There were no church bells ringing a mournful late summertime dirge yesterday; nor were there any orators of note stepping forward to offer up words of solace and eulogy. Yet still the same, a major passing of something sweet and nearly indefinable from all of our childhoods occurred on Wednesday, September 2, 2020 as it was announced by comic book site Newsarama that, for the very first time in 78 years, the flagship title in the Archie line of comic books – Archie – had become the latest victim of covid-19, forcing the publisher to shutter the long-running title for the foreseeable future. Yes, a bevy of digital reprints are still available for the discerning tech-savvy consumer to peruse and enjoy, physical reprint digests will still decorate the checkout lanes at your local grocery store and an original graphic novel featuring the redoubtable Betty and Veronica is still en route to book stores as are others…But Archie – the redheaded, freckled Andy Hardy wannabe made good who, since 1942, taught many a child the joys of reading even as he knocked around from one unlikely adventure to the next with cohorts Jughead, Reggie, Moose and all of the rest of the Riverdale Gang – has, like Elvis Presley before him, left the proverbial building.
Details were sparse in the particulars of Archie going the way of All-Flash as they always are when the fog of war surrounds us. Depending on whom you ask Archie may not be back until at least the end of November. But even that is not set in stone. It could be a lot longer. It could be never. Or, if and when America’s oldest living teenager and his namesake title does return Lazarus-like from his K-O, it will be in a digital capacity, unmoored from an actual physical comic book and floating about on some errant computerized cloud. Short of an actual statement from the publisher itself – curiously missing during all of this – we just do not know and risk click-bait territory by attempting to prognosticate otherwise.
With the loss of an unbroken chain of continuity – again, 78 years of continuous publication from Archie – a uniquely 21st Century question presents itself: If a comic book slips gently into that Good Night with no one to see it off, let alone mourn the loss of a continuous companion and teacher, does the human heart and soul lay its own laurel and wreath and cry silently for an old friend that, in a particular iteration at least, will never return? Does Archie join the discard pile or sail off to the Island of Misfit Toys, joining other forgotten past treasures like painted neckties, functioning telephone booths and optimism?
Church bells did not ring yesterday, nor did orators eulogize. But something substantial to whom and what we are as a people and a society left out on a midnight flight yesterday and that at least deserves to be marked and recognized. G’night “Chick” old pal; Thanks for 78 years.