The Archie comics franchise had fallen by the wayside in recent years. The once popular stories about teen life in the fictional town of Riverdale had become tired -- a relic from another era that had failed to grow with the times.
But in 2010, Archie began its remarkable resurgence with the introduction of Kevin Keller, a new, openly gay character at Riverdale High. Jughead suddenly had competition as Archie's best friend.
Now, Archie takes on the biggest leap of all: he takes a bullet meant for Kevin -- and dies -- in "Life With Archie" #36, published today.
"Life With Archie," a recent addition to the Archie books, is a peek into the adult lives of characters who've remained teenagers since their 1941 inception; the "Life With Archie" stories have been surprisingly sophisticated and well received. The entire Archie franchise has in fact taken on a whole new relevancy since the introduction of Kevin, going so far as to launch a bonafide horror title: Afterlife With Archie. Its inspiration: AMC's The Walking Dead.
In "Life With Archie" #36, Kevin Keller is a US Senator taking on the gun lobby after his husband, a US military veteran, was involved in a shooting. Archie thwarts an attempt on Senator Keller's life, and dies in the process.
"We wanted to do something that was impactful, that would really resonate with the world just how important Archie is to everyone," said Archie Comics publisher John Goldwater, speaking to the AP. "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. Metaphorically, by saving Kevin, a new Riverdale is born."
It will be an emotional end for the beloved and iconic character, who's younger self will continue to appear in other Archie books.
"Archie is not a superhero like all the rest of the comic book characters," added Goldwater. "He's human. He's a person. When you wound him, he bleeds. He knows that. If anything, I think his death is more impactful because of that. We hope that by showing how something so violent can happen to Archie, that we can, in some way, learn from him."
"Life With Archie" #36 is out today. The series will conclude with "Life With Archie" #37, in which the Riverdale gang attends a memorial service for their beloved friend.