I can’t add much to MGK’s definitive explanations of why Betty Cooper is insane, but I just wanted to make note of one thing I found recently. When I called MGK’s attention to the first page of this story, I hadn’t actually seen the rest of the story. And I assumed that if I ever saw the original context, it would make Betty’s behaviour look less — what’s the word — terrifying and homicidal. I mean, Archie comics have done a lot of WTF stories over the years, but they wouldn’t actually build a six-page comedy story around their readership’s favourite character trying to murder the hero, would they?
But I recently happened to see that story (“Woman Scorned” from Archie # 156, July 1965), and, in fact, that first page was exactly what it looked like: the introduction to a six-page story where Betty goes bonkers and attempts to rub Archie out (not in the good way) in retaliation for a broken date. Moreover, the story establishes that Betty doesn’t care whether innocent bystanders get hurt, that Jughead is the only person who is fully aware of her violent insanity (and therefore has sense enough to be scared to death of her), that the only remorse Betty feels is over her failure to finish Archie off, that when she’s happy, she’s even more dangerous, and that Archie is an idiot. Okay, that last one may have been established elsewhere.
So basically, Harry Lucey and Frank Doyle (I don’t know for sure that he wrote it, but he’s the likeliest guess for any Archie story that’s actually funny) confirmed every theory their future readers would ever have about Betty’s mental state. I don’t know whether to feel good or bad about this; it’s like finding a Silver Age Superman story where they actually tell you that Superman is a dick.
One separate thing I wanted to note here, because it can’t really sustain a full post, is that a way to tell the well-written Archie stories from the poorly-written ones is that the well-written ones usually have a joke on the first page, if not the first panel. Frank Doyle in particular would almost always try to have something funny on the first page, even if it was just a throwaway line of dialogue. Bad comedy stories in comics — not just from Archie, obviously, but from any company — tend to use the first page and even the second for nothing but exposition. Which, when you’ve only got six pages, means that a hefty chunk of the story has nothing funny in it. Not the best way to write comedy.