Bizarro Back Issues: Betty Cooper Sells Her Soul To The Devil To Make Out With Archie (1962)
The last year or so of Archie comics has been defined by one thing: the supernatural. Not only did we get Afterlife With Archie, which saw Sabrina the Teenage Witch dabbling in necromancy and inadvertently bringing about a zombie apocalypse that saw Jughead ripping out throats at a school dance, but it was so popular that we got a separate ongoing series about Sabrina dealing with the Lovecraftian horrors that result from witchcraft.
To the casual reader, this might seem like it's a pretty big departure from the usual Archie storylines about sharing milkshakes and having too many dates to the movies, but those of us who really know Archie Comics know that it's been there all along. Or, at the very least, it's been there since 1962, in that story where Betty Cooper literally sold her soul to the Devil so that she could make out with Archie.
Now, it's worth noting that back in the day, Archie was known to get religious from time to time, and that made for some pretty weird comics. Those Spire Comics, the Christian imprint that licensed out the Archie characters so that they could spread the Good Word, are some of the strangest comics in my collection. This is not one of those. "Mr. Inferno," by Frank Doyle and Dan DeCarlo, much like the one from a few weeks ago where Archie beats cracks a baseball bat over Moose's head and leaves him to die in the snow, is a straight-up, mainstream Archie comic. I mean, Dan DeCarlo drew it! You don't really get more mainstream Archie Comics than that.
It was originally published in 1962 in the pages of Betty and Veronica #75, but if you're curious to read it for yourself, it recently showed up in the oversized holiday-themedArchie Comics Super Special #6. One more time, just so we're clear on this, this is a canonical appearance of Satan that somehow found its way into the Christmas special.
We open on a sunny day in Riverdale, with Betty walking arm-in-arm with Archie Andrews, only to be ditched like a sack of old ham when Veronica shows up and lures Archie away. Obviously, this is both frustrating and commonplace for Ms. Cooper -- so much so that it becomes the exact opening that the devil was waiting for.
Now, this raises a few pretty big questions about the nature of Riverdale. Is Satan just sort of lurking in Archie's bushes all the time waiting for someone to think the words "there's nothing I wouldn't do?" Has he been keeping an eye on Betty in an effort to corrupt small-town America's most pristine soul? As it turns out, this story's going to end up favoring the former, but we're not quite there yet.
Instead, we have our brimstone-scented archfiend introducing himself as "Mr. Inferno," and offering to grant Betty's wish... for a price.
The thing about this comic is that Betty takes zero convincing before she's ready to sign away her soul to an eternity of torment in the fires of Hell. Admittedly, Mr. Inferno isn't explicit about the whole thing where he's damning her soul, but since you've already seen him appear in a cloud of smoke and light a cigarette with fire that he creates by snapping his fingers, you can probably imagine that he's not exactly subtle about it, either. He tells her that in exchange for his help, she'll have to visit his home in "the south" and that she'll "never be cold again." In response, Betty agrees in exactly one page.
Say what you will about her, but Betty Cooper is Ride or Die.
There's one twist, though: It seems that Mr. Inferno won't be dealing with Archie himself, since he can only be seen by his "clients."
This will be important later.
Despite having no interaction with Archie himself, though, Mr. Inferno's diabolical magics work instantly, to the tune of an audible "BOING!" from Archie just from hearing Betty's voice, and if I was surprised that this comic got so many references to the Devil past the comics code, I was definitely shocked that that made it through.
Unfortunately, this Satanic bliss is short-lived. When Betty sends Archie to Veronica's house to break up with her, and he does so without question, Veronica decides to take matters into her own hands. She stomps back to this shockingly busy street corner where Betty is waiting with Mr. Inferno, who has apparently decided to hang around to see the fruits of his Luciferian handiwork.
And this is where this story goes from weird to amazing.
There's always been a question about just what it is about Veronica that Archie prefers. As people have noticed -- to the point where it's actually been the basis of a story -- they essentially look exaclty alike with the exception of their hair color. You could argue that Archie's just trying to get in on the Lodge millions, but he's a good kid at heart, so dating someone purely for their money doesn't seem like something he'd do. So what exactly is it that gives Veronica the edge in this eternally lopsided love triangle?
Veronica sold her soul to the Devil too, and she did it first.
That's the amazing thing about this story. Not that Betty sells her soul, although that is certainly pretty bananas, but that Veronica having sold her soul for the ability to seduce Archie is just the status quo. It's a foundation of the Archie Comics Universe!
Or it was, at least. Betty and Veronica, having been betrayed by the Author of All Lies, turn on Mr. Inferno, presumably to beat him into a bloody pulp for toying with their affections. That is, as we have seen, just how they do things in Riverdale. Rather than take a bat upside the head, Mr. Inferno drops through the pavement in a pillar of smoke and flame, returning to the fires of Hell from whence he came and freeing both of Archie's girls from their infernal contracts. But what other teens in Archie's crew have succumbed to the lure of the Devil?
Man, Al Hartley was right. These kids really do need some churchin' up.