Archie Comics is famous for being a sanitized, wholesome, All-American series of light, fluffy comics that you always see at the grocery store checkout. It of course stars the titular Archie, a freckly redhead who somehow manages to go out with two girls way out of his league at the same time. In recent years, though, the company has taken a new direction, maturing the heck out of its mainline stories and coming out with a whole run of more “adult” properties. Among them, Archie meets the zombie apocalypse in Afterlife With Archie, Sabrina the Teenage Witch gets dark as hell (literally) in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and the town of Riverdale becomes steamy teen drama central in Riverdale.
While of course we here at Comic Book Resources would never advocate for actual censorship, there are certainly quite a few grim, gruesome and lewd moments in this bold new Archie era that are a far cry from the formerly very G-rated digests. They are especially far removed from the period when they were basically Christian propaganda. Violence, Satanism, even scenes of a more intimate nature all found their way into the Archie property. Some minor spoilers follow, but here are the times that maybe Archie should have pumped the brakes a little.
15. CHERYL AND JASON BLOSSOM BUTCHERED BY THE PREDATOR
Archie Vs. Predator (2015) by Alex de Campi and Fernando Ruiz is unironically one of the greatest comics of all time. It starts with the basic premise of Archie, puts a slightly more mature spin on it, then tosses the Predator into the mix. It then kills everyone (almost), as Predators are wont to do. It combined comedy with at times pretty shocking brutality, which really just enhanced the comedy since it was all portrayed in the classic cartoony Archie style.
Predator first arrives on Earth on a tropical island where the Riverdale gang are vacationing for spring break, and begins his hunt Cheryl and Jason Blossom, who have become separated from the group. While we don’t see their actual deaths, we do get a pretty good look at their butchered corpses hanging from trees.
14. BETTY AND VERONICA SHOWER TOGETHER
The only entry from the original comics on this list, this is more a joke about a couple panels taken out of context. Betty and Veronica are having a slumber party, and Veronica is treating Betty to all the luxuries of her mansion, including the fancy showers. Also, there is a locker room in the mansion, because the rich need lockers in their own home apparently.
While the actual scene is entirely innocent, it sure has some implications if your mind goes that way, and if you’re at all familiar with the jokes that Betty and Veronica should just forget Archie and date each other. Even Riverdale leaned into this a bit, featuring a brief kiss between the two, although it was just attention/drama, both in the show and as part of the marketing.
13. ARCHIE AND MISS GRUNDY’S FORBIDDEN ROMANCE
One of the biggest changes in Riverdale from the comics is Geraldine Grundy’s metamorphosis from dowdy old English teacher to hot young music teacher who is also a child predator. Her romance with Archie becomes a major subplot for the first half of season 1, and her brief appearance in season 2 reveals that she has continued to exploit her male students. While the actual interactions are relatively tame, it’s still a continuation of the romanticization of a pretty vile situation that modern teen dramas seem obsessed with.
It’s easy to forget that the students are underage, what with all the actors in these shows being over 18, but shows like Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars have a bad habit of portraying teacher-student romances as romantic and sexy. While most of the entries on this list are pretty tongue-in-cheek, this plotline should’ve been left on the cutting room floor.
12. SALEM GETS VAPORIZED
Immediately after the Predator kills Sabrina, Salem flies into a rage, leaping at the alien in an attempt to avenge his master. Unfortunately, he is just a cat, and the Predator is a space alien with space alien weapons. Salem loses the fight against a laser gun, in what is probably the most gruesome death in the series, made worse by the fact that he is a cat and cats are adorable treasures.
Predator quits the scene somehow in between panels with little explanation or acknowledgement, leaving Betty and Veronica briefly traumatized. Veronica quickly gets over it as she raids Sabrina’s closet while making a tacky joke about the teenage witch no longer having a use for her turtlenecks. This leads to another censor-worthy strip-down moment that didn’t make the list.
11. CHERYL BRA-SOME
While this entry is one of the tamer ones, it’s also perhaps the most brazen. Riverdale has generally been unashamed of lewdness, but this particular scene is still a little eyebrow-raising. In the second season, Cheryl has matured fully into the manipulative and often cruel person she is in the comics, and has begun her long-standing tradition of messing with Betty and Veronica. Betty, naturally confronts her, except she’s in the locker room and changing and proceeds to have a full conversation in nothing but a bra.
