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Monday, June 30, 2014

Archie To Meet Untimely Death

This photo released by Archie Comics shows "Life with Archie." Archie Comics says the famous comic book character will heroically sacrifice himself while saving the life of a friend in a July 2014 installment of "Life with Archie." The comic book series tells the story of grown-up renditions of Archie and his Riverdale pals. (Archie Comics/AP Photo)

This photo released by Archie Comics shows “Life with Archie.” Archie Comics says the famous comic book character will heroically sacrifice himself while saving the life of a friend in a July 2014 installment of “Life with Archie.” The comic book series tells the story of grown-up renditions of Archie and his Riverdale pals. (Archie Comics/AP)

Comic fans will have more on their mind this summer than whether the beloved, freckle-faced Archie Andrews should chose between Betty or Veronica.

Publishers have announced that Archie is going to be killed this July in the spinoff series “Life With Archie.” But Rob Salkowitz, author of the book “Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture,” tells Here & Now’s Robin Young that the storyline will be done with a wink and a nod to other comic book hero killings, and that Archie Andrews may not be going away for good.

Salkowitz says Archie’s new generation of publishers has been taking a lot of risks during the past few years, including the introduction of diverse characters and evolving story lines about bullying, to take readers beyond 1950s Riverdale High.

Interview Highlights: Rob Salowitz

On the decision behind Archie’s death

“A character like Archie– people care about the characters, but they’re not as invested in the story. And something like this, I think, is Archie Comics having a little bit of fun at our expense because they know they’re going to get these kinds of stories. They know that comic fans are going to kind of arch an eyebrow and say, ‘Oh, its a big gimmick.’ But in this case, I think the joke is on us.”

On the change to the comic over the years

“The company itself has undergone an evolution. There’s a new generation of leadership there and they’ve been tackling more current events kind of issues. They have a very successful gay character that they introduced a few years ago who recently got married. They have a line of comics that is more serious in tone. There’s a series out now called Afterlife with Archie where the zombie apocalypse hits Riverdale. That’s, if anything, even more disturbing than Archie dying is Archie and the gang not dying and coming back as zombies. Essentially Archie meets the Walking Dead.

“Maybe turmoil is good for the creative spirit.”

On the comic’s management

“Archie was founded in the 1940s by three people. That generation of leadership gave way eventually to kids and heirs. Now the company has two CEOs, one of whom is the descendant of one of the founders and one is a widow of one of the other descendants. And they don’t always get along. There’s been a lot of drama behind the scenes. They’ve been suing each other and getting restraining orders against each other. Right now, its a period of calm. Honestly, I think the tension within the company might not be great for the people that work there, but the creative output of Archie, lately, has never been better. So, maybe turmoil is good for the creative spirit.”

Guest

  • Rob Salkowitz, director of content and strategy at the digital communications firm MediaPlant. He also teaches digital media at the University of Washington. He tweets @robsalk.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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