It's the 80th anniversary for Archie Andrews and the Riverdale crew this year and to celebrate, Archie Comics released The Best of Archie Comics: 80 Years, 80 Stories, a more than 700-page volume commemorating the beloved characters long history by featuring one story from each of those 80 years dating all the way back to Archie's first appearance in 1941. But while the volume offers fans and new readers alike a chance to get to know the character and new-to-them stories as well as revisit beloved favorites, 80 Years, 80 Stories also functions as something of a time capsule of not just Archie history, but of American history and culture itself. According to Archie Comics Senior Director of Editorial Jamie L. Rotante, while making 80 Years, 80 Stories such a volume wasn't necessarily a deliberate choice, Archie's place at the forefront of events has made those stories both a reflection of their time and timeless all at once.
"I can't even say that it's an incredibly active choice. It's just when you look at the stories every one tells that, every one you pick for each year," Rotante told ComicBook.com. "I try to be mindful of the time, but they were always such reflections of the time they came out that even without thinking about it, you get this time capsule and just sort of history of America and Americana because Archie has always been at the forefront of anything that's going on."
Part of being a time capsule of history and Americana comes from Archie's "everyman" nature. The character has long been a bit unique in the comic space in that he — and by extension his friends and neighbors — are just ordinary people living lives not unlike the lives their readers experience. This contrasts with superhero stories with their more exotic elements, and, for Rotante, that means that in Archie and in Riverdale more broadly, readers can not only see themselves, but can see the best of the world they live in.
"I think what's interesting is when Archie was first created, he was referred to as an everyman," she explained. "I think that's so important because obviously you have legacies of superhero characters, but they exist in sort of fantastical planes and they're often superhuman. They have this sort of way of dealing with things because they have power, they have strength, and they're above everyone else. Archie's different because he's a teenager who can be clumsy, who can be lovestruck. He's a little bit of everyone. So, to see a reflection of your own self going through things as they're happening, a little idealized at times, obviously… We always say Riverdale is a place for everyone. Riverdale represents the best of the world as much as we can. There's something about seeing characters that are just regular teenagers, kids, adults working through life that I think is what makes it so relatable to so many people."
That relatability extends to both readers from different eras seeing their own experiences reflected in stories, such as the 40s and the 50s, but also in allowing readers from other eras to have a glimpse into what life was like during those years. Additionally, Rotante explained that Archie stories continue to maintain that relatability by staying on trend and including elements of life today in the current adventures of the Riverdale gang.
"A teenager or a young person in the 50s can see Archie going to the sock hop, going to Pop's. In the 40s dealing with what it was like to be a teenager at home when there's a war going on. It was just that was the life if you're reading this, what's going on," Rotante said.
She added, "We've had stories recently where the characters are playing Pokémon Go and you always want to stay on top of the trends, but a kid picking this up and reading it can look at it and say, 'Hey, that's how I spend my day sometimes.' And there's just something so nice about seeing that reflection of yourself in every story."
The Best of Archie Comics: 80 Years, 80 Stories is available now.