Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect name of the comics maker that provided an online preview of Archie's future wedding. It was Archie Comics. This version has been corrected.

Michael Cavna on 'Archie' Issue 600, the Redhead's Choice of Veronica Over Betty

Richmond's Dave Luebke protested Archie's choice by selling his copy of the series' rare first issue.
Richmond's Dave Luebke protested Archie's choice by selling his copy of the series' rare first issue. (By Steve Helber -- Associated Press)
By Michael Cavna
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 19, 2009

So this is how the end begins.

When it comes to affairs of the heart, we are gathered here today to bear witness that Archie Andrews -- that long-iconic teenager of Riverdale High, that sputtering chassis of eternal chastity -- is a complete and utter jughead.

After nearly 70 years in one of popular culture's most celebrated threesomes, Archie is about to ask Veronica -- that shallow, conniving, materialistic tease -- to marry him.

Archie will pop the question in Issue 600, which goes on sale Wednesday at comics specialty shops. The six-part story line centers on Archie fast-forwarding five years into the future, when on bended knee and seemingly not on a two-day bender, he will ask for Veronica Lodge's trust-fund hand in matrimony.

And how does Veronica respond to her letterman-sweatered suitor?

On the heels of a San Diego Comic-Con panel last month to chat up Archie's choice, Archie Comics offered an online preview: Future Archie will wed and procreate with the Future Mrs. Veronica Andrews. Goodbye, 67 years of virginity; hello, redheaded rugrats and hefty tuition bills for Riverdale Day School.

But is this really news? Is it still culturally relevant? Isn't this merely a stunt in the grand tradition of comics to revive broader interest in an elderly title, short of icing Archie outright?

The answers: Yes, yes and, of course, yes.

The "Betty or Veronica?" question has been woven so deeply into the American social fabric that it's about much more than a single story arc. The Betty-or-Veronica puzzler -- so famed and ingrained that one would never reverse the order of the names -- long ago took on the aura of a comical Zen koan. Precursor to countless modern pop-culture threesomes -- think Rachel/Ross/Emily of "Friends" and Carrie/Big/Aidan of "Sex and the City" -- it has drawn its mystique from being both highly debatable and ultimately unknowable. Till, perhaps, now.

Recently, "Eighty percent of the [100 or so] people I've talked to say they are in agreement with me," says Dave Luebke, noted "Pick Betty" proponent and shopkeep at Dave's Comics in Richmond.

Luebke, 54, does not take this story line lightly. He's so invested, literally, in Archie's love life that he protested the proposal by selling his prized Archie Comics No. 1 issue ("fine to very fine condition -- best in existence," Luebke says). The 1942 comic fetched $38,837 at auction this month.

A George Washington University alumnus who says he stocks about a million comic books, Luebke acknowledges that the cash is a boon in the economic downturn. But he sold the comic book primarily because he is peeved that Archie picked the wrong woman.

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