It's been 75 years since Riverdale — "The town with pep!" — and its wholesome teen inhabitants first became household names. Chances are, if you've been sentient at any point since the year 1941, you've heard the names Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead. Maybe you even used to check out the Archie Comics Digest while waiting for your parents at the supermarket. Or perhaps you once experienced a "Betty or Veronica?" existential crisis. Regardless of whether or not you know Archie Andrews, you most likely know of him.
On Thursday (January 26), Riverdale, a stylized and subversive take on the Archie Comics characters, premieres on The CW. The show features murder, mystery, quippy teens, and noir flourishes throughout. Better yet: Archie is hot and having sex with his teacher! In other words, this isn't your mother's Archie.
Here's a rundown of everything and everyone you need to know from the beloved comics — and how Riverdale has chosen to radicalize them for a modern audience.
Afterlife with Archie
What if Riverdale were overrun with zombies? That's Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's horror comic series Afterlife with Archie in a nutshell. When Jughead's beloved pup Hot Dog is killed by a car, he begs Sabrina to bring him back to life. When she does, zombie Hot Dog bites Jughead, who then turns into a zombie, who then turns half the town into zombies. The terror escalates from there. While Riverdale won't exactly match the macabre tone of Afterlife with Archie, this should give you a sense of showrunner Aguirre-Sacasa's dark sensibilities.
Betty Cooper’s supportive mom. They share an incredibly close mother-daughter bond. However, on The CW's Riverdale, Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) is a manipulative control freak who expects nothing less than perfection. She puts a lot of demands on Betty, but at the end of the day, she just wants what's best for her daughter — and she'll do anything to make it happen.
The girl-crazy, all-American teen. Created in 1941 as a cartoon version of Mickey Rooney's teen character Andy Hardy, Archie became so popular that the publisher, Pep Comics, eventually changed its name to Archie Comic Publications. Archie hasn't changed a whole lot since his creation; he's still Riverdale High's resident accident-prone heartbreaker. On Riverdale, Archie (K.J. Apa) spent the summer working construction for his dad — and got super hot in the process.
Riverdale’s second-best garage band. Featuring Archie, Reggie, Jughead, Veronica, and Betty, this fictional bubblegum-pop band found real-world success with the release of "Sugar, Sugar" in 1969. The catchy song hit No. 1 and spent 22 weeks on the charts. While The Archies may not be established (yet) on Riverdale, expect Archie (a.k.a. "Justin Gingerlake") to focus on his music in Season 1 — with a little help from the town's most celebrated band, Josie and the Pussycats. Archie Comics will also release a one-shot starring The Archies later this year.
Archie’s childhood best friend. She's the smart, kind, and funny girl next door with blonde hair and blue eyes — and she's been pining for Archie for the last 75 years. Riverdale gives us a slightly different version of Betty (Lili Reinhart): She's still a blonde sweetheart who spends her time mooning over Archie, but now she's got a bit of a dark side.
Riverdale’s resident vixen. Cheryl is the perfect foil for Betty and Veronica in their quest for Archie's affections. She started out as a recurring character in the comics before landing her own titles, and in Mark Waid's current Archie run, she, too, is pining for dear Archiekins — but only to mess with Veronica. She also has a twin brother named Jason. On Riverdale, Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) is Riverdale High's nasty queen bee, a quintessential mean girl who takes her anger out on everyone around her — especially Betty.
A popular football player and talented cartoonist. Chuck, the football coach's son, is also one of Archie's good friends in the comics. He was first introduced in Life with Archie #110 in 1971 as a way to bring more diversity to Archie's robust cast of characters. On Riverdale, however, Chuck (Jordan Calloway) is just another Riverdale bro who takes an interest in Veronica.
The smartest kid at Riverdale High. Science-nerd Dilton Doiley (Archie Comics really loves its alliteration) is not particularly athletic, which makes his friendship with the school jock, Moose, so entertaining. Despite his status as a recurring character, Dilton (Major Curda) has an unexpected role to play on Riverdale. He's still a nerd, but now he's a nerd with a secret.
Like Betty, a good-hearted teenage girl. Also like Betty, she spends her time mooning over an oblivious teenage boy. The object of her affection is Jughead, but despite her best efforts, he's just not interested. Expect Ethel (Shannon Purser) to play a pivotal role in dismantling the high school patriarchy with Betty and Veronica in Episode 3 of Riverdale.
Archie’s incredibly average dad. But on Riverdale, he has the benefit of being played by Beverly Hills,90210's Luke Perry. Perry, the onetime teen heartthrob, owns a construction company and is decidedly not-so-average as Fred.
Veronica’s mom. Although she appears infrequently throughout the comics, Hermione (Marisol Nichols) has a significant role on Riverdale. With her husband in prison for fraud and embezzlement, Hermione and her daughter move back from New York City to Riverdale for a fresh start. For Hermione, that includes waitressing at Pop's, flirting with her old high school flame Fred Andrews, and trading insults with Alice Cooper.
