Flashmob Fridays: Archie’s Kevin Keller

As I mentioned this week, I joined the Flashmob Fridays gang. Today, we cover Kevin Keller #2.

Kevin Keller #2 cover

I’d previously briefly discussed this issue, but this time, I got to write the introduction, putting the issue 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 more.

In general, the response to the issue is appreciation for how well-meaning it is. No one finds it outstanding, but for what it is, it’s good at that, and even old-fashioned in some ways. Check out the link for more.

Update: (2/22/12) Here’s my contribution in full:

Archie Comics’ traditional approach focused on capturing trends once its older writers and artists heard about them, leading some to say that you know fads are over once they appear in an Archie comic. Now, under new management, Archie seems to be chasing hot topics as a way of gaining free publicity, especially among the wider mainstream media. So, between “Archie gets married” magazines and an “Archie meets KISS” licensed story comes this political football. Kevin Keller #2 (actually Veronica #208 in indicia labeling) cover-features the new gay kid character praising (with four visual flag elements) his military dad, alluding to recent real-life events involving gays in the military and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” several months ago.

The actual story isn’t as focused or patriotic. Kevin’s family wants to plan a party for dad’s birthday, and since Veronica is always hanging around, she gets involved. (The two characters most often paired with Kevin in the stories he’s appeared in so far are Veronica, who seems to view a gay best friend as a key accessory, and Jughead, whom Kevin has a large number of characteristics in common with, hmmm.) The family event gives Veronica an excuse to “snoop through [Kevin’s] private stuff”, as he puts it, including photos that result in flashback stories of Kevin’s life as a military brat.

Kevin is bullied as a younger kid but learns to stand up for himself through athletic accomplishment. Kevin misses his dad, stationed away from the family. Kevin protects his friends when they get picked on. This isn’t much of a story, more a collection of feel-good reminders of how one should behave in dealing with difficult circumstances.

The art is standard current Archie look, with simple lines and faces and bright, eye-catching colors. It has energy, as figures are always gesturing or posing, in spite of the stories being driven by dialogue instead of images.

Readers looking for stories specifically focusing on life as a gay teen will be disappointed, as only one of the incidents deals with hazing specifically for that reason, and it’s phrased in terms of Kevin seeming effeminate, not gay. That gives Kevin’s story a normality and universality that’s a good thing, but it also ignores the part of his character that makes him particularly distinctive. I hope the two remaining issues of this series show Kevin dating, just as the other teens do. While we’re told every issue that Kevin is gay, we have yet to see that in the visuals.

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