As most fans of comics know, one of the classic love triangles from the Golden Age of Comic Books is between Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge. There has been much hoopla in the press recently about Archie’s decision to marry Veronica. Poor Betty! Archie and Betty first appeared in the pages of Pep Comics #22 (December 1941), and Veronica four issues later in Pep Comics #26 (April 1942). Veronica’s “origin” was later modified in the pages of Archie Comics #1 (Winter 1942). But, when did the eternal love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica first appear?
It all began in the now classic story, “Double Date” in Archie Comics #7 (March-April 1944). This story has all of the typical elements of a 1940’s Archie yarn, where through some set of circumstances Archie manages to put himself in an impossible situation that he makes worse (sometimes better) as the action progresses.
As the story begins, Archie and Betty head to Tate’s Soda Shop and are surprised to learn that as the 10,000th customer they win tickets to “The Fall of Niagra” at the Lyric Theatre. Archie asks Betty to go with him, but she declines and suggests he take Judghead. Of course, Archie has no intention of Asking his old friend Jug, and calls Veronica to accompany him. Veronica gladly accepts, breaking her date with Reggie Mantle (Archie’s chief rival for Veronica’s affection over the years). The game is on!
For poor Archie, things never go as planned, and as he prepares to leave his house to pick-up Veronica, Betty appears, ready to go. It seems she changed her mind! When Archie stammers, “But what about er…a…Judghead?”, Betty explains that she saw him and that he would be staying at home with his father. As Archie nervously tries to think his way out of his dilemma, Betty shouts, “You wouldn’t think of taking some OTHER GIRL, would you?” Archie’s response? “Who? Me? GULP!” That pretty much seals the deal for the rest of Archie’s wild night to come.
The madness begins with Archie telling Betty to wait a moment, as he runs out the room to place a call to the theatre to see if he can get two more tickets to the show. Sure enough, tickets are available, but Archie does not have enough money and actually borrows the money from Betty (without telling her why, of course)! Archie asks Betty to wait, rushes to the theatre, buys the tickets, rushes back to…Veronica! He drops Veronica off at their seats on the main floor of the theatre and tells her to wait there while he goes in search of medicine for his sudden headache (I’m sure by this point he had a real headache!). Archie then leaves the theatre, drives like a madman to get Betty, and races back to the theatre. Upon arrival, Archie finds out, too his momentary relief, that his seats with Betty are at the top of the theatre in the balcony, far above his seats with Veronica. Archie then begins the frantic exercise of racing back up and down the stairs to share his time between the two girls, at one point exclaiming, “I’m beginning to feel like a mountain goat!”
Ultimately, Archie’s wild scheme unravels, as each girls spies him with the other. After being completely humiliated and berated by both girls, Archie is left alone at the theatre wondering how he ever got into this mess. To add insult to injury, at the end of the story Archie is awarded two more tickets…both from a friendly policeman for Archie’s less than perfect parking job at the theatre!
This madcap adventure set the stage for many, many years of the developing love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica, and resulted in a number of similar stories where Archie had to choose – or not – which of the girls to date.
This story has been reprinted at least twice that I am aware of. It appears in Charles Phillips’ Archie, His First 50 Years (Abbeville Press 1991) and in the Archie Americana Series: Best of the Forties (Archie Comics Publications, Inc. 1991). If you are interested in reading Archie stories from the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, the trade paperback Americana Series is a great way to revisit Archie’s world during these unique eras.
I covered the Golden Age Archie and the Gang in the Golden Age of Comic Books Podcast #16 in 2005.