The Art of Betty and Veronica, exclusive excerpt

Archie and his pals at Riverdale High were created by Vic Bloom and Bob Montana in 1941. My favorite characters were the lifelong frenemies Betty and Veronica. The best Betty and Veronica artist, without a doubt, was Dan DeCarlo, who cranked out countless pages of Archie and its many spin-off comics beginning in the late 1950s. Dan was also a prolific pin-up cartoon artist, and the characters in his pin-up world resemble the big sisters of Betty and Veronica. (Check out these excellent Fantagraphics books about DeCarlo's pin-up art: Innocence and Seduction: The Art of Dan DeCarlo, The Pin-up Art of Dan DeCarlo, and The Pin-Up Art of Dan DeCarlo, Vol. 2)

It's no surprise that The Art of Betty & Veronica mainly features Dan DeCarlo's work. Here's a selection of some DeCarlo's art that's featured in the book, which was edited by Victor Gorelick and Craig Yoe. I also included some samples by other artists for comparison purposes.

Original art by Dan DeCarlo. Archie’s Joke Book #22, May 1956.

Here's Craig Yoe's introduction:

The 1940s saw the emergence of a freckle-faced, orange-haired teenager named Archie Andrews. His first appearance was in Pep Comics #22, published by MLJ Magazines in 1941. Archie had two girlfriends: a cute, blonde, girl-next-door type, Betty Cooper, and the rich, sophisticated brunette, Veronica Lodge. Archie’s life was constantly in turmoil as he found himself having to choose between the two girls. They all lived in a town called Riverdale along with Jughead Jones, Archie’s best friend and advisor, and Reggie Mantle, Archie’s rival for Veronica’s affections. This teenage band attended Riverdale High.

Archie became an overnight sensation and, in the winter of 1942, won his own title, Archie Comics #1. The company changed its name to Archie Comics from MLJ, taken from the first names of the founders, Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John Goldwater. Goldwater conceived Archie and Betty and Veronica. He said they were inspired by his own youthful experience of an evening with two sisters he had met out west. Bob Montana provided the visuals of the teenage characters based on his high school days in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Archie may have put the company on the map and given it both its name and flagship title, but for me it’s always been all about Betty and Veronica. Archie is the steak, Ronnie and Betts are the sizzle. Okay, I’m shallow —- I prefer the sizzle! And the eternal question of Betty or Veronica seems like one of Rube Goldberg’s “Foolish Questions” that deserves one of Al Jaffee’s “Snappy Answers.” Okay, I can’t think of a snappy answer. So, in a word... VERONICA!

Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder spoofed Archie in an early issue of Mad, when that publication was still a comic book. They pointed out that Betty and Veronica looked exactly alike except for the hair color and it was silly for Andrews to prefer going to the Lodge. But for me it’s more than the hair tint being different. Veronica has the sexy Bettie Page bangs. In reality, I always figured that it was the other way around. The off-duty cop and amateur photographer who suggested Page adopt that “do” must have been a Veronica fan. So, Bettie Page eschewed Betty’s ponytail for Veronica’s look.

Dan DeCarlo confided in me that he drew the girls differently. From Dan’s pencil, Veronica was slightly more buxom, shapelier, and strutted sexier poses. Betty was slightly flatter-chested, less shapely, and sometimes adopted more tomboyish postures.

So Veronica, then!

I did always love Dan’s art, but in researching Archie: A Celebration of America’s Favorite Teenagers, I realized how brilliant Bob Montana was. I even remember Dan telling me that he took a lot from Montana’s style. When I first met and interviewed Dan, he kindly gave me the original art of a Montana daily strip that he kept on his bulletin board above his drawing desk for inspiration.

I’m also a recent zealous convert to Harry Lucey. Lucey’s subtle body language and the sauciness he brought to the girls has been a revelation. I know that current artists Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz love the old school, too. They and other contemporary Archie- Betty-Veronica artists are now standing on the shoulders of the masters and doing some amazing work.

While this book focuses on the art of Betty and Veronica, strong mention must absolutely be made of brilliant writers like George Gladir and Frank Doyle who supplied the ink-slingers with fun scripts to inspire them. Archie writers were some of the best in the business. Both Doyle and Gladir had artistic chops themselves, thus were aces at thinking visually. It’s almost as if they were “feeding lines” to the cartoonists to enable them to delineate brilliant humor and hotness.

’Nuff said! You must be anxious to get on to the art in The Art of Betty and Veronica. Brunette-lovers and Blonde-lovers alike, enjoy the view!

-- Craig Yoe

Art by Dan DeCarlo. Printer’s proof for the cover of Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica #118, October 1960.

Art by Dan DeCarlo. Printer’s proof for the cover of Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica #135, March 1967.

Art by Dan DeCarlo. Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica #163, July 1969.

Original art by Dan DeCarlo. Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica #158, February 1969.

Art by Irv Novick. Archie Comics #27, July-August 1947.

Original art by Bob White. Archie’s Madhouse #3, January 1960.

The Art of Betty & Veronica