Every good comic hero has to die sometime.
Superman did it back in the early 90s. Spider-Man just got back from dying (sort-of?). Now it’s Archie’s turn. And he’s going out in a blaze of liberal glory. The AP reports, “The 73-year-old red-headed character will die in Wednesday’s installment of ‘Life with Archie’ when he intervenes in an assassination attempt on senator Kevin Keller, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character who is pushing for more gun control in Riverdale.”
Yes, the character who always put his friends first is going to put his friends first and stop an openly gay activist from being assassinated. Even in 2014, that’s enough to get clicks from those that A: didn’t know Archie was even still a thing and B: were eager to make a “so THAT’s why he could never choose between Betty and Veronica joke” in the comment section.
If you’re an optimist, you ascribe to Chris Cummins of DenOfGeek’s belief that “this is a publicity stunt for sure, but one with heart that will have permanent ramifications,” but if you pay attention to any news topic these days, you know it’s going to be more in line with what publisher Jon Goldwater said in a statement:
“This story is going to inspire a wide range of reactions because we all feel so close to Archie.”
Only he’s wrong about the Archie part.
This is going to inspire a wide range of reactions because while we do all feel close to the idea of Archie (because let’s face it who really reads Archie these days?), people feel much closer to their comforting, assuaging belief systems that are either getting validated or assaulted with this comic. Goldwater may be right that fans will “laugh, cry, jump off the edge of their seats and hopefully understand why this comic will go down as one of the most important moments in Archie’s entire history,” but at this point doesn’t something like this just feel like another story that’s going to be used as a talking point without furthering any actual discussion? Is there some bigot in Mississippi devouring the “Life of Archie” spin-off series that’s going to see this and say, “Well if Archie likes the gays…”?
Sure, history is going to look kindly on this move, but in the end wouldn’t you have rather just had him chosen Betty or Veronica for realsies?