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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Death With Archie?

Today's edition of the Whatever Wednesday blog really needs no introduction.  I don't even need to choose a Clue card.  I already know that I'm going to be talking about some recent news that I had heard regarding one of my all-time favourite comic book series.

News that I initially misinterpreted as that of a complete and total cancellation.

Okay, so picture this.  The date was yesterday - April 8, 2014.  The time was just after three o'clock in the afternoon.  I had had a full day filled with a safety meeting, 474 price changes, and setting up displays for The Hobbit, some Justin Bieber concert DVD, and that movie in which Julia Roberts beats up Meryl Streep.  So, when I left work to go home, I was already feeling tired and not really processing information properly.

So imagine my surprise when a family member informs me that Archie Andrews is going to be killed in his own comic book and that no more comic books would be printed.  At least, that's how it was told to me.

My heart immediately skipped a beat.  How could this be?  I had been a loyal fan of Archie comics since 1987 when I received my very first Archie comic as an early birthday present.  That's twenty-seven years ago, my friends.  I already explained that part of the reason why I fell in love with the series was because it was the one place in which I felt as though I could visit and automatically fit in.  I had a really difficult time fitting in with people my own age - and for that matter, I STILL have problems fitting in with people my own age, and I suppose that Archie kind of made me feel as though anybody could have friends, and that there was a way for anybody to be a part of a community.

Well, that is unless you were there to knock down the Chocklit Shop, or bulldoze Riverdale High, or kidnapped Betty and Veronica.  Then, you'd be run right out of town.

Over the years, I've managed to amass a huge collection (well over four thousand comics), and I have firmly stated that it is the one thing from my childhood that I refuse to let go of.  And, before any of you point fingers at me, let me remind you that every single person has one thing from their childhoods that they won't let go of either be it a seashell collection, a Barbie doll collection, or a room filled with Star Trek memorabilia.  Archie comics just happens to be mine.  Believe me, there could be worse things I could be addicted to like chainsaws.

So, needless to say, when I heard word that Archie was being killed off, I was thinking - were all those years of collecting a waste?  What would I collect now?

As it turned out, the link to the story was posted on my own personal Facebook account, so I clicked on it, half nervous that maybe Archie comics had hit financial troubles and that the books would stop being made for good, and half hopeful in thinking that the article was posted on April 1st and that it was just some April Fools Day joke.

Well, it ended up being not as bad as I thought it would be, but still fairly shocking.

It turns out that Archie Comics Publications is NOT bankrupt, and is not going out of business just yet.  The Digest series of books will still continue, as will the "Archie", "Betty & Veronica", "Kevin Keller", and "Afterlife With Archie" comic series.

However, they still plan on killing Archie Andrews off - his expected date of death being listed as July 16, 2014 - the same day that the thirty-sixth issue of the "Life With Archie" magazine is set to hit comic shelves.  It will end up being the penultimate issue of the series before the thirty-seventh and final issue will be released, tying up all the loose ends.

So, just to clarify, it will only be the "Life With Archie" magazine title that will be ending - along with Archie Andrews' life.  The rest of the titles will continue.

But how can this be so?  How can a comic book serial continue without the main character?  In the comic book's near 73-year-old history, this is by far one of the most shocking and finite stories to ever be crafted for the series.  And, you'd think that with no Archie, there would be no more Archie comics.

But alas...there is a twist.  You see, the other Archie titles (including "The Walking Dead" like "Afterlife With Archie" series) have Archie as a forever teenager, never looking a day over seventeen and a half.

But "Life With Archie" on the other hand, features two different realities in which Archie is much older.  In one story, Archie is married to Veronica Lodge.  In the other story, Archie is married to Betty Cooper.  And over the course of the past thirty-four issues (Issue #35 is set to go on sale within the next few weeks), we have seen what has happened to Archie as he struggles to maintain a marriage, a career, and the political happenings in Riverdale as a thirtysomething character (actually, I'm not sure how old Archie is supposed to be in the "Life With Archie" title, but I just am guessing that he's at least in his early thirties - a.k.a. the age that I am at now).

The idea for the "Life With Archie" reboot (the original Life With Archie ran for thirty-three years between 1958 and 1991) came about shortly after the very successful "Archie Marries..." storyline, which spanned six issues between Archie #600 and Archie #605.  In the first three issues (600-602), Archie marries Veronica, while in the last three (603-605), Archie marries Betty.  Then again, Archie #631-634 showed him marrying Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats.  I'm half expecting Archie #671-674 to feature Archie marrying Sabrina, or Archie #697-700 featuring him marrying Cheryl Blossom.

Man-whore, thy name is Archie Andrews.

Anyway, the Life With Archie series has featured a lot of storylines that have been progressive, yet have also been slightly controversial (why, I'm not sure).  The title has featured Mr. Lodge temporarily transforming into the ultimate antagonist in the first few issues of the series, killed off Miss Grundy in issue #6, burned down Riverdale High in issue #12, and featured openly gay character Kevin Keller marrying his husband Clay in episode #16.

As of right now, Archie's two different lives with two different girls has taken him on some rather interesting journeys.  With his life with Veronica, he is staunchly defending her after she is wrongly accused of committing a finance related crime, and he is also getting involved in the investigation purposes trying to prove her innocence.  And, in the Betty scenario, Archie is feeling left out when Betty's job seems to take over everything, leaving her with no time to spend with him.  It's prompted Archie to almost embark on an affair.

(This ain't your momma's Archie comic.)

And recurring themes in both sections of the "Life With Archie" magazine, the stories have some common threads.  You have a character running for state office (Kevin for Senator...and believe it or not, Moose for Mayor!)

You also have a story arc that features gun violence, as Kevin's husband ends up getting shot.  As well, Jughead has also had to deal with some unsavoury characters hanging around his little sister, and having to fight to keep the Chocklit Shop alive (Jughead took over his favourite soda shop after Pop Tate retired).

So, given that the press release for the death of Archie states that Archie dies a hero, giving up his life to save someone else...there's lots of ways that Archie could be killed off.

He could discover a way to clear Veronica's name and dies getting the message out.  He could get caught up in the gun violence and become the next victim.  He could take a knife to the chest trying to save Jughead from being stabbed by the goons hanging around Jellybean.  He could end up getting run over with Betty's car after she catches him in the act of an affair.

No, wait.  Scratch that last one.  Archie wouldn't die a heroic death that way.

The truth is that until issue #36 comes out on July 16, we just don't know how it will all end.  And even though the classic tales of comedy will remain in the publications' nine other titles, somehow it's going to be kind of weird reading a story in which Archie has a funny thing happen to him, knowing that he'll be dead in a few years time.

Of course, who really knows what will happen?  Who knows, it could be one of those instances in which it could be like the television show "Dallas" in which a few years from now Betty or Veronica wake up after a dream and see a very much alive Archie in the shower.  After all, the entire "Life With Archie" series were two different alternate realities in one book.  It very well could still have that "Twin Peaks"-y twist at the end where Archie isn't really dead after all.  Regardless, it will be interesting to see how this progresses.

Though, for Archie to die after 73 years...I would hope that his death scene is incredibly spectacular.  After all, in the original Life With Archie series, he survived fires, floods, kidnappings, robberies, getting nearly eaten alive by animals, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, shipwrecks, viruses, and alien invasions.  It would be a slap in the face if Archie survived all that only to have final act be to crack his head on the pavement while slipping on a banana peel!

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