The superhero binge of 1966 brought caped crusaders of all stripes out of the woodwork.  Mild-mannered scientists of all stripes, pop stars, funny animals, random fat men, teenagers, spies and even grocery clerks became defenders of justice in those halcyon days, and so it was that the kids of Riverdale gained their own superhuman powers, and even a (short-lived) super-team!  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Betty And Me #5 awaits!

BettyAndMe5CoverBETTY AND ME #5
Writer: Bob Bolling/Frank Doyle/Joe Edwards
Penciler: Bob Bolling/Dan DeCarlo/Joe Edwards
Inker: Bob Bolling/Vincent DeCarlo/Dan DeCarlo/Joe Edwards
Letterer: Bob Bolling/Vincent DeCarlo/Joe Edwards
Editor: Richard Goldwater
Publisher: Archie Comics
Cover Price: 12 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $50.00

Previously in Betty And Me: Archie Andrews was an all-American teenager, torn between his crush on the pretty blonde girl next door and the pretty brunette uptown girl with her nose in the air.  Though Riverdale’s favorite son was the central figure (and namesake) of the company that published his adventures, Archie Comics was once known as MLJ Publishing, one of many publishers that sprung up to give us superhero adventures in the Golden Age.  Though the likes of The Shield and The Comet were mostly gone by the early 60s, the revived interest in superhero comics that came with the Batman TV show brought not only a revival of the original MLJ superhero properties, but superhero identities for the kids of Riverdale, except for Reggie Mantle (who got to be a villain) and Veronica Lodge (who was above it all).  But of course, where there are comic-book superheroes, there inevitably come superhero TEAMS, which brings us to today’s issue, the origin tale of The United Three!

But first, Betty and Veronica square off in a battle of brains versus allure, with Veronica getting the better of Miss Cooper…

…but only for a minute.


Swift and blinding violence: That’s the Cooper Credo, and Betty finally outwits Ronnie by refusing to hide her brains, allowing her to score a date with the cute new boy in school, leaving Archie and her rich competitor in the dust.  Even though I picked this issue up for the superhero content, it IS an Archie book, with all the accoutrements that come with that status, like a lovely Betty and Veronica fashion page…


Art there by legendary Archie artist and Jose creator Dan DeCarlo, which thankfully makes the girls a little less terrifying than they were in Bob Bolling’s opening story, and Ronnie’s cool jumpsuit would actually make a pretty decent superhero costume in and of itself.  As for the REAL superheroics, they kick in with our second story, wherein Archie and Veronica are ambushed in one of Riverdale’s dark alleys by a group of brutish thugs who hopefully only want Ronnie’s massive pocketbook.  Fortunately, Betty’s inexplicable super-powers can be triggered by her would-be boyfriend being in danger, and she leaps into action as… SUPER-TEEN!


At this point in the Archie superheroes mythos, everyone but Veronica has gained mostly-unexplained powers and the ability to transform back and forth at will, all the while not being recognized in their civilian guises.  (Nice powers, if you can get them.)  Having saved her man from swallowing his own teeth, Betty returns to normal.  But, she isn’t the ONLY one who has extraordinary abilities triggered by their romantic urges…


Pureheart The Powerful (AKA Captain Pureheart) appears on the scene to save the lovely Miss Lodge from fatal crushing damage, and gets a kiss for his troubles, setting off a domino effect of super-powered madness in the form of Reggie Mantle…


…and then…


…and theeeennnnnn…


And the explanation for all of that comes…

…like, four decades later, when somebody finally realizes that these stories didn’t really make a whole lot of sense.  Still, I have always found a strange charm in the Archie supers stories and their cheerful desire to take all the tropes of the then-current camp superhero craze and streamline it into their usual jokes about love triangles and hamburgers.  Now that I think of it, it’s not unlike the current state of the Archie output, with their zombie book, the future soap opera of ‘Life With Archie’ and the terrifying brilliance of Sabrina’s new solo book.  Either way, there’s no more explanation for Super-Teen’s super-abilities than there is for how Archie got roped into being the umpire for Betty’s softball game (or how many bedspreads died to make his shirt.)


Bob Bolling is back in the anchor slot to wrap up the issue, as a frighteningly tiny-headed Pops Tate recognizes his luck 10,000th customer with a prize befitting such an auspicious occasion.  (It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to think that the first panel of this page inspired Bill Griffith’s ‘Zippy The Pinhead’ character a few years later…)


Thus, Archie embarks on one of the oldest romance tropes, the parallel dates, ensconsing Betty in the lower level of the theatre, and Veronica in the balcony, then rushing back and forth between them to give both the illusion that they’re his sole focus.  Sadly for our waffle-headed hero, thundering up and down the steps gets the attention of an usher, who tosses him out of the theatre, raising enough of a ruckus to bring both his girls out to realize his duplicity.  Both Betty and Veronica storm off in a huff, leaving Archie to go home alone…


…and also get a little insult to go with his injury.  It’s a cute little story, the kind of thing I’ve read hundreds of times in the various Archie comics titles over the years.  To be fair, there aren’t a lot of explanations or origins to be had anywhere in 1960s Archie Comics, so the lack of depth in the United Three story isn’t unexpected, but I am surprised to find it’s aping of Silver Age Marvel to be the weakest part of the issue.  I found Betty out-smarting Veronica to be much more satisfying, story-wise, which is a clear indication that either this comic book or I haven’t aged gracefully.  No, I don’t want to know which.  Betty And Me #5 is an energetic, if nonsensical bit of comic bookery, from a particularly weird period of Archie’s history, but is still enjoyable enough to pull off 3 out of 5 stars overall.  The one thing I’m still unclear on is why Veronica never got her own super-identity during the gimmick’s late-60s heyday…


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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