Archie Andrews and the Riverdale gang celebrate their 80th anniversary this year and to mark the momentous milestone, Archie Comics released The Best of Archie Comics: 80 Years, 80 Stories. The more than 700-page volume commemorates the long history of the beloved characters with a somewhat unique twist: the book features one story from each year of Archie's 80-year history going all the way back to the first appearance of Archie Andrews back in 1941. It's a fascinating way for new fans to get to know the character as well as for longtime fans to revisit favorite stories as well as experience those they've perhaps never read before. For Archie Comics Senior Director of Editorial (and an Archie Comics writer herself) Jamie L. Rotante, putting together this milestone volume was a labor of love.
"I keep saying this book is such a labor of love," Rotante told ComicBook.com. "There was a lot of work that went into it. Obviously, we put a lot of work into all of our products, but this is one that is just really special. We had a similar book five years ago for the 75th anniversary because at Archie we believe in celebrating every milestone, as you should. We did a book called 75 Years, 75 Stories and now 80 years is the milestone we're celebrating five years later so we did the same format, but what we wanted to be really cautious of and aware of is we don't want people to think, 'Oh, I read 75 Years, 75 Stories so now this is just five years worth of new stories on top of those.' These are completely different stories from the last collection. So, if you're a collector, you will want both because you're going to get a different experience with each one."
Rotante explained how she was careful to cross-reference the stories between the two volumes - the one area of overlap being Archie's first appearance. But the volume also does something interesting in how it approaches those stories. Rather than starting at the beginning and working forward, the book starts chronologically backward with a story from today and works backward to 1941. Rotante explained that was an idea that allows readers to see the evolution of the character in a new light.
"The idea of going backward chronologically came from that, too. Archie President Mike Pellerito came up with that idea because we've said, you know, we've celebrated the history of Archie so many times and we always start from the beginning," Rotante said. "Until now, all of our 'Best Ofs' are collected that way, we always do that. What can we do just to make it a little bit fun, make it a little bit different? And there's something really cool about journeying from the present to the past, and seeing the evolution in that way, that it just kind of made it a lot of fun to tackle from that approach."
Rotante also explained that while they did try not to retread things they'd included in previous collections, some previously-shared stories did make the new volume just because they were so interesting or momentous and were worth sharing again.
"A big part of it is not wanting to retread to a lot of the places we've been before because some of our more like, wild and outrageous stories we included in our 'Best Of' series so, some of those if we repurpose them here for new audiences, that will be their first time seeing them," she said. "But we wanted to make sure those were very momentous stories people remember, there's more too, those weren't just like, crazy ones from the past. There were a few that we knew had done in previous collections that we had to include here just because of that exact reason because it is such an interesting story."
"The first one that comes to mind is 'A Visit to a Small Panic'. It's the Archies actually visiting Filmation Studios around the time that the cartoon was happening. And I just think that's such an interesting moment in time," she continued. "It ties into the history of the company, the history of the character, and it, you know, it was breaking the fourth wall in such an interesting way. That's one you have to include because that's just so interesting because you're reading it and you know nothing about it, you look into it and you realize 'Oh, this was the company that they were working with for the cartoon!' That's a really interesting approach to take, especially at that time, very meta. We were always a little bit ahead of the curve in that way."
The Best Of Archie Comics: 80 Years, 80 Stories is available now.