Comic goes tragic: What jughead decided to make Archie a political tool?

So, Death with Archie? Life Without Archie?

You’ve heard about this, right? In the latest edition of the comic book Life with Archie, an adult Archie Andrews is gunned down by an unknown assassin. Archie takes the fatal bullet intended for one of his friends, a gay senator working to strengthen gun-control laws in the fictional town of Riverdale.

I’m surprised the writers didn’t work in immigration or a spotted owl in there somewhere.

 

“I THINK RIVERDALE is a place where everyone should feel welcome and safe,” explained Archie Comics Publisher Jon Goldwater. “From my point of view, I’m proud of the stance we’ve taken here, and I don’t think it’s overtly political on any level.”

Not overtly political? Are we talking about the same comic?

It’s not even the liberal tone of the story that bugs me. It’s hijacking an innocuous American icon to shill a political viewpoint.

It’s been a long time since I’ve last read a comic book. But I still remember why I used to read comic books – escapism. If I want to explore other people’s political opinions, believe me, I know where to find them. But as someone who’s read an Archie comic or two over the years, I never found myself wondering what Jughead thought about climate change or a flat tax.

I’m not really against edgy or controversial cartoon content, either. Sometimes a shake-up can be interesting, like what Marvel Comics announced this past week. The Norse god Thor has been on Marvel pages since 1962. Now the company has announced that, from here on out, Thor would be a woman. My 10-year-old daughter saw early renderings of the new Thor and promptly proclaimed, “That is very cool!”

A day later Marvel disclosed that the next Captain America would be black. Could a transgender Incredible Hulk be too far behind?

 

DARK CARTOON CONTENT already has been around for decades. Did you know that Mickey Mouse’s newspaper comic strip in the 1930s included a story in which Mickey and his pals battled opium smugglers? And a 1930 storyline focused on Mickey’s many attempts to (gulp) commit suicide.

Archie has been around since 1941. I understand that longtime entertainment franchises periodically have to breathe new life into aging characters. Archie sharing a chocolate malt with Betty and Veronica can move a narrative only so far. It’s a fair move to thrust Archie into the 21st century. There’s even a zombie-themed imprint called Afterlife with Archie.

But this? Must we drag politics into everything? With the unlimited directions Archie’s story can go, does he really need a political agenda? And were Archie readers even crying out to give him one? If you want guidance on political thought, you should neither want nor need to crack open an Archie comic.

It’s been said that all art is political. Sure, if you’re determined to view it that way. One person might simply see a still-life painting of a bowl of fruit. Another person looking at the same painting might fume over capitalist oppression against migrant fruit-pickers.

 

I CAN IMAGINE what might come next. Can we expect a Richie Rich comic book featuring grubby protesters railing against wealth inequality while camped outside Richie’s mansion? Will Scrooge McDuck team up with the Koch brothers? Will we be treated to the Scooby-Doo gang’s viewpoint on Obamacare?

I’m not asking that Archie become forever dull. But he doesn’t deserve to be molded into some partisan political cartoon.

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