28 July 2014

R.I.P. Liberal Archie

Although the magazine hit the newsstands today, the news had leaked out several months ago-- ARCHIE ANDREWS IS DEAD.  In "Life with Archie" #36, Archibald Andrews was shot while diving in front of a bullet to save his "best friend" Keven Keller (sorry Jughead), an openly gay newly elected Senator who wanted to champion gun control.

Perhaps this writer is too far removed from pre-teen consumer spending patterns, but it seems inconceivable that there is much of a market for such Archie comics priced at $9.99 aside from an OCD Comic Book Guy. Paltry Archie Comics sales figures bear this bias out.  The regular Archie comic ranked #327th selling 4,063 copies.  The penultimate "Life with Archie" #35 sold 2,064 copies.

Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater claims that this dramatic demise of the beloved redhead from Riverdale High was difficult. But judging from the edgy additions to an evergreen strip of innocence, Archie's ending with a big bang was not shocking.

Goldwater has tried to make Riverdale more relevant by adding homosexual characters like Kevin Keller, Harper the "handicapable" character, interracial relationships (in which Archie fathers a child with Valerie of Josie and the Pussycats).  Goldwater also sought to capitalize on the zombie phenomenon with "Afterlife with Archie".   

Archie taking a bullet generated lots of publicity while burnishing Archie's brand with heroic virtues.  This dramatic denouement also conveniently closes a clumsy story-line.  Several years ago, Archie marries both Betty and Veronica (albeit in parallel universes).  After an issue of remembrance, readers can celebrate Archie's 75th anniversary. 

It's a pity that Goldwater could not honor its few remaining readers and let Archie Comics die with dignity in plots that continued to revolve around high school hijinx, malt shops and fickle flirtations.  Alas, rather than making Riverdale more relevant, the death of liberal Archie makes the funny papers more of a joke.

Pundits pontificated as to how other storied comics could politicize themselves.  Conservative critics satirized Archie's apotheosis by speculating how his friends would perish is a politically correct cacotopia.

Considering the paltry sales of Archie's comics, this PC stunt will not sustain increased sales.  However, culturally it seems to epitomize how mass media is jumping the shark ala "The Fonz" on Happy Days (1977).  


No comments: