Archie Comics’ Kevin Keller: Gay Son of a Loving, Military Dad
Though CBR isn’t a gay blog, Kevin Melrose posted an insightful look at the liberal-commie-homosexual-agenda (Re: openly gay comic book character Kevin Keller) going on in the pages of Archie Comics over at Comic Book Resources.
While Marvel and DC are both home to critically acclaimed gay characters – Young Avengers’ Wiccan & Hulkling and the new Batwoman, Kate Kane respectively spring to mind – it’s surprisingly been Archie Comics that has achieved the most media attention for it’s gay posterboy, Kevin Keller.
Or maybe its not surprising at all, considering Archie Comics’ fictional every-town, Riverdale’s ideological utopian place in conservative minds. The Riverdale baby boomers grew up reading was host to hamburger-eating contests, malt shoppes, and the most vanilla love triangle in the history of the printed world between Betty Cooper, Archie Andrews, and Veronica Lodge.
Those plot points all still exist, but now a gay teen named Kevin Keller is counted among the Riverdale gang’s nearest and dearest.
For decades, Archie Comics was viewed as somewhat out of step with society, as changes were slow in arriving to staid but friendly Riverdale, if they arrived at all. But in the past year or so, the winds seemed to abruptly shift, signaled first by an interracial kiss — a company first — between Archie Andrews and Valerie Brown, and then by the introduction of Kevin Keller, Riverdale’s first openly gay resident.
The kiss, while groundbreaking for Archie, raised few eyebrows. Kevin, however, became a target for those decrying the alleged loss of “yet another safe haven for kid’s entertainment.” But Archie Comics didn’t shrink from the criticism, and instead gave the character his own miniseries.
It’s with August’s second issue that Archie Comics is perhaps its boldest yet. In a story by cartoonist Dan Parent, Veronica helps Kevin’s family plan a birthday party for his father. It’s a simple enough premise in which Veronica learns more about Kevin while he comes to realize that, of all the places he’s lived — he’s a military brat — Riverdale has come to feel like home.
However, it’s the cover that (obviously) stands out the most: Against a backdrop of the Stars & Stripes, openly gay Kevin Keller embraces his father, a three-star general, and proclaims, “Dad, you’re my hero!”
It’s a nice moment of love and acceptance between father and son that’s difficult not to view in a larger context, that of the heated and prolonged debate over gays and lesbians serving in the military, and the recent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Do Archie Comics and Parent intend the cover as political or cultural commentary? Oh, I certainly hope so. They’ll undoubtedly be accused of that and (sadly) more, so they might as well embrace it.
I imagine Melrose would agree with me that the people who actually read Archie comics are about 40 years younger than those who bemoan the inclusion of Keller’s character. I’m an avid comics fan myself, and at 27, I’m about 17 years past the point of not falling asleep while reading an Archie.
The children, tweens and teens reading Archie are already growing up in a world where gay high schoolers roam and rule the halls weekly on Glee, and have parents who teach them about diversity and acceptance from a young age on. The average American today becomes a parent at 29, and study after study shows that the far majority of Americans under 30 support same-sex marriage.
Kevin Keller’s cultural success is a numbers game, and those who denounce him are simply the offended ancestors of two generations for whom gay marriage, gay characters, and gay Americans are a welcome fact of life.