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Pep Comics

Comic Books

Publisher: MLJ

In 1941, America’s favorite movie star was a diminutive young actor named Mickey Rooney, who starred in a very popular series of films about “typical teenager” Andy Hardy. The concept of small-town America as seen through the eyes of energetic, attractive teens appealed to both young and old. While comic book superheroes were all the rage, especially with the threat of global war looming just beyond the horizon, one publisher decided to slip a teen character in between pages of costumed crime fighters. That company was MLJ, at that time best-known for their “second-string” heroes like Hangman, The Black Hood, and The Shield. Tucked away inside Pep Comics #22 (cover dated December, 1941), was a minor six-page story introducing Archie Andrews, who lived in the town of Riverdale with his parents Fred and Mary Andrews. Next door lived perky blonde Betty Cooper, who quickly developed a crush on red-haired Archie. Archie was hastily featured in a second MLJ title, Jackpot Comics #4, and before long the company was renamed Archie Comics, with the character branching out into newspapers and radio. The cast of characters was expanded to include a second love interest, Veronica Lodge. She was the ideal counterpart to dependable, girl-next-door Betty; dark-haired Veronica was from the richest family in town, attractive but fickle. Rounding out the cast was Archie’s best friend Jughead Jones, who hated girls and loved hamburgers (even though he remained thin as a rail, Jughead could put away a dozen of more burgers with ease); egotistical Reggie Mantle, who served as Archie’s main rival for the affections of Veronica; Moose Mason, the dim-witted, hulking star athlete; “Pop” Tate, owner of the gang’s hangout, The Chok’lit Shoppe; and, at Riverdale High School, old maid teacher Miss Grundy and constantly flustered Principal Weatherbee. While styles and trends changed many times over the years, Archie and his Riverdale pals are still going strong today, with more new characters (like Cheryl Blossom and Kevin Keller) and diverse “alternate world” storylines that have Archie getting married (first to Veronica, then Betty), battling zombies, and even dying while saving a friend. But fear not – Riverdale’s favorite son will be sticking around for many more years to come.

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