From the romantic triangle of Archie, Betty and Veronica, to Jughead’s obsession with hamburgers, generations of readers have been fascinated with the high school hijinks of Archie Comics. Our own Professor of Fictional Psychology Maria St. John digs deep into classic and new stories to reveal the psychological issues bubbling just under the all-American surface of Riverdale.
The Reggicization of Betty: A Review of “Sue Sue Baby” from World of Archie Double Digest #26
Fabulously drawn by Dan DeCarlo, this story takes on the thorny issues of sex and rivalry and, to a lesser degree, living in a litigious society.
As usual, Betty and Reggie are stuck playing second fiddle when Archie lacks sufficient funds to take Veronica out. Today, Betty appears to take the doormat approach — “you can get sweet music from a second fiddle,” she muses — but soon the reader comes to witness an undercurrent of resentment that leads to Betty’s moral downfall. Reggie, the lonely egoist who lacks true friends, his own worst enemy, here, makes the most unlikely alliance with the usually-purehearted Betty.
Archie, Veronica and Betty meet on a sidewalk in their suburban neighborhood. As Archie and Veronica simmer in sexual frustration due to Archie’s money problems, Reggie runs Archie down with his skateboard. In a moment of homoerotic subtext, Archie lies prone on the sidewalk due to Reggie’s machinations. Veronica seizes the opportunity to threaten Reggie with a frivolous lawsuit, claiming Archie is badly injured and demanding $100,000 in damages. Reggie, alerted to her motives by Betty, offers Veronica passes to a disco, and Archie bolts from his prone position on the sidewalk, accepting the settlement. As he and Veronica race toward the disco like itchy lovers racing for cheap hotel room, Betty and Reggie share a wicked laugh. Turns out the disco is no longer in business, and that the reader has just witnessed a rare moment of partnership-in-crime between these two unrequited lovers, an act which could well threaten the psychosexual dynamics of the group. Perhaps for the very first time, the reader can picture Betty and Reggie finding some quiet spot to vent their sexual frustration in a forbidden liaison, the mean jock bedding the virtuous heroine. Such irony — there is, in fact, a little bit of Reggie in Betty.
Some may have misgivings about this development, but I was pleased to see Betty fed up enough with being used by Archie to ally herself with Reggie in foiling their plans. To see Betty’s darker self reflected in Reggie’s black eyes is exciting to behold, and I’m hopeful this relationship dynamic will be further explored.
“Sue Sue Baby” originally appeared in Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica #159, March 1969.
Maria St. John is the byline of a published writer and performer hailing from the East Coast and currently living in northern Los Angeles County. She has been overthinking Archie Comics since the age of 7.