Archie Andrews' Death Saving A Gay Friend Is a Deliberate & Symbolic Choice
It's been pretty hard for Archie comics to stay relevant when they've been in print since the 1940s. Best known these days for being that bite size comic book sold by the bulk over at the cashier of most grocery stores, the characters of Archie are better known than the comics they came from. When they revealed that the Life with Archie series was going to conclude with Archie Andrews dying in an issue called "Death of Archie", fans came out of the woodwork to express their devastation. Life with Archie is an adult title following what Archie's life would be like had he finally made a decision and married Betty Cooper or Veronica Lodge (each future gets its own storyline, because the comics just can't let Archie make up his mind). Now, the details of Archie's death have been revealed and it turns out that his heroic sacrifice is incredibly timely in the modern world.
The creators of the series revealed before that Archie's death would occur in the course of saving someone's life, but they kept mum about exactly who that would be. As it turns out, Archie gets shot while taking a bullet meant for Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character to exist in the Archie comics universe. Keller debuted in 2010 and was popular enough with readers to receive his own solo spin-off title. By the time of Life with Archie, he's a married military veteran and senator.
"The way in which Archie dies is everything that you would expect of Archie," said Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO Jon Goldwater. "...He dies in the manner that epitomizes not only the best of Riverdale but the best of all of us. 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... 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."
The exact identity of the shooter is unknown, but at this point we can guess that it's a disgruntled nut who is displeased with Senator Keller's strong stance on gun control. Kevin is pushing for gun control in Riverdale after his husband was involved with a shooting and Goldwater describes the man who shot the bullet that would ultimately kill Archie as a "stalker". But what does the fact that Archie Andrews dies protecting his openly gay friend really bring to the Riverdale legacy?
Considering the different values of the decades in which Archie comics have been steadily published, it's no surprise that they've had issues with diversity. The first African-American character to set foot in Riverdale wasn't introduced until the 1970s and Chuck Clayton largely acted as a token character before being fleshed out with his own personality. Since then, other characters of color began to appear, like Chuck's African-American girlfriend Nancy Woods, Hispanic characters Ginger Lopez, Frankie Valdez, and Maria Rodriguez, Indian-American Raj Patel, and Japanese exchange student Tomoko Yoshida.
Killing Archie Andrews in the course of saving Kevin Keller's life sends a powerful message both about gun control and about the place of LGBT youth in modern society. Archie, who Goldwater holds up as a symbol of heroism and "the best in all of us", did not die for love and he did not die solely for friendship. He died for principles, for everything that Kevin is, that Kevin stands for, and that Kevin represents. If we have to see a beloved comic icon go, even if it's just in one title, then I'm glad it was for a cause that is so relevant to each and every single one of us.
Image: Archie Comics; Tumblr (1)