Writers: Dan Parent (Parts I and III), Bill Golliher (Parts II and IV)
Pencils: Stan Goldberg (Parts I and IV), Doug Crane (Part II), Dan DeCarlo (Part III)
Inks: Henry Scarpelli (Part I and IV), Ken Selig (Part II), Alison Flood (Part III)
Colors: Barry Grossman
Letters: Bill Yoshida
Original Publication: Archie, No. 429; Betty, No. 19; Betty and Veronica, No. 82; Veronica, No. 39
Cover Date: November, December, 1994
Length: 43 pages (11, 11, 11, 10)
Today, I am going to take a look at a famous storyline (or at least the one that Archie Comics keeps bringing up whenever it gets a chance), “Love Showdown”. It wasn’t the company’s first inter-title crossover. It wasn’t even Archie’s first hyped epic storyline; “Jughead’s Baby Tales” started earlier that year and was over twice as long (but confined to two special issues). But it did usher in what is my fondest era of Archie Comics.
Before we begin, some procedural notes:
Each part is split into two chapters, 6 and 5 pages each, respectively. Therefore, each part took up only about half of the space of the issue that it appeared in; the other stories in the issues are unrelated.
Although I have the original issues and both trade reprints (see below), I’m reviewing this story from the digital editions of each individual part, the updated covers of which, confusingly, refer to each part as a “chapter”. I don’t know if anything (except in-story captions) has been altered for this release.
Jughead and Betty watch Archie walking along the sidewalk in a love daze. Jughead guesses it was Veronica, which upsets Betty. She’s surprised Veronica’s gotten to Archie so early in the morning. Veronica comes over, asking what she’s talking about, but Betty’s pissed at her.
Veronica wants to know what the fuck Betty’s talking about. Betty explains. Veronica says she hasn’t seen Archie today, which surprises Betty. Veronica usually goes after Archie after lunch. They decide to get to the bottom of this. They catch up with Archie and “demand” to know why he’s acting this way. Veronica wants to murder the mystery girl. Archie, still in a daze, is coherent enough to mention he got a letter from the girl, who likes him.
Betty wants Veronica to grab the letter (um, no, that’s an invasion of privacy), but the wind blows it out of Archie’s hand. They chase after it. Veronica almost has it, but the dumbass doesn’t look where she’s running and falls down a manhole. Betty tells Ronnie to grab her hand, but Ronnie loses her grip on the pavement and falls completely in.
A worker helps Ronnie out. Fortunately, she had landed ass-first on his head. Somehow having managed to not lose sight on the letter, they follow it to the dock and out to water. Veronica declares rich girls down play hopscotch. She falls into shallow water. Betty follows the letter to a beach clean-up crew.
The letter lands in a barrel of burning trash and is burned, much to Betty’s horror. Betty decides they’ll ask Archie straight out about the author of the letter.
Unfortunately, Fred comes outside and has Archie clean out the garage right fucking now. Having absolutely no time to say a girl’s name (which is shorter than his apology and goodbye to the girls), he goes into the garage, driving the girls crazy. It was all an act, though. As Archie explains to his dad, he just needs to keep Betty and Veronica in suspense a bit longer. He declares the fun is just the beginning.
Jughead and Hot Dog show up at Archie’s. Jughead says Betty and Veronica are going crazy over that letter. Archie finds it funny and flattering. Jughead knows the identity of the author of the letter. Archie says it’ll make the girls flip their shit. Archie says he’s “toyed” with them long enough and will tell them tomorrow.
Later, Reggie finds Jughead, who’s about to go to Pop’s, and brings up how Betty and Veronica are pissed over “some letter”. Jughead says Archie’s gonna straighten it out. This gives Reggie an idea. Ronnie walks by. Reggie “accidentally” “reveals” Betty as the author of the letter. Veronica’s pissed, believing Betty burned the letter and played innocent. She stalks off to find Betty.
Later, Reggie tells Betty, as she walks by, that Ronnie wrote the letter. Betty’s surprised but then gets furious when she remembers she suspected Ronnie originally, and she claims Archie had “that Lodge look in his eyes”. Okay. She goes off to find Ronnie. Reggie is happy that “the seeds have been planted”.
