By Alicia Powell
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Archie Andrews, the redheaded American teenager in the "Archie" comic book series, will die taking a bullet protecting his gay friend in the issue that comes out on Wednesday.
But the death of the character who made his comic book debut more than 70 years ago is not meant to be a sob story, Archie Comics publisher and co-chief executive officer Jon Goldwater said on Tuesday.
"It's really not sad. Actually it's inspirational," Goldwater said. "Because Archie does what you would want Archie to do. He takes the bullet for his friend, and he would do that for anybody."
Archie steps in front of a shot aimed at his friend Kevin Keller, who is targeted for his "personal point of view," Goldwater said.
"Archie taking the bullet really is a metaphor for acceptance," Goldwater said, adding that the assailant did not agree with Kevin's personal life or political stance.
The issue, No. 36 in the flash-forward "Life with Archie" series, will be followed by an issue showing how his friends cope with his death a year later.
Archie's death was announced in April, but the circumstances around his fate had been secret.
Jono Jarrett, a founder of New York-based Geeks OUT, an organization that supports gays who enjoy comics, said the narrative of Archie's death was surprising.
"I was impressed by the boldness in the storytelling," Jarrett said.
"Maybe what Archie Comics is saying is that in order to get the world you need, sometimes you have to sacrifice something of the world you have," Jarrett added. "Archie Andrews is a very iconic all-American hero. To have him literally take a bullet for the ideas of diversity and equality in a comic book is a very powerful statement."
Goldwater said Archie's death had been in the works for a couple of years.
"It's really been a long time and carefully thought out," he said. "This isn't something we randomly just came up with."
The events in the flash-forward series will not affect Archie in the present-day series, and Archie's adventures as a teenager with his best friend, Jughead, and his girlfriends, Betty and Veronica, will continue.
(Reporting by Alicia C. Powell of Reuters TV; Writing by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jan Paschal)