Look Back: Archie Comics Joins In on Event-Mania With Love Showdown

This is "Look Back," a feature that I plan to do for at least all of 2019 and possibly beyond that (and possibly forget about in a week, who knows?). The concept is that every week (I'll probably be skipping the four fifth weeks in the year, but maybe not) of a month, I will spotlight a single issue of a comic book that came out in the past and talk about that issue in terms of a larger scale (like the series overall, etc.). Each week will be a look at a comic book from a different year that came out the same month X amount of years ago. The first week of the month looks at a book that came out this month ten years ago. The second week looks at a book that came out this month 25 years ago. The third week looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth week looks at a book that came out this month 75 years ago.

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For September 1994, we take a look at Archie Comics' answer to "event comics" mania with their own "event" crossover, Love Showdown.

As you likely recall if you know anything about the comic book industry in the 1990s, by 1994, the comic book "event" had become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Comic book companies hyped events to an astonishing degree and when they sold like crazy, then it became evident to other comic book companies that they, too, had to do big comic book events. Obviously, crossovers had been things for many years and Marvel's Secret Wars and DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths had made it clear that big company-wide event maxi-series were also big sellers. However, it was likely the X-Men titles in the 1980s that revealed just how much of a sales boost you could get by doing crossover "events" even with a relatively small circle of books. The Mutant Massacre was a massive sales success and that soon led to X-Men "events" becoming annual deals.

However, the "event" that truly changed the game for the rest of the decade was clearly DC's "The Death of Superman," a crossover between the Superman titles (and, to a lesser extent, Justice League America, which featured Superman as a member at the time and was written and drawn by Dan Jurgens, then also the writer/artist of one of Superman's solo series) that featured, well, you know, the death of Superman. This "event" got attention well beyond comic book fans, as it was a national news story. So that then led to the proliferation of stories designed to not only be big hits with comic book fans but also become a big enough deal that perhaps a NON-comic book fan would be interested in the story, at least if they had some sort of interest in the characters at all. In other words, for these things to truly work, you had to have major characters involved. Sure, you could (and people did) do them with, say, your Wonder Man or your Guy Gardners of the world, but it had a lot more public force if you featured major characters like Batman and Spider-Man. And sure enough, you had events like Batman's back being broken and a new hero taking over as the Dark Knight or Spider-Man's clone showing up and stuff like that.

That is the world that we were dealing with when Archie Comics decided to enter the "event" world themselves with Love Showdown. Do note that this was only a couple of months after Archie also did a crossover with Marvel where they teamed the Punisher up with Archie, in one of the oddest and yet also BEST crossover comic books of all-time (the creative team of that series was outstanding - the late, great Batton Lash, Stan Goldberg and John Buscema were amazing).

Archie Comics was not precisely strangers to the idea of crossovers between their titles, but let's face it, they were PRACTICALLY strangers to the idea. So what could they do that would merit not only a a crossover, but would be a big enough event that would draw outside attention? The idea would be to finally resolve the iconic love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica! Talk about something that would draw the public's attention, right?

The whole storyline began in August 1994's Archie #429, by Dan Parent, Stan Goldberg and Henry Scarpelli, behind a striking Dan DeCarlo cover...

It begins with Archie receiving a mysterious love letter and Betty and Veronica both determined to find out who sent it...

However, when they go to take the letter from Archie, it gets caught in a gust of wind. The two girls continue to chase after it but ultimately it was to no avail, as the letter ends up being burned and destroyed. Archie, being a bit of a jerk, decides that he will keep the identity of the letter-writer to himself for a little bit, just to play up the jealousy of the two girls. By the way, quick aside, that's super-douchey, right? Archie is not always the best guy and I'm fine with that, as you don't really get to be an "everyman" if you don't have some flaws, and Archie certainly has his flaws, but even for Archie, that seems oddly cruel.

Anyhow, he is about to tell the girls who sent him the letter when Reggie, who is ALWAYS a jerk, decides to mess with the girls' minds by convincing them each that the other one is the one who wrote the letter and its being destroyed was just an attempt by the other one to keep her rival from seeing the contents of the letter. Clever, honestly, but truly messed up.

So the girls go to confront each other and even when Archie tries to tell them the actual letter-writer, he is distracted by the girls deciding that they were going to end their friendship and try to resolve the love triangle once and for all!

