Today we are pleased to honor the continued commitment of what was once a surprising player in LGBT equality, Archie Comics. The company has a reputation as being conservative and traditional, bolstered by an ill-advised 70s partnership with a right-wing evangelical publisher. Over the past few years, however, the Archie brand has been surprisingly successful at re-inventing itself and creating a relevant, safe place for young comic readers to see how everyone really can get along.
Last year Archie Comics made a great move toward equality by introducing their first gay character, the loveable Kevin Keller. Creator Dan Parent made Kevin a realistic, complex character. He happens to be gay; he’s also a teen in Riverdale, so he has his share of typical misadventures but also knows everyone loves and supports him. It’s a great message for LGBTQ youth and their allies and families. While previous diversity characters have been given short shrift after their initial introductions, Kevin has quickly become an Archie mainstay. After taking over Veronica for four issues (and exploring coming out, dating, bullying, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell), Kevin was given his own title which debuted last month. It’s off to a promising start and Kevin looks to be a vital part of the Riverdale community.
The company took equality even farther last month. In the Life With Archie series which shows the life of the characters as adults, they celebrated Kevin’s wedding to his partner, Clay. In typical Riverdale fashion, no-one bats an eye at true marriage equality and the wedding is a marvelous, supportive event. They are also a bi-racial couple, adding to the “everyone belongs” message. That issue alone was almost enough to earn the company HWA. But this week they did even better.
The American Family Association’s One Million Moms project noted the presence of Life With Archie #16 in Toys ‘R’ Us stores and started another boycott attempt. The extremist hate group objected to the presence of a loving same-sex couple on the cover of a comic book. So far Toys ‘R’ Us has not replied (perhaps not wishing to waste time debating with lunatics?). Archie Comics, on the other hand, came out with a strong, wonderful statement issued by CEO John Goldwater.
We stand by Life with Archie #16. As I’ve said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone. It’s an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday. We’re sorry the American Family Association/OneMillionMoms.com feels so negatively about our product, but they have every right to their opinion, just like we have the right to stand by ours. Kevin Keller will forever be a part of Riverdale, and he will live a happy, long life free of prejudice, hate, and narrow-minded people.
Way to go Archie Comics. Let’s hope your efforts speed the pace by which all of America becomes a bit more like Riverdale when it comes to inclusion.