A couple of months ago my daughter – out of the blue – got super
into Archie. Yes, that Archie, the freckle-faced
red-headed teen who has been entertaining kids since 1941. My very modern child
totally went all old-school. In a recent issue of "Archie's Double Digest" that my daughter begged for me to buy her at our
local Safeway, there was a story titled, “Fit to be Tidy,” about Archie’s dad
struggling to get his son to clean his room, and “Hiccup Hang Up,” about
Veronica dealing with a bad case of, yes, hiccups. It’s all good old-fashioned comic
book escapism; but this is not the case in "Life
of Archie," the more adult-centric off-shoot of the brand that is about to
release their final issue.
You know what the "Life
of Archie" crew went and did in the final chapter of the series? They killed
off Archie! Yes, the beloved teen that has been a staple (albeit a less popular
one lately) for generations died — and in a totally dramatic and an over-the-top
In the final installment of the comic book, Archie is killed
after he intervenes in an assassination attempt on the openly gay senator Kevin
Keller. This isn’t the first time the comic book has addressed serious issues. They’ve
tackled marriage equality and gun control, which are a far cry from Veronica’s issues
with hiccups. But this is what I don’t understand: Why Archie?
Shouldn’t some characters just live in a world where everything is “peachy-keen”? Do we really need to make everything “real"?
Yeah, I get that they want to get all heavy and relevant, but to kill off the main character, a character that is such a popular culture
icon, in an assassination attempt seems to be totally overkill. The publishers apparently
wanted to make a statement, and make news, and they succeeded on both counts. They
also wanted a heroic end to Archie’s story arch, and having him save his gay
best friend and to die in the process was the road they opted to travel.
"He dies selflessly," said Jon Goldwater, Archie
Comics publisher and co-CEO, speaking to the Associated Press. "He
dies in the manner that epitomizes not only the best of Riverdale but the best
of all of us."
To me, Archie’s world is a safe one, a one where the main
issues are what to order at the soda shop, whether to take Betty or Veronica to
the sock hop or, yes, the not-so-heavy topic of hiccups.
"Archie is not a superhero like all the rest of the
comic book characters," Goldwater stated. "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."
But shouldn’t some characters just live in a world where everything is “peachy-keen”? Do we really need to make everything “real”? As
Goldwater said, Archie is not a superhero, and he isn’t like the rest of the
comic book characters out there. And you know what, that is what I like about
him and probably what the readers of the last 73 years have liked too. Can’t we
just leave him and his Riverdale pals alone?
So while my daughter is curled up reading Archie’s
adventure in “Retail Whirl” I have to hold back on the urge to declare, “You
know he dies in the end!” That would be an epic spoiler. Part of the charm of
these characters — from Archie to Mickey Mouse to Spiderman — is that they
NEVER die. They are immortal in our fantasy worlds to live on to entertain the
next generation. It’s an innocent place that is safe from the world’s trials
and tribulations, and that is where I’d like to see my daughter play in while
she can before she has to deal with the harsher realities that plague our real
world ... and even Archie’s fictional one.