(CNN) — Since 1941, comic book fans have followed the exploits of teenaged Archie Andrews and his friends. This July, they’ll find out how he dies.
“Life With Archie” #36 hits stores on July 16, and it tells the story of how Archie sacrifices himself to save a friend.
Few details are known, but it seems fitting that Archie would go out a hero. The 37th issue one week later will end the series.
The “Life With Archie” series has been telling the stories of possible future Archie scenarios for the past few years, and so Archie will continue to be alive in the comics set in the present day.
CNN spoke with Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater (son of Archie creator John Goldwater) about the upcoming issues.
CNN: Can you explain the “Life With Archie” series for the uninitiated?
Goldwater: “Life With Archie” is Archie’s future — it gives readers a look into what his life would be like after high school and college, which has never really been explored. Most fans are familiar with Archie as a high schooler, hanging out at Pop’s Chocklit Shop with his friends. “Life With Archie” shows what happens when Archie becomes an adult and starts dealing with grownup issues.
Each issue is normally split into two storylines — one telling a tale of Archie married to Veronica another with him ending up with Betty. The final issue, however, will show readers Archie’s final fate in both timelines — and they’re the same.
CNN: Why kill Archie?
Goldwater: I think it’s the natural conclusion to the “Life With Archie” series.
Archie dies as he lived — heroically. He dies saving the life of a friend, and does it in his usual selfless way. Archie has always been a representation of us — the best of us. Our strengths and our faults.
Writer Paul Kupperberg, with input from myself, has crafted an emotional, impactful and classic story that I know will survive the test of time. This isn’t a random one-off or “what-if” story that we’re doing as a gag. This is the story that we mapped out carefully and with much thought. This is the death of Archie as we see it, and we’re treating it with that same level of gravitas and import. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, and we are being very considerate about it.
CNN: What are you hoping to accomplish with this storyline?
Goldwater: First and foremost, like with anything we do at Archie, we want to tell a great, memorable story. That being said, this story in particular is of the utmost importance to us as a company and as a keeper of the Archie brand.
We want to not only show how Archie’s life ends, but also what he means to the world around him. We want to celebrate his life. After the events of “Life With Archie” #36, fans will leap forward a year to see the aftermath, and how his friends have moved on since his surprising death.
What’s Jughead doing? How are Betty and Veronica dealing with the loss? It’s not about the attention-grab of the death but about telling a great, evocative story that reminds people why this character is important to the fabric of pop culture — and showing how heroic a normal guy like Archie can be, and how important it is to realize that.
This isn’t a story we’re going to retcon a few weeks from now. This happened. This is the conclusion to the “Life With Archie” story and timeline, and it will allow us as a company and the world to take a moment to look at Archie’s life as a whole and recognize him as one of the most important characters — not in just comics — but in popular culture.
We want people to feel the same emotional roller coaster we felt putting this story together — to feel the range of emotions, from happiness, sadness, anger, joy and pride. We want people to react to this in a strong way because Archie is so important to them.
CNN: How do you hope fans will react ultimately?
Goldwater: We expect some level of shock, outrage and surprise — followed by understanding. As a company, we are not afraid to take risks. We’re not scared to shake things up to draw attention to the great stories we’re building here at Archie.
I hope fans will be intrigued by this news, pick up the issues in July and realize they’ve been given one of the best comics on the stands. They’ll be handed a piece of comic book history, featuring some of the most well-known characters in the world saying goodbye to an icon. We want fans to talk about this for years to come. We think this story is bigger than anything we’ve ever done — it’s bold, dramatic and best of all, a fitting end to the life of Archie.
CNN: What do you think Archie Comics has been doing by shaking things up over the recent years?
Archie: We’re a sleeping giant. Years ago, before I stepped in as CEO, Archie was seen as a dormant, nostalgia brand stuck in amber. We were in suspended animation. People thought the stories were still set in the ’50s!
Now, while the characters — like Betty, Archie, Veronica, Jughead and Reggie — are at their core the same, Riverdale has changed. It’s caught up with the times. The town of Riverdale you read about now is like any other in America.
It’s diverse, it’s not problem-free, and it represents America in an honest way. Archie is about being welcoming, diverse and entertaining. We’ve managed to strike that balance in our storytelling for the last five years and managed to not only get attention, but keep people entertained.
From the introduction of Kevin Keller, the first regular gay character in comics to now, the death of Archie, we’ve not been afraid to take risks. The big thing is, though, our risks pay off because the stories, art and execution are spot-on. We back up what we say.
CNN: What will be the long-term impact of this story?
Goldwater: Well, this is the end. This is how Archie dies in the pages of “Life With Archie.” We will not be retconning, reversing or backtracking on this story in terms of “Life With Archie.”
The main Archie line, however, telling stories of Archie in high school, will continue. “Afterlife With Archie” [the "Archie" zombie series] will continue, and we will keep on taking risks with different and new interpretations of our characters.
But as far as we see it, this is how Archie dies. That’s how we approached this story and how we’re treating it.