‘Germs of Endearment’: Decades ago in Riverdale, Archie & friends seen wearing masks

Sounds like crystal ball gazing but it was perhaps brilliant futuristic thinking when the story writers of Archie Comics envisaged decades ago that students would shift to online classes, people would be masked, and social distancing would be the new normal. “When Covid came around… I remembered a story where Archie and friends were wearing masks. When I went back through my stack of Archie digests, I gasped when I saw Germs of Endearment,” Nancy Silberkleit, Co-CEO of Archie Comics, told The Indian Express.

This is a reprint from decades ago, but Silberkleit saw it as a reprint in Archie & Me digest #6 in 2018, and marvelled at some of the writers’ ‘futuristic imaginations’. In an email interview, she said, “I was astonished that our writers had done a story years ago with Archie and friends in school wearing masks. It was scripted by Mike Gallagher and Bob Bolling. What imaginations… I thought some imaginations have boundary lines. However, this is now our reality,” said Silberkleit, who is now in the process of creating a Teacher’s Guide.

“From writer to colorist, they all work in unison to make an interesting story … in this case, teaching us about germs on a platform that can welcome constructive conversation,” Silberkleit observed. “The title tries to incorporate some fun into the story by inserting the word endearment. That’s what Archie is all about! However everything that endearment stands for — closeness ,affection, intimacy –has been snatched from us by Covid-19. This all makes the story very interesting to me so I felt it was a worthy story to be utilised in the classroom to open up discussion on Covid times.”

The light-hearted, humorous stories of Archie and his friends have appealed to readers for generations. But especially during the Covid-19 pandemic time, there has been a fair amount of amazement among netizens as to how writers of the comics, decades ago, may have had an inkling of what would happen. There have been reports as to how in the late 1990s, the comic strip featured a set-up of remote learning – predicting that in 2021, children would have a proper school experience from within the comfort of their home.

Here, Betty Cooper was seen telling her mother that she has `all of 30 seconds’ before school starts — a line that has hit home for many during Covid times.

‘Archie’ therapy helps many

“Even today, an Archie Comic feels like home. So I am spending a lot of my time devouring the comics and it is keeping my mind relaxed and occupied,” says Delhi-based theatre actor and director Swati Sood, who is Covid positive.

“My message to everyone who is Covid positive is to keep your spirits up. Find the one thing that anchors you and stay with it. Meditate if possible. I am re-learning to still my mind and meditate. I am learning to enjoy breathing, just deep full breaths inhale and exhale. I can’t talk much so I am reading and reflecting,” she said.

“I also have bumper issues of Archie Comics which I am thoroughly enjoying. Archie Comics always take me back to my high school days, where we would go to the local library and pick up comics by the dozen,” Sood says while in the hospital. “My son and husband were also both Covid positive and of course, no one could accompany me in the ambulance and over the next few days, my days and nights sort of merged. I remember seeing exhausted but nurturing angels of mercy, who didn’t treat me like I would explode on contact. The little squeeze of the arm, the quiet murmur telling me not to worry, the rubbing on the arm when the IV got painful…I don’t recognise any of them by their faces because I haven’t seen their faces with their PPE kits and masks covering every inch of their bodies. I’m just supremely grateful and amazed at how tirelessly they work, often doing double shifts, yet always have a kind voice,” said the theatre director.


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