For most of us, Archie Comics hasn’t changed in decades: Archie Andrews pines for both Bettie and Veronica while Jughead sublimates his gay yearnings by stuffing his face. (What, like you didn’t think that?)But in reality, the company has been bringing the teens of Riverdale into the 21st century, adding more grownup storylines, including appearances by political figures and, yep, introducing an openly gay character, Kevin Keller. After being introduced in the pages of Veronica and starring in his own miniseries, Kevin takes the lead in Kevin Keller #1 , which it hits the shelves this month.
Archie Comics president Dan Parent, who created Kevin, is both writing and drawing the new bimonthly series. Comics site Newsarama chatted with Parent, who’s been with the company for nearly 25 years.
Parent: We’re taking it sort of slow, because we’ve established the fact that Kevin hasn’t dated yet. It’s a good chance to show Kevin interacting with the other Archie characters; everybody has their own take on how Kevin should go on a first date. It’s kind of a mix of the old and the new.
Newsarama: So since we’ll be seeing him dating, that obviously means we’ll see other gay Riverdale High kids as well, correct?
Parent: Yes, you will.
Nrama: The Kevin Keller miniseries ended a bit ago. Other than dating, what other topics are you looking to explore in the ongoing series?
Parent: He is the class president, so there are issues we can explore there. The second issue is a prom issue—those are a staple of Archie Comics. Then we’ll get into summer time, that’s another Archie classic, our summer time stories are always our most popular. I’m working on a story now where he’s a lifeguard. We’ll see his interaction with the gang there, and new friends coming along, him and Cheryl Blossom kind of sparring with each other.
Nrama: The character of Kevin Keller has gotten Archie a lot of positive attention, but with him being super-popular with his peers and the class president, have you also gotten any criticism that it’s a little too rosy of a picture to paint for a gay high school student, given the reality of how difficult that is for many? Obviously Archie Comics aren’t realistic to begin with, but I imagine there has to be something of a balance there.
Parent: Sure. There have been comments like that, that maybe we should have shown a real struggle with him growing up. We did show him struggling with his sexuality, but it’s still the Riverdale version. We are trying to explore the issues, and sometimes we explore them through other characters. We’ll show him helping out other gay kids, who maybe aren’t having such a rosy picture. But at the end of the day, it’s still an Archie comic. We don’t want to get too heavy, but at the same time, we are dealing with issues a little more seriously than in regular book. So we’re trying to play it down the middle a little bit.
Now that Keller seems to be a big hit, when will we see a lesbian at Riverdale? We never really bought that Midge was all that into Moose anyway.
Images via Archie Comics