Remember that time Archie and Betty checked into a motel cabin far from Riverdale, shed their clothes and spent a memorable night together in front of a crackling fire? And then Betty’s dad showed up in a rage just as Archie was putting his clothes back on, subjecting them to a lengthy diatribe about values and his daughter’s compromised honor? No? Then you’ve clearly missed the best story ever printed in an Archie comic.
After stumbling across some breathless online chatter about “Always a Bridesmaid” from Betty & Me #40 (1972), I had to have this comic. It was really hard to find, but relentlessly scouring eBay and random sell/trade sites (Thanks, Comic Collector Live!) paid off when I found an original copy of this gem for just $2.50. Even once you put OMG images like the one above in context, you can imagine the writer and artist giggling like 11-year-olds while creating the story.
I’ve read a ton of Archie stories in my time, but I can’t think of one that comes nearly this close to acknowledging that teenagers might possibly, maybe, potentially have sex. The word is never uttered, but the subtext is about as subtle as a frying pan to the head. “Always a Bridesmaid” also goes out of its way to remind the young reader that such acts can end only in tears, humiliation and a shotgun wedding.
So, girrrrrl, here’s what happens: Archie and Betty are stranded 110 miles outside of town when his jalopy breaks down and rolls into in a lake, taking Betty with it. After Archie’s bumbling rescue attempt, both parties wind up soaked with no transportation and a cold night fast approaching. But wouldn’t you know it, the Maple Shade Motel is mere feet away!
Instead of just asking for some towels and a phone to call their parents, Archie and Betty do the only logical thing: They book a room under the guise of being newlyweds, and once they get inside, Archie doesn’t even bother with ceremony.
Psyche! Archie’s a gentleman.
And then … they don matching blankets and talk while their clothes dry, not so much as holding hands while sitting in front of a roaring fireplace. It’s all perfectly innocent! This is where one of those winking cartoon characters in the corner of the panel would come in handy. I mean, check Betty’s body language.
Finally, it dawns on Betty to call home. And this is when Mr. Cooper loses his shit completely.
It probably doesn’t help that Betty is still in a blanket when he storms into the room, and that Archie is tucking in his shirt. I always thought of Mr. Cooper as a reasonable type, leaving the fits of Archie hatred to Mr. Lodge. But the yelling and accusations go on and on as he rails about the younger generation’s loose morals and accues Archie of deflowering his daughter. Meanwhile, Mrs. Cooper stands by mute as her husband tells Betty that she’s brought shame to the family by “carrying on in a motel with this clown.” Way to go, mom and dad!
Oh, but it gets better: Mr. Cooper demands that the kids make things right by getting married. Because nothing teaches teenagers a lesson like forcing them into wedlock.
It’s a long, tense and no doubt expletive-filled drive back to Riverdale. It isn’t until Mr. Cooper confronts Archie’s dad that he finally listens to reason. Turns out that the cops found Archie’s car in the lake and called Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, who just seconds ago had bigger things to worry about than whether their son and his date were hooking up.
This is pure WTF gold and a must-read for Archie fans. The only thing that could have possibly made this story even better is if Veronica had heard the gossip, only with no details about what really happened on that totally platonic night in Cabin 7 of the Maple Shade Motel (wink).