The first time I read an Archie comic was as a pre-teen in the post-liberalisation era of the early 90s, when we Indians were introduced to fancy jargon like globalisation. My romance with Archie comics started on a rather bitter note.
I sat on the back bench reading the comic hidden in my science textbook, entirely oblivious to my surroundings. It was a tight slap across my right cheek that brought me back to reality. In spite of this incident, I knew my friendship with Riverdale ka Superhero, Archie, would last for a long time.
This was the first comic book I ever read and I became a die-hard fan instantly.
Riverdale was perhaps the most perfect school we could ever dream of. Pre-teen years were simply incredible for all of us, when all friends were best friends and yaaron ka yaar Jughead Jones, the protagonists' sidekick, was unarguably everybody's favourite.
And as someone approaching adolescence, I related to Archie's dilemma over choosing between miss goody two-shoes, Betty Cooper, and the snooty spoilt-brat, Veronica Lodge.
The comics introduced us to the quintessentially suburban American way of life. It was something we had never seen or felt before. The comics also showed us all those lovely advertisements of phoren chocolates, candies, cereals and more. Thanks to the wonderful goodies advertised in the comics, there was sudden love for NRI relatives.
As I grew up I realised the reason we all loved Archie so much was because he was just like us -- a clumsy teenager who was always looking for ways to earn extra money to go on fancy dates, which invariably ended up as a disaster; he hung out with friends, scraping through classes under the watchful eyes of Mr Weatherbee and Miss Grundy; and falling victim to Reggie Mantle's limitless tomfoolery and cheeky pranks.
I was dumb with shock when I found out that the creators had decided to kill the character that I grew up loving. Oh god! This shouldn't happen. How is that possible? Why Archie? A plethora of questions flooded my brain. I couldn't come to terms with his proposed untimely death, almost as if I had lost a close friend. If I had superpowers, I would probably grant him another 100 years to live.
Archie was a phenomenon whose popularity was unparalleled. He was born during the tumultuous period of the World War 2, he witnessed the rise and fall of great leaders and nations and he saw innumerable inventions and discoveries. He survived the digital age and how! E-books and Kindle could not sabotage his existence.
Sadly, Archie Andrews will bid us his last farewell at the age of 73, this July. Words can make one well up, but the saddest among them is the simple goodbye.
Goodbye Archie, you shall be missed!