Michael Uslan and his Archie-Betty-Veronica Love Triangle

Posted on 10. Dec, 2009 by in Lifestyle

by Jason Dean

As a boy growing up, it was a clear-cut choice. Either you were sweet on wholesome, blonde, reliable, good girl Betty Cooper, or you were entranced by raven-locked, petulant, blueblood Veronica Lodge. Both were gorgeous in their own way, but you were never on the fence about which one you would bring home to meet mom and dad.

Not so for the ginger-haired schmo in the middle of the whole kerfuffle. Archie Andrews just couldn’t seem to make up his mind. The Archie-Betty-Veronica love triangle endured almost seven decades (the characters debuted in Pep Comics in 1941), evoking ongoing speculation among comic book readers of all generations as to who Archie would settle down with for the rest of his teenage years. Finally last September, Riverdale was rocked by a bombshell: Archie was going to tie the knot.

Writer Michael Uslan, producer of all seven Batman movies, swooped in and orchestrated the tabloid-worthy nuptials. A juicy, rollercoaster ride plays out in six Archie Comics installments (#600-605) and a 10-page epilogue (to appear in #606). An uproar ensued when it was revealed that Archie had chosen Veronica as his betrothed in issue #600. Passionate Betty supporters were moved to action; The Today Show did its own poll (really) that elicited 30,000 responses in three days, with 80 percent calling out V-Lodge for being generally snooty and self-absorbed.

Uslan says he framed the storyline with the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” in mind. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by” Uslan recites. “For me it’s been my beacon through my life, certainly my career. Go against the grain, take some calculated risks. Life is about choices and the consequences of our choices, and that’s thematically what I most wanted to explore with Archie getting married.” Then Uslan utters twelve words that are at once titillating and disheartening. “We live in a world where Brad chooses Angelina over Jennifer Aniston.”

Still grieving for poor, jilted Betty? She’ll be fine. In the December issue (#603), Archie proposes to Betty, too! (Uh, Jughead, I don’t think we’re in Utah anymore.) The miniseries concludes with neither wedding having actually taken place. Uslan refers to the 10-page epilogue for explanation. “I try to be very clear. One of these two alternative futures I wrote will come to pass. The point is that Archie readers will have to follow each issue closely for clues,” he says. “It’s going to depend on three individuals [and] the choices they make.”

Uslan appeared to take the road less-traveled when he jumped straight from the Dark Knight to Archie. For a lifetime comic-book devotee, however, it was not a detour at all. “To people who don’t know me, it was a bizarre and shocking twist,” he says with mock exaggeration.  The fact is, Uslan was an Archie fan almost from the time he could open a book. “My mom says I learned to read from Archie, Richie Rich, and Casper before I was four years old.”

Over the years, Uslan amassed a collection of 30,000 comic books. His dedication to the medium inspired him to create a first-of-its-kind, comic-book folklore course that examined comic-book characters from historical and contemporary perspectives, the allegorical connections, and other aspects that went beyond pure fantasy and colorful costumes. Stan Lee heard about Uslan’s class and offered him a job a DC Comics. Finally, the Indiana U. School of Law graduate could pursue a life of comic indulgence.

Uslan is currently working on films featuring The Spirit, Captain Marvel, and Shazam. The glee with which the 58-year-old Cedar Grove, New Jersey, native discusses how he makes a living (“I get to be between 12 and 16 for the rest of my life”), suggests he’s the right man to bring Archie into the 21st century. And things have certainly evolved in good ol’ Riverdale. Moose has enrolled in anger management courses and through yoga and meditation learns to appreciate the goodness in people and becomes very laid back and mellow. “It’s important that a contemporary topspin be placed on all the characters,” maintains Uslan.

The Batman franchise has capitalized on that very thing since the first film was released in 1989. Though he is a fan of all the Batman movies – whether  it’s Michael Keaton, George Clooney, Val Kilmer, or Christian Bale lurking behind the mask – Uslan heaps praise on Christopher Nolan (director of Batman Returns and The Dark Knight), calling him “the first great new director of the 21st century who should be studied in film schools.”

Near the end of our conversation, I suggest that the obscenely wealthy Richie Rich and his family could undergo some “extreme character development,” and he runs with it: “Richie Rich goes to jail,” he offers. “He [is] the cause behind the whole monetary collapse.” You mean he’s pulling Bernie Madoff’s strings?  “Absolutely,” he fires back. “Don’t be fooled by the red bowtie and the short pants. He’s a potential menace.”

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