Fan’s of the CW’s Riverdale know Cheryl Blossom as the unscrupulous rich girl with serious fashion sense who lives by her own moral code. But many viewers might not know that Cheryl has a longer history in the Archieverse than her latest TV incarnation. Cheryl Blossom #1 (Archie Comics, December 2018) invites us to remedy that knowledge gap by highlighting some of Cheryl’s earliest appearances in Archie Comics.
But if you’re hoping for the gothy debutante of the series, you’re in for a bit of a surprise. Cheryl Blossom and her twin brother Jason were introduced in 1982 to unsettle the dynamics of the sleepy town of Riverdale. Private school kids with more money than is good for them, the twins are amoral and provocative. In the episode “Dare to be Bare” in Betty and Veronica #320, Cheryl and Jason flaunt their privilege on the local beach. Cheryl sports a racier bikini than Betty and Veronica would dare, and Jason tries to hide a beer in a soda can sleeve. Cheryl attempts to doff her top to make Riverdale beach more like the south of France. Both Cheryl and Jason get busted by the beach patrol and are escorted away.
In the comics, Cheryl and Jason act as foils to the more conventional Riverdale teens. Unlike in the series, which is known for its edgy, Twin Peaks-ish noir melodrama, the original Archie comics were undeniably conservative. The Cheryl and Jason episodes collected in Cheryl Blossom #1 all use the rich, spoiled twins to underscore the dangers of violating community taboos. It might be going a bit far to say they act as trickster figures in the staid world of the comics Riverdale, but their transgressions always hold a moral for the other kids. Cheryl’s humiliations at the end of each episode are met with bafflement by the other teens: “I just cant figure those two,” says Veronica at the end of “Dare to be Bare.”
This Reagan-era conservatism is underscored by the response of authority figures in the comic to Cheryl’s shenanigans. The beach cop who drags Cheryl off describes her as “A liberal trying to liberate more than the law allows!” who “Tried to make this a topless beach!”
Cheryl’s transgressions on Riverdale, while occasionally shocking, don’t produce the kind of corrective moral outrage as her early comics appearances. But TV Riverdale is a darker, stranger place than the Riverdale of the 1980s, which makes for richer character development for this bad girl than the comics allowed.
Cheryl Blossom #1 collects four stories from 1982 and 1983 that originally appeared in Betty and Veronica #s 320 and 322, Archie #323, and Archie’s T.V. Laugh Out #91. You can also catch the Blossom twins in their own horror spinoff Blossoms 666, which debuted in January 2019.
I love that she’s specifically identified as a “liberal”–not a “libertine” or a “libertarian” or a “free-thinker”–but the more moderate term, “liberal”. As if most liberals are any less prudish or law-abiding than conservatives. It shows just how conservative this comic (or these writers) really were that they really don’t see any difference in these terms. We’re all here to take off our clothes and get drunk and break the law! You know, behaviors reserved for future Supreme Court justices…