Archie Comics is known for its many series featuring the fictional teenagers Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Reggie Mantle and Jughead Jones. The characters were created by publisher/editor John L. Goldwater, written by Vic Bloom and drawn by Bob Montana. They were based in part on people met by Goldwater "in the Midwest" during his travels throughout the United States while looking for jobs and places to stay. Archie's first appearance in Pep Comics #22 on December 22, 1941, was drawn by Montana and written by Vic Bloom. With the creation of Archie, publisher Goldwater hoped to appeal to fans of the Andy Hardy movies starring Mickey Rooney. Archie Comics is also the title of the company's longest-running publication, the first issue appearing with a cover date of Winter 1942. Starting with issue #114, the title was shortened to simply Archie. The Turtles actually meet Archie in the comic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Meet Archie.
Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John L. Goldwater formed MLJ Magazines and started publishing in November 1939. The company name was derived from the initials of the partners' first names.
Coyne served as MLJ's bookkeeper and CFO. Coyne and Silberkleit had been partners in Columbia Publishing, a pulp company that published its last pulp in the late 1950s. Silberkleit had a college degree from St. John’s University, was a licensed and registered pharmacist, and had a law degree from New York Law School. His efforts were focused on the business, printing, separating, distribution and financial ends of the company. John Goldwater served as editor-in-chief. Goldwater was one of the founders of the Comics Magazine Association of America, and served as its president for 25 years. The Comics Magazine Association of America is best known to comic fans for its Comics Code Authority. He was also a national commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League.
Their first comic was Blue Ribbon Comics, published November 1939; the first issue was half color, with the remaining pages in red and white tints. In December 1941, Top Notch Comics was introduced. In January 1940, Pep Comics debuted featuring the Shield, America's first patriotic comic book hero, by writer and managing editor Harry Shorten and artist Irv Novick. The Shield was the cover feature for Pep Comics until March 1944, when Archie became the dominant feature; the Shield continued in Pep Comics until January 1948. The Shield predates Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Captain America by 15 months, and his sidekick Dusty, from Pep Comics #11, January 1941, predates Cap's sidekick Bucky by three months.
John Goldwater, inspired by the popular Andy Hardy movies starring Mickey Rooney, wanted to create a comic about a normal person to whom readers could relate. He created "America's newest boy friend", Archibald "Chick" Andrews. In Pep Comics #22, December 1941, writer Vic Bloom and artist Bob Montana published Archie Andrews' first adventure.It starts with "Chick" Showing off for his new next door neighbor, the famous Betty Cooper. "Archie was based partly on a red-headed friend of his named Archie," Gloria Goldwater, wife of John Goldwater, said. "He also created Betty and Veronica. Then he decided Archie needed a real good friend. That was Jughead. It just grew and grew."
As Archie’s popularity grew, MLJ Magazines changed its name to Archie Comic Publications. In the mid-1950s, the advent of television caused the pulp magazine industry to suffer as TV became a dominant form of entertainment. With slumping sales, Silberkleit and Coyne decided to discontinue Columbia Publications. Coyne stayed on at Archie Comics as CFO until he retired in the 1970s. Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater shared the same office and ate lunch together for their entire business career.
In the early 1970s, Archie Enterprises Inc. went public. Just over 10 years later, Louis Silberkleit's son Michael and John Goldwater's son Richard returned Archie Comic Publications to private ownership. Michael Silberkleit served as chairman and co-publisher, while Richard Goldwater served as president and co-publisher. Following Goldwater's death in 2007 and Silberkleit's in 2008, Silberkleit's widow Nancy and Goldwater's half-brother Jonathan became co-CEOs in 2009. Nancy Silberkleit, a former elementary-school art teacher, was given responsibility for scholastic and theater projects, and Jon Goldwater, a former rock/pop music manager, was responsible for the all other company elements. The company sued Silberkleit in July 2011, and Goldwater filed another lawsuit against her in January 2012, alleging she was making bad business decisions and alienating staff; she in turn sued him for defamation. As of February 2012, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich, in Manhattan, fined Silberkleit $500 for violating the court's autumn order to temporarily barring her from the company's headquarters, and said the court might appoint a temporary receiver to protect the company's assets.
