Veronica #202: Introducing Kevin Keller, the New Gay Guy
Veronica #202 has gotten tons of press, as it was promoted for months ahead of time (since April) as a real milestone for Riverdale: it would introduce Archie’s first “openly gay” character, Kevin Keller.
While I completely support the idea — it’s about time that Archie’s hometown of Riverdale was made more diverse in lots of ways — I did find it a shame that, as with another recent big-press storyline, the execution is much worse than the concept deserves. It would be nice if these crossover stories, the ones that got attention for people who don’t normally read the comics, were some of the best, to maybe show people that comics really can be great entertainment. Instead, all the attention seems to be put into grabbing press coverage, with no effort left for telling good stories.
First, there’s the idiocy of the premise: Veronica goes gaga over new guy Kevin while he’s engaged in an eating contest with Jughead. Yeah, I imagine that a guy stuffing his face with burgers as fast as possible is really attractive, especially to the fastidious rich girl.
Then there’s the meanness of all the characters. It’s not particularly out of tone for Veronica to want a cute new guy, but she’s usually a little more subtle than grabbing him or pathetically following him around. Jughead’s actions, especially, are too much, encouraging Kevin to stay in the closet just to teach Veronica a lesson. I haven’t seen a plan this pathetic since the 60s Superman kept playing pranks on Lois to convince her to be more modest and retiring and leave him alone. Jughead doesn’t even have much motivation or reason to get back at Veronica, especially at this level and especially when it requires lying to his new friend. Betty even becomes deceptively malicious just to make the plot work, in an unconvincing scene.
The art, in contrast, is bright, colorful, and energetic, with panels of different sizes and shapes to keep attention and feel modern while still being easy to follow. The characters are always doing things, gesturing or moving or reacting to whatever’s happening. The book was written and drawn by Dan Parent and inked by Rich Koslowski.
What I found most interesting about this comic was its subtext. Ever since the original press release, I’ve found it odd that they used the phrasing “openly gay”, which seems to imply that someone else might be closeted. Although Jughead’s tolerance for the opposite sex has varied greatly over the years, often his dislike of girls has extended into the pathological, leading to all kinds of veiled jokes about just why he may not want to date the way all his buddies do.
Thus, I found it particularly interesting that Kevin has so much in common with Jughead, from his immense appetite to their love of comic books to the way they sympathize over not wanting to date Veronica. The two guys spend a lot of time hanging out in scenes where the text — they have shared interests — contradicts the visuals. If you ignore the word balloons, they look like other dating couples in these kinds of comics. Is someone making a joke based on making the gay guy just like Jughead, only attractive to women?
Ultimately, it’s great to see Kevin be so forthright and comfortable about who he is. It’s unfortunate that the way to get there was such a stupid, out of character story, and I wish he’d told off Jughead more for his unnecessary, deceitful plan.
This comic was so successful that Archie Comics sent out two followup press releases: The first announced that the issue sold out and would be Archie’s first ever reprint. The “special limited edition variant cover print run of Veronica #202″, shown to the left, “will feature a remastered and recolored cover.” Co-CEO Jon Goldwater said, “It’s been a thrill to see how well people have welcomed Kevin into their lives. His introduction was always just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. It just made sense at the time and we couldn’t be happier to have such widespread and enthusiastic support behind Kevin’s continued presence at Archie Comics!”
The #202 reprint will be available in comic shops starting on October 6, and Kevin will reappear in issues #204 and #205 of Veronica. In the second press release, we found out that issue #202 is also available digitally either by purchase through the Archie iTunes app or individually as the “Veronica #202″ app for $2.99 via iVerse.