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‘The Best of Archie Americana: Silver Age’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by Various
Cover by Dan DeCarlo
Published by Archie Comics

 

I have always been a Silver Age kid.

No matter how old I get in years, I remain a Silver Age kid.

I was introduced to Archie comics by my cousin when I was about 9 years old, in 1968. I joined the Archie Club (still have my membership card and badge!) and have been a fan ever since.

In the 1990s, I got to play Jughead twice in live on-stage re-creations of the 1940s Archie radio show featuring members of the original cast. I’ve been privileged to work on more than half a dozen Archie-related projects over the past decade including a few books and a handful of articles.

Research for all that meant that I had to acquire and peruse a significant amount of Archie stories, in reprint books, in original comics, and in online scans.

That was all great fun.

But not as much fun as this new collection, The Best of Archie Americana: Silver Age!

The book starts out with a nostalgic and informative introduction from Hal Lifson, one of my favorite pop culture writers. Lifson gets that the classic Archie comics were never published for teenagers but rather for the pre-teens and tweens who had yet to encounter puberty. Riverdale was a fantasy world you looked forward to living in soon but you weren’t quite there yet.

Hal’s Intro leads into the ‘60s section and then—since I believe this was previously published as two separate volumes—he pops up with another, equally nostalgic, Intro just prior to the ‘70s section.

The stories themselves rate no less than a nine page Table of Contents! That’s a LOT of stories. While the original source of each story is noted, its creators sadly are not.

In fact, due to Archie’s policy of never, or rarely, actually crediting its writers and artists during most of the ‘60s and ‘70s, it’s likely no one knew exactly who did what. Thus, all the relevant names are simply lumped together in a five-line listing at the beginning labeled, “Featuring the Talents of.”

I think it’s a safe bet that the lion’s share of these excellently chosen stories were written by the great Frank Doyle and the wonderful George Gladir. Similarly, the amazing art of peak-period Dan DeCarlo and, to a sadly lesser extent, Harry Lucey really stand out!

Mixed in amidst all the stories are sections highlighting some of the many great cover gags of the Archie titles, with DeCarlo’s colorful mid-60s ones being often better than the stories that were in the books!

As always with the Riverdale characters, though, the familiar interactions and relationships amongst Archie, Jughead, Reggie, Betty, and Veronica create what passes for continuity in the Archieverse, with different window dressing reinventing everything anew for each story.

Many of the stories reflect their era. In the first section, for instance, there’s one about the fashion for tight pants, one about beatniks, yoga, folk singing, a couple invoking the Beatles, protests, cars, surfing, mod clothes, long hair, electric guitars, and body painting.

The second section introduces graffiti, sit-ins, hot pants, ecology, women’s lib, rock idols, martial arts, CB Radio, the Bicentennial, disco, video games, Fonzie, King Tut, Star Wars, and, naturally, The Archies!

The hapless Archie himself bungles his way through all of those moments in time, lusting after Ronnie, lusted after by Betty, being tripped up by Reggie, and backed up by Jug. For the longtime fan, this is a well-chosen time capsule of memories of fads and fashions. If you’re a new fan, The Best of Archie Americana: The Silver Age will show you that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Now if someone would just explain to the folks at Archie that the 1970s is considered the Bronze Age as far as comics history!

Oh, and more Harry Lucey would have been nice, guys.

Booksteve Recommends.

 

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