Tuesday morning all around the United States people woke up to the unexpected news that America’s oldest living teenager and comic book icon Archie Andrews will tragically die in July.
Of course, it won’t actually be the teenage Archie, star of thousands of all-ages humor stories, that will die. It’ll be his adult counterpart from the publisher’s future-forward, more mature-oriented series Life with Archie, which depicts Riverdale High’s most famous alumnus later in his life, in two parallel storylines – one in which he married Betty, and one in which he married Veronica.
He’ll give his life “heroically while saving the life of a friend” in both storylines in what Archie calls “the biggest story we’ve ever done,” setting up a scenario in which the fun-loving, girl-chasing high schooler is fated to die young.
Newsarama had an opportunity to pose a few question to Archie Comics Publisher/Co-CEO Jon Goldwater Tuesday about the attention-grabbing storyline and why Life With Archie is ending in death.
Newsarama: Jon, first of all, a little accounting.
Your press release first calls Life with Archie #36 the final issue in the flash-forward series, then later refers to the events of issue #37.
Can you clarify the status of the series moving forward?
Jon Goldwater: Life With Archie #36 is the final issue in magazine size. We’re also releasing two comic trim issues that split the story in two, with Archie’s death in #36 and the aftermath flash forward issue in #37, which will be the final issue in comic book form.
Nrama: Okay, to the story then, can you give readers some insight into the creative decision to publish a story featuring Archie's death?
Goldwater: It came out organically, as we were trying to figure out how to close out the Life With Archie series, which has, in many ways, been our flagship title. It seemed fitting to end a series titled “Life with Archie” with the main characters death – and he dies as he lived, helping his friends and honorably. It’s really a fitting end to a great series and a potential ending to one of the most iconic characters in comics.
Nrama: Are you prepared for any negative backlash this decision may attract?
Goldwater: We’re ready for the entire range of emotion on this one – surprise, the “cool” factor, some anger – we want people to be on the edge of their seats and surprised at what this company does. We don’t want people to get complacent, ever.
Nrama: Obviously, given in the “main” Archie titles, Archie will remain a living teenager forever, never actually aging out to his fate, so effectively this only affects Life with Archie. But are there any concerns, at least initially, of this decision casting a tragic pall over the main humor/more youthful-oriented family titles.
Goldwater: I would disagree that this only affects Life With Archie, but that’s not for me to determine. We don’t plan on revisiting this story – or potential death stories – regularly or again any time soon, so this can be seen – and was treated – as Archie’s death..
Archie lives on and is an immortal part of the fabric of Americana. I don’t see this casting a tragic pall over anything. Once people read the issue – which is as much about celebrating the character as showing a death, they’ll come to understand why we went in this direction. It’s about reminding people that this character is vibrant, important and a key part of their lives.
Nrama: But on that note, we can't help but think of biopics/movies about young artists or athletes who died early untimely deaths. You know their fate and even the triumphs, victories and positive milestones these films depicts are just ironic foreshadowing to tragedy.
Do you think readers will be able to separate what's supposed to be the breezy, weightless fun of the main titles with this development?
Goldwater: I would hope so. One of the things I tried to inject into this company when I started five years ago was the idea of potential and variety. Archie is for everyone. If you only want to read his high school adventures, those exist. If you want something grittier, there’s Afterlife With Archie. If you want super heroics, we have Red Circle. If you enjoy some soap opera with your comics, we have Life With Archie. It’s not about endings or tragedy, it’s about variety and entertainment.
Nrama: Jon, critics/cynics could say given Archie will never age in the main titles, this could be perceived as a sales/marketing stunt. Would you argue its more than that, and why?
Goldwater: I could see why some people would say that, but I’d also say that this story came about organically from months and months of planning – it wasn’t a knee-jerk situation. We wanted to provide the fans of Life With Archie with a fitting end that brought closure to 36 excellent issues. It came from a storytelling place, not sales or marketing. If that’s the benefit, then great. But it wasn’t what inspired the decision.