Riverdale High's red-headed heart throb, Archie Andrews, died this week.
He took a bullet for his gay best friend, who was speaking out against gun violence. Betty and Veronica were there in the last frames of the comic book to cradle him in death.
No bobby socks and soda shops in this issue, that's for sure. The teens we all wanted to be before we were old enough to be teens are dealing with grown-up issues and the tragedy of death.
Ugh. It's enough to make you wish you were 10 again, reading a brand-new edition of your favorite comic book and sipping a Coke out of a bottle on a hot summer afternoon. Your only worry was whether Principal Weatherbee would catch Jughead and paddle him.
In this Archie series, Life with Archie, the Riverdale kids are all grown up.
In this week's issue, the good-natured bumbler who couldn't decide between heart-of-gold Betty and rich girl Veronica, steps in front a gun trained on his friend Kevin Keller, who grew up to serve as a gay man in the military and then get elected to the U.S. Senate.
When his husband is shot during a robbery, Kevin decides to speak up against gun violence and it is then that Archie makes his heroic final stand.
Next month, in the final edition of Life with Archie, we will see his friends trying to cope with his death and pay tribute to his sacrifice.
Sheesh. I remember when the greatest potential for violence in this comic book town was Moose's bad-tempered reaction to any guy paying too much attention to his girl, Midge.
I understand the need to stay current, but wasn't it enough that the creators re-imagined the gang in a Jersey Shore parody and a Twilight movie? Did we really have to sacrifice Archie at the altar of two of the most divisive issues in our country — same-sex marriage and gun rights? It was real enough when Miss Grundy died of renal failure and sex pot Cheryl Blossom got breast cancer.
Truth be told, the story of Archie did not begin in innocence either. Rivals Betty and Veronica were inspired by two young women headed for the novitiate who both fell for creator John L. Goldwater during a long passage by boat from San Francisco to New York just after the Depression.
Mr. Goldwater had worked his way across the country taking odd jobs. His favorite was as a newspaper reporter covering high school sports in a small town in Kansas. It was that town and those teens who became Archie and the gang, which first appeared in 1941.
It is ironic that our hero would go out in a blaze of hot-button issues because his creator had been a founding member of the Comics Magazine Association of America. Its Comics Code frowned on any violence or salacious topics.
At its peak, the Archie comic strip ran in 750 newspapers, and at its height the comic book sold millions of copies every month. It now sells about 5,000 a month, although the first issue of Life with Archie four years ago sold 60,000 copies. That's because it created a double story line — Archie married Betty in one and Veronica in the other. (The guy still couldn't make up his mind.) The marriages take place in parallel universes created by, of course, boy genius Dilton Doiley.
Over the years, Archie comics had a squeaky-clean silliness that required a healthy suspension of disbelief. Sort of "Happy Days" on paper. Barbie and Ken with dialogue bubbles. But for those of us who were dreaming of that first kiss beginning at about age 8, Riverdale was real.
The death of Archie is just too much for me. Why couldn't the biggest adult-world surprise facing the Riverdale High kids be the fact that Jughead ends up married to Midge?
Times were simpler when I was 8-years-old, I guess. Riverdale High was "Grease" before there was "Grease." I'd have liked it so much better if Archie and his pals had simply followed Danny and Sandy on that convertible into the clouds.
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