NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

“Haverhill’s Archie” – Fact or Legend?

archie comics copy

Local legend holds that artist Bob Montana created the Archie comic strip and based the characters, at least in part, on his Haverhill High School peers. The truth of this claim has always been somewhat of a mystery; it seems to be contradicted in a few places, including by the original publisher of the comic strip, John L. Goldwater.

Goldwater is quoted as saying that he modeled the characters largely after people that he met while traveling throughout the Midwest as a reporter. Goldwater is also said to have attended school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, and Riverdale is the name of the fictional town from where Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and the rest of the Archie gang hail.

When the comic was first released in Nov. 1941, it was clear that Riverdale was located in Massachusetts. The high school depicted in the comic also seems to have been modeled after the original Haverhill High School, which is now City Hall.

The comic, still popular after 60 years, included hints as to the location of Riverdale in each issue in 2002 but at the end of the year, it was revealed that Riverdale would be given no official location. Some believed the hints pointed to Riverdale being located in the the Missouri area.

Cambridge-based film critic Gerald Peary has been a fan of the Archie comics since the ’50s, but his interest was really piqued in the ’80s. He read a letter to the editor in the Boston Globe from a Haverhill librarian, who stated that the Archie characters were alive and well living in Haverhill.

It was at that time Peary began his journey to find the real Archie characters. He created a documentary about what he uncovered called “Archie’s Betty” and is stopping in Haverhill next month as part of a nationwide tour.

In celebration of Haverhill’s 375th anniversary, NECC, Buttonwoods Museum and The Haverhill Historical Society are hosting two free showings of the film on Oct. 1 at 3 and 6:30 p.m. in the Hartleb Technology Center. An exhibit of Montana’s work and the original work of NECC students will be on display in the Linda Hummel ArtSpace from Oct. 1 through Oct. 31.


Related Articles