Calgary professor focuses on “golden age” of Archie Comics in new book

CALGARY — Archie, Veronica, Betty and Reggie have undergone a modern makeover in the last four years, but it’s the “golden age” of the popular Archie Comics that’s the focus of a new book by a University of Calgary academic.

English Prof. Bart Beaty was asked by Rutgers University Press in the United States to contribute to a series dedicated to select comic titles, which include Wonder Woman in the 1940s and the popular Watchmen graphic comic limited series.

Beaty chose Archie Comics from the 1960s, which he considers the “golden age” of the series.

“I actually proposed it to them, kind of defiantly, saying, ‘You would never do a book on Archie,'” Beaty said.

“When we generally talk about comics, we tend to talk about a very exclusive little band of very serious comics. No one talks about the unserious comics. I was making a point about why don’t we look at the popular stuff instead of the serious stuff all the time.”

Beaty said Archie Comics has been published uninterrupted for 74 years and at one point was the best-selling comic book in the United States.

He resisted the temptation to take a scholarly look at the modern Archie, which includes the character’s death in a spinoff series that centres on grown-up renditions of Archie and his Riverdale pals.

Other storylines aimed at adult Archie fans have included gay marriage, the death of longtime teacher Ms. Grundy, Archie’s love interest Cheryl Blossom tackling breast cancer and Jughead and his friends dealing with financial struggles.

“The current Archie publishers and artists have been trying to do more and more interesting things with him. They had an Archie zombie story and they’ve killed Archie off and introduced new characters. The company has tried to change the way they are thought of,” said Beaty.

What the writing and artwork did in the 1960s was help shape images of the American teenager, he suggested.

“There’s nothing really truly bad that happens — at least in the 1960s version — and I think people are comforted by that,” Beaty said.

“I think they’re all one-dimensional and some of them are so one-dimensional it’s almost an insult to one-dimensional characters. They are really, really fixed.

“What’s amazing is they’ve got 74 years out of these one-dimensional characters and they are still going strong.”

The book, called “12 Cent Archie,” is to be released later this month.

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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