The story continued into Betty #19 by Bill Golliher, Doug Crane and Ken Selig

Betty decides to throw out all of her photographs of herself and her now ex-best friend and Betty then comes up with a way to get to Archie, by helping him work on his car in exchange for him agreeing to take her to a Lodge Charity Event the following weekend. He agrees, but the problem is that the event is actually THIS weekend and the tickets that Betty had for the event were for the wrong date!

We then discover that Veronica intentionally put the wrong date on Betty's ticket (Betty got her ticket from her father, who had them donated at his office, obviously by Veronica). Betty, being a good person, continued to work on Archie's car even after Veronica showed up to take him to the dance. However, when she runs into Jughhead later and discovers Veronica's deceit (under the rather odd plot point that Jughead happened to see Veronica making the fake tickets at a local copy center) and this has Betty decide to go a step further and beat Veronica at Veronica's own game!

This leads into Betty and Veronica #82 by Parent, Dan DeCarlo and Alison Flood.

Betty crashes the dance (Veronica's father lets her in as, after all, she is a "friend of the family") and here's an interesting plot point that you don't see happen too often in Archie Comics of the era, although it happened a lot more in the past (as, come on, the defining artist of the whole company was Dan DeCarlo, the master of "good girl" cheesecake artwork), one of Betty's moves is to actually play upon her sexuality by wearing a very skimpy dress that all of the guys at the dance, Archie included, are awestruck by...

Obviously, the teens of Riverdale are commonly depicted as being attracted to each other and the sight of slack-jawed teens is a common one, but it's rarely played to this degree. It's an interesting decision. Betty then dances with all of the guys at the party and when Veronica tries to challenge her to a dance off, Betty blows her out of the water with her impressive dancing and gymnastic skills. When Veronica continues to try to match her, she just ends up making a fool of herself in front of everyone.

This then leads Veronica to think of a way to beat Betty at Betty's normal routine and Veronica tries to bake some muffins to outdo Betty...

It goes predictably poorly, but by the end of the issue, Reggie shows up in the story again, this time helping Veronica get back to her old self.

This leads to the conclusion of the event in September 1994's Veronica #39, by Golliher, Goldberg and Scarpelli.

It has a clever opening, where Reggie is putting Veronica through a sort of "boot camp" that involves her reciting "the rain in Spain falls mostly on the plain" while balancing a book on her head until she gets so angry that she tells Reggie off and it turns out that that was what he was pushing for in the first place...

That's some rather insightful stuff from Reggie there, huh? It's not necessarily healthy, but hey, you have to give him credit for knowing Veronica fairly well.

Okay, so Veronica then messed with Betty and it gets to the point where they come up with the idea of doing a duel. They will each get themselves highly made up and wear their fanciest outfits and then they will attack each other with super-soakers. The story has gone off the rails here a bit, but whatever, it's all in good fun. However, right when the attack is about to start, they are interrupted by Archie and...CHERYL BLOSSOM?!

Yes, Cheryl has moved back to town and she wrote a letter to Archie letting him know and Archie has chosen CHERYL over Betty and Veronica!

Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnnn!

Cheryl Blossom, in case you're unfamiliar, was a new character introduced in the early 1980s who was designed to be a foil to both Betty and Veronica by being a bit more out there than either of them. You know how Marvel had Venom, but they wanted to make Venom a bit of an anti-hero, so they brought in Carnage, who could be a flat out villain? Same basic concept here, as Archie had Veronica, but you couldn't have Veronica be TOO villainous, as why would Betty be best friends with her? So they introduced a more outrageous version of Veronica who could be more of a typical villain type character. Right off the bat, she was trying to go skinny-dipping and stuff like that, really edgy things for an Archie comic book of the early 1980s (however, again, fairly in keeping for Dan DeCarlo). After a while, the character faded out of sight and she was brought back for this event series.

There was a follow-up that worked as an epilogue to the story (and got things back to normal, basically. I'll probably right about that in the future). The whole thing was collected as a trade paperback, one of the first times that Archie Comics ever released a single story in a trade like that.

Cheryl Blossom, of course, is heavily featured in the Riverdale TV series, so Love Showdown was a major part of Archie history.

If you have any suggestions for October (or any other later months) 2009, 1994, 1969 and 1944 comic books for me to spotlight, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com! Here is the guide, though, for the cover dates of books so that you can make suggestions for books that actually came out in the correct month. Generally speaking, the traditional amount of time between the cover date and the release date of a comic book throughout most of comic history has been two months (it was three months at times, but not during the times we're discussing here). So the comic books will have a cover date that is two months ahead of the actual release date (so October for a book that came out in August). Obviously, it is easier to tell when a book from 10 years ago was released, since there was internet coverage of books back then.

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