“I have the answer to your question,” Morgan told me the other day. It took me a moment to remember what question I had asked her, but glancing down at the 3 comic books she was returning, all Archie Double Digests, I remembered. I had asked her to tell me why she enjoyed the Archie comics so much.
It’s something I’ve been asking a lot of my students lately, as they come through the library. When I first started my graphic novel collection, almost 9 years ago, I made sure to include a handful of Archie Graphic Novels. But I noticed that mostly the Archie GNs sat. They didn’t circulate – to the point where I was considering weeding them from the collection. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Archies were the first, and let me be honest, the only comics I read as a child. My best friend’s dad would buy them and as soon as she was done reading them, she’d pass them on to me and our group of friends. I remember hunkering down in my desk during recess to read Archie or curling up in my bed at night. I loved to read anything, but Archie was a bit of a guilty pleasure. While no one outright said we couldn’t read them, it was definitely frowned upon. My mom definitely thought it was silly reading.
As an adult, I’d read about how Archie was still prevalent today, but I didn’t see it. Like I wrote earlier, the graphic novels just collected dust in my library. I wondered if it was because I was in a very urban school and the cast of characters weren’t diverse enough. (I hadn’t read Archie in a long time. They’ve added a ton of diversity since my early days of reading the comics.) Maybe it just didn’t speak to them, I thought. After all, many of my tweens and teens live in pretty rough neighborhoods. Maybe the suburban setting in the Archie comics was just too foreign to them. Maybe, maybe, I just thought.
Until I started adding the comics to my magazine circulation. It was thanks to the box of review material I got from the folks at Archie Comics. I went through many of them and even reviewed a couple, but mostly I left it out for the kids to read. And suddenly, I noticed a change. Kids wanted to read Archie comics.
Sophia told me her mom had a suitcase full of Archie comics and whenever she was bored at home she’d go read through them.
Then Danielle started to borrow them, because Sophia told them how great they were.
My ELL (English Language Learners) are in every chance they get trading one Archie comic in for the next.
And finally there’s Morgan. Originally, she’d told me she was reading them because they were “nice.” That’s when I sent her home with “homework.” I’d ask her to think about why she was enjoying the comics so much and last week she came back with the answer.
So the days of the Archie GNs collecting dust is in the past. See, having the comics around made my students notice the trades on the shelf. They still love the manga and the super hero comics, but most recently, my students have made some room for Archie in their lives.
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About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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