If you didn’t know by now, Riverdale is based off of a 75-year-strong comic series, Archie Comics. Also, you’re living under a rock, and/or clearly don’t read my episode recaps. Shame on you. However, if you’re not a diehard classic Archie fan, you may wonder how many liberties the show has taken with the characters, locations and source material in general. Here’s a handy breakdown!
Archibald ‘Archie’ Andrews
Ah, our lovable leading man. While the key personality traits of Archie haven’t changed drastically (popular good guy with an oblivious overly-optimistic naïveté), the everyman status sure has. In the comics, Archie is the swell happygolucky Buddy Holly sweater vest-type, not the suddenly-hot tortured musician soul he is on the show. On the page he spends most of his time navigating back and forth between a Betty-Veronica love triangle that is nonexistent (so far) in the show; on the screen he’s made it abundantly clear that Betty is not part of the equation, even if he’s starting to hint at otherwise. Like most things in the show, Archie’s more absurd comic quirks have been updated or modernized for realism’s sake, like swapping out his cheesy bubblegum pop band ‘The Archies’ for an aspiring solo music career, or making his ‘too-good-to-be-true’ sitcom parents into divorcees trying their best. The biggest change of all, of course, is his weird illegal relationship with Ms. Grundy. As you’ll see later on in this article, this is not something anyone would have wanted in the comics.
Forsythe Pendleton ‘Jughead’ Jones III
Juggie’s on-screen translation is the least recognizable, largely because of how comically unrealistic his cartoon counterpart was. In the comics, Jughead is known for a few key things: a major love for food (hamburgers especially), a major asexual dislike of women, his dog and canine best friend Hot Dog, his unexplained eternally-closed eyes, his goofy crown-shaped whoopee cap and his deadpan sarcastically-wry humour. One of these traits made it into the show. Our screen Jug is a sulky lone-wolf hipster, with a penchant for typing his novel in a diner alone and squatting in random abandoned holes while on the lam from his alcoholic gangster father (who was a dorky near-clone of his son in the comics). The only things that make Jughead Jughead are his signature dry jokes, a modern-day crown-shaped beanie and his unconditional love for his kid sister Jellybean. While this version of Jug has a girlfriend and no trusty mutt, this clever angsty modernization of such a ridiculous outdated character trope is not only very welcome — it almost makes the show.
Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Cooper
Betty is and always will be the epitome of the ponytailed ‘girl next door’, no matter what iteration. However, the show version has taken some liberties with her family life, making her ‘sometimes-character’ sister Polly a major present focus, her sweet and loving parents controlling vindictive psychopaths and adding a whole maple-y revenge side-plot with the Blossoms. Also, as we’re starting to see, Betty seems to have some (probably hereditary) mental instabilities and may need Adderall to function. While her close comic friendship with Jughead has blossomed into something more on the screen, Betty’s sweet crush on Archie is nothing new. Though Betty was never traditionally part of the school paper or cheerleading team* (as far as I can recall), her entrepreneurial spirit and straight-A intelligence make these little creative liberties feel right at home.
*I have since been informed that the cover of issue 194 of Betty and Veronica clearly shows Betty cheerleading. I stand corrected! Thanks, reader Natalie!
Screen Ronnie is almost like a reformed version of page Ronnie, who was often jealous, spiteful, greedy and catty. However, in both versions she’s kind-hearted deep down, and in the show she’s really trying to be a good person. In the comics, Veronica was Riverdale’s rich snob, and she loved to flaunt it — more like a toned-down version of her NYC socialite past than the good friend she is on-screen. In fact, I’d wager that the reason they watered down the character to a ‘once upon a time’ is the fact that the screen version of the Blossoms are the most Riverdale royalty the show could portray at once realistically. While Veronica and Betty’s rivalry over Archie has only planted seeds so far, we can only hope this goes the way of the comics and become a central theme. While Veronica’s millionaire dad Hiram is a common staple of the comics, often acting as a ‘Mr. Wilson’ to Archie’s ‘Dennis the menace’, in the show he’s been demoted to an off-screen Wall Street crook, with Hermione promoted to the sole loving caregiver. At least Smithers is still around! One thing that’ll never change, though: Veronica is a go-getter who will stick up for her friends to the end.
Reginald ‘Reggie’ Mantle
There’s not much to say here, because in the show we don’t have much reference material to pull from. In the comics, Reg is one of the main five members of the group of friends, but, due to his frenemy status with Archie (usually over Veronica), is often mean-spirited and vain. On Riverdale, Reggie has largely been reduced to a dumb jock with next to no screen time, only used whenever they need a rival for Archie or someone to say a douchebag joke. Though Reggie’s jerkishness and athletic prowess hasn’t changed in the translation, I’d definitely like to see more of him (he played bass for The Archie’s, for god’s sake!) so it feels more like the classic gang from the page.
