Riverdale is the fictional setting for most of the characters that appear in Archie Comics. Riverdale's exact placement in the United States is uncertain, as conflicting details have been given over the years in the comics as to its location.
Riverdale is usually shown as being a medium-sized town (possibly a suburb of a bigger city), with all the usual amenities of Shopping malls, restaurants, and parks. The climate, appearance and geography of Riverdale varies from story to story. Riverdale has been shown to have beaches, lakes, rivers, farmland, woodland, mountains, plains, a transit system (as noted in the Josie and the Pussycats film) and four distinct seasons with changes in climate. The population is fairly friendly.
While Riverdale's location was never clearly defined, there have been many clues over the years. It has a beach (and therefore is a likely a coastal city) and receives snow in the winter. Riverdale has never faced earthquakes or hurricanes, although one plot from the 1990s involves a tornado hitting Riverdale. There does seem to be a river passing through the city because in one story, "The Roly Poly Robber," a bridge is shown connecting two districts of the city. The city is, however, not home to any major port or dockyard. Some portions of the city are hilly.
Often, clues as to its location that appear in certain stories contradict others. In one story, Riverdale is shown on a small map as being in about the same place as Des Moines, Iowa. One plot in the 1990s involved Jughead possibly being forced to move to Ohio, in which Betty, looking at a map, comments that Ohio is extremely far away. Another story says that the beach is not on the ocean, but rather on a lake with no other land in sight, perhaps one of the Great Lakes (there is at least one real Riverdale in that area). In the live-action film adaptation (Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again), Riverdale is explicitly portrayed as being located in California.
In issue no. 74 of Archie's Pals and Gals double digest, several hints are given as to where Riverdale calls "home". These hints are as follows: eight states surround this one, which is located in the mid west. If you know where the "show me" state is, you know where to start looking. Half of the people that live in the United States live within 500 miles of this place. There's an indoor water park here, and an outdoor water park too! If you're looking near Hannibal, you're too far north. Archie's favorite thing: go-carts. Lots of go-carts! You can ride a riverboat here. Or a bumper boat. If you're looking near Kansas city, you're still too far north. Like music? We've got music!
In one of the issues of Archie and Jughead Digest, when one of the readers wrote in with the question of "Where is Riverdale located?", the editor replied that "Riverdale is more of a state of mind than an actual physical location. It could be anywhere that kind people live and just have fun, like Archie and his friends. It could be in the Midwest, or along the Eastern Seaboard, or even a town in Canada, Mexico, or England."
While the more recent Archie comics have been deliberately vague about Riverdale's location, it was not ambiguous in the earliest run of the comic. In Jackpot Comics #5 (Spring, 1942), written by Archie's creator, Bob Montana, the story has the gang going on a river trip. One panel says "...the good ship "Peter Stuyvesant" settles into the Hudson, as Riverdale High clambers aboard for a happy trip to Bear Mountain." The ship is named after Peter Stuyvesant, a historic figure of New York City and New York state. The Hudson River flows by Manhattan. Bear Mountain State Park is up the Hudson River, not too far from New York City, and there is a section in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, on the Hudson known as Riverdale. In a special issue of Archie published by the Bronx Zoo in the early 2000's, Betty refers to Riverdale as "back home" when talking about a bear program she worked in over the previous summer. She takes the group to the zoo multiple times over the course of the comic, implying that Riverdale is not far away from there. Since the actual New York City neighborhood of Riverdale is near the Bronx Zoo, this could provide a clue as to the finctional Riverdale's location.
Another view is that Riverdale, and many of the characters and sites are based on Haverhill, Massachusetts, hometown of Archie creator Bob Montana. A replica of Auguste Rodin's statue The Thinker sits in front of both Haverhill High School and Riverdale High School.
Riverdale High School
Riverdale High School is the local educational institution of Riverdale where Archie and his friends attend Grade 11. It is based on what was Haverhill High School in Haverhill, Massachusetts. The building still stands, although is now Haverhill's City Hall. Archie cartoonist Bob Montana attended Haverhill High from 1936–1939 and drew on his experiences there in drawing the comic.
Riverdale High's walls sport a blue and green color scheme, although the school colors are officially blue and gold. The school is one of the most common settings for Archie Comics stories. Frequently-seen locations on school grounds include its many classrooms, cafeteria, gymnasium, athletic field, chemistry lab, principal’s office, and the office of the school newspaper, The Blue and Gold.