Veronica and Betty confront each other on the street and break up. Archie comes by, completely pleased with himself that he’s about to “end the suspense”. The girls cut him off, because they “already know”. The girls yell at Archie and each other a bit more and then leave in opposite directions, leaving Archie confused.
Archie comes into Pop’s and complains to Jughead, who’s about to bite into his first burger, about women. The girls each arrive at their respective homes, complaining about each other, look at photos of Archie, and vow to get Archie for herself.
Alice finds Betty in her bedroom, throwing out all of her photos of Veronica. Somehow, Caramel (her cat) is able to sleep soundly on her bed. The artwork is noticeably different here – and not for the better. Not only do the faces look kind of weird, but there’s no sense of depth, so it looks like Betty’s bed is just a blanket on the floor. Anyway, Alice takes issue with what Betty’s doing, and Betty claims it’s because she’s not a little kid anymore.
Betty takes the garbage bag out of her room and asks her dad to throw them out. Alice tells Hal to stick them in the garage in case this blows over. Betty is adamant that it won’t. Alice asks what happened. Betty explains. Apparently, Veronica had previously actually done exactly what Betty is now accusing her of doing.
Betty dumps all of the outfits that she’s borrowed from Veronica in a wheelbarrow and takes them to Lodge Manor. Smithers informs “Ms. Lodge” that “Ms. Cooper” is here to see her, which shocks Betty. Veronica is “really too busy” and tells Smithers to contribute something from the closet to Betty’s “charity drive” (I guess Veronica can see the main hall from her bedroom via video camera?). Betty’s pissed. She dumps the clothes on the floor, stomps her foot, grabs the phone, and yells at Veronica about these being Veronica’s clothes. Veronica has Smithers send them out to be cleaned, further angering Betty.
Later, at home, Betty’s sitting in the armchair with donuts and a drink. Alice asks her if she’s still upset. Betty asks why she’s asking. Alice says the TV’s not on. To Betty’s disbelief, Hal presents her with a pair of tickets to cheer her up.
His boss gave them to him. They’re for the Lodge Foundation’s Summer Charity Dance next week. This upsets Betty. Hal suggests asking Archie to go with her. For some reason, Betty agrees to do so. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with Archie’s car, and he can’t fix it. Betty’s free tomorrow and offers to come over and look at it. Archie won’t be home. That’s okay with Betty, but she has him promise to go to the next dance with her next Saturday.
Betty’s pleased with herself, but Archie’s confused, since Veronica invited him to a Lodge Foundation dance tomorrow night. He guesses maybe they’re having one next week, too.
The next day, Betty’s sitting at the kitchen table, reading the manual for Archie’s Mustang. Hal says he could use a brake job, which Betty totally does not agree to do. Alice asks “Whatever happened to the helpless act?” Betty’s like “This is the ’90s, bitch!”
Betty grabs a toolbox and heads over to Archie’s. Alice jokingly wonders if the hospital gave them Mr. Goodwrench’s baby by mistake.
At Archie’s, Betty starts working on the car. Veronica comes over, pissed, and says she’s got “dibs” on Archie tonight.
Betty’s pissed that Archie has plans with Veronica. Ronnie sends Archie inside to get ready. Betty vaguely threatens the car might not be ready, but Veronica brought her own car and driver. She insults Betty, further pissing her off.
After questioning Veronica, Betty learns tonight is the one and only dance. Betty’s tickets are dated the 25th (which would technically place this story in June, which is consistent with the characters apparently not being in school), but they were printed with the incorrect date, and Veronica had donated them to Hal’s office, figuring Betty would get them. Wow, that’s convoluted and relies on a lot of luck. Rather than suspecting Ronnie, Betty shrugs it off and just says she can’t quit the car repair now.
Archie comes out in his tux. Veronica compliments his appearance. Archie hates to leave Betty here doing this and asks if she wants to come back tomorrow. Betty would rather finish up now and tells Archie to have a good time. As they ride off, Veronica gets in a parting insult at Betty. As she continues working on Archie’s car, Betty laments her life.
On the way to the dance, Archie brings up the tickets, and Veronica keeps up the vague “misprinted” story.
Soon, Betty’s got Archie’s car running and praises herself. Since Archie’s not going to “thank” her, Betty decides to go down to Pop’s and treat herself to an extra-thick shake.