Although the comic started in the 1940s, it has changed over the years to stay current with the times, said writer and artist Dan Parent. One example is the introduction in 2010 of openly gay character Kevin Keller, who first appeared in Veronica #202. In June 2011 Keller was featured in his own four-part miniseries. Other changes include the death of teacher Miss Grundy and Archie's wedding. Bill Yoshida learned comic book lettering from Ben Oda and was hired in 1965 by Archie Comics, where he averaged 75 pages a week for 40 years for an approximate total of 156,000 pages. In February 2010, Archie Comics partnered with A Squared Entertainment (A2) and POW! Entertainment to create Stan Lee Comics print and digital line. Archie Comics announced at the New York Comic Con in October 2011 that it superhero line will return as an all-digital line under a subscription model with back issues archive access.
- The February 1962 issue of Harvey Kurtzman's Help! magazine featured his parody of the Archie characters in its Goodman Beaver story, Goodman Goes Playboy, which was illustrated by frequent collaborator, Will Elder. A parody of the sybaritic Playboy lifestyle, the article featured various characters drinking, living out of wedlock, stealing cars, becoming pregnant, attending an orgy, and selling their soul to Satan. Shortly after the magazine hit newsstands in December 1961, attorneys for Archie Comics filed suit for copyright infringement. An agreement was reached in March 1964, with $1000 in damages paid, and an apology was issued. Kurtzman and Elder later tried altering the names and artwork to minimize similarities to Archie characters and trademarks so that it could be reprinted, but they were again threatened with legal action by Archie Comics. According to a May 2008 posting on The Comics Journal's website, the second effort "resulted in waves of lawyers raining upon the strip’s creators, ultimately leading to Kurtzman and Elder handing the copyright to the story over to Archie and signing an agreement promising never to reproduce it again." In 2004, Comics Journal publisher Gary Groth discovered that Archie had neglected to renew the copyright to the strip, and that it had fallen into the public domain." As a result, Goodman Goes Playboy can now be reprinted by anyone, anywhere, at anytime, since it is no longer copyrighted by anyone. Despite the above legal wrangling, Archie Comics never took any action against Kurtzman or Elder for their 1954 Mad magazine story "Starchie". The Mad parody has been reprinted numerous times over the decades. Parody and satire are specifically protected under the 'fair use' doctrine of U.S. law.
- Archie Comics sued music duo The Veronicas for trademark infringement in 2005 over the band's name, which Archie Comics alleges was taken from the comic book character. Archie Comics and Sire Records (The Veronicas' record company) finally resolved their problems through a co-promotion deal.
- Fanfiction.Net received a cease and desist order from Archie Comics to remove any Archie comic based fan fiction from its site, as they are derived from their copyrighted and trademarked properties and were stated to damage Archie's public image. It included public statements by Archie Comics, who have stated that they do not allow (even family-oriented) fan fiction based on Archie comics works. However, story contests are frequently run through the official Archie website, allowing fans to create their own stories in accordance with the site's rules.
- On April 4, 2003, Dad's Garage Theatre Company in Atlanta was scheduled to debut a new play, Archie's Weird Fantasy, which depicted Riverdale's most famous resident coming out of the closet and moving to New York. The day before the play was scheduled to open, Archie Comics issued a cease and desist order, threatening litigation if the play proceeded as written. Dad's Garage artistic director Sean Daniels said, "The play was to depict Archie and his pals from Riverdale growing up, coming out and facing censorship. Archie Comics thought if Archie was portrayed as being gay, that would dilute and tarnish his image.
Archie and Riverdale
Archie is set in the small town of Riverdale. The state, or even the general location of the town, is unclear. It is known, however, that John L. Goldwater attended Horace Mann School, which is located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx in New York City. In the early years of Archie, Riverdale was located in Massachusetts, with Mr. Lodge being a senator for that state, but this is no longer considered canon. Drawings of Riverdale High School appeared to follow the general design of the original high school, now City Hall, in Haverhill, Mass. "The Thinker" statue still sits outside the front entrance, just like it did in the comic strip. One newspaper that carries the Archie comic strip, the Haverhill edition of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, calls the strip "Haverhill's Archie". It was said that characters in the strip were based on people in Haverhill especially at the high school, which was attended by Bob Montana. Montana first sketched them on a napkin in 1941 while sitting at the Chocolate Shop on Merrimack Street in Haverhill. The shop is gone, but Archie fans know that it lives forever as the "Choklit Shoppe" on Riverdale's Main Street.
