Kevin Keller’s Bright Gay Future in Archie Comics

Kevin Keller’s arrival in Riverdale last fall (in Veronica Issue 202 — our review here) marked the first openly gay character in Archie Comics history.

For people who might not follow the Archie universe, or the comics industry, this was sort of a big deal. In fact, his arrival made such a splash that the issue sold out and prompted the first reprint ever of an Archie comic. The new gay character also prompted a GLAAD media award nomination last month.

Kevin will be back in March (Veronica issue 205), and the new guy gets his own 4-issue series (titled Kevin Keller) beginning in June!

Comics writer/artist Dan Parent is the man responsible for creating the character, and he tells USA Today that response to Kevin has been almost overwhelmingly positive. “We knew going into it
we were doing the right thing. You’re always prepared in the back of
your mind for some backlash. Not to say there hasn’t been some. Not
everybody’s particularly happy about it, but from where I’m sitting
it’s been about 98% positive.”

When we first reported on Kevin Keller we sort of assumed he’d make a well-intentioned token appearance and then fade into the Archie Comics background. And it remains to be seen how successfully Riverdale’s new gay guy will be able to anchor a title all by himself once the novelty of his very existence has worn off. (He might just be eclipsed by another landmark Archie story: Archie’s interracial romance with Valerie Brown (the bass player from Josie and the Pussycats.)

But it is truly surprising and encouraging to us here at AfterElton.com just how much thought and effort has gone into developing Kevin Keller as something more than a publicity stunt.

For instance, Parent really wanted Kevin to defy easy stereotypes, so much to Veronica’s surprise, we find out he hates musical theater. Also, they’ve made Keller a bit of a foodie, giving him something to bond over with notorious glutton Jughead.

When the Kevin Keller comic arrives in June we’ll meet his friends
Wendy and William and find out more about what he was up to before moving to Riverdale. “We see him as a little kid growing up, through
flashbacks and him talking with the characters, and we learn more about
his family life,” Parent says (via USA Today.) “We learn he’s an Army brat. Mostly,
you’ll see him struggling in junior high with his friends.”

I’m actually quite curious about the backstory Parent is developing for the character. Clearly, he feels a responsibility to provide a positive representation of a gay teen. He recounts having gay men come up to him at comics conventions and telling him that a character like Kevin “would have made a really big difference
growing up.”

“From my point of view, the selfish creator
point of view, I wanted to create a good character to make the Archie
universe a little richer. But from a gay person’s point of view,
especially a lonely younger gay person, it can mean a whole different
thing.”

Archie comics will begin distributing comics digitally to smartphones and tablets starting in April, and the Kevin Keller title will be heavily promoted on the new digital platform.

So comics fans, will you be checking out Kevin and the rest of the Archie gang via the new digital format?