Archie Comics confronts breast cancer

Via ComicsAlliance blog, news that 'Life With Archie' features a character with breast cancer in this month's new issue.

"That character is Cheryl Blossom, the redheaded spoiler in Betty and Veronica's love triangle with Archie."

More in an Associated Press item here.

As an authority on the subject, I can tell you the artist definitely got the "chemo-fatigue" look down right.

(thanks, @penguinchris)


  1. Wow. Archie’s had its first gay character, and now it’s dealing with breast cancer.

    It’s not going to be long before someone brings a gun into Riverdale High.

    1. I can’t help but feel that this constant injection of social issues into the comic isn’t REALLY about bringing them into the public (that’s been done) so much as using them as a vehicle to re-establish the relevance of Archie.

      I mean, I didn’t even know the comic still existed until these things started showing up.  I doubt it’s gotten any funnier (“I eat lots of hamburgers HAHAHAHA…”), so this is about the last shot they have left, I suppose.

      1.  I see Archie comics in the magazine rack grocery store checkout all the time and think, “Who the heck keeps buying these things? Probably grandparents whose grandchildren take one look at the covers and throw ’em away.”

        This one, though, I would have bought.

        1. Archie comics have remained profitable for years and are the only comics still distributed on newsstands and in a large number of places other comics no longer show up, like the supermarket.

          Archie has always made more sales from the newsstand (or more accurately, they never moved in any size to the direct market).  They were the first to go with a day-and-date digital release of their comics (and at a lower price than print).

          Say what you will about them, but for the first time in years, Archie is striving to be relevant…and this time, they’re succeeding.  Stories about Occupy Riverdale, Gay Marriage and now breast cancer are all fairly timely.  And unless I’m mistaken, Archie comics skew far more heavily to a female audience than mainstream comics (which is one reason for these stories, I think).

  2. Been thinking about you Xeni and hoping you are coping and doing well as can be.  Always love Archie as a kid and love them integrating more and more of the “real world” issues. Agreed on the chemo fatigue. I used to work in a clinic in Portland that offered acupuncture, massage and herbs as complimentary therapies to cancer and HIV patients. Saw this far too often.

  3. The thing about comic books and cartoons, you see, is that they are supposed to be entertainment. They don’t need to have social statements, they shouldn’t deal with real life except for the weather outside.

    Bringing social issues into cartoons and comic books ruins their timeless appeal. That’s why some comics and cartoons die and some last forever. You can pick up an Archie from 40 years ago and read it today and enjoy it as much as when it first came out. The only change they made were fashions, vehicles, and electronics (from transistor radios to the high-tech toys of today).

    The same thing applies to situational comedies.

    Have you ever noticed that I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners are still getting airtime? Look at what they dealt with. Routine everyday life, no serious problems, no life threatening diseases, no social injustices, no wars, just that slice o’ life that is easy to relate to for everyone, regardless of the year. I’ll bet I love Lucy scores more airtime than All in the Family with it’s late 60’s/early 70’s era politics and social issues.

    Watching Lucy stuff her face with chocolates is always funny. Listening to Archie and meathead was funny once.

    When writers begin adding plotlines that introduce significant social issues (you pick your favorite), things change. The relevancy of the story applies to right now. In a few years, less so. In twenty years, it might be a nostalgic passing thought, but will anyone seek it out for viewing then? I doubt it.

    Gunsmoke still popular on Netflix. Same for Wagon Train and The Naked City. They made a few pointed statements about political issues of the day if you were aware enough to spot them, but for the most part, and at the very most, they were “Golden Rule” sort of stories: Be a good person. Though typically, they were just pleasant ways to pass time.

    Social relevance only makes enduring an tale when it’s presented as a novel where a person can spend a number of hours to grasp the nuances. That doesn’t translate well into to a comic book, cartoon, or TV show. It sells ad time, but becomes dated so quickly that you don’t care to watch it again in reruns, let alone in a few years. Social relevance flooded the world in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It’s a shame.

