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Rest in peace Archie, thanks for the laughs and lessons

Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 9:24 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, July 24, 2014 12:22 p.m. CDT

Part of my morning routine Monday through Friday is taking a five-minute mental break from putting together the newspaper to read through the comics of the entertainment section.

I can usually get a little chuckle out of the back-and-forth banter in Blondie and Mutts. I compare Baby Blues to growing up with my little sister and I can relate to the generational humor in Zits.

I have always been drawn in to the quick laughs offered by comics. It can be political, clever or just a mindless laugh, but the images have to draw me in.

Earlier this week I was doing research for an upcoming story when an illustration grabbed my attention.

I never followed the cartoon Archie closely, but always made sure to read it when I found a comic section that was abandoned. The red-headed, freckle-faced protagonist was constantly in a pickle — struggling with a crush on Veronica or Betty or getting into trouble with one of his Riverdale companions.

But this comic wasn’t aimed at getting a laugh out of its audience, especially since the scene has a gun aimed in Archie’s direction.

“Life with Archie” kicked off in 2010 as an adult spin off of the popular comic strip about Archie as a teenager.

The series has tackled several controversial, but very real situations involving gay marriage, death, as well as financial and cancer battles.

Today, Archie makes one of the biggest sacrifices a friend can, taking a bullet for friend and senator Kevin Keller at a rally for more gun control in Riverdale.

Keller is depicted as a married gay man who is also a military veteran turned senator.

The scene sends a message, slapping the reader with a dose of reality instead of delivering knee-slapping humor.

Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO Jon Goldwater has defended the decision to conclude the “Life with Archie” series with the death of the main character. The situation gives a lesson on the importance of gun violence and working through diversity.

When I look at comics, it is usually to escape reality. I am searching for that simple satisfaction of a laugh to help give me an extra buzz that the morning coffee didn’t provide.

But for Archie fans and those that will pick up or look up the new release today to see what all the buzz is about, it provides a unique, typically light-hearted medium to shed more light on pressing matters.

The news can be pretty bleak. With violence and controversy, some days the comics are the only positive things to read.

When a comic takes a chance on sending a message instead of a laugh, it might be time for everyone to start taking notice and making a change for the better.

Readers shouldn’t worry about Archie, this isn’t the last of the red-headed hero. Archie’s adventures will continue in the remaining titles that target the character’s earlier years.

Thanks for the laughs and the lessons Archie, and hopefully there are still many more to come.

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