Archie Comics preparing for 'Life Without Archie'
(CBR) Archie Comics had developed a reputation for attention-getting moves. Up next? The death of Archie.
You read that correctly -- and it's not in the casualty-heavy, zombified "Afterlife With Archie," either. The acclaimed magazine-format "Life With Archie" series -- which has presented two alternate future versions of the Riverdale gang as adults, one where Archie married Betty and one where he married Veronica -- will reach its climax with July's issue #36, where the publisher's titular character will sacrifice his life to save a friend.
The company is keeping the exact circumstances under wraps, but not the outcome: Archie Andrews will die, in both of the book's timelines, which merge in "Life With Archie" #36, the series' penultimate issue. The character will live on in the publisher's other titles -- the development only affects the "Life With Archie" continuities -- but Archie Comics Publisher and Co-CEO Jon Goldwater said the story aims to "really do justice" to what the beloved, indecisive redhead has meant to readers and pop culture for the past 75 years.
"Life With Archie" #36 is by regular series writer Paul Kupperberg, along with artists Pat and Tim Kennedy, Fernando Ruiz, Jim Amash, Jack Morelli and Glenn Whitmore, plus covers from Adam Hughes, Fiona Staples, Mike Allred, Ramón Pérez and "Afterlife With Archie" artist Francesco Francavila. Later that month, the series wraps with "Life With Archie" #37, which takes place one year after Archie's death, and checks in on how his demise has affected the citizens of Riverdale. That issue -- also by Kupperberg, Ruiz, Smith, Morelli and Whitmore -- features covers from Alex Ross, Walt Simonson, Cliff Chiang, Jill Thompson and Tommy Lee Edwards.
CBR News spoke with Goldwater about preparing for "Life Without Archie," the legacy of the "Life With Archie" series and filling the void the book will leave in the company's publishing line.
CBR News: Jon, this week brings another big piece of news from Archie -- you just can't sit still, can you?
Jon Goldwater: It's like what Woody Allen says in "Annie Hall" -- you gotta keep that shark moving forward.
Before we get into the big story, let's talk a bit in general about the "Life With Archie" series, and what it's meant to the company over the past few years -- if you trace it back to the "Archie Marries Betty" and "Archie Marries Veronica" stories written by Michael Uslan, it's really the start of this bold current era for the company. What has this book meant to you?
"Life With Archie" has really been the flagship of the new era here at Archie Comics. "The Married Life" storyline just opened up a whole new world to us, and the "Life With Archie" series has been so fulfilling and so inspiring -- and allowed us, really, to go into areas that I had never thought Archie would go into when I first came into the company. My thoughts always were we could expand what we're doing -- we certainly wanted to change Riverdale. But to actually put Archie himself in a different setting, and see how this has worked, and see how people have reacted to him married to Betty, and married to Veronica, and the issues we have tackled -- from the Kevin Keller marriage, to Cheryl Blossom's cancer, to the death of Miss Grundy. And we've also tried, of course, to do it with a little bit of a light touch, and try to keep it as much in the Archie world as possible. But of course there are times when we've said, "You know what? We're going to take this thing into a place where Archie has never been before."
And truly, the "Life With Archie" series is like a precursor to "Afterlife [with Archie]." It really showed us here that there is a tremendous amount of interest in different settings and different places that people will want to read about Archie.
Given hos much the series has meant to Archie Comics, why is now the right time to end it? Was it always planned to have a finite run?
Yes. We needed to figure out a way to conclude this arc, and it's been an extraordinarily long arc. When you go through to 36 issues -- and then ultimately we're going to have issue #37 as well, which is sort of the cherry on top of the icing -- there came a point where we needed to have some sort of conclusion to this whole parallel storyline. Where's it going to go, and how are we going to wrap this out in a way which is meaningful, and does justice to the great work Kupperberg has done -- and the Kennedy brothers, and Fernando, Norm Breyfogle, Uslan and all the folks. How do we wrap this up in a way which is important, which is meaningful, and which really does justice to where we want to take not only this magazine, but the company going forward. It took us a long time to really figure out how we were going to do this. This seemed to be a natural conclusion for us. I don't feel this is forced, I don't feel that in any way we're doing this to sensationalize the ending -- of course, it will be a sensational story, but it's not a sensationalized ending.
Though "Life With Archie" by its nature is about alternate future stories, it appears Archie is treating this with the level of seriousness and gravity that the death of such an important character entails. How did the company approach that? It's a story you can really only do once, or at least once in a generation.
Yeah, we're not going to be doing this story anytime soon again. [Laughs] We needed to figure out the big picture first -- and the big picture is who is Archie, and what has he meant for 75 years? What has this company for meant for 75 years, to millions and millions of people, and of course multi-generations? And how do we treat it with the dignity, the respect, the gravity -- and frankly, the overall take on how is this going to happen. It took many, many conversations -- months of conversation, many layers -- about how this was all going to transpire. We finally came up with something that, in our minds, really does justice to who Archie is, and what he has meant to many millions of people. Once we came up with the big picture storyline, and how we were going to handle this, it all just felt really natural.
Given the many tragedies that have been explored in "Life With Archie" story -- as you mentioned, Miss Grundy's death, Cheryl Blossom's cancer -- was it always the plan for the story to head to a tragic conclusion?
I don't know if the plan was always for it to head to a tragic conclusion. I think the plan was to conclude it in a way which would be the epitome of what this whole line of stories have represented. Life has ups and downs; that is what life is all about. And life is filled with many colors, and sometimes you have great moments, and sometimes you have tragic moments. That is really what "Life With Archie" was all about. it embraced all the wonderful things, but to truly appreciate the wonderful things, you really need to go through some bad things sometimes, and some tough things. That really is the underlying theme of what this is all about. We wanted it to reflect what people go through on a day-to-day basis.
At the end of the day, Archie really is a special and unique person. He really represents what I feel is the best in all of us, and that is how we treated it -- and that's how we treated issue #36. And rightly so.
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