LOS ANGELES – For the fans of Archie Andrews, his impending death marks a fitting end for the famous comic book do-gooder.
The 73-year-old red-headed character will die in Wednesday’s installment of “Life with Archie” when he intervenes in an assassination attempt on senator Kevin Keller, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character who is pushing for more gun control in Riverdale.
Archie’s death – but not the circumstances – was first announced in April and will mark the conclusion of the series that focuses on grown-up renditions of Archie and his pals.
“Not to be too grandiose, but this demise is a fitting and tonally perfect tribute to a character who has always put his friends first,” said Chris Cummins, who writes about comic culture for DenOfGeek.us.
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“This is a publicity stunt for sure, but one with heart that will have permanent ramifications.”
Archie’s final moments will be detailed in “Life with Archie” No. 36, while issue No. 37 will jump forward a year and focus on Riverdale honoring the legacy of their freckle-faced pal, who first appeared in comics in 1941 and went on to become a colorful icon of Americana and wholesomeness. Other incarnations of Archie will continue to live on in other Archie Comics series.
“We wanted to not only grab people’s attention but really show the heroic nature of the character,” said Archie Comics publishers and co-CEO Jon Goldwater. “He’s willing to literally die to save his friend, Kevin. Archie would have died to save any of his friends. I think Archie would’ve even died to save a stranger.”
In recent years, deaths of high-profile comic book characters like Peter “Spider-Man” Parker and Steve “Captain America” Rogers have made headlines and garnered intense reaction from fans. Goldwater notes Archie’s passing goes beyond that with a lesson about gun violence and a declaration of diversity in the new age of Archie Comics.
“Archie is not a superhero like all the rest of the comic book characters,” said Goldwater. “He’s human. He’s a person. When you wound him, he bleeds. He knows that. If anything, I think his death is more impactful because of that. We hope by showing how something so violent can happen to Archie, that we can – in some way – learn from him.”
Kevin first joined Veronica Lodge, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones and Reggie Mantle in Archie Comics in 2010. He later appeared in his own solo title. In “Life with Archie,” he’s a married military veteran and newly elected senator who’s pushing for the gun control after his husband was involved in a shooting.
While the original comic book series starring Archie began as an innocent look at a group of pals at Riverdale High School, Archie Comics has in recent years strived to appeal to modern sensibilities with “Life with Archie,” a more socially relevant spin-off aimed at longtime adult Archie fans. Over the past four years, “Life with Archie” plots have involved Kevin’s marriage, the death of longtime teacher Ms. Grundy and Archie’s love interest, Cheryl Blossom, tackling breast cancer and affordable health care.
Archie Comics similarly launched a horror spin-off series last year called “Afterlife with Archie” that envisions a zombie outbreak coming to Riverdale and recently enlisted “Girls” creator and star Lena Dunham to write a four-part Archie story set for release next year that chronicles the production of a reality TV show in Riverdale.
Andrew Wheeler, who writes about the comic book industry at ComicsAlliance.com, praised the way that Archie will be killed off. He wrote on Monday that “Archie’s sacrifice isn’t just a moment of heroism; it offers an unambiguous condemnation of America’s lax gun laws” and said that it’s “not surprising to see Archie Comics tackling such a serious issue” because the publisher “doesn’t shy away from risky ideas.”
Who shot Archie? Goldwater isn’t spoiling the killer, only teasing it’s a stalker who wanted to take Kevin down.