THE famous comic book character, Archie, who was introduced to the juvenile market in 1941 along with his fictional friends Jughead and Veronica at Riverdale High in a fictitious small American town, is now the focus of a worldwide media blitz. Here is one of those manufactured controversies in which news outlets react en masse to clever marketing. Archie is killed off as a character in the latest issue of Life with Archie in the course of defending his friend, Kevin, a homosexual character who was introduced in 2010. Kevin Keller is a senator who supports gun control. During the course of an attempted assassination, Archie intervenes and is killed by the assassin’s bullet instead.
Thus, the controversy. Singapore has banned the comic because of its depiction of Kevin’s “marriage” to another man. And many have condemned the homosexual themes. None of this condemnation could possibly be unexpected or unwanted by Archie Comic Publications, Inc., which is one of a matrix of media companies, including the publisher Random House, now invested in the Archie stories as depicted in comic books, movies and digital media.
However, an important facet of this story has been generally overlooked. A living Archie is not so important anymore. A dead Archie is even better. Most of the characters of the comic book have now been transferred from life to the realm of horror in a new series, Afterlife with Archie.
Afterlife with Archie depicts a zombie apocalypse which begins in Riverdale. The comic is Archie Comics’ first title to be rated ‘teens and up,’ which means it has a potentially much larger audience.
Here is a synopsis from Wikipedia: “After a car driven by Reggie kills Hot Dog, Jughead asks Sabrina to bring his beloved pet back to life. She does, but with terrible consequences: Hot Dog becomes a zombie, and kills Jughead, who himself rises as a zombie and spreads the contagion.”
Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater has said that his father, the late John L. Goldwater, would have been “shocked by Afterlife (…) but shocked in a great way”.
That is probably true. The first four issues of Afterlife with Archie, introduced in 2013, sold out.
Archie Comics represents a now-familiar cultural trajectory, described so perceptively by the writer E. Michael Jones in his book Libido Dominandi. First comes fairly wholesome mass popular culture, with its homogenizing effects. Then comes sexualized mass entertainment, with profit as the single greatest motive for transgressing former taboos. Then, as much of society is suffering the personal chaos, disorientation and alienation caused by the Sexual Revolution, horror becomes a major preoccupation of mass entertainment, its purveyors reacting with prompt sensitivity to the appetites of this disoriented public. Horror confirms the inchoate awareness and knowledge of chaos and social apocalypse. Archie was destined to die defending sexual transgression and to become a superhero in a world of zombies.