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Archie 1955 Continues to Show Why Archie's Such a Great Blank Slate

In "Reason to be Excited," I spotlight things from modern comics that I think are worth getting excited about. I mean stuff more specific than "this comic is good," ya know? More like a specific bit from a writer or artist that impressed me.

Today, we look at Archie 1955 and how well it shows the elastic nature of Archie Andrews as a lead character.

In a Look Back earlier this year, I discussed how Harry Sahle tried to change things up in his last few issues of Archie Comics before he was replaced on the series. One of those things was to introduce the first example of Archie and his cast of characters being placed into a different time periods. I wrote at the time...

"Sahle wrote and drew the opening a story in the comic, which was "Archie in the prehistoric age," the very first of the now-classic "place Archie and the gang into different time periods" stories...

It demonstrated how powerful these archetypes were that they could hold up in different eras like this. We still get the love rivalries...

and Archie in trouble with Mister Weatherbee (or "King Bee")...

Well, it's 75 years later and the concept is still going strong.

Last year's Archie 1941 by Brian Augustyn, Mark Waid, Peter Krause and Kelly Fitzpatrick (with lettering by Jack Morelli) was excellent...

However, I think it is fair to say that Archie 1941 was a bit of a distinctive concept. You know, do an Archie comic set in the time that the Archie comics were originally set, but take the idea seriously. That's a really great idea. And they did it very well. That, though, is a whole other story than "Do the whole thing again in 1955," ya know? Once is normal, but doing it twice is a lot harder and yet, as we have seen since Sahle in 1944, damned if Archie doesn't translate really well into every era! He really is one of the great archetypal comic book characters.

In Archie 1955 (by Augusytn, Waid, Tom Grummett, Glenn Whitmore and Morelli), it's now about Archie and his band getting a chance to break into the music industry upon graduating from high school in 1955...

One of the hardest things to do in comics is to depict music and yet Grummett, Whitmore and Morelli really NAIL it, right?

But when the opportunity presents itself to Archie and his friends...

the question becomes, "What kind of music does Archie WANT to make?"

That's answered when his friend Chuck brings him to see a black rhythm and blues singer, Big Earl Dixon...

Well, in the next issue, Archie is impressing everyone but still doesn't know how to cut a demo...

when Pop Tate steps up in a touching scene...

and Archie and the Dales are created, but he's singing Big Earl Dixon's song!

There's a wonderful scene where his parents hear the song on the radio...

but then a not-so-wonderful moment when Chuck hears it...

Augustyn and Waid beautifully bring in the way that a lot of this early music was taking "black music" and making it acceptable to the mainstream by having white people cover the songs. Archie is not a total jerk, though, so he promises to look out for whoever he gets the songs from initially, but as he is wooed by Veronica Lodge and her father to sign a contract, we all know where this is headed.

Even though it's a familiar story, it's a good story, and we're still early in the overall tale, so who knows how we'll be surprised.

In any event, it continues to impress me how malleable Archie is as a lead character. It's great to see.

Okay, this feature is a bit less of a reader-interactive one, as I'm just spotlight stuff in modern comics that specifically impressed ME, but heck, if you'd like to send in some suggestions anyways, maybe you and I have the same taste! It's certainly not improbably that something you found cool would be something that I found cool, too, so feel free to send ideas to me at brianc@cbr.com!

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