For the comics' 60th anniversary in 2002, several geographical and historical hints to the location of Riverdale were printed in every digest issue. At the end of the year, it was revealed that the hints point to Riverdale being located in the "Missouri area," but that officially Riverdale has no location. It is essentially located wherever the reader wants it to be. Indeed, the geography of Riverdale is far too inconsistent for it to be any one specific location (see below).
In 2011, a copy of Archie Comics #1, first published in 1942, was sold at auction for $167,300, a world record for a non-superhero comic book.
At various points, Archie Comics has experimented with publishing various superhero titles. Archie has also been a superhero in some comics, such as Pureheart. Beginning with Blue Ribbon Comics #1 (November 1939), and continuing throughout the 1940s with titles such as Zip Comics, Jackpot Comics, Hangman Comics, Shield-Wizard Comics and Pep Comics. Pep was, "before Archie came along in issue #22... home to the first ever patriotic superhero, The Shield."
During "Archie's Silver Age (late 1950s through the 1960s)," the Shield led other characters in the Joe Simon/Jack Kirby title The Double Life of Private Strong, while Simon & Kirby soon added another title — The Adventures of the Fly — which in turn was later joined by The Jaguar.
"By the mid-'60s, the superheroes were back in full force" with Mighty Comics Presents and The Mighty Crusaders, featuring "all of Archie's superhero characters teaming up for epic adventures" under the new imprint Mighty Comics (alternately known as Radio Comics). The Mighty Crusaders comprised The Fly, The Shield, Jaguar, Steel Sterling, Captain Flag, The Comet, Fly Girl, Firefly and The Fox.
Red Circle Comics
In October 1973, Archie's new Red Circle Comics imprint debuted with Chilling Adventures in Sorcery #3 (formerly Chilling Adventures in Sorcery as told by Sabrina), later morphing into Red Circle Sorcery with issue #6, running for a further six issues, until issue #11 (February 1975). A small handful of other short-lived, non-Archie, titles were published by Red Circle Comics before — in 1978/79 — two digests were published collecting some of the Archie Superhero comics from the previous decade. These were Archie's Super Hero Special and Archie's Super Hero Comic Digest Magazine — the latter notable for printing a previously-unpublished revamp of the Black Hood by Gray Morrow and Neal Adams.
Archie Adventure Series
In the 1980s, Archie's superheroes returned. Initially published by JC Comics in JCP Features #1, (December 1981), in March 1983, the first issue of Mighty Crusaders appeared, leading to a procession of new titles under the Red Circle Comics banner, soon to be re-branded (in February 1984) the Archie Adventure Series, before cancellation in September 1985.
Archie tried publishing superheroes again in the late 1980s with an imprint called Spectrum Comics, featuring a number of high-profile talents, including Steve Englehart, Jim Valentino, Marv Wolfman, Michael Bair, Kelley Jones, and Rob Liefeld. Planned Spectrum titles included The Fly, The Fox, Hangman, Jaguar, Mister Justice, and The Shield. Ultimately, Archie cancelled the entire Spectrum Comics before publishing a single issue.
Archie's super-heroes were later leased to DC Comics for use in its short-lived Impact Comics line, "and while many of their titles received critical acclaim, there were already too many superhero comics flooding the market." DC Comics regained the license to the characters in 2008 and began assimilating the Red Circle heroes into its continuity following Final Crisis. Writer J. Michael Straczynski is overseeing the current effort, which carries the logo of Red Circle Comics.
Honors and awards
The United States Postal Service paid tribute to Archie by including him as part of a set of five 44-cent postage stamps on the theme "Sunday Funnies," issued July 16, 2010. The Archie stamp featured Veronica, Archie, and Betty sharing a chocolate milkshake. The other stamps depicted characters from the Beetle Bailey, Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, and Dennis the Menace comic strips.