Veronica’s very rich father. One of Archie's main antagonists in the comics, Hiram doesn't think the bumbling teen is good enough for his daughter. (And to be honest, he's not!) Meanwhile, on Riverdale, Hiram's dubious deeds have created a mess of trouble for Hermione.
Cheryl's twin brother. Jason is just as spoiled, rude, and obnoxious as his sister. Thankfully, we don't have to put up with shit from Jason (Trevor Stines) on Riverdale because he's D-E-A-D. (But expect to see him pop up in flashbacks throughout the season.)
Josie and the Pussycats
Riverdale’s premiere rock band. The trio made their comics debut in 1963, featuring three rad women in stylish pussycat ears. On Riverdale, they've been reimagined as a Destiny's Child–style group who play their own instruments and write their own music.
The ambitious leader of Josie and the Pussycats. In the comics, Josie plays guitar and sings lead vocals, and she's generally the sweet, level-headed one in the group. On Riverdale, Josie (Ashleigh Murray) is still an aspiring pop star in pussycat ears, but she's also more cunning and driven to succeed, pushed by her powerful mother, Mayor Sierra McCoy (Robin Givens).
Archie’s best pal with a heart of gold and a bottomless pit for a stomach. Jughead is obsessed with food, particularly Pop's burgers, and is a notorious moocher. He's also extremely sarcastic and mostly apathetic toward, well, anyone, but especially toward girls. Jughead's asexuality — made canon in writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson's Jughead #4 last year — was a bold move for Archie Comics. Whether the show will embrace Jughead's asexuality is still TBD, but actor Cole Sprouse won't stop fighting for it. His version of Jughead is less of a mooch and more of a world-weary outsider, a reporter who's digging into the town's sordid side. Perhaps even more shocking: At the start of the series, Jughead and Archie aren't even friends anymore.
Riverdale’s first openly gay character. Kevin made his debut in Veronica #202 in 2010. The issue promptly sold out, and Archie Comics ordered the first reprint ever in its 75-year history. Kevin eventually got his own series in 2011, and in 2014's Life with Archie, which saw the characters grown-up and out of high school, Archie shockingly died taking a bullet for Kevin, who had become a married military veteran and senator who was pushing for more gun control in Riverdale. On the show, Kevin (Casey Cott) is Betty's gay best friend who sometimes meets Moose in the woods for ~fun~ times.
Your typical all-American suburban mother. By day, Mary works for a real estate agency; by night, she keeps the Andrews family from imploding. One of the more radically reimagined aspects of Riverdale is that Archie's parents have separated. He lives with his dad, while his mom (Molly Ringwald) left Riverdale to "follow her dreams."
Drummer and vocalist for Josie and the Pussycats. Originally conceived as a stereotypical dumb blonde, Melody is often seen as absent-minded and carefree. On Riverdale, however, Melody (Asha Bromfield) is far more grounded, with interests outside of music.
An oafish star athlete in Archie’s class. Most of the time, Marmaduke Mason, otherwise known as Moose, is just a big teddy bear, but he has been known to throw punches if you insult him or his friends. On Riverdale, he's mostly sneaking around with Kevin Keller and following orders from bad-boy Reggie Mantle.
Archie’s greying English teacher. Because character actors over the age of 50 just don't fly on the CW, Ms. Grundy (Sarah Habel) is now a younger temptress who wears heart-shaped glasses and has a summer tryst with 16-year-old Archie.
Betty’s older sister. Polly is a reporter in the comics, but her mental breakdown — and her relationship with Jason Blossom — are ongoing mysteries on Riverdale.
Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe
The hangout spot. The Chok'lit Shoppe is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor owned by Terry "Pop" Tate. It's the go-to destination for the gang when they're in the mood for burgers, shakes, and onion rings. For that reason alone, it's Jughead's favorite place.
Riverdale High’s resident Bad Boy™. Reggie is also Archie's main rival, particularly for Veronica's affections. Vain, conceited, and just as girl-crazy as Archie, Reggie thinks he can do anything — and anyone — he wants. While he and Archie are friends on Riverdale, that doesn't stop Reggie (Ross Butler) from being an overall dick to Jughead.
Bass guitarist and songwriter for the Pussycats. Val was first introduced in 1969. In 2010, she began an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Archie — the two even kissed on the cover of Archie #608 — but the Pussycats' busy touring schedule often kept her away from Riverdale. The show seems eager to explore a potential romantic development between Val (Hayley Law) and Archie, especially now that they're both talented songwriters in their own right.
Archie’s beloved dog. He's a very good boy.
The sophisticated, raven-haired vixen to Betty’s sweet girl next door. When Veronica arrives in Riverdale, Archie becomes immediately infatuated with her. She's cultured and into fashion but can sometimes come off as spoiled and vain. Over the years, Betty and Veronica have been able to maintain a strong friendship — when Archie doesn't get in the way. Archie affectionately calls her Ronnie, while Jughead refers to her as the devil. The Veronica (Camila Mendes) we meet on Riverdale is slightly more vulnerable, adjusting to her new life in the sleepy, saccharine "town with pep!"