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Archie, beloved comic book icon, dies saving gay friend

In Wednesday’s installment of “Life with Archie," the freckle-faced redhead dies taking a bullet meant for Kevin Keller, the series’s first openly gay character

Archie Andrews, the freckle-faced redhead whose love for two completely different women permeated American pop culture for decades, has died. He was 73.

That is to say, his character first appeared in comics 73 years ago, when readers were introduced to the wholesome misadventures of Riverdale teens Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Reggie Mantle, and Jughead Jones. In the fictional world of “Life with Archie,” a spin-off of the original series, the titular hero and his gang are all some undefined grown-up age, dealing with adult issues like finances, marriage, and, yes, even death.

Wednesday’s installment of “Life with Archie” tells the story of the icon’s final moments. Archie dies heroically taking a bullet meant for fictional Sen. Kevin Keller, the series’ first openly gay character. Keller is pushing for stricter gun control before the fatal shot is fired.

Why did a series that for so long revolved around malt shops and the virtues of blondes versus brunettes take such a dark and political turn? Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO, told the Associated Press they “wanted to do something that was impactful” and that would “resonate with the world.”

“That’s how we came up with the storyline of saving Kevin,” Goldwater said. “He could have saved Betty. He could have saved Veronica. We get that, but metaphorically, by saving Kevin, a new Riverdale is born.”

The company announced Archie would die last April, so fans had months to mentally prepare. And though his untimely demise marks the end of "Life with Archie," the beloved redhead still lives on in the original, high school-focused series and other spin-offs that will continue to be published.

In fact, death isn't enough to stop these intrepid teens: You can find undead versions of the Riverdale kids in “Afterlife with Archie,” the Archie zombie series.