    Breast cancer awareness is great. But it doesn’t need to be in everyone’s face.

    1.  “The thing about comic books and cartoons, you see, is that they are supposed to be entertainment”

      Lost me… right there.

      1.  They begin losing their entertainment value as soon as they start dealing with hard issues.

        1. I bet you never read Watchmen, then!

          I meant in terms of having to read through your thoughts about what a comic *should* be. 

          And yes, (breast) cancer should be in everyone’s face. Er… you know what I mean.

    2.  I disagree.

      If you asked a hundred teens what they thought of Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, or The Honeymooneers, you’d likely get 95 puzzled stares. And the five who didn’t might say something like “Ugh, that show grandma watches.”

      The producers of Archie are trying to recapture an audience that is not going to be satisfied with bland, generic teen shenanigans.

    3. “The thing about comic books and cartoons, you see, is that they are supposed to be entertainment.”

      That’s like saying that books are supposed to simply help you pass time.

      You might be looking at comics/cartoons from a very narrow viewpoint. Superhero, smut or comedy comics are a fraction of the whole. Where the US or Australia only those comics, and think of them as ‘entertainment for kids’, many other places around the world (around Europe, Japan, etc) consider comics as a visual vehicle of expression as valid as books can be.

      Think of comics as heavily illustrated books. There are myriads of comics that deal with hard subjects, that are totally about political and social issues. In Europe, comics and cartoons were a way to communicate dissent and rebellion under fascist regimes that got past censorship in ways that plain text couldn’t.

      Look at Persepolis, Maus, When The Wind Blows, or any from this random list: 

    4. I think you’re somewhat naive about what modern audiences want or enjoy.  My 14 year-old daughter will watch the new My Little Pony show, with its sly humor, or Gumball, Regular Show or Adventure Time.  Archie from 1964 with it’s cornball jokes and odd social mores?  Not even remotely interested.  Cheryl Blossom’s story would interest her, as do Nicholas Sparks movies or 1999’s Titanic.  My 11 year-old son is more interested in the fate of the Dovakhin in Skyrim or Master Chief in the Halo series or Hellboy than he would be in Jughead’s hamburger addiction circa 1971.  

      As for your claims about the popularity of said show?  TV listings in my area for Gunsmoke: None in the next 14 days.  The Honeymooners: None in the next 14 days.  I Love Lucy: on several times a day on the Hallmark Channel (a ‘feel good’ channel that skews to older viewer via reruns).

      I’m not sure how you can sit and talk about how nostalgic you are for late 60s/early 1970s Archie, when they had the same kinds of ‘in the now’ topics.  Arguing about the draft and war-protesting was in Archie comics at that time (regrettably one of those is still relevant today).

      It’s also worth noting that this story goes in the ‘alternate futures’ title of Archie, where each issue has two competing timelines…one where Archie married Betty and the other where he married Veronica.  They are aimed at young teens and are more like romance comics than gag strips.

    5. “Bringing social issues into cartoons and comic books ruins their timeless appeal. That’s why some comics and cartoons die and some last forever.”

      Actually, what makes some comic books of yore look particularly old is when they ignored certain issues. Say, race inequality: take a look at some of the very old Legion of Superheroes group shots which features anything from white, blue, to yellow color, but no brown or black tones!

    6.  Archie started in comcis in 1941 and has outlasted every tv show you’ve listed in every decade and you think they’re doing something wrong?

      I certainly remember socially relevant Archie comics from when I was a kid done in much the same manner as you pointed out for Gunsmoke. The serious storylines are still just a small part of a much larger world of Archie.

    7. I agree with you in part, in that Archie in particular never struck me as much more than light entertainment for 10-year-olds. But it got so outdated that I’m amazed it’s remained so popular… the same stories must have been recycled dozens of times over the years (not that each new generation of readers would know that – it’s not necessarily a negative since very few adults read it).