At Pop’s, Betty sits alone at a table with a (presumably) vanilla shake. Jughead walks by and asks what’s wrong. He joins her. Betty explains and pulls out the tickets (why was she carrying tickets for next Saturday in her shorts?). Jughead examines them and says he was at the copy center when Veronica got these printed up (the sheer number of coincidences in this part are astounding). Betty’s shocked.
Jughead says he heard Veronica asking them to print some with a different date on them. Betty’s momentarily confused but then pieces it together, even though it relies on a lot of luck (as I’ve already mentioned). Betty’s pissed. Jughead tells her to fight back. Betty stands up and loudly declares “There’s a new Betty Cooper coming out! Right now!!” Good for you, sweetie. Just wait until the end of the story; your one true love will be arriving soon enough. Jughead starts to comment about “that look in [her] eyes”, but Betty vows she’s got a dance to crash and heads for the door. Jughead cheers her on and asks if he can have the rest of her malted.
At the dance, Veronica is having a good time, but Archie feels bad about leaving Betty behind to fix his car. Veronica says Betty “loves that menial labor stuff”. Suddenly, Veronica notices three guys going gaga over someone other than her, so of course she’s pissed.
It’s Betty. Archie and Ronnie are shocked. Betty’s wearing a tiny blue dress that barely covers her ass. Veronica tells her to get the fuck out, because she doesn’t have a ticket. Betty says Mr. Lodge let her in as a friend of the family. Veronica insults Betty’s “tacky” dress, but it’s actually a hand-me-down from Veronica (wait, I thought Betty returned all of the clothes that Ronnie had given her), and Betty “just took it in a little”. Veronica says the dress is sized for a pre-schooler. Veronica wants confirmation from Archie that the dress is “tasteless”, but Archie has a massive boner for Betty.
So do the other guys. Veronica drags Archie away from “Goldilocks”, but Betty starts dancing to a song that she loves, and all of the guys watch her. One of them even says she should be a dancer. Betty takes turns dancing with the guys, and they argue over her. Veronica’s pissed at Archie for staring at Betty.
After the dance, Betty is still “wired” and invites Archie to go for a “round” with her. He accepts. This is Veronica’s worst nightmare.
Veronica joins in, trash-talking Paula Abdul. Betty effortlessly does a split. Veronica tries and ends up injuring herself and tearing her skirt. Meanwhile, Betty does a “complete” somersault. Veronica complains it’s unfair, since Betty’s more of a gymnast than her. She tries to do a somersault…
…but trips and lands in a punch bowl on top of a table…somehow. Ronnie’s embarrassed in front of guys and demands Archie help her. He’s with Betty. Pissed, Ronnie leaves, upsetting Archie but pleasing Betty.
Outside, Veronica wonders how this could happen and if she’s “losing it”. She considers taking “some new steps in keeping Archie”.
One day, at Lodge Manor, Veronica has freaked her dad out by making a mess of the kitchen and filling it with smoke while trying to bake some chocolate chip muffins for Archie. Mr. Lodge asks why she didn’t have Chef Pierre do it for her. Since Betty’s “honing in on [her] glamorous territory”, Veronica has decided to pick up some of Betty’s “Archie-grabbing domestic traits”.
Mr. Lodge admires Veronica’s wanting to cook but says it’s for the wrong reasons. Veronica admits she made a mess but says it’ll be worth it.
Veronica goes out looking for Archie and is upset when she finds him with Betty in the park. Veronica insults her outfit (Betty’s wearing red overalls over a black-and-white-striped shirt). It’s Betty’s “new look” (more like her old look). Veronica presents the muffins to “Archiekins”. Betty’s angrily says those are her “special muffins”. What, does Betty think she has a monopoly on chocolate chip muffins? Anyway, Veronica offers Archie a taste, and he’s nervous.
Feeling he has no choice, Archie accepts – but has difficulty biting the muffin. Veronica excuses this as her muffins being a bit more “rugged” than Betty’s “sissy” muffins. Archie tries breaking the muffin against a rock. Betty offers to get a jackhammer. Veronica’s impatient. Archie breaks his tooth. Betty takes Archie to a dentist, not allowing Veronica to take him.
