For three seasons, The CW’s Riverdale has taken one of America’s most beloved comic book series, Archie, and turned it into a gritty drama which at any given moment can exist as a teen melodrama, a crime saga, a supernatural thriller, an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery, a musical, a prison story, a soap opera, a slasher, or a work of survivalist fiction.
This insane, intriguing, and often completely random take on one of the comic book world’s oldest series can seem to be an insane take on a nearly eight-decade-long property which is, at face value, mostly known for its Americana, nostalgia and almost debilitatingly positive outlook on nearly every issue.
Despite its reputation as the happy-go-lucky family comic during Archie’s nearly 80-year publication history, the comic city of Riverdale has seen its fair share of visitors, supernatural events, unlikely crossovers, that the television version could never dream of.
10 Archie goes to Church
While many of Archie’s strangest exploits have come in recent years in the form of unlikely cameos, crossovers, and genre-twisting takes on the classic series, one of the first major breaks in form came in the 1970s, when Spire Comics produced its own take on the Archie Comics.
Spire produced Christian comics, and in the early 70s, they acquired the rights to publish America’s most well-known comic book high-schooler. The result was a wild ride which interspersed the nostalgic tones of the main series with religious messages about love, temptation, good vs. evil, and even the occasional outrageously offensive look at other, non-Christian religions.
9 Archie Meets The Monkees
Since Archie’s earlier days, his relationship with music has become increasingly synonymous with the character itself. With countless arcs about Archie’s on-and-off-again musical career and even a hit recording in 1969, the thought of Archie rubbing shoulders with bands such as the Monkees seems right in line with everything going on during the 1960s. Archie, however, met them in 2018.
In The Archies, a series about the titular band’s touring schedule, Archie and the gang have come across modern musical acts such as CHVRCHES as they made their upward climb to fame. After taking a hit to the head, however, Archie found himself in the 1960s, where the art reverted to its classic style and Archie came face-to-face with fellow fictional band, The Monkees and the band performed its real-world hit song Sugar, Sugar.
8 Archie Gets Political
Although it is typically not an overly political series, it has always found a way to be a reflection of the time that it was presented. The results have been a mixture of charming and cringe, depending on the era and subject matter it is tackling. With early comics falling into some unfortunate pitfalls, specifically with regards to race, the current era has preached a more progressive tone, introducing a more diverse cast of characters including people of color, and Kevin Keller, the series’ first gay character.
In 2010, however, the series tackled politics head-on—sort of. When Archie runs for student president, he invokes Barack Obama in his messaging. Not to be outdone, Reggie does the same with Sarah Palin. When all is said and done, both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin come to Riverdale, and rather than taking sides, Archie and the gang get a crash-course in embracing those with different views they do.
7 Jughead Travels Time
In 1990, Jughead got to headline one of the more out-of-nowhere series in Archie comics as he traveled through time in Jughead’s Time Police. The result was a time-spanning adventure which saw Jughead see a variety of characters from the past and future alike.
Throughout his journey, Jughead meets and falls in love with one of Archie’s 29th-century descendants, knocks the apple out of the tree that Isaac Newton was observing, and comes face-to-face with time-traveling sorcerers. It may be one of the most ambitious moments that Archie truly went off the rails, and laid the path for some of the out-of-field choices that would come thereon. A reboot of the series is currently in the works.
6 Archie vs. Predator
Up until now, Archie’s craziest moments have been akin to real-world issues, but every once in a while, Archie goes somewhere that gets rid of all that people think they know and go places that have no rhyme or reason. In the miniseries Archie vs. Predator, readers find the kids of Riverdale on a trip to a tropical island that turns deadly, gory, and outright scary.
Upon arriving back in Riverdale, the death and gore continue as the Predator decapitates, disembowels, and dismembers many of the series’ most popular characters including Archie himself. It ends when Betty and Veronica defeat the character and Betty tries to turn him into the new Archie. A sequel is on the way.
5 Archie Takes a Bullet
Archie’s consistent love-triangle between Betty and Veronica is one of the longest-running plot points in the series. Since the initial episodes, Archie has gone back and forth between the series’ two most popular female characters. The 2010 revival of the series posited what would happen if Archie happened with either of them thanks to parallel storylines which showed what it would be like with each.
As the series ended, however, the writers needed a way to tie up all of the loose ends without having Archie commit to either timeline. In the series’ penultimate issue #36, Senator Kevin Keller is almost the victim of an assassination attempt. Archie steps into action and takes a bullet for his friend, dies, and avoids having to commit to either of his muses.
4 Batman and Robin and Archie
Despite their different trajectories, Batman and Archie are products of the same era in comic book history. Although they both have gone their different ways in tone, the nostalgia behind the properties remains to this day. Archie Meets Batman ‘66 embraces this nostalgia by having the classic version of the Archie Gang come face-to-face with Adam West and Burt Ward’s Batman and Robin.
When many of Batman’s most formidable foes bring their trail of terror to the streets of Riverdale, the Caped Crusader and his sidekicks roll into town to save the day, and they must use the gang in order to do it. The result is a fun, captivating mash-up which embraces the camp and nostalgia that the two series are known for during the 1960s.
3 Archie Gets Punished
Tonally, it is hard to get two more opposite tones than The Punisher and Archie comics. The first pages of this mashup highlight this. One is a man who saw his family murdered by the mob and spends the rest of his days trying to exact revenge, and the other is a high schooler who is caught between two love interests. When a case of mistaken identity leads Frank Castle to Riverdale, the two collide in an unlikely turn of events.
When a lookalike being pursued by Castle goes to Riverdale, the lives of the two combine. The lookalike finds himself on a date with Veronica, and Archie finds himself in the scopes of Castle’s gun. The two join together to take on the villain after he holds Veronica hostage in a tale which has an odd amount of charm considering the dark character who joins the Archie Universe
2 Archie vs. Sharknado
Sharknado was a low-budget SyFy original movie which combined the natural horror of Twister with the cheesy shark-based horror of a Jaws sequel. It became an unlikely hit and eventual franchise, and amidst Sharknado-mania, Archie got in on the fun when the titular Sharknado stormed through the streets of Riverdale.
Like Archie vs. Predator, Archie vs. Sharknado embraces camp and tongue-in-cheek humor as it tells the bloody story of how a Sharknado nearly destroys Riverdale, and what the gang must do in order to destroy it in the process, whether it means stealing a helicopter, arming themselves, throwing dodgeballs at the sharks, or chasing the sharks with chainsaws.
1 Night of the Living Jughead
While Archie’s other exploits with monsters and the supernatural have done so in a way which was more tongue-in-cheek, Afterlife With Archie posits a world where the undead have taken over Riverdale, but it does so in a way which embraces horror, darkness, and themes of death with a seriousness which all the others act.
After Jughead’s pet dog Hot Dog after a run-in with an automobile, he enlists the help of teenage witch Sabrina Spellman. The result is not a happy tale of resurrection, but a horrific and bloody series of events which brings Riverdale to the land of the walking dead. A spinoff of Afterlife With Archie, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, serves as the basis for the Netflix show of the same name, which is made by many of the same people behind Riverdale, and sequel series of both are in the works.