Granted, not exactly Cinemax material, but it’s still a little odd that teen dramas have such a focus on the sexual characteristics of supposedly underage women. Although really, it’s not that different from what you would find in the original Archie comics, constantly showing the girls in skimpy bikinis.
10. GOOD GRIEF!
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina doesn’t only concern itself with the origins of Sabrina, but also the secret history of Salem, her famously wisecracking cat familiar. In Chilling Adventures, Salem is a former young sailor from the 17th century named Samuel, who arrives in Salem, Massachusetts (yes, that one) just in time to meet John Proctor, his family, and Abigail Williams. Those of you who remember your middle school reading will recognize these characters from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Things take a slightly different turn, with Samuel being the one to kick off the infamous witch trials by sleeping with Abigail and impregnating her. Of course, because this is a story about witches, Abigail is in fact a real witch, and she, along with her very naked aunt witch, curses him to cat form for abandoning her and their child.
9. JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS’ COVER OF “MILKSHAKE”
Riverdale started season 2 off with a bang with the murder of Miss Grundy, then followed that with the bombshell revelation that Riverdale cornerstone/centerpiece Pop’s Chock-lit Shop was in danger of going under. Betty and Jughead throw together a fundraiser to help save Pop’s, and enlist the help of Josie and the Pussycats to help. With Valerie absent, Cheryl takes her place, and together they perform a cover of Kelis’ “Milkshake” (Get it? Because Pop serves milkshakes?).
And it is… rough. Never mind the unfortunate implications of high school students performing the very suggestive song, it’s just not a very good cover. It lacks any of the energy of the original, and is a vast step down from the sincere passion in the covers of “Sugar Sugar” and “Kids In America” from the first season. Hopefully as Season 2 progresses the covers improve.
8. BETTY AND VERONICA TAKE THE PAIN OF SABRINA’S WITCH TRIAL
After Harvey Kinkle’s unfortunate demise in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Sabrina is put on trial by her coven for bringing him to the woods and allowing him to witness her initiation into full witchdom. Because she has a few skeletons in her closet about more than just Harvey, she would have failed the trial if not for the timely long-distance intervention of her father’s former lover Iola and her two proteges, familiar Riverdale faces Betty and Veronica, now also witches.
As the witches subject Sabrina to some rather old-fashioned trials (the witch needle and a box of burning coals), Iola redirects the pain to Betty and Veronica, with Betty getting a big ol’ hole punched in her palm and Veronica’s hand being immolated. Sabrina comes through the trial unharmed, although with probably a bit of animosity from Betty and Veronica.
7. HARVEY KINKLE GETS EATEN BY WITCHES
Sabrina the Teenage Witch, formerly a light-hearted comedy with occasional magical mischief, got her own grim reboot in 2014 with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. In it, Sabrina and her nutty aunts are reimagined as actual Satan-worshipping witches, complete with a penchant for dancing naked in the woods and cannibalism. Although Sabrina is only half-witch, she still has her magical powers and is expected to become a full witch on her 16th birthday.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, she falls in love with mortal boy Harvey Kinkle, who ends up witnessing her initiation into Satan-worship, and flees through the woods, pursued by the fairly large coven. However, he is tricked by a witch casting an illusion of Sabrina, and goes in for a kiss, only to end up with a large chunk of his upper torso torn off. Fortunately for the reader, we only see the aftermath, but it’s still pretty brutal, and things only get worse from there.
6. SABRINA GETS DE-SPINED
Archie vs. Predator sees nearly the entire population of Riverdale decimated by the Predator (with Veronica getting covered in most of their blood while Betty remains pristine, comically), but few of them get it as hard as Sabrina. Desperate for a solution to the seemingly-unstoppable alien, Betty and Veronica visit Sabrina in her Greendale home, believing themselves to be cursed by a knife Betty took from ancient Mayincatec temple.