      And as other repliers have pointed out, your “timeless” examples are actually being lost to time with the youngest generations. At 25 I’m probably in the last generation that will be familiar with everything you listed – and I’m the only person my age I know who has actually watched most of your examples. Seriously, we’ve moved on as a culture. Debating about whether or not the old stuff is better is a different argument :)

      So I’m actually very, very pleased to see Archie take this route. They’re taking a cue from the serious (not necessarily serious but not superhero or outright comedy) graphic novels that really took off in the past couple decades, the most powerful of which are essentially graphic memoirs (which appears to be the style this particular Archie comic is going for).

      Having not read any of these new Archies, I can’t speak to whether or not they treat the issues like a 70’s or 80’s Ad Council PSA comic book did, but I suspect not – hopefully they’re taking a nuanced and more effective approach, working these things into real stories and not BS asides. Kids can tell the difference as well as we can.

      And while you might make the case that some of the social issues Archie is addressing won’t be that relevant in the future… would you really say that about cancer?

      Cancer is a scourge on humanity and has been, well, probably forever. To not address it at all would be silly at best. A lot of kids have to deal with their parents having cancer (and the kids themselves may have it) and while we may consider Archie to be on the extreme light side of entertainment, this kind of thing can really help people who would probably not delve into other literature along these lines.

      When my mom had breast cancer, I was too young to really understand what was going on but I was old enough to read Archie.

      We of course must hope that someday this comic will no longer be relevant except as a historical document, because we’ll have cured cancer – but we are far from that day.

    8. Interesting. The things that keep me interested in old media, that draw me to read old advertising, old comic, watch old movies (I watch a lot of old movies), and look at old art are those very issues you’ve called non-entertaining. There is no such thing as timelessness. It doesn’t exist. There’s only ephemera.  We’re always contemporary people looking at the past. If you find solace in avoiding the present and idealizing a sanitized past then that is your aesthetic preference, but it really has nothing to do with anyone else. You seriously don’t know what will seem relevant and what will not seem relevant to future people, but I would put forth the suggestion that if something from the past is popular it is because something, on some level, even if it is a sense of loathing for the present, is actually perfectly relevant. 

    1. In the late 90’s there was a sci-fi/b-movie themed Archie cartoon that I remember was weird, but can’t recall if it was good or bad. Mostly that Veronica grew into a 50ft woman and ripped her clothes off, and I felt funny down there.

    2.  Dilton already created a way to jump between alternate futures dimensions. I think he met up with other alternate-universe Diltons…

  4. Oh, Lord, the youth today….

    As OTR fen know, Gunsmoke *was* social commentary, in contrast to the shoot-em-up kids’ stuff of the late 40s radio serials. When CBS greenlit it, the producers and cast aimed to show that people in the West, well, did bad things and weren’t always punished for them… and some of them wore a badge.

    It was the Hill Street Blues of its day, and it’s not the franchise’s fault that the madam-ness of Miss Kitty, and her ongoing affair with Matt Dillon, became implicit once it moved to television. As with Mr. Conrad’s paunch, it wouldn’t have gotten on air.

    As for Wagon Train, it still had Golden Age writers laying down serious stories… and if it didn’t exist, well, Mr. Roddenberry would have had to rip off another concept to put in outer space, and praise “Bob” he left the Space Family Robinson concept to someone else.

    [/off soapbox]

    1. The first time I ever heard about Wagon Train was a voice sample in a techno song spouting the immortal line ‘Wagon Train to the stars!’ and I had to go look it up to see if it was one of those harebrained post war govt space plans like Project Orion.

  5. Just those two panels were really effective. They perfectly captured the nostalgia and sadness of finding out that the really hot girl you had a crush on in HS has cancer. 

    Best wishes for you, too. 

  6. I fear the happy escapism of Archie is becoming a reality check nowadays.

    Both my Mother and Mother-in-Law had Breast cancer. I don’t want to read comics about it.

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