Twelve-cent Archie is the first volume of Rutgers University Press’ “Comics Culture” series, edited by Corey Creekmur, which in its first 5 volumes has already, unsurprisingly, carved an important niche within English-language comics scholarship. Bart Beaty’s volume, however, is a very peculiar case, not only for the continuous brilliance of Beaty’s individual contributions but the frisky freshness of the style in this book.
To a certain extent, one may read this volume not only as a project on Archie comics, specifically the ones around the gang of the red-haired all-American character – the publisher and its editorial practices and policies, the artfulness (or lack thereof) of the involved artists, the paradoxical simple-complex diegesis of its characters, and the way it bungled through the social themes of its time – but also as a comment on the state of comics scholarship itself. As the author writes right off the bat, “auteurism has been the key to the cultural legitimacy of comic books, and it is no surprise that scholars trained in a literary tradition that is so strongly structured around an auteurist canon would transpose that tradition onto comics,” an attitude that leads to a particular “cultural cherry-picking” among an incredibly varied and immense field that “has left enormous gaps in both the history and cultural analysis of comics” (pg. 5). Archie comics, then, with their “low cultural cachet,” may provide a different take on its social portrait.
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