Only a few of Riverdale High's staff appear regularly in the comics. These include school principal Mr. Weatherbee, homeroom teacher Miss Grundy, chemistry teacher Mr. Flutesnoot, history teacher Miss Haggly, physical education teachers Coach Kleats and Coach Clayton, cafeteria cook Miss Beazley, custodian Mr. Svenson, secretary Miss Phlips, and superintendent of schools Mr. Hassle. The rest of the faculty members have appeared for short periods or sporadically over the years, particularly in the 1970s, and late 1980s through early 1990s.
There is a genuine Riverdale High School in Pierrefonds, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal. There is another Riverdale High School in Portland, Oregon, There is another Riverdale High School in Wharton, Ohio
The Faculty Funnies miniseries debuted in 1989 under its own title. Mr. Weatherbee, Mr. Flutesnoot, Miss Grundy and Coach Clayton were secretly superheroes, called The Awesome Foursome, who all possessed super powers when they took a peek at Archie's science project (in this series Clayton was referred to as Harry even though he's been called Floyd many times by faculty in regular digest stories). The series lasted for 5 issues and ended with the Awesome Foursome losing their powers after putting out a chemical fire.
Riverdale High was a series that stemmed from Archie at Riverdale High. The content in Riverdale High was not limited to comics but also included interactive sections that asked readers to send in information about their own schools and featured a "School of the Month" that would be included in the comics and on the cover. The stories were more poignant and revolved around the faculty at Riverdale High School and its interactions with the student body during and after school hours. Riverdale High ended when Archie Comics decided to refocus its publications on the core series.
Other notable places
Notable places in Riverdale besides the high school include the following:
- Pop Tate's Chocklit Shoppe, the soda shop frequented by the teenaged cast.
- Pickens' Park, the community park named for the fictional Civil War hero General Pickens.
- The Lodge Mansion, the large and luxurious home of wealthy Veronica Lodge and her parents.
- Homes of other members of the gang, including the Andrews residence, Jones residence and Cooper residence.
- Dilton Doiley's science lab, a home-based setup where Dilton invents and conducts experiments.
- Chuck Clayton's studio, where Chuck draws his cartoons at home.
- The beach, where Archie and the gang spend much of their time in the summer.
- The Riverdale Mall, a source of shopping and entertainment, particularly for the girls.
Some nearby towns include Greendale and Midvale. Greendale is the home of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, who once lived in Riverdale but eventually moved. Characters who appear in Josie and the Pussycats come from Midvale (although in the film the characters explicitly come from Riverdale, the girls have a Muni bus pass). The people of Riverdale, Greendale and Midvale are all generally on good terms with each other, but other nearby towns tend to antagonize them.
Riverdale High School's main scholastic and athletic rival is Central High School, located in another nearby community. Central High seems to consist of nothing but villainous types. The males are generally thuggish, conniving brutes, and the females are usually lecherous, scheming vamps. In most of their encounters, Central students seldom compete without using unsportsmanlike conduct, if not out-and-out cheating. The coaches and teachers often are not only aware of this skullduggery, but encourage it. In most cases, Central's team colors are bright red and silver-white, contrasting Riverdale's blue and gold.
Pembrooke Academy is a private school in Riverdale's suburb catering to the snobbish and wealthy. Pembrooke is the school of Cheryl and Jason Blossom and their snobbish friends Bunny and Cedric. They look down on Riverdale students as "townies" and will not (except for the Blossom twins) willingly associate with them. When they must interact, they will do whatever it takes to humiliate and defeat their rivals. Other schools that have been featured as Riverdale rival schools include Hadley High and Southside High. In one strip, a letter sent to Riverdale has "U." where the state should be, and a zip code of 10543 (which in real life is Mamaroneck, New York, the home of Michael Silberkleit, an Archie Comics editor). There is a neighborhood of the Bronx known as Riverdale.
- In The Simpsons episode "Sideshow Bob Roberts" (Episode 2F02), several Archie Comics characters, including Archie Andrews, Veronica Lodge, Moose Mason and Jughead Jones, make a brief cameo appearance. After Sideshow Bob's stooges pull up to the Simpsons' house, toss Bart Simpson (who had been investigating Bob) out of their car, and deliver a warning to "Stay away from Sideshow Bob!", the Archie gang, in one of the show's frequent non sequiturs, pull up to the Simpsons' house and toss Homer Simpson out of their car. Moose warns Homer to "Duh, stay out of Riverdale!" Later in the episode, Homer is reading an issue of Archie Comics and mutters, "Stuck-up Riverdale punks, think they're too good for me!"