Veronica throws out her muffins. Jughead admonishes her and calls her muffins “perfect”. However, he’s taking them for his dad to use in a stone wall that he’s building (they ran out of stones). Veronica hits him in the head with a muffin and tells him to get out of her life forever. Veronica loses confidence in herself. Reggie comes by and asks about Veronica’s “Betty Crocker get-up” (which it isn’t at all). Veronica explains. Reggie explains Betty’s “tough girl act” was Betty just trying to be Veronica. Um, two things: 1) Betty in no way resembled a “tough girl”, and 2) I figured Ronnie already figured Betty was imitating her, hence Ronnie imitating Betty.
Reggie vows to get Ronnie “back into shape”, so she can “fight fire with fire”. Ronnie’s eager to be Reggie’s “ruthless student”.
At Lodge Manor, Reggie’s sitting on the couch, watching baseball, and having Ronnie doing stupid shit like walking, saying a rhyme, and balancing a book on her head. Ronnie’s skeptical and thinks Reggie’s nuts.
Ronnie throws the book at Reggie’s head, but he ducks. Veronica’s pissed, and Reggie declares success. For some reason, Veronica thought Betty had caused her to lose her edge, but she still has it.
Reggie has Ronnie watch a VHS tape of a Dirty Dancing stand-in to learn some moves. Ronnie’s skeptical because of the age of the film, but, by Reggie’s logic, speeding up the dance moves makes them all new. Works for Ronnie.
A few hours later, Ronnie’s worn out the tape but is convinced she’s ready. She thinks she’s “the first Lodge in three generations to actually break a sweat”. Veronica heads off to Pop’s to “restake [her] claim to Archie”. Reggie wishes his “unfair lady” luck.
At Pop’s, Jughead’s eating a cheeseburger, and Betty’s teaching Archie to dance.
Veronica rushes in and tells Betty that Mrs. Johnson’s cat is stuck up in the tree, having kittens, and Mrs. Johnson is asking for Betty. After some cluelessness from Archie (and clarifications from the girls), Betty grabs her purse and rushes off to check. Citing the warmth, Ronnie decides to take off her coat, and Archie helps her.
Ronnie’s wearing a very short, sparkly blue dress. Archie gets a boner. Ronnie wants to dance.
Later, Betty returns to Pop’s, exhausted. Apparently, Betty knows more than one Mrs. Johnson and didn’t bother to find out who the fuck Ronnie was talking about, so she checked with all of them (and even a few Mr. Johnsons, because she likes to waste time, I guess). Betty’s shocked that Archie’s not here. Ronnie explains she wore him out, and Jughead and Dilton had to carry him home. Betty says they had a date tonight and is pissed that Ronnie set this up.
They argue. Betty challenges Veronica to a duel. Ronnie is unclear what Betty means. Betty means Super Soakers at high noon tomorrow in Pickens Park. Veronica agrees and stipulates fresh hairdos. Betty agrees. They trash-talk some more. Pop now knows how those Wild West saloon keepers felt.
Note: Unlike every other chapter in the single-part digital editions that I’ve been reading, the credits for this chapter are intact.
The next day, at 11:57 AM, in Pickens Park, Veronica (in a new hairdo and designer outfit) and Reggie have arrived. Veronica thanks him for offering to referee the duel. Reggie plans to give the loser some of his “heavy-duty consoling”. Betty (in a new hairdo and designer outfit) shows up. She’d just stopped off at
Macy’s Lacey’s Department Store for a full makeover. Veronica does some trash-talking.
The girls are ready. Reggie says he’s going to count off five paces, and then they’ll turn and fire. They trash-talk some more. Ronnie calls Betty a “Peroxide Pollyanna”, which is awesome. Reggie starts counting. Archie arrives with someone. At 5, the girls turn and fire, soaking Archie and who he’s with.
Betty and Veronica are shocked. Pissed, Archie says he was going to tell them that Cheryl and her family moved back to town. An angry Cheryl wrings out her shirt and says Veronica and Betty are still as immature as ever (she’s totally right). Betty apologizes to Cheryl. Ronnie asks Cheryl when she moved back. Cheryl says yesterday and adds she wrote Archie a few weeks ago, but she asked him to keep it quiet until she knew for sure. Betty and Veronica realize Cheryl wrote the letter.
