by Katie Rogers)
Archie Andrews, the clumsy lothario whose freckled face is among the most recognizable in American comics, will meet his end in a bloody incident this July.
Not much is known about how or why, though the creative minds behind Archie Comics have apparently chosen a "heroic" way for one of their most popular characters to die. The death will be written into issue #36 of the five-year-old series called Life With Archie.
"This story is going to inspire a wide range of reactions, because we all feel so close to Archie," said Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO Jon Goldwater in a statement on Tuesday. "It’s the biggest story we’ve ever done, and we’re supremely proud of it.”
But that doesn't mean Archie is gone for good: Life With Archie is just one of 16 publications that have detailed Archie and his fictional town of Riverdale since the comic was created in 1941. For fans who follow separate series, life at Riverdale high will continue as usual: Lena Dunham will create her own mini storyline next year. Even the series Life With Archie will continue – issue #37, set one year after Archie's death, will explore how Riverdale copes. Issues #36 and #37 will offer commemorative covers from high-profile comic book artists.
Since Archie was created by artists Vic Bloom and Bob Montana 73 years ago, the comic has seen live-action television specials and a cartoon show, and has found a new audience in the glitter of Bollywood. A bumbling jock, Archie was most famous among readers for vacillating between two Riverdale ladies: blonde good-girl Betty (based on Montana's girlfriend), and Veronica, a bad girl with blue-black hair. Millions of readers followed along as it took Archie nearly 70 years to finally choose his true love – we won't spoil it for you, but the answer's here.
Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, said that this is the company's take on the kill-the-lead cliché increasingly popular in superhero genres, but stops short of calling the death a gimmick. Instead, Archie is becoming increasingly known for edgier, more diverse storylines, such as creating Riverdale's first openly gay character in 2013. In other words, Archie's death is just another way to take the comic in a new direction.
"Archie is getting very smart and sophisticated about hacking the cultural conversations within comics and fandom," Salkowitz said. "It’s a high-risk strategy for them to try to extend their brand in new directions. So far, it looks like it’s paying off creatively and commercially."