Jul 5, 2012

Ask Duy: Betty or Veronica?

Not too long ago, Comics Cuber London Elliott asked me that age-old comics question.

Betty or Veronica?

This is the version of the "three on a soda" by Harry Lucey.
I picked it 'cause he's my favorite.

Now, because I know people will want to do it, let's get rid of the obvious and "funny" answers, including but not limited to "both," "Cheryl Blossom," "neither, because Archie's too much of a narcissist," and "Jughead, because, you know, Chasing Amy."

No, for this post, we have to pick one of Betty Cooper or Veronica Lodge for Archie Andrews.

I don't think I'm going to get much disagreement that Betty is the nicer one and "better" for Archie (however "better" someone so obsessed with Archie can be), but I do think that Veronica is the more interesting character, and her dynamic with Archie is more compelling than Betty's because they're of two completely different worlds. Generally speaking (there are exceptions, naturally), Veronica's conflicts with Archie come from their relationship, while any conflict Archie has with Betty is external, driven by something outside.

To illustrate, let's look at the first issue of LIFE WITH ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE, the bestselling magazine that showcases two alternate-reality stories, one in which Archie is married to Betty and one where he's married to Veronica. Even the cover itself is very telling.

Archie being married to Veronica makes him feel inadequate, wondering if he can live in her world. Look at that slump — Norm Breyfogle's body language conveys so much. In contrast, look at the left side. He's perfectly happy with Betty.

In fact, the first page of the Veronica story already establishes a problem between Veronica and Archie.

However, in the Betty story, the conflict comes from Archie and Betty not making enough to make ends meet. The real drama starts when Mr. Lodge offers to sponsor Archie to a record label in exchange for his divorcing Betty and marrying Ronnie instead.

How good was Norm on this series? Sigh.

How interesting that even in the Betty story, the conflict is driven by Veronica. (Needless to say, in the Veronica story, Betty takes her "defeat" gracefully and rocks no boats.)

Veronica is simply the more dynamic, more interesting character, which is why she's been able to anchor solo series of her own much longer than Betty, who's pretty passive, especially in comparison. Veronica doesn't stand for anything, and she has a lot of money, so it's easier to have her drive a story, because of her personality or her trappings.

Let's look at a story called "Flipped Out," in which Jughead gives Archie a two-headed coin to flip so he can decide whether to take Betty or Ronnie to the dance. (Of course, Jughead assigns Betty to heads.)

It's because of Veronica that this is a story at all. She's the one who loses her temper and makes the decision to walk away from Archie, while Betty just lets it happen. She shows up at the end of the story, and Archie "chooses" her.

In the saga of Archie Andrews picking Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, the only two possible happy endings are Veronica growing up and treating Archie right (which would neuter Veronica as a character) or Archie choosing Betty. Veronica drives the story. She is the narrative option. She is the right choice if you want more interesting and more dynamic and more entertaining stories. But Betty is the end of the story.

Um, provided she gets over this kind of thing.
It's creepy.

As a bit of an aside, CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENT has an Archie analogue, named Riley Richards, married to a Veronica analogue, named Felicity. He's miserable in his marriage and realizes that the Betty analogue, Lizzie, has always been attractive, and he should have ended up with her.

Therefore, he decides to kill his wife.

The book itself is a great crime story, expertly delivered by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, but the one thing that really sets it apart from the other CRIMINAL volumes is the flashback scenes, done purely in Archie style (may not be safe for work).

Even here, the conflict is kicked off by the Veronica character.

So there. Betty may be the best end to the story, but Veronica drives the story. And that's my answer to the age-old question.


Unknown said...

Criminal rocks! I just read Fatale and it's decent but the best Brubaker/Philipps collab is still Sleeper =) - JV

David Marshall said...

Betty's the best choice, as illustrated in the not-safe-for-work parody WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY (http://bit.ly/KNQUB2)

Kiss Me Deadly said...

I think we were supposed to like Betty more but I always thought she was kind of a doormat ("sure, Archie! I'll do your homework and fix your car for you!") Veronica wouldn't put up with that for a second.

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