Goodbye, carrot top!

Veronica, Archie and Betty.

Veronica, Archie and Betty.  

The writer pays tribute to the evergreen American teenager, Archibald Andrews, who will soon meet his end.

Come July, Riverdale’s resident Romeo is riding off into the sunset.

Rumours are that Archibald Andrews — popularly known as “Archie”, the freckle-faced American teenager with ginger hair — has already been lowered into the ground and is pushing up the daisies, if not the obituaries from anxious fans around the world.

Is it merely a co-incidence that the round-faced, goggle-eyed Mickey Rooney acting as Andy Hardy, a close twin to Archie, has just pulled down the shutters himself? Will Riverdale go the way of Graceland and Neverland becoming a pilgrimage site for fans of Archie? Will they meet around his grave sipping tall frosted glasses of chocolate milkshake handed to them by Betty and Veronica look-alikes?

You can bet on it.

As co-CEO John Goldwater, direct descendant of one of the original founders of the Archie brand John L. Goldwater, said recently: “It’s the biggest story we’ve ever done. Because we all feel so close to Archie, we’re supremely proud of it.” Described as Chapter 37 in the ‘Life of Archie’ saga, the actual details have been kept a secret. It’s been hinted that he will meet a glorious end saving someone else’s life, if not the world of Riverdale, as he knows it.

Archie is a true-blood American bred hero from way back when the U.S. itself was in the process of inventing a mythology that would be inclusive. The comic style of creating narratives was aimed at a new generation that had survived the Depression years and was still coming to terms with the new world order brought about by the World War ll. America lapped it up as eagerly as Jughead’s pet pooch, ‘Hot Dog’ did sitting around the Choclit soda fountain.

The comic strip Li’l Abner was conceived in the early 1930s and depicted a group of feisty yokels, or hillbillies in American parlance, who lived and loved and survived in their village of Dogpatch. Archie is his more educated urban counterpart set in the leafy suburb around Riverdale where there are a few millionaires like Veronica Lodge’s Dad and aspirational wannabes like Betty and Jughead. Archie plays a balancing role between the two. His optimism and ability to bounce back, despite numerous pratfalls and failed catches is what makes him the American Everyman.

The Blondie comics that predate the Archie series have an even more interesting back story. Blondie Boopadoop started off as a ditzy flapper before she bumped into Dagwood Bumstead in 1930. Dagwood was the son of a wealthy industrialist dad who wanted him to have nothing to do with a blonde dancer. True love won. Blondie was re-invented as the ideal of the suburban Mom using vacuum cleaners and kitchen accessories to keep her now harmlessly bumbling husband busy fixing his triple- and multiple-decker sandwiches while watching late night TV with Daisy, the family dog and her puppies. What’s interesting is that Blondie has survived into the 21 century with her hair intact with nary a twinge from PMT or children gone missing in action, but Archie has thrown in his towel. Or it has been thrown for him? In the world of virtual hand driers who needs a towel?

The American comic capers could not have been more different to Indian readers brought up on a diet of Count Curly Wee, the aristocratic pig and his barnyard friends who made their appearance in rhymed couplets for years in the Madras Mail. There are still Raj era survivors who hunt down back copies of Count Curly Wee’s adventures in ‘Fur and Feather Land’. The series was written or rather composed in clever quatrains by Maud Budden, one of the few women creators of comic character strips and illustrated by Roland Clibborn. Do we imagine it, or is there reason to suppose that when Shankar of Shankar’s Weekly started his satirical drawings of the parliamentarians of his time, they took on the aspects of the long-eared donkeys and witty hens populating Count Curly’s country home? Even Abu’s clever crows and bucolic buffaloes might owe something to that era.

For those who spent the best part of the 1970s and 1980s scrabbling through the racks of their lending libraries searching for an Archie comic or have the thrill of actually preserving the old ones there is a bonus. The first edition Archie comic published in 1942 was sold by auction for $ 167,300.

As Emmett, the dim-witted but good-hearted construction worker in the Lego movie sings: “Everything is Awesome!!!” It really is when you consider that Archie has morphed into Emmett.

Long live the new Archie!


Japanese Manga comic hero: Archie San is the last Samurai of soda-pop. My advice to him is to commit seppuku (ritual Japanese style death), with a straw, before his million fans and die a noble death.

Snoopy: Ah Archiekins, as we say in French, au-revoir mon semblable, mon frère, I’m glad you copped it before I did.

Andy Capp: Boo! Rubbish! Mac Archibald is dead! A round of drinks everyone!

Suppandi: Archie-jee, how could you do this to me? Even today I was thinking of taking a plane and coming to your school in Riverdale. Never mind. If you are only fooling us, join me in Tinkleland.

Tintin: Blistering barnacles, as you say Captain. Herr Archie cannot be dead. He’s in Argentina hiding under an alias. I’m off to track him down.

Asterix: Herculeum Archibaldeum Dead! When comes such a guy? Let's call the wenches Betty and Veronica for a funeral feast of wild boar and mulled cider.

Mickey Mouse: Archimus maximus lives.

Blondie: Make him a triple-decker sandwich. He’ll be fine.

Dagwood: I’ll eat to that.

Calvin: There’s something growling under my bed, it’s orange and hairy.

Hobbes: Sigh! They don’t make them like they used to.

Dilbert: I hear he’s on a Cloud now.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 9:59:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/goodbye-carrot-top/article5928734.ece

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