Archie comics No. 616 shows President Obama and Sarah Palin placidly sharing a milkshake. But on an alternate cover of that issue and a cover of the following one, it’s a whole different story.
Archie No. 616 has a variant cover portraying Obama and Palin as dueling superheroes, and a cover of the succeeding issue shows them as opponents in a championship boxing match.
“The metaphoric battle between right and left” is how Archie Comics publisher Jon Goldwater described it to TODAYshow.com. “Especially with the superhero stuff. They’re wrapped in the American flag, but they’re going at it. And that’s what makes this country great. It’s a very brisk and vigorous debate.”
Here’s a quick summary of the political currents that will roil Riverdale, home of America’s favorite redheaded teen, when the two-part epic “Campaign Pain” hits newsstands starting the first week in December: Archie is running for student president, and to give his campaign a boost, his zillionaire girlfriend Veronica calls in President Obama himself. In retaliation, Archie’s opponent, Reggie, calls on Sarah Palin for help.
Despite their wide philosophical differences, the president and the former Alaska governor find common ground at Riverdale’s Chok’lit Shoppe in Archie No. 616, as portrayed on the milkshake cover. But events soon take a different turn.
“It’s the other side of the coin,” Goldwater told TODAYshow.com. “They’re still debating and still battling metaphorically for the direction the country should be led. It’s all done in fun, but these are people who are passionate.
“People love it and the phones have been ringing off the hook,” he added. “It gives our artists a chance to spread their wings, and they love it too.”
More from TODAY.com
7 things we learned about Julia Roberts ... 7 years after her last visit to TODAY
Seven years is way too long to wait to bask in the glow of Julia Roberts' million-watt smile.
- Snyderman: Ebola patient coming to US ‘not a risk’
- Mosquitoes 1 - Kerry Sanders 0: Kerry in good spirits after 300-plus bug bites
- From soda to negative talk: Join TODAY for a #30DayDetox of bad habits
- TODAY wakes up to Aloe Blacc
- 7 things we learned about Julia Roberts ... 7 years after her last visit to TODAY
The politically themed covers are just the latest step that Goldwater, who was named Archie Comics CEO last year, has taken to add a more modern flavor to comics that have chronicled wholesome high school high jinks since the early 1940s. “One of the things that I was passionate about when I came on was reflecting contemporary society,” he said. One recent example: the debut of Riverdale High’s first openly gay student.Video: Archie comics' first gay character
“I’m not saying support Candidate A or Candidate B,” Goldwater said, but added: “I don’t think we’re breaking tradition” by letting Archie’s town of Riverdale reflect the political state of the nation at large.
“My last name is Goldwater, for heaven’s sake,” he pointed out with a laugh, referring to iconic conservative Barry Goldwater, the Republican party’s presidential candidate in 1964.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints