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Archie Comics started out in 1939 as MLJ Comics, named after the first initials of its three founders: Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John L. Goldwater. In 1941, a teenage humor strip called Archie began as a new back-up feature in Pep, replacing a strip called Madam Satan. Striking a popular nerve with emerging youth culture, Archie and his gang were such a hit that MLJ changed its name to Archie Comics in 1946.
The setup of the comic book stories have remained the same for decades. Red-haired Archie Andrews lives in Riverdale, a relatively small community, and attends Riverdale High. Archie is girl-crazy, and two girls in particular continually vie for his attention: blonde, unpretentious Betty Cooper and rich, raven-haired Veronica Lodge. Archie's best friend is Jughead Jones, who loves to eat but avoids any kind of work or physical activity. Reggie Mantle is also Archie's friend but is just as often his rival in love. Other, minor characters come and go in Archie's universe (such as high school principal Mr. Weatherbee) but these five remain at the core of all storylines.
Some of the older series feature Archie and his friends cast as superhero versions of themselves or playing spies in a parody of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. Some series, such as Life With Archie and Archie at Riverdale High, feature straight adventure and/or mystery stories.
In the 1970's and 80's, the Archie characters were authorized for use in a series of Christian comic books written and drawn by Al Hartley for Spire Christian Comics.
In the 1950's and 60's, cartoonist Dan DeCarlo ceased work on Atlas Comics' Millie the Model and brought his influential style to the Archie Comics universe. DeCarlo is primarily responsible for the modern look of the Archie characters, and the creation of popular Archie spin-off comics Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Josie and the Pussycats.