What Are Half-Million Teens Reading Each Month? Archie Comics Of Course
They’ve been in Riverdale High School for 67 years, and there’s still no graduation or retirement date in sight. I’m speaking, of course, of Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica.
Interested in getting kids to read for pleasure? Archie comics range from 32-page magazines, to 176-page “double-digests” – in other words, books. Although Archie is an average student, in a suburban, non-magical world, his readership numbers rival those of Harry Potter. While they are very dissimilar—one is epic literature, one is a comic book—both have the magical pull of the series; and both draw readers with recognizable school-life characters. Archie’s world is populated by Principal Mr. Weatherbee, Miss Grundy, (English), Professor Flutesnoot, Coach Cleat, Ms. Beazley (cafeteria), and Pop Tate who runs the Chocklit Shoppe, “the perfect place for quality time wasting”; students Dilton (brainy), Reggie (wise-guy), Moose (dyslexic) Ethel (boy crazy) and Chuck (cartoonist).
Fred Mausser Co-President / Director of Circulation at Archie Comics Publications, says about 515,000 mostly 7-14 year olds, buy an Archie comic per month; and there is a significant pass-along readership. Archie Comics Publications receives “thousands of letters a month, running the gamut from comments, criticisms and suggestions regarding the characters and storyline, comparisons to things in the life of the reader, questions on the history of the Archie characters and requests for additional characters. These are in addition to the “Dear Betty” fashion questions. Readers send us pictures.” The website, archiecomics.com, publishes selected letters and “fan art.” Some is quite impressive; all of it shows voluntary effort.
With or without the optional mail-for-me!-thrill of a subscription, Archie’s a noteworthy education tool. Mr. Mausser says “Archie’s been used in curriculums. We’ve done custom comics: “Archie & His Friends Help Raise Literacy Awareness in Mississippi”; “Archie & Friends vs. Toxic Waste” - for San Diego city and County of; “Archie & His Pals In The Peer Helping Program”, for the FBI and the ELKS; “Archie and his Friends in Westchester” - on drinking for Westchester County; Energy & Safety Adventures - joint project with DC Comics for Con Edison.
We don’t get preachy in the comics, but we can come up with a curriculum or a custom comic on anything. Some regular [non-custom] books were: “The Archies go to the Los Angeles Public Library”; “Archie Visits The World Famous Salt Lake City Library”. Archie’s a role model. Everything’s always on the up and up, there’s never any violence; Archie respects the law, his teachers, his elders, his parents. There are little pranks, but they never get beyond that. He’s kept up with the times in terms of clothing, cell phones, iPods, he uses everything that’s current, he’s always contemporary.”
The girls are fashion-obsessed (I told you it was not a magical world) but they care about getting good grades; and they have no eating disorders - they like to eat, and are drawn to look 120 pounds.
Archie Comics have partnered with high schools and colleges for art internships. Stephen Oswald, Associate Art Editor says the interns do “copying, a lot of the art work, helping out the production artists, scanning, photocopying, some of the hand coloring.”
In 1995 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought four grizzly bears from the wild to the Bronx Zoo and they were named Jughead, Archie, Betty and Veronica. In 2004 Archie Comic Publications sponsored “Extreme Survivors Weekend” at the Zoo, giving cartooning lessons, and creating a special comic. Jughead, Archie, Betty & Veronica are on the cover at their eponymous bears’ exhibit and Jughead says “There’s something familiar about those bears.”
There’s something familiar, and reassuring, about Archie.#