Writer: Holly G! (Holly Golightly)
Pencils: Holly G!
Inks: Bob Smith
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: Jack Morelli
Original Publication: Betty and Veronica Friends Forever, No. 19 (Rock and Roll #1)
On-Sale Date: March 8, 2023
Length: 5 pages
This is the first new Archie story written by Holly G! in around two decades. It’s a rather simple story, as they all are these days, but it’s an important one, one that has been a long time coming. Before we get into the story, though, I’m going to provide context, because the story itself doesn’t.
Archie, Reggie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead were put in a band called The Archies when The Archie Show premiered on CBS on Saturday, September 14, 1968. The band had been introduced into the comic books in 1967 in a prototype form (minus Betty and Veronica) in the story “Once Upon a Tune” in Life With Archie #60 (cover-dated April). The fake band (featuring Ron Dante on lead vocals as Archie and various backing vocalists and session musicians) had a real-life hit with “Sugar, Sugar”, which went to #1 in 1969, and “Jingle Jangle”, which went to #10. In 1970, “Who’s Your Baby” went to #40, and “Sunshine” went to #57. All of their music was standard bubblegum pop. Betty was stuck playing the tambourine. With one exception from the recorded output, Archie always sang the lead vocals. This remained the status quo in the comic books.
When NBC aired Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again on Sunday, May 6, 1990, as a movie of the week, it was a hyped event. It was the centerpiece of Archie Comics’ upcoming fiftieth anniversary celebration. It featured the gang reuniting to attend their fifteen-year high school reunion. The band got back together and performed “Jingle Jangle”. Again, Archie (Christopher Rich) sang the lead vocals, and Betty (Lauren Holly) was stuck playing the tambourine.
On Tuesday, September 7, 1999, I posted a fanfic that I had written called Betty Cooper: This is Who I Am. One part of the story involved The Archies breaking up due to Archie’s sexist behavior, and Betty, Veronica, Cheryl, and Reggie formed a band called The Sugar Cherries. This was my way of dealing with my frustration of the status quo in the comics.
On Tuesday, June 4, 2002, Avril Lavigne released her smash-hit debut album, Let Go. Lavinge plays both electric and acoustic guitar. Her music career began around three years before the Betty Cooper of today was born.
Nearly five months later, on Sunday, November 3, 2002, a made-for-TV movie titled The Archies in Jugman aired on Nickelodeon. It functioned as a sort of sequel to the TV series Archie’s Weird Mysteries. As you can tell from the title, the characters are in the band. It’s not introduced in the movie; it’s just suddenly tacked on in the dance scene at the end of the film. There was a new lead vocalist providing Archie’s voice, but it was still Archie’s band, named after Archie, the new song (“It’s About Time”, composed by Matt McGuire) was old-fashioned bubblegum pop that the Riverdale High kids laughably rocked out to, and Betty was still stuck playing the damn tambourine.
In 2005, a sixteen-year-old girl named Caleigh Peters (the goddaughter of Barbra Streisand) recorded a few songs, some of which ended up in Disney films and/or on soundtrack albums that year, starting with the song “Reach” for the movie Ice Princess. While its actual release as a physical single is in question (despite various sites on the Internet calling it a single), and Caleigh’s musical career never took off (her self-titled debut album, set to come out that summer, was never released), a music video was filmed and featured on Disney Channel, showing millions of young girls that a girl just like them could rock out on guitar. This video came out in the year that the current version of Betty Cooper was born.
On Wednesday, January 18, 2006 (at least, for the direct market), in the story “Band Together” in Betty and Veronica Spectacular #73 (cover-dated March of 2006), Betty won a chance to take the stage and rock out with a Kiss knockoff band. She was a superfan, teaching herself how to play every song on electric guitar. She got painted up in the makeup and totally shredded on stage, leading Archie to declare “Oh, my goodness! Our little Betty is a rock and roll animal!”
In 2008 (the exact release date varies by source, but I found an old press release from November 14, although the album already seemed to be out by then), a new album called The Archies Christmas Album Featuring Betty & Veronica was released. It featured the return of original Archie vocalist Ron Dante as well as new vocalists for Betty and Veronica. And Betty was still on the fucking tambourine.
In 2011, a new prose novel series, xoxo, Betty and Veronica, began as part of Archie Comics’ seventieth anniversary celebration. It didn’t last anywhere near as long as the old Riverdale High novel series did. Of the three novels, We’re with the Band (supposedly released on May 12, although that was a Thursday), written by Adrianne Ambrose, featured Betty and Veronica leaving The Archies and teaming up with Nancy and a new character named Tina Starling to form an all-girl pop band, The Candy Hearts. Of course, status quo is god, so the band broke up at the end of the story, Betty and Veronica rejoined The Archies, and Betty took up her tambourine again, shaking that stupid thing while the band performed “Sugar, Sugar” and “Jingle Jangle”.
