July 16 may still be a few weeks away but Archie Andrews, fallen hero of Riverdale, is already gone. His death, heroic but of causes yet unknown, will occur in Life With Archie issue #36. The funeral will be held during the next issue, the final Life With Archie issue #37.
First appearing in 1941 and undergoing a dizzying series of updates in the 21st century, Archie has been a staple of comic book stands since the end of World War II. Recent series Life with Archie, which follows Archie post-high school, saw him marry each of his high school sweethearts in separate but parallel realities that allowed the young star to explore his passion for both lovely women, both of whom survive him. Archie will not be retconned.
Throughout his long life, Archie remained truly young at heart. In fact, he remained young in everything – face, personality, romantic tastes, the works. Deep down, we always knew that Archie wasn’t immortal, but weren’t we just a little glad while he was still in high school, not learning the same lessons about women and the benefits of a healthy diet? Wasn’t it just a little comforting to know that, despite everything difficult and frightening happening in the rest of the world, Archie was safe from taxes and Social Security and lawsuits and sex scandals? For all the joy he gave us, Archie was, for over half a century, a boy trapped in our collective vicarious need for security. It wouldn’t do; it wasn’t right. Archie had to grow up. We had to let go of the boy to learn to love the man.
Like all lives, Archie’s could only end with Death. But what a good death! By nobly sacrificing himself, Archie cast his long life into perspective. The simple, reliable personal integrity he built over half a century, the same integrity that comforted his friends, would not allow him to die ignobly or in cowardice. Nor would that personal strength allow him to stand idly by when his loved ones were threatened by the world. He lived richly, he left well. No more complete man has walked the pages of history.
Riverdale will never be the same. No longer a frozen pastiche of small-town antics, nor a sleeper hit, nor even an ode to a quiet hero caught between a blonde and a brunette, Archie shows himself for a man who savored life in all of its banalities and surprises. (Who can forget his brief but remarkable team-up with the Punisher?) If only we could all make so much of our own daily Riverdales.
Archie is survived by several other versions of himself, including Zombie Archie in Afterlife With Archie. Watch your comic book store for Life With Archie #36 and #37 for the whole story!