Sabrina seemingly confirms that they are cursed (tossing out a cheeky reference to Afterlife With Archie), and begins to cast a spell to reverse it. Unfortunately, the Predator “Kool-Aid Mans” through the roof and guts Sabrina, then pulls the classic “rip out the spine with head still attached” from the movies. Seems even witches can’t survive a severe spinal deficiency.
5. SUICIDE BY LIONS AND TORMENT IN HELL
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina introduced a new major character into the Sabrina mythos, Edward Spellman’s former lover and fiancee, Iola. Iola, also a witch, is dumped by Edward when he meets Sabrina’s mortal mother. Confused and angry, Iola jumps into a lion exhibit at the zoo and is promptly torn apart and devoured. Since apparently the Chilling Adventures-verse operates off some pretty strict Biblical rules, she ends up in hell where her face is removed.
She eventually returns to the mortal plane and starts stealing faces, then she inserts herself into Sabrina’s life in order to manipulate her towards her own as-yet unclear ends, along with releasing Edward from imprisonment and tormenting Sabrina’s mother. It’s hard to imagine that this is a property based on Archie, about a character who used to appear in a kids show!
4. PREDATOR BITES OFF DILTON’S FACE
As Archie vs. Predator barrels towards its conclusion, most of the cast has been killed by the alien, leaving only Betty, Veronica, Archie and Dilton as survivors. Dilton, playing up the “creepy nerd” vibe dialed up to 11, whips out his giant robot suit (complete with Archie’s face) to combat the Predator, only for it to lose control entirely and try killing everyone. Fortunately, things work out and Dilton (seemingly) defeats the alien.
However, in his moment of triumph, he removes the Archie-shaped helmet. Predator, not quite as defeated as originally thought, pulls a Predator on him and rips out his spine and head. Just to make sure there isn’t a third person hiding inside a Dilton robot, he bites off his face, miraculously leaving the glasses behind.
3. EDWARD SPELLMAN EATEN BY A SUGGESTIVELY SHAPED TREE
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina details the past of her warlock father, Edward Spellman, previously only seen in the live-action series Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Shown as a child to have an inherent knack for summoning demons, Edward uses this talent to rise quickly through the ranks of the Church of Satan, eventually taking over as its leader through summoning a demon who could impersonate Lucifer.
Unfortunately for him, his sisters, Hilda and Zelda, discover his fraud and drag him away to be eaten and trapped inside a very… symbolic… tree to rot for eternity. The return of his damned former lover Iola sees his release, and rebirth, into someone very close to Sabrina, and he moves forward to enact his own designs for his daughter. Altogether, this was definitely not one for the kiddies.
2. HARVEY EATS HIS PARENTS
After Harvey Kinkle’s brutal demise at the hands of the Greendale Witches in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Sabrina is understandably heartbroken. Desperate for a solution, she is approached by her father’s former lover, Iola, who with the help of her two apprentices Betty and Veronica, help Sabrina in a necromantic rite to bring Harvey back.
Because Iola doesn’t actually have Sabrina’s best interests at heart, Harvey’s body comes back, but inhabited by the soul of her father, Edward Spellman. His first stop after revival is the Kinkle residence, where he kills Harvey’s parents, and because apparently that’s a witch thing in Chilling Adventures, eats his father, and explains his backstory to his mother. Although he leaves Mrs. Kinkle alive to go meet Sabrina, he promises to come back “for dessert.”
1. CHUCK RECEIVES A STICKY MAPLE
The CW’s Riverdale brought the Gossip Girl teen drama formula to Archie, and it’s found some success, beating out CW darling Arrow with its recent second season premiere. Riverdale probably takes the Archie property the furthest from its roots, but somehow manages to create its own charm while still paying respect to the past. However, it dials the adult factor way up, and nowhere is that more evident than in the season 1 episode Body Double.
In a perhaps poorly-conceived attempt to tackle social issues, the show takes a short break from the larger murder mystery plot of the season to do a very special episode on shaming. While the episode itself was a little ham-fisted and jarringly out of place with the rest of the season, it did grace us with the presence of Veronica and Dark Betty going all dominatrix on Chuck Clayton, one of the ringleaders of the shaming enterprise.
Which other instances can you think of in Archie-related materials that probably would have been better cut? Let us know in the comments!
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