Fun fact: Cheryl Blossom is not actually from Riverdale, and actually resides in the nearby town of Pembrooke. While an iconic sex symbol of the Archie Comics canon, she actually only occasionally appeared in the same issues as Archie and the gang and largely maintained her own solo series set in the same universe for much of her history. While syrup conglomerate is the name of the game on Riverdale, in the comics Cheryl is actually the wealthy daughter of a software engineer; the maple syrup plot is purely an invention of the show, and it better pay off as part of some elaborate pun, dammit. Other than that, Cheryl’s translation has largely remained the same: a selfish, manipulative and flirtatious redhead with a penchant for Cherry Cola and a popular fraternal twin, Jason (who is still alive, mind you). Even Cheryl’s cronies Tina Patel and Ginger Lopez have made their way onto the screen, but one thing that hasn’t (and hopefully won’t) is Cheryl’s strange romantic tryst with Dilton.
Kevin is one of the newer Archie Comics characters, created in 2010 to be more progressive and inclusive and to keep the comics modern and relevant. While openly gay in both versions, show Kevin is more of a stereotypical ‘gay best friend’ than he is in the comics, where he’s just a genuinely (non-sassy) good guy who’s friends with everyone. Historically Kevin is a natural leader often running for class president (or later, for senate), and is an Army brat — not the son of the sheriff — who is new to Riverdale. Unfortunately, there’s not much show material to pull from yet, despite being part of the main gang; in the comics he even has own spin-off. More Kevin, please!
Josie and the Pussycats
The most immediate thing that stands out as a difference here is cosmetic — Josie and her band have been race-bent to all be African-American, which works so well, you guys. With this also comes a change of sound, transforming the pop-rock trio into a soulful jazz-rock girl band. Josie McCoy, a sweet-natured levelheaded redhead — almost like a female Archie — has been changed to a sassy über-focused career-driven daughter of the mayor, while drummer Melody Valentine, though rarely on-screen, has clearly been changed from a ditzy blond bombshell. The Pussycats that has changed the least is tomboyish Valerie Brown — void of much personality in both versions, but trading in her bass guitar for a keyboard once hitting the screen. Either way, the leopard-print leotard-clad Pussycats are the hottest band in Riverdale, no matter which version you go with — except in the comics they attend Midvale High, and are more known for carrying their own series than appearing alongside Archie and the gang.
Marmaduke ‘Moose’ Mason
Once again, there’s not a lot to speak to yet — Moose in both versions is a bullish brute football player with a seemingly below-average IQ. In the comics he’s a loyal friend with a short temper and jealous streak when it comes to his longterm girlfriend Midge Klump, while in the show he’s closeted gay (or possibly bisexual) and appears to just be another Riverdale jock with little fleshing out as of yet.
Despite being so minor in the show, Dilton has definitely changed dramatically — going from a stereotypical ‘I love to learn’ science geek to a more modern ‘cub scouts and strategic military tactics’ spaz. While Dilton is definitely loveable in his own way on the page, the Riverdale version will definitely take some getting used to.
Chuck got the short end of the stick in Riverdale, guys. While in the comics, coach’s son Chuck is a good guy and great friend to Archie, often found excelling at football or passionately drawing his own comics, in the show he’s a womanizing chaos-loving asshat, really known only for his slutshaming and overconfident macho masculinity. They even cut his long-running girlfriend Nancy Woods from the show to add focus to his promiscuity!
If there’s any character I’m glad they’ve completely changed, its Ethel. Traditionally Ethel has been known by one trait and one trait alone: a unreciprocated obsession with Jughead so strong it’s creepy at best and borderline stalking at worst. Ethel seems to have no interest in Jug on Riverdale, with subplots instead focusing on her rough family life and her being an empowering woman, showing that an overweight girl with bad clothes can be a strong badass female character too. You go, Ethel!
Ms. Geraldine Grundy
Where do we begin? The Miss Grundy from the Archie comics is a crusty, prudish, strict old bat of a woman, who uses a ‘tough love’ approach on her homeroom class. In the show, Geraldine Grundy is actually the pseudonym for a young hot lady allegedly on the run from her abusive ex-husband. She plays the cello, tutors music, and most blasphemously sleeps with her students. Fans do get a glimpse of the real Geraldine Grundy, who, as a nice nod to fans, looks just like the comic counterpart, but in the show all we have is this icky Jennifer Gibson cougar.
Mr. Waldo Weatherbee
Like most adults, Principal Weatherbee’s most defining trait is his general disdain for Archie, who, while loveable, can be a bit of a well-meaning rapscallion. Very similar to the comic versions of Ms. Grundy and Mr. Lodge, Waldo Weatherbee (who magnificently was also race-bent for the show) is a strict but loveable man, whereas in the show he appears to just be intimidating and cold. Yikes!
Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe
No matter where you look, Pop’s is the place to be. This classic-style diner hasn’t actually changed much between iterations — it’s the town’s general hangout spot, run by the sweet-natured Terry ‘Pop’ Tate. In both versions the parlour is frequented by Jughead (albeit for different reasons) and in both versions his milkshakes are to die for. Kudos to the show-runners for keeping such an iconic location unchanged!
As you can see, all in all, the show has added a modern but familiar spin to classic characters, usually for the better. And with characters like Sabrina the Teenage Witch rumoured to make appearances as well, one can only dream of where else the show will take this! Who would you most like to see make their way to the screen? Let us know in the comments below!
You can catch Riverdale at 9/8c on The CW or Canadian Netflix, every Thursday night!