The claim: A ‘Betty’ comic book from 1997 predicted kids in 2021 would attend virtual schools at home via computers with cameras
Back in 1997, at least two things seemed part of a distant future: virtual school and the year 2021.
But in an instance of life imitating art, a “Betty” comic book from nearly a quarter-century ago predicted the short commute kids would make from the breakfast table to the classroom.
An excerpt from “Betty” began to circulate online in mid-March after publisher Archie Comics posted it to its social media channels. It shows the title character attending classes from a personal computer with a camera mounted on the monitor.
“Kids today are so lucky! They’re able to go to school in their own home,” Betty’s dad says in one frame as Betty settles in front of her virtual classroom.
Yes, the publisher said, it’s real. As proof, Archie Comics linked to a page in the Grand Comics Database, a nonprofit that says its volunteers are “dedicated to building an open database covering all printed comics throughout the world.”
The comic was shared across Reddit, Twitter and Facebook. Silicon Valley investor James Hong, the co-founder of Hot-or-Not, summarized the reaction this way: “OMG this is real and was published in 1997” while sharing a Snopes post about the comic.
‘Betty’ predicts the future
In its post about the comic, Archie Comics said the six-page story, “Betty in High School 2021 A.D.” was first published in “Betty” No. 46 from February 1997. It was reprinted in 2015 under an even more-futuristic title that placed it in 2104.
While the comic nailed virtual school in 2021, along with a few other details, it wasn’t in the context of a global pandemic. Around the country, kids have had to adapt to attending classes from home over the last year as schools closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
And, of course, we’re still waiting for the flying cars zooming around in the background of the first frame.
The company got its first alert about the prescient story on social media, said Ron Cacace, Archie Comics’ digital marketing manager. Cacace runs the company’s social media accounts, and he told USA TODAY he received a direct message about the comic from a fan on Instagram on March 14.
The comic in the Instagram message was in French, so Cacace had to ask for a translation. He then looked it up on the Grand Comics Database to check if the story was real.
It was, and the next day he asked Archie’s editorial staff for a digital copy he could share online.
The comic starts with Betty’s mother warning her that school was about to start, but Betty quips that she still has “all of thirty seconds.” She sits in front of a personal computer with a vintage-looking camcorder mounted on top of a bulky monitor.
“Video monitor must remain uncovered at all times,” a sign reads on the wall behind the computer. Betty’s teacher threatens her with detention, held in a nearby closet, when Betty answers her video phone during class.
With kids now attending virtual school in the comic, its Riverdale High School was converted to a museum to show how classes were conducted in the past.
‘They nailed the year and everything just perfect’
USA TODAY checked with large comic shops in New York, Colorado, Texas and around Washington, D.C., to try to track down a physical copy of the 1997 run of the comic, but none had the book in stock.
One eBay user listed the comic for sale for $200 shortly after the story went viral.
“I told my wife about it and said ‘this is crazy, they nailed the year and everything just perfect,'” said Paul Boulos, who made the eBay listing under the business name Jackpot Comics. “It’s just astonishing.”
Boulos emailed photos of the cover, fine print showing the date of publication was in 1997 and the first three pages of the story to USA TODAY. He said the book was part of a haul of three boxes — about 900 comics — he bought three years ago.
“I had to scrounge through all my boxes to find it,” he said. “I don’t really tend to read Betty comics.”
Our rating: True
The claim that a 1997 comic predicted kids would be attending virtual school in 2021 is TRUE. Comic publisher Archie Comics confirmed that the six-page story was part of “Betty” issue No. 46 from February 1997. It shows the character attending classes in front of a personal computer with a camera mounted on the monitor.
Our fact-check sources:
- Archie Comics, March 16, tweet
- Archie Comics, March 18, “Did a classic Archie Comics story predict virtual schooling in 2021? Yes.“
- Grand Comics Database, April 1, “High School 2021 A.D.“
- eBay, accessed April 1, Listing for Betty No. 46
- Twitter, accessed April 1, Ron Cacace, Archie Comics digital marketing manager
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