By Swasti Sudan:
On the 9th of April 2014, Archie Comics announced that Archie Andrews will die in this month’s (July) issue of Life with Archie (in both parallel futures). Life with Archie has more theatrical and fanciful stories than the usual Archie stories. Archie Andrews has quite the legacy; he’s been around for 73 years now, and though the initial readership has died down considerably in the past few decades, it seems that everyone was waiting for the issue with bated breath (despite the biggest spoiler of them all).
Why the wait you wonder? There are 2 reasons to it; when you grow up reading, watching or hearing about something, the final part of the series or the book is where you get your closure. It is the mark of the end of a certain era. The other reason is this; we all love a superhero, and even though Archie Andrews may not be a superhero in the Avengers sense of the word, he is still our hero. He doesn’t have boatloads of money, he wasn’t part of a freak experiment, he isn’t an alien (Superman I’m looking at you), what he does have is; bills to pay, relationship troubles, mango people problems and gay friends.
Did you stumble a little there? Wonder where the part about gay friends came from?
Let me tell you why I put it out there, so it’s staring you in the face. The fuss in India, surrounding the July issue of Life with Archie is this; he died to save a gay friend. The buzz isn’t because well, he’s dead and the Life with Archie series will end, the hair pulling and the hype is because our beloved comic book character Archie Andrews dies taking a bullet for his friend Kevin Keller (the gay senator lobbying for stricter gun control).
What is interesting in this whole situation is the way we perceive it, and the way perception differs between societies. While the U.S might start a discussion on gun control and gun violence before they look at rights of the LGBTQIA community, India is looking at the gay guy.
While the emotions of hardcore Archie fans range from shock and grief to anger, the most popular opinions seem to be as follows;
“It’s a marketing gambit; it’s all about making money. I haven’t read an Archie comic in years, but if he’s dying I will probably read the last few issues.”
“It’s a good thing, maybe it will change the way people look at the gay community, if a comic book character you grew up with is putting his life on the line for a gay friend, then maybe it will make people think. If you can have memes that say ‘Always be batman’, maybe we will have memes that say ‘Always be Archie’.”
In a nation where Article 377 dances over the LGBTQIA community like a naked sword, where homosexuality is against “Indian culture”, and where political parties cannot seem to come to a clear stand on gay rights, how on earth can we; the people tolerate a comic where the protagonist saves a gay man!
How can things like friendship, loyalty and love be in the foreground of an Archie comic? Didn’t the writers know that they were catering to homophobic audience whose politicians feel they can interfere with the rights and freedoms of the people? Based on whose decision did Archie Comics include a prominent gay character in the first place? They should have just followed DC and Marvel’s lead; when was the last time the Avengers saved a gay man?
Now tell me this, if Archie died taking a bullet for Veronica, or pushing Betty out of the way of a moving truck, or saving Jughead from bandits, would you look at him as anything other than a hero? Would you ask why he was saving straight people? Why all the fuss because he’s saving a friend whose sexual orientation is not straight?
“Not to be too grandiose, but this demise is a fitting and tonally perfect tribute to a character who has always put his friends first. This is a publicity stunt for sure, but one with heart that will have permanent ramifications” (Chris Cummins – DenOfGeek.us).
The above quote covers every aspect of the whole situation and one can only hope that people take a leaf out of Archie books (quite literally), and realise that the rights of the LGBTQIA community need to be fought for. In the words of Macklemore, it’s all the “same love”.
For me, Archie is a real superhero; not because he took a bullet for a gay man, but because he didn’t discriminate, because he didn’t think twice before saving Kevin regardless of his sexual orientation, because he put love first.