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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Death of Archie Andrews….*YAWN*

Archie Andrews the flagship charcter of Archie Comics is going to die.

Well, not the regular Archie Andrews who has been in comics for over 75 years. The Archie that's going to die is the grown up one who married Betty and Veronica from the magazine series Life With Archie.

Weren’t the1990’s over 20 years ago? Weren't  comics past cop-out stunts like this?

I thought Archie Comics were too good for lame gimmicks like this. Archie Comics looked like they were getting their stuff together creatively. The Archie Marries…magazine was one of the better gimmicks in comics.

The Life With Archie series is sadly ending after the death of Archie Andrews. Like most comics today it’s over with the final 37th issue which transpires One year after Archie’s death.

Where have we heard that from again?

Oh, that horrible DC Comics gimmick after Infinite Crisis that led into the end of the real DC Universe. Or that Horrible Brand New Day storyline which ended Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson.

I’d like to think Archie Comics could do better than re-hashing lame gimmicks from DC’s desperation playbook and some of the worst 1990’s storytelling.

The big problem with comics today is that there’s no storytelling anymore. Publishers use gimmicks like Hail Marys to get the attention of casual readers, get a little buzz, a short-term sales spike and then…nothing. Good comics go to the quarter bin to die as the next gimmick is promoted by the publisher.

If those same comic publishers put a little more effort into promoting their books instead of pullinig desperate stunts they might get those readers. And a title might make it past the 36th issue. Maybe even get to that elusive 50th or 100th issue.

Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. And sometimes it can take years for a book to get its legs. Unfortunately, many Comic publishers cut lots of great books off at the knees at around the 36th issue before a creative team can really hit their stride and casual readers can discover the book.

I think Archie’s publishers should have hung in there with Life With Archie. Life With Archie had some great storytelling, on par with Marvel and DC’s best comics. From what I read the characters were human, multi-dimensional, and the stories were downright compelling. For the first time I actually was saying to myself: I can’t believe this was an Archie comic! The quality of the book was that strong.

And the magazine had real distribution, something most comics haven’t had in 20 years. I could actually FIND it at CVS, Rite Aid and other retailers. For $3.99 readers got treated to two worlds and two distinct stories. Archie marries Betty and Archie Marries Veronica. It was a bargain compared to those 20 page comics filled with splash pages we get these days.

I’ll have to admit when I read about the death of Archie Andrews I wasn’t shocked. I was indifferent. That’s not the kind of reaction a publisher wants to a stunt like this.

The truth is there’s been so much death in comics over the last 20 years that it’s lost its sting. Dick Grayson died last week as part of DC Comics latest kajillion issue epic Forever Evil which is nothing but death, death, gore, and more death. And three years ago the REAL DC Universe died and was replaced with the craptacular new 52.

I’d have to say readers are burnt out on the whole death of a character thing. It’s an old tired plot device that writers have used as a crutch to get to the finish line of a story for way too long. Instead of buckling down and coming up with a truly satisfying ending to a story that allows a writer to have a concept for the beginning of the next one, they cop out and use a Deus Ex Machina like the death of a character to finish things up.

That makes much harder for the next writer to start telling their stories. Storytelling is about endings and beginnings, and Comic books are like a relay race. The next writer has to pick up where the last one left off. And when a writer has left a trail of bodies and carnage on the track, the next writer loses momentum as they have to spend six or seven issues cleaning up the mess the last writer left on their run or on the next series featuring those same characters. That keeps readers from getting into the book and it prevents one run from flowing seamlessly into the other. Instead of the focus being on the adventures of the character, it winds up focused on continuity.

As a writer, I hate killing characters. I learned my lesson about killing off characters way back in 2002. When I killed E’steem in the first Isis book. Killing E’steem was the biggest mistake of my writing career. Over 10 years later she’s carrying her own series and is now one of my most popular characters. All it takes is the right story to turn a character around and get readers’ attention.

The problem today is that today’s comic writers don’t dig deep enough to find that right story for a character. I didn’t get the concept for The Temptation of John Haynes until 2005, three years after the publication of Isis. Once I put E’steem in that story, she became a whole different character and dozens of story opportunities opened up for her.

I’d have never discovered how great she was if I had left her for dead. And sadly people aren’t discovering how great many comics characters are because writers take the easy way out and kill them off before they reach their potential.

For me, the death of a character is a last, last last resort. And it should only be used if it allows a writer the possibility to build another story out of it. When executed well, death has a powerful impact on the reader like the death of Gwen Stacy, Jason Todd, Jean Grey, or Bucky Barnes. But these days too many comic book writers are too busy trying use death as an exclamation point to end a story when a period has a much stronger impact on the reader.


  1. I kind of read there in somebody's blog that a Justice League title is going to include villains as one of the League's ranks. But I think that has to do with writers not knowing what to do with the characters. Changing them is one thing, changing them within reason (or having them die within reasons as what you say) is another matter that is harder to do by many writers.

  2. Unfortunately that's true Ad. Captain Cold & Lex Luthor are on the Justice League now. I don't think today's writers do their research. I really think some of them don't even care. They make changes not thinking about how they'll effect the storyline down the road or how they'll effect the work of other writers in the future.