snarky, high-school-noir revamp of your favorite characters, look no further than Riverdale. The first season centers around the very sudden, very suspicious death of Jason Blossom. There’s plenty of intrigue beyond the potential murder, though: illicit affairs, dark family secrets, and revenge. I’ve not finished watching yet as of the time of this writing, but I’ve enjoyed it so far. There are some definite changes in characterization–Archie is not the lovable klutz of the comics, and I’m continually surprised to see a much more sympathetic version of rich-girl Veronica–but the casting is superb, and the twists are fascinating to watch.
Jughead by Chip Zdarsky
When I read Archie as a kid, Jughead was sort of a non-entity to me, so I’m continually pleased and surprised by how much depth authors are bringing to his character across titles. This is on display especially in his own headlining graphic novel series, penned by the seemingly unlikely but deft hand of Chip Zdarsky, known for his work on Sex Criminals. By contrast, Jughead is an all-ages-friendly comic that centers Jughead in his efforts to thwart a new regime at Riverdale High, indulging in many flights of fancy along the way.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Sabrina Spellman inhabits one of my favorite fringes of the Archieverse. Chilling Adventures takes everyone’s favorite teenage on a wild ride through the haunted woods by way of vintage occult horror, blending a 1960s aesthetic with chilling storytelling that echoes the “24 Hours” issue from the first arc of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. As a horror fan, I adore this twisted version of Sabrina, but the subversive re-characterizations and explicit gore won’t be for every reader.