Inquirer Super

Archie and Sabrina are dating

By Ruel S. De Vera
03/26/19 3:29 PM
The new normal in Riverdale features newly imagined and redesigned takes on classic “Archie” comic book characters such as Jughead, Betty Cooper, Reggie Mantle, Veronica Lodge and the secret kissing couple of Archie Andrews and Sabrina Spellman. Art By: Marguerite Sauvage. Images from Archie Comics

Something crazy has changed in Archie Andrews’ already crazy life. Summer has ended in Riverdale and the teenagers are returning from their vacations. Everyone knows what everyone else did—except for Archie. Nobody knows what he did and he’s not talking. “Nothing,” he tells best friend Jughead.

Former flames Betty and Veronica, each interested in resuming some kind of romance with Archie, find him distracted and acting really weird. “Is he sick,” Betty asks. Then Veronica figures it out: “I think he’s taken.”

Archie is taken. He’s in love—with Sabrina the Teenage Witch. And they’re keeping it a secret.

That is the game-changing revelation in “Archie” # 700 in November 2018, and it has changed the series as well. America’s favorite teenager underwent a quantum leap with the landmark issue.

Archie first appeared as a backup feature in “Pep Comics” # 22 in December 1941, the creation of Vic Bloom, John L. Goldwater and Bob Montana. He headlined his own series, starting of course with “Archie” # 1 in 1941, and proved so popular the publisher MLJ Comics changed its name to Archie Comics Publications. Compassionate

but clumsy Archie and his gang—the hamburger-loving Jughead, blonde girl next door Betty Cooper and spoiled rich girl Veronica Lodge—have helped define American teenage life for over half a century, filling one double digest after another. It was the timelessness of Archie and company that made the series so iconic, whether it was the competition between frenemies (they were that before the word “frenemy” was even coined) Betty and Veronica over Archie or Jughead’s laid-back slacker brilliance.

Classic style and storytelling

The same thing happened when Archie Comics introduced Sabrina the Teenage Witch in “Archie’s Madhouse” # 22 in 1962. Created by George Gladir and Dan DeCarlo, Sabrina was a spell caster who covertly used her powers for good. Sabrina got even more popular with the 1990s live-action sitcom starring Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina.

While the classic Archie visual style and storytelling has survived all these years,

Archie the character has had some wacky alternate-reality versions, including one where he dies (“The Life of Archie”) and where he battles a zombie plague (“Afterlife with Archie”). But the central canon series has gone on through the years without too much change.

That changed in 2015 when a new “Archie” # 1 arrived. This thoroughly modernized Archie brought a very contemporary quality to Riverdale, courtesy of veteran comic scribe Mark Waid (“Superman: Birthright”) and artist Fiona Staples (“Saga”). This cutting-edge title, with its snappy dialogue and an art style that really diverged from the Archie house look, attracted an entirely new generation of readers to Riverdale. Sabrina found herself in a more horror-oriented series with “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

Reboots

Then “Riverdale” happened. A more soap-operatic and moody TV series from the CW, “Riverdale” presented several modern twists, including a hunky Archie (KJ Apa) and a murder mystery. The cast included Cole Sprouse as Jughead, Lili Reinhart as Betty and Camila Mendes as Veronica. This hit series was followed by a “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” series from Netflix with Kiernan Shipka in the title role.

Then, “Archie” the comic book rebooted, basically reestablishing the original numbering and canon with # 700. New series writer Nick Spencer (“Amazing Spider-Man”) presented a still clumsy but still hunky Archie. This was one of several elements clearly borrowed from the “Riverdale” TV show, including a crime to be solved and a Jughead clearly designed after Sprouse. But the series balances a romantic setting that feels authentically updated but also consistent with the franchise’s tradition.

Sometimes, though, new is good, and very different is very good. The most dazzling thing in the new series were the gorgeous characters from artist Marguerite Sauvage, best know for her art on DC Comics’ “Bombshells.” Archie and gang have never been so good-looking. Seriously.

Also really good-looking is Sauvage’s take on the quirky and cute Sabrina. Readers will get that Archie and Sabrina fell in love during the summer but don’t find out how or why. One of the most fascinating questions is whether or not Sabrina actually used her powers to entrance Archie. The series doesn’t outwardly acknowledge her magic and Archie himself is a skeptic. It’s one of the signs the series is trying to maintain a realistic approach to some of the franchise’s wackier premises.

Secret relationship

The fun part of the new “Archie” continuity is that Archie has decided to keep their relationship a secret, thus having to go though all kinds of ridiculous situations to keep it from getting out. This includes a hilarious plot where the Riverdale girls assume Archie is now single and ready to mingle, culminating in Archie being auctioned off by Cheryl Blossom, all while Veronica and Betty try to figure out who Archie’s secret girlfriend is. Sabrina herself is immensely unhappy about keeping their romance under wraps.

This is the most exposure the Sabrina character has ever had in the main “Archie” title. So far, she has been shown exclusively in the Riverdale setting, so we do not know yet how her teenage witch context works in the reboot.

The decision to pair Archie with Sabrina is a gutsy one, considering the series had traditionally stuck to a Team Betty vs Team Veronica dynamic. Now, we get Team Sabrina, and this has more members that you’d expect. It also seems inevitable that this secret will be made public, and the Riverdale residents will have to come to terms with Archie dating someone they never expected.

If you think this Archie-Sabrina pairing is just a one-off gimmick, think again. Spencer (and incoming co-writer Mariko Tamaki) and the artists (including Sandy Jarrell) go all-in with this couple at the heart of the series.

This run is being published under the “Archie Forever” banner, confirming that Spencer’s run celebrates classic elements of the character while updating it for a TV-viewing audience.

Truly fascinating

In fact, the main “Archie” series is getting officially retitled “Archie and Sabrina” for five issues, starting with June’s #705. This arc promises to reveal how the two got together. Now that should be truly fascinating.

The Archie-Sabrina story arc even has fans pushing for an onscreen crossover, hoping that Sabrina appears on “Riverdale” and Archie appearing on “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” somehow someway.

“Archie” has always stood as one the comic book industry’s iconic titles. Yet even the most venerated franchises need to be changed up now and then. Enter Team Sabrina.

The provocative pairing has shaken up the franchise thoroughly, with the two main characters of the two most popular comic book (and, yes, TV) series dating. It’s not only the most compelling twist for “Archie,” but, bolstered by fine writing and dazzling art, it has created a great jumping-on point for would-be readers. There’s never been a better time to get to be an “Archie” fan. Right, Sabrina?