By AJ Trager
LOS ANGELES – Famous freckle-face comic book icon, Archie Andrews, will see his final moments in this week’s issue. Readers will see the beloved and inspirational redhead die as he takes a bullet for the attempted assassination of his best friend, Kevin Keller, the series’ openly gay character.
Archie’s death was first announced in April and will conclude the series focused on grown-up renditions of Archie and his Riverdale friends. Archie dies as one would expect, heroically and selflessly, said Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO. The character will continue to live in other comic incarnations.
“We wanted to do something that was impactful that would really resonate with the world and bring home just how important Archie is to everyone,” Goldwater said. “That’s how we came up with the storyline of saving Kevin. He could have saved Betty. He could have saved Veronica. We get that, but metaphorically, by saving Kevin, a new Riverdale is born.”
Kevin first joined the storyline in an Archie Comics spin-off “Veronica” in 2010 and then appeared in his own solo title. In this comic world, Kevin is a newly elected senator and married military veteran who is pushing for more gun control in Riverdale after Kevin’s husband is involved in a shooting.
As of now, Goldwater and the Archie team haven’t spoiled who the killer will be, but fans are poised and ready for the event. The subsequent issue will jump a year ahead and focus on how the gang honors the legacy of their former friend.
Archie first premiered in a 1941 publication of Pep Comics, Issue #22. For years, the series has been known for the love affair between characters Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge. The characters were created by publisher and editor John Goldwater, written by Vic Bloom and drawn by Bob Montana and based in part on people Goldwater met in the Midwest during his U.S. travels. CEO Jon Goldwater is the son of Archie creator, John L. Goldwater.
It is said that 1930s heartthrob, Mickey Rooney, inspired Archie’s creation with his appearance in the Andy Hardy movie series. The series appeared on a radio show played on NBC called “The Adventures of Archie Andrews.”
Readers have seen Archie go through many changes over the years. In the “Silver Age of Comic Books,” the 1960s Archie was done in campy humor like the Batman TV show. In the 1970s, Archie launched a short-lived fantasy and horror imprint followed by a superhero imprint in the 1980s. The comic brand kept changing and, in 1991, DC Comics launched “Impact Comics” which highlighted Archie and friends.
Archie himself has had many faces over the years. In 1966, he became a superhero named Captain Pureheart, a Superman-like character with strength and the ability to fly using jet-boosters. Then in 1973 an artist named Al Hartley got permission to use Archie in a series that depicted Archie and friends undergoing evangelical hijinks. Archie had an animated TV show that ran in 1986. And in 1990, “To Riverdale And Back Again” aired on NBC where Archie, played by Christopher Rich, goes to his 15-year high school reunion, runs into trouble along with Betty and Veronica and is then forced to choose between the girls, a decision Archie has been trying to make since 1941.
Archie has covered a great deal of social territory at various stages. Along with superheroes and a look into evangelical Christianity, Archie has covered topics such as teen homosexuality, gay marriage, privilege, breast cancer, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Occupy Wall Street protests. Writers have folded these themes and more into the stories and will continue to do so in future issues.
“We’ve been building up to this moment since we launched ‘Life With Archie’ five years ago, and knew that any book that was telling the story of Archie’s life as an adult had to also show his final moment,” Goldwater said.
Other titles in publication of Archie include: Afterlife with Archie, Archie, Archie’s Funhouse Comics Digest, Archie Comics Digest, B & V Friends Comics Digest, Betty and Veronica Vol. 2, Betty and Veronica Comics Digest, Jughead and Archie Comics Digest, Kevin Keller, Life with Archie and World of Archie Comics Digest.
In 2010 Archie comics made history introducing its first gay character, Kevin Keller. It promptly sold out and the Archie Comics ordered its first reprint ever in the series’ 69 year history. In 2011, Archie Comics gave Kevin his own series, making him the first gay male with a solo series in mainstream comics.
Outrage circulated when the company announced that Kevin would marry his boyfriend, Clay. Goldwater, Archie Comics’ relatively new co-CEO, defended the integration of Kevin Keller, saying the character had a long future in the comic.
“As I’ve said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone. It’s an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday. Kevin Keller will forever be a part of Riverdale, and he will live a happy, long life free of prejudice, hate and narrow-minded people,” Goldwater said.
Archie’s passing isn’t just a publicity stunt but also a lesson on gun violence and a declaration for furthering diversity in the new age of Archie Comics. The issue will be written by Paul Kupperberg, with art by Pat and Tim Kennedy and Fernando Ruiz.
“Archie is not a superhero like all the rest of the comic book characters,” Goldwater said. “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.”
“Life with Archie” No. 36 will be on comic book shelves July 16.