On Saturday, July 9, 2011, I posted a sequel fanfic to Betty Cooper: This is Who I Am titled Betty Cooper: Woman for All Seasons. It continued the musical career (such as it was) of The Sugar Cherries.
On Wednesday, February 15, 2012 (at least, for the direct market), in the story “Gaga for Baba” in Betty and Veronica #258, Betty, a huge Lady Gaga fan, began playing local venues in flamboyant costumes, going only by the name “B”. She became enough of a local sensation that she was booked to open for The Archies at a local concert. I haven’t read this story yet, but I’m willing to bet hilarity ensued.
After that, the experimentation basically ended, and Betty was back on tambourine in The Archies – even in the New Riverdale Archie and The Archies series. Those have ended, of course, and Betty hasn’t been off the tambourine for the past eleven years.
The story starts with the band Rock Candi rehearsing…somewhere. The name Rock Candi is somewhat reminiscent of The Candy Hearts. The band consists of Veronica and Betty on guitars and a new girl (Jola Kitt; thanks, cover blurb) with blue hair and a heart-and-drumsticks tattoo (on the cover, anyway; it’s not visible in the story itself) on drums. Betty jumps off their amplifier. Trev praises their sound and says they’re “so ready for tonight’s show”. Betty sits down on the stage to relax, and Trev offers her some “hydration” (an orange drink). Jola calls Trev thoughtful and says, whenever she was taking lessons from his sister, Val, he was always there, helping out. Yeah, Trev is Valerie’s brother and an occasional love interest for Betty.
Betty suddenly feels down. Trev asks her what’s the matter. Betty still feels guilty for walking out on Archie and the guys. Ronnie angrily shakes her guitar (after already setting it down after practice) and tells Betty to “drop that guilt”. From her wording, we learn they play bass and lead guitar but not which one of them plays which. Thanks to the front cover, though, we know Ronnie plays bass, since her guitar has only four strings, and Betty plays lead, since her guitar has six strings. Oh, and then Jola just flat-out says Betty “totally shred[s] on lead”. She says the boys were crazy to just have her shake a tambourine “all these years”. Trev tells Betty that he agrees with “them” (I assume he means the girls).
They leave…wherever they were. As Trev parts from them, he tells the girls that he’ll see them at “the club”. Betty took her guitar with her, and Ronnie’s carrying something as well, but they left the drums and amp in the building. Ronnie has a “pre-gig sushi dinner” waiting for them at her place.
Shortly, at Lodge Manor, the girls are sitting down to dinner, Japanese-style. Betty says it’s gonna be so weird playing without the boys. Jola says she was there when Betty and Ronnie were “totally dissed”.
Flashback time! Last week, The Archies are rehearsing…somewhere. Betty, who has her own guitar already, says she wrote a song this weekend, and she’d really love to play it for the guys. Reggie declines, saying they don’t need a “sugar sweet love song”. Oh, you mean like “Sugar, Sugar”? Betty is upset. A pissed Ronnie screams at Reggie for not even giving Betty a chance. She heard Betty’s song, and it rocks. Reggie doesn’t believe it and tells the girls to leave the music up to the guys. He says the girls are doing just fine where they are. Ronnie says Reggie and Archie have never let Betty and her show their full potential. Archie tells her to keep him out of this. Ronnie says that’s the problem: Archie doesn’t get involved, so why should they? She heads out and tells Betty to come with her. Betty agrees and follows her. Jola, who has been hanging around silently this whole time, comes after them with an idea.
Back in the present, Jola tells Betty and Ronnie that band members need to respect one another, regardless of sex. Betty and Ronnie agree and give some pep talks for the band.
That night, on stage, Rock Candi rocks. Holly put the wrong number of strings on the girls’ guitars, though, and we don’t get any song lyrics.
When their set is over, Trev comes on the stage and gets the audience to cheer and applaud for Rock Candi. We learn Jola’s name (first name only) for the first time in the actual story. Reggie admits to Archie that he was wrong; the girls can really rock, and they’re good. Archie seems worried, admitting the girls are better than them.
This story was pretty good. As I said, it’s important, but it also feels rushed. It was crammed into only five pages. It should have been at least ten or eleven pages. There was a lot of awkward exposition and unanswered questions. Who is Jola Kitt? How does the gang know her? Why was she hanging out at The Archies’ rehearsal? Whatever happened to Ronnie’s keyboard? Still, I’m glad that this story finally – finally! – happened, and it’s so fitting that it was released on International Women’s Day.