After making a splash on the pages of Pep Comics #22 back in December of 1941, Archie Andrews became an immediate success and was given his own solo title less than a year later. Here we are 75 years later and he is arguably more popular than ever, with titles like the consistently excellent Afterlife with Archie helping generate both critical buzz and sales.
The next big move for the company is next month’s relaunch of its flagship title. Released on July 8th, Archie #1 will see Mark Waid and Fiona Staples handling writing and art duties for a new take on the iconic redhead and his pals and gals. But before that happens, the old title comes to an end with a just-released 666th issue that pays tribute to Archie and all the joy that he has brought into the world.
After damaging the Riverdale High hallways due to his late arrival to school, Archie is given a record-setting 666th detention by Mr. Weatherbee and told that he will have to clean up his mess or face expulsion. Word quickly spreads throughout the school, and those whose lives he has touched — for better or worse — reflect upon exactly how much Archie means to them. But while Archie ponders his own uncertain fate he soon realizes that no matter what happens to him, he will always have support from the people in his life. It’s a touching message that subtly tells readers that wherever their journey in life takes them, Archie Comics are there to accompany them — which for fans of these characters is an unbelievably reassuring thing, especially given how Archie has endured the tumultuous nature of the comics industry for 75 years.
Handling writing duties for the issue is Tom DeFalco, fitting since he began his career with Archie back in 1972. Due to his vast history with the character, DeFalco was an inspired choice to pen this finale as he brings levels of nuance to the seemingly simple core tenets of the Archie character (i.e. he’s a well-meaning klutz who is absolutely girl-crazy and loyal to his loved ones). He and artist Dan Parent, who compiled a variety of variant covers that pay tribute to Archie’s history, have created an issue that somehow works as both an introduction to and a farewell for these characters.
The fact that it does so while also being a touching standalone atory that is uniquely Archie is extraordinary. Along the way, some more recent happenings outside of the Archie comic are referenced, including a fan-pleasing reference to the headline-grabbing “Death of Archie” storyline from last year. (And yes, there are cameos a plenty from other members of the Archieverse).
While this era of Archie may be at an end, there is a new one rapidly approaching. But as revolutionary as this may seem, Archie Comics have long been about trying new things (Jughead’s Diner for example) with varying degrees of sucess to take them to the next level of the industry. But as you’ve probably noticed, they’ve more than capable of taking on their rivals and won’t be going anywhere soon. Just like Archie, fortunately.