Reggie gets a boner for Cheryl and assumes she remembers him. Cheryl gets a bit friendly with Reggie and asks how he’s been. Cheryl claims she’d love to stay and chat with the girls all day, but she might catch her death of cold. Angry, Betty says they can’t have that. Walking away, Cheryl suggests Archie date someone more mature. Walking after her, Archie casts an angry glance back at Betty and Veronica and says he thinks he’s made a decision. Reggie can’t believe Archie chose Cheryl Blossom. That’s not exactly what Archie said; he said he “think[s]” he’s made a decision, because even he realizes he’s an indecisive fuckwaffle. Veronica declares the war may be over, and Betty declares the war has just begun.
It’s worth noting there are only four panels on the final page, covering 2/3rds of the page. I don’t know what originally went in the rest of the space, and Grand Comics Database isn’t helpful. In the first trade collection (see below), there was an ad for the Archie Americana series. I don’t know what was in that spot in the second trade collection and don’t feel like digging it out from wherever I’ve got it stashed. In the digital edition of this chapter, they moved artwork of Archie putting up a wall poster of Cheryl as Veronica and Betty look on (which was originally printed on the inside-back cover of the first trade, below the credits) to the bottom of the final page of the story.
So that’s the famous “Love Showdown” storyline. Overall, it’s pretty stupid and relies on jealousy, coincidences, and a lack of communication. Archie, Reggie, Betty, and Veronica are a bunch of assholes, and neither of the first two get called out on their bullshit. Cheryl ends up being the nicest person in the story.
There’s also the less-than-stellar artwork in Part II. When read together, it’s definitely noticeable, although it’s not as bad as in some cases.
The story has been collected twice. The first time was in 1994. There’s an introduction by Paul Castiglia that gives a probably somewhat exaggerated account of the origin of the storyline. The news was featured in USA Today, and fans swarmed Archie Comics at a con in excitement, wondering who Archie who choose. I have the second printing of this one, dated August of 1999.
The second time was in October of 2012. This edition includes the sequels. I have this one as well.
Even more recently, the stories in the 2012 collection were reprinted in digest format (along with the “Battle of the BFFs” storyline) in Archie 75th Anniversary Digest, No. 9 on May 10, 2017 (cover-dated June), so check that out if you want, in essence, a Cheryl Digest (which, actually, would not be a bad idea).
So, yeah, “Love Showdown” is pretty dumb, but it brought Cheryl back. Here’s an excerpt from a five-part essay called “Inside Archie Comics Publications” (a.k.a. “The Inside Scoop”) by Jeffrey C. Branch, which I saved to my hard drive back on August 30, 2000:
“The premise of this crossover was dirt simple: the end of the Eternal Triangle. The madness began in Archie #429 (November 1994) when a lovesick Archie received a letter from a girl from his past who was returning to Riverdale. That alone got fans from coast to coast wondering just who the mystery woman could be. … The return of Cheryl Blossom to the Archie Universe was a shocker to Archie fans worldwide as she was perhaps the LAST person Archie fans ever expected to see again. Normally, when a character is eliminated from the Archie cast, and many have been over the decades, more often than not, he or she never comes back. One prevalent theory regarding Cheryl’s return was that a foil was needed to keep Archie from choosing between Betty and Veronica as part of the Love Showdown plot, to which end, Cheryl was rescued from oblivion by the editors to serve that purpose.”
Okay, just about everything in that statement is an exaggeration. The letter wasn’t specifically stated to be from a girl from Archie’s past. I doubt many (if any) readers were shocked by Cheryl’s return. Younger readers wouldn’t remember her. Older and younger readers alike would have been seeing her in digests, probably not realizing the stories were reprints. Also, Cheryl was never officially sent away back in the 1980s; she just stopped appearing (in new stories) after two years (with the exception of being a recurring character in the 1990-1991 series, Archie’s Explorers of the Unknown). There was no actual need to have a “Cheryl returns” storyline; just have her start appearing again. Finally, no one was needed to prevent Archie from choosing between Betty and Veronica, because Archie’s an indecisive fuckwaffle. This was a publicity stunt, pure and simple.
Still, “Love Showdown” is an important milestone in Archie Comics history. It ushered in what I refer to as the Silver Age of Cheryl (the 1980s being the Golden Age). It continued to be name-dropped by Archie Comics (sometimes undeservedly so) for years to come, and it did lead to a lot of great Cheryl stories, so there’s that.
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