Unless your best friend is your mom and you want to be an apple when you grow up, you probably don't read the comic book adventures of Archie, that immortal everyteen with crosshatching tattooed on the side of his skull. In fact, you might only recognize Archie from The Simpsons.
There's a reason for this. Like early Justin Bieber, Archie presents an idealized version of teenage life that is in no way intended for actual teenagers. Archie is trapped in a G-rated eternal puberty, unencumbered by temptations like Four Loko and dodgy pop-up ads advertising lonely South Ossetian housewives in your oblast. The guy's spent almost 73 years entirely unaware he has a penis. His comics are as inoffensive and uncontroversial as possible -- well, most of the time.
There was that time Archie and the gang got super into Jesus.
Lately, Archie -- along with his girlfriend-wives Betty and Veronica and the other denizens of his hometown, Riverdale, which is probably ruled by an evil computer program imprinted with Joe McCarthy's engrams -- has been inching toward modernity. For example, Archie made a black friend, and then -- 39 years of growing a single armpit hair later -- Arch made a gay friend. Barack Obama and Sarah Palin once visited Riverdale, shared a milkshake, and then tore ass back to Washington with news of "another Waco."
"Sarah, DO NOT look at the redhead. We locked eyes, and I saw an 86-year-old man inside peering out."
And this past week, Archie Comics went the distance and flat-out fucking killed their eponymous star. OK, so he only died in Life With Archie, a comic about an alternate reality where Archie's an adult. Sure, Archie sacrifices himself to an assassin's bullet that was meant for his gay pal.
"I've worn this crown since Pearl Harbor. It'll take more than my best friend's blood to toss it out."
But holy shit, people, this is Archie we're talking about. He's not Superman, out there fighting universe-eating aliens on the daily. Motherfucker's pissed away the past seven decades drinking milkshakes and failing calculus. Archie's shooting is like cracking open the funny pages only to witness Hi and Lois getting executed by FARC guerrillas or Ziggy ODing on muscle relaxants. But hey, comics are a ghoulish business. Big-name deaths, even boring ol' Archie's, sell like gangbusters.
Judging from next issue's cover, Archie is resurrected without his soul, whereas Betty and Veronica contract severe tetanus.
The truth is, Archie comics were strip mining Riverdale's doe-eyed innocence even before that. From her first appearance onward, Miss Grundy was Archie's dowdy, long-suffering teacher. Miss Grundy was a frequent target of Archie's pranks and, being an unmarried woman over 25, had absolutely no legal recourse.
In Riverdale, spinsterhood remains a class B felony to this very day.
But Miss Grundy would be made an honest woman yet. A 2010 issue of Life With Archie explored a future where Miss Grundy marries Principal Weatherbee ... and then promptly dies of terminal cancer.
"Gee, Betty, I wouldn't have made Miss Grundy's life an absolute fucking nightmare if I knew she was mortal."
"What's 'mortal' mean, Archie? What is 'life'?"
Of course, her death wasn't the saddest part of the story. No, for Miss Grundy superfans like us here at Cracked, it's that she didn't end up with the only real man in her life, like ships in the night.
Yup, this happened.
Incredibly, one of the more critically acclaimed and best-selling Archie comics in recent years has been Afterlife With Archie, a horror series that kicks off with an undead Jughead eating his on-again, off-again girlfriend Big Ethel at the Halloween dance.
Veronica laughs, because Veronica is a well-documented asshole.
To be fair, this scene is way less horrifying than that TV movie where audiences beheld a depressed adult Jughead rapping at random children:
Riverdale is so chaste, Jughead had his son through parthenogenesis.
But even that scene in Afterlife With Archie pales when compared to the revelation that snooty Cheryl Blossom, a sexual competitor of Betty and Veronica's whose main character trait was omnipresent cleavage ...
... is probably ram-jamming her twin brother, thus proving once again that the easiest way to get people to read comic books is to crib plot points from Butt Camp 48: Two Siblings, One Sleeping Bag.
And if you think this is bad, know that Cheryl has breast cancer in that dead-Archie reality.
So there you have it, a brief history of how fiction's most innocuous teenagers have been suffering for your enjoyment. Let's cap it off with old-timey Archie yelling stuff out of context.