The Riverdale crew — Betty (Lili Reinhart), Jughead (Cole Sprouse), Archie (K.J. Apa) and Veronica (Camila Mendes) — may be busy uncovering serial killers, exposing cults, and running rum empires, but their old pal Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) dreams of a life outside their small town. Now, in CW’s new Riverdale spin-off, Katy Keene (showing on BBC iPlayer), she’s reaching for the stars alongside Lucy Hale as the titular Katy.
At the end of Riverdale’s third season Josie left town, and, five years into the future, she’s hanging out with her aspiring fashion designer pal Katy in the Big Apple. While even the most surface-level Archie Comics follower knows Josie wishes for a music career as big as Beyoncé’s (she was the leader of the Pussycats, after all) Katy may be more of a mystery.
Though Katy Keene doesn’t have the same name recognition as Jughead “I’m a weirdo” Jones, she’s been a part of the extended Archie Comics universe since 1945, when she appeared in the fifth issue of Archie Comics series Wilbur Comics. The fashionable, glamorous character — a singer, actress, and model in the original comics — was popular with readers because they could send in sketches of the clothes they wanted Katy and her friends to wear, which would later be printed into the comics. In those original comics, Katy resembles pin-up model Bettie Page, with blue-black hair and a coiffed bang. Her hairstyle changed with the times; in the ‘80s, she was given the voluminous hair of a Dynasty star.
After her ‘80s revival and ‘90s retirement of the character, Katy made a return to the comics in 2005, and the character was reconceived as a high school student and aspiring model. In the New Riverdale comics in 2020, Katy is contemporaised as an Instagram famous model who designs her own clothes. Today’s comic version of Katy matches up, at least aesthetically, with the Katy of The CW show: Both Hale and the comic character rock a chic, dark brown bob.
But despite being 75 years old in comic book years, Katy only really emerged as a piece of notable pop culture a few years ago when Katy Perry hit the music scene. Fans of the two-dimensional Katy noted a striking resemblance between her and Perry, who at the time shared a similar hairstyle and love of vintage clothing.
“Like, that’s crazy! I want to go get an MRI right now and have them look inside me and make sure I’m not a comic!” Perry told Rolling Stone of the eerie likeness in 2014. “But what freaked me out about it is, we looked into it, and it turned out she has a sister who’s a redhead. And my sister is a redhead! And I was like, ‘Fuck! Stop it!'”
The redhead Perry is referring to Sis Keene, Katy’s younger sister in the comics. (And yes, Sis is her real name — so far, Katy’s sister has yet to be mentioned as an upcoming character on the series.)
The Katy of The CW series is a little bit different from all the variations of her comic book counterparts and her real-life doppelganger. Katy’s love of fashion is expressed through her modelling career in the comics, but in the series, Katy has a fierce passion for design.
Riverdale fans first met TV Katy on season 4 episode “Chapter Sixty-Nine: Men of Honour.” Veronica caught up with her friend from her NYC days, and the two spent the day trying on clothes at fancy department store Lacy’s. That Katy, however, is five years younger than the one we’ll spend time with on Katy Keene.
On Katy Keene, Josie learns from Veronica that Katy has a pull-out couch available in her cozy Manhattan apartment. Katy now works at the same department store she and Veronica splurged in as a personal shopper. Katy, however, longs for the days where her designs will hang on the racks. Instead of modelling the clothes herself, as she did in the comics, she gifts them to friends.
“Katy is definitely more fashion-forward than I am,” Hale told The Hollywood Reporter of her new role. “As Aria on Pretty Little Liars, I got to wear some crazy outfits, so it’s been a lot of fun stepping into Katy’s closet.”
Katy’s world is populated by other characters from Archie Comics, who also have new backstories and personalities from their comic book counterparts.
Pepper Smith (Julia Chan) is Katy’s British bestie and a gossip columnist who dreams of opening up her own version of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Jorge Lopez (Jonny Beauchamp), an aspiring Broadway star, moonlights as drag queen Ginger Lopez, and while Jorge doesn’t show up in Archie Comics, Ginger is a stand-out character, having made her debut in 1943. Alexandra Cabot (Camille Hyde) joins as the daughter of powerful record executives, and appears in the Josie and the Pussycats comics as Josie’s rival. Alexander Cabot (Lucien Laviscount), Alexandra’s twin brother, is Josie’s new potential love interest, as well as her manager in the comics.
Katy Keene has the opportunity to turn a comic book icon into an ambitious heroine for the modern millennial. Will Katy climbing the ladder in the fashion industry prove as dramatic as all the murder-solving her contemporaries are doing over on Riverdale? Whatever: At least we know that this Archie Comics character is here to inspire serious wardrobe envy.