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Archie, of comic book fame, will die this week

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First the bad news: Archie Andrews, much beloved of (some) comic book readers over the past seven and a half decades, is a doomed man (teen?). He will die later this week, but — and here is the "good" news — the manner in which he meets his end will surprise few who have been following the evolution of comic books in recent years. To wit, Archie will die taking a bullet for his best friend, who is gay.

From Talking Points Memo:

The famous freckle-faced comic book icon is meeting his demise in Wednesday's installment of "Life with Archie" when he intervenes in an assassination attempt on Kevin Keller, Archie Comics' first openly gay character. Andrews' death, which was first announced in April, will mark the conclusion of the series that focuses on grown-up renditions of Andrews and his Riverdale pals.

"The way in which Archie dies is everything that you would expect of Archie," said Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO. "He dies heroically. He dies selflessly. He dies in the manner that epitomizes not only the best of Riverdale but the best of all of us. It's what Archie has come to represent over the past almost 75 years."

[...]

"We wanted to do something that was impactful that would really resonate with the world and bring home just how important Archie is to everyone," said Goldwater. "That's how we came up with the storyline of saving Kevin. He could have saved Betty. He could have saved Veronica. We get that, but metaphorically, by saving Kevin, a new Riverdale is born."

So who is Kevin Keller? He is a military veteran and a married man (to another man). His "husband" was involved in a shooting, and as a newly elected senator, he is pushing for more gun control in Riverdale.

The TPM piece notes:

In recent years, deaths of high-profile comic book characters like Peter "Spider-Man" Parker and Steve "Captain America" Rogers have made headlines and garnered intense reaction from fans.

Archie will be following int he footsteps of these other characters not only by dint of his buying the farm but via the social commentary implicit in his death:

Goldwater notes that Andrews' passing isn't just a publicity stunt but also a lesson about gun violence and a declaration of diversity in the new age of Archie Comics. [Emphasis added]

The trend toward topical material has manifest itself in the recasting by major comic book conglomerates of superheros as gay, transgender, and/or Muslim. DC Comics even came out with a superhero whose sensibilities were in line with the Occupy movement.

I have no personal beef with these companies, partly because I haven't been of comic book-reading age for some time now. But if their end game is the death of leading characters and the themes are going to so serious, maybe they should rethink calling their products comics.

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