Archie’s First Openly Gay Character

Wow, I think this proves to me that the new management at Archie Comics is serious about making some well-needed changes to modernize the titles and brand.

Archie Comics has announced that in September, new character Kevin Keller will be introduced. And he’s “openly gay”, to use their terms, which has led to speculation and jokes that someone else in the Archieverse is closeted. (Leading contenders: Jughead, Midge, and Miss Grundy, although that would be quite the stereotype.)

Kevin will appear in Veronica #202, which is due in comic shops on September 1 and on newsstands September 14. Humor ensues when Veronica decides she wants to go out with the cute new guy, and Kevin has to figure out how to let her down easy. Says Jon Goldwater, co-CEO, “The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. Archie’s hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books.” The press release continues, “The introduction of Kevin as an openly gay character is part of the commitment to keep Archie properties reflective of the current world of teens and teen media.”

Now here’s hoping that he becomes a recurring character quickly. There have been other introductions to expand character diversity, but what really matters is how they’re used and whether they become part of the core group. If the stories are about “darn, all the cute ones are gay or taken”, then Kevin’s presence will pale quickly. But if they follow his dating exploits the same way they do the struggles of Chuck and Nancy, for example, I will love reading it.

When Archie was promoting an interracial kiss in January, I hoped that we’d see a same-sex kiss, but I never expected it to happen this soon. I think that’s the next big milestone — characters being gay aren’t as scary as those who demonstrate their sexuality physically. Who’s going to be Kevin’s boyfriend?

Update: (4/25/10) Salon has an excellent piece by Douglas Wolk on what this means and other reactions.


17 Responses to “Archie’s First Openly Gay Character”

  1. William George Says:

    I’m hoping that it’ll turn out that Midge was Moose’s beard all this time.

  2. Thad Says:

    And Archie’s not exactly known for being edgy or pushing boundaries. This is a pretty serious sign that middle America just doesn’t see being gay as that big a deal.

    Still expect plenty of hue and cry from the folks who were offended that Captain America would dare suggest Tea Partiers were mostly white.

  3. Anthony Says:

    It’s also a big deal far as American children’s media is concerned, which still treats gays as nonexistent (see: Cartoon Network crudely dubs over use of the word “gay” in its Canadian imported cartoon 6Teen), apparently considering gays as “inapropriate” for children. (Show for teens seem to get more of a break, but far as American kids’ cartoons are concerned…) Thus, I hope Kevin is a sign of the US growing up in this area (and we’ve come a ways from the Postcards From Buster flap a few years back).

  4. Johanna Says:

    Thad: True, or that the company is committed to facing the future regardless of side effects, or a combo of both.

    On the other hand, if there is outcry over this, it’s good for two reasons: 1. I love a good donnybrook and 2. it lets me know who/where to avoid.

    Wonder what Chuck Dixon thinks?

  5. Arcade Angel Says:

    “I’m hoping that it’ll turn out that Midge was Moose’s beard all this time.” – haha

  6. James Schee Says:

    Wow, gotta say I’m surprised and a bit impressed. You know this is gonna get some attention from certain “protect our children!” groups so I’m impressed to see Archie as a company taking what is sure to be a little controversial direction.

    So I won’t go as far as Johanna and say okay let’s go three or more steps right away.

    Though personally I’d love a storyline where Kevin and Jughead hang out a lot. Then at the end the readers and other characters wonder if something is up and then…

    Wonder where the name comes from? A nod to Helen Keller perhaps?

  7. Johanna Says:

    OK, fair enough, I may be asking for too much all at once. But I think Archie, instead of shying from controversy, welcomes the free publicity these days.

  8. buzz Says:

    Was Kevin designed by Howard Cruise? ‘Cuz it sure looks like a Cruise design…

  9. Hsifeng Says:

    Johanna Says:

    “…When Archie was promoting an interracial kiss in January, I hoped that we’d see a same-sex kiss, but I never expected it to happen this soon…Who’s going to be Kevin’s boyfriend?…”

    For that matter, will anyone be Kevin’s boyfriend?

    IRL not every high schooler has a boyfriend or girlfriend. Some of them are single despite their sexual orientations. For example, I’m straight and I sure didn’t always have a boyfriend when I was a high school girl. Among my friends, the ones in my age group range from married and with children to virgin and without her first kiss until after graduate school.

    Is Archite that realistic, or does every straight character already have someone to kiss?

  10. Johanna Says:

    Archie revolves around stories with premises like who’s going to take whom to the dance, so yeah, almost every character has or wants a date. (Jughead is the obvious exception.) Even characters with other gimmicks, like Dilton, have stories where they focus on dating. But your point is a good one – there’s lots of potential story possibility in Kevin being out, but prospective dates not being as comfortable.

  11. Anthony Says:

    Guess I’ll add that even if Kevin just becomes another background character a la some of the minor newer characters, as some online are fearing, at least it’ll be a better fate than how Marvel or DC have treated some of their LGBT characters—DC’s Tasmanian Devil being skinned alive and turned into a rug and Marvel’s Freedom Ring’s gruesome multiple-impalements-death come to mind. Then again, given DC/Marvel’s current “violence porn” modus operandi (Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, etc.), I guess Archie’s worst-possible-treatment of Kevin will be better by default…

  12. Hsifeng Says:

    Johanna Says:

    “Archie revolves around stories with premises like who’s going to take whom to the dance, so yeah, almost every character has or wants a date…”

    Yeah, I wondered if any characters are in that “or wants a date” category, like high schoolers of all sexual orientations IRL who want dates but can’t have ‘em.

    Johanna Says:

    “…But your point is a good one…”

    Thanks :)

    Johanna Says:

    “…there’s lots of potential story possibility in Kevin being out, but prospective dates not being as comfortable.”

    …and/or prospective dates not being there at all. Like if Kevin find out that, besides maybe his year-younger brother (“eww!!!”) and two male seniors going steady with each other (“taken!!!”) and some guy he doesn’t get along with in the first place (“snob!!!”), there aren’t any other out gay (and/or out bi) boys in Riverdale in the first place?

  13. Robert Nunez Says:

    I saw Dan Parent talk about Kevin Keller at Comic-Con on Saturday. What a great guy. He talked about Riverdale being an ideal place where everyone wants to live. He said it was important that gay people know that Riverdale is a place that welcomes them too. He said that his high school-age daughter and her friends know who is gay at their school and who isn’t. It’s no big deal to them.
    I had no idea Archie comics were this cool, but I’m glad I found out. Great article (as usual), Johanna!

  14. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for letting us know about that. I’m sorry I couldn’t hear it. Sounds like a nice moment.

  15. Veronica #202: Introducing Kevin Keller, the New Gay Guy » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] ahead of time (since April) as a real milestone for Riverdale: it would introduce Archie’s first “openly gay” character, Kevin [...]

  16. Flashmob Fridays: Archie’s Kevin Keller » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] in context (since I know not everyone keeps up with what Archie Comics is doing). Here’s an earlier piece on the introduction of the character if you’d like to know [...]

  17. Marvel Follows Archie in Announcing Gay Marriage Comic » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] beginning of this year, Archie Comics released Life With Archie #16, in which Kevin Keller, their gay character created by Dan Parent and introduced in late 2010, married his boyfriend. Clay Walker was also [...]

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