Archie's noble end a testament to iconic comic book series

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Archie Andrews set to die

I don't remember why I was first drawn to Archie Comics, but I went through a phase in middle school where they were all I wanted to read.

Much to the chagrin of my mom, who had been enjoying our simultaneous reading of the "Anne of Green Gables" books, I picked up a copy of Archie one day at Walgreens and was hooked.

All of my allowance went to Archies. Before bed, I read Archies. On road trips, I read Archies. On planes, I read Archies.

Wait, I remember thinking, the guy with freckles is the love interest? (I had freckles.) The dark-haired girl is the coveted beauty? At my school, blondes ruled. (I wasn't a blonde.) Betty, the working-class girl, is BFFs with Veronica, the wealthy girl? Rich kids moved in their own circles at my school.

For a northwest suburban girl in the mid-'80s, this was some subversive stuff.

So I was drawn immediately to today's news, as reported by the Associated Press, that Archie Andrews will be shot and killed on Wednesday saving his gay friend Kevin from an assassination attempt.

I stopped reading Archie comic books around 1987, so I've missed a few decades of developments. Scrolling through the Archie website, it looks as though our freckle-faced protagonist has stayed subversive. He even married both Betty and Veronica.

In 2010, Archie made his first openly gay friend — Kevin Keller, a military veteran and senator, who first joined the gang in a Veronica spinoff. According to Rolling Stone magazine, Kevin went on to anchor his own title, which earned the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book in 2013. He married his partner, Clay, in 2012, who was later shot while attempting to stop a robbery, prompting Kevin to use his office to push for stricter gun control laws.

Wednesday it all draws to a climactic close, when Archie takes a bullet for Kevin and ends the "Life With Archie" series.

"The way in which Archie dies is everything that you would expect of Archie," Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO, told the AP. "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."

What an optimistic statement.

"He could have saved Betty," Goldwater continued. "He could have saved Veronica. We get that, but metaphorically, by saving Kevin, a new Riverdale is born."

The creators are staying mum about further details. (They declined to comment when I called, saying they're not scheduling interviews until Wednesday's issue is released.)

But they've already said plenty — that a story first told in 1939 can meander and adapt and evolve as its audience evolves.

That art is powerful.

And best of all, that they, the creators, see enough heroism and selflessness in us to reflect that goodness and light in their legendary character.

hstevens@tribune.com

Twitter @heidistevens13

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