Archie creator honored by NH community he called home

Union Leader Correspondent
August 10. 2018 9:04AM
A bronze statue of comic book character Archie Andrews is unveiled Thursday in Meredith by the children of the iconic character's creator, Bob Montana. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

Matt DiMasi of Shattered Comics in Concord, shows off Archie #1 and Pep Comics #36 printed in 1942 and 1943. The comic book aficionado attended Thursday's unveiling of a life-sized statute of Archie Andrews in Meredith, in tribute the character's creator Bob Montana who died in 1975 at age 54. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

MEREDITH — Archie comic creator Bob Montana was honored Thursday when a life-sized bronze statue of his clean-cut character with a toothy grin was unveiled in downtown Meredith.

Community Park on Main Street was packed to capacity for the big reveal nearly two years in the making.

Montana’s restored 1923 Ford Model 4D, a project undertaken by Meredith selectman and antique car buff Jonathan James served as a backdrop for the ceremonies.

The black Tin Lizzie often featured in Montana’s comic strip will be driven in Saturday’s parade in celebration of the community’s 250th birthday and will carry a tribe of Montana’s grandkids.

“What a fine gentleman he was and what many good things he did for the town of Meredith,” said Bob Lawton who donated $5,000 to the project.

Jim McFarlin, who chaired the subcommittee of the Greater Meredith Program that spearheaded the project, said the 285-pound statue crafted by sculptor Valery Mahuchy of Bethlehem was muscled into place by a five- man crew Wednesday night in persistent rain.

Local artist Steve Hayden who also volunteers with the GMP fabricated a custom park bench for the statue to sit on and the stainless-steel fastening system that affixes Archie to the bench and to a slab of granite donated by Swenson Granite Works. The Meredith Lions Club financed the bench as a legacy project, club member Marie Valliere told the crowd.

The statue was cast at Green Foundry in Elliot, Maine, and ferried back to Meredith under dark of night in a van loaned by Moulton’s Farm about a month ago. Archie and his bench remained under lock and key at Hermit Woods Winery owned by GMP president Bob Manley.

“I can’t express how proud I am to be here today,” Manley said, conceding there had been some trepidation that the GMP’s design committee could successfully pull off a project that required $60,000 in donations from the community.

Matt DiMasi of Shattered Comics in Concord, was among the attendees at the event and he brought along some unique memorabilia including Archie #1 printed in November 1942, the first comic book featuring Montana’s brainchild.

One of just 50 unrestored copies of the comic in the world, DiMasi recounted he spent half a century on the hunt for the book that is valued at more than $20,000. He also brought along Pep Comics #36, printed in 1943 the first cover featuring Archie along with super heroes Shield and The Hangman.

Montana drew the first comic book featuring Archie Andrews, while renting a cottage on Lake Waukewan in 1942. Four years later, he developed the Archie comic strip that would become a staple in newspapers nationwide.

In 1948, Montana, who could have lived anywhere in the world, decided his home port of call was the lakeside community of Meredith, and bought a 60-acre farm on Meredith Neck.

“He always said, ‘Why go on vacation? We already live in the middle of paradise,’” Lynn Montana recounted of her late father’s feelings about the community.

As the crowd counted down from three, Montana’s children Paige Kuether, Lynn, Don and Ray Montana, each pulled a corner of the black cloth covering the statue, revealing Archie as cameras clicked, and the audience applauded.

“He was humble and not driven to be in the spotlight. Archie was famous and that’s the way he liked it,” Lynn Montana said.

She praised the sculptor for bringing her father’s iconic character to life while infusing his own creative imprint.

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