April 8, 2014 at 2:42 PM ET
Archie, the beloved comic book character whose exploits have been followed by readers for 73 years, will meet his demise this summer.
The comic icon will die in "Life With Archie" #36, which will be released on July 16, followed a week later by the 37th and final issue of the series. The story, written by Paul Kupperberg with cover and interior art by Pat and Tim Kennedy, will feature Archie dying while trying to save a friend. The cover image depicts a bleeding and unconscious Archie in the street amid a panicked crowd, flanked by long-time gal pals Betty and Veronica.
"My gut told me this was the right story to share with our fans right now,'' Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater told TODAY.com. "So we’re doing it. We definitely deliberated over how to tell the story, but we knew it was the perfect way to end this series."
While many know Archie as a high school student hanging out with his friends in the fictional town of Riverdale, the "Life With Archie" series has told the story of Archie as an adult with more mature issues. The decision to have Archie die was a difficult one for a company named after the character.
"It was very emotional,'' Goldwater said. "We live and breathe Archie, every day, no pun intended. We had months and months of meetings discussing this story down to the most minute details. I feel totally confident, though, that when people sit down and read the 'Life With Archie' finale, they’ll sit back and agree it’s a fitting, emotional and touching ending for Archie. He dies as he lived — protecting his friends and representing the best in all of us."
The storyline also could certainly stir up emotions among long-time fans of the comic, but Goldwater denied that it's a stunt for more readership.
"I can understand people being upset or reacting in a strong way,'' Goldwater said. "I’d be surprised if they didn’t. These characters matter to people. These are major pop culture icons we play with here at Archie.
"I would tell fans that are upset to wait until July and read the story. They’ll see a story that comes out organically from the 'Life With Archie' series and really serves as a fitting cap to the acclaimed saga we’ve been sharing with fans for the last five years. We did not take this lightly; this is not a stunt — we are treating this story as the death of Archie. It is in the future, definitely, and his adventures will continue, but this is a pivotal moment for him, the company and comics in general."
In the 1990s, a storyline by DC Comics involved the death of Superman, only for him to return in "Reign of the Supermen," in which four other supermen in forms ranging from a boy to a cyborg claim to be him and possess different powers.
The storyline involving Archie's death is the latest shakeup in the comic over the past few years. Other stories have included Archie picking between love interests Betty and Veronica, as well as a "Farewell to Betty and Veronica" series and an "Afterlife With Archie" series. The company also struck a deal with "Girls" creator Lena Dunham to write a four-part Archie story that will be published in 2015.