Tag Archives: Kevin Keller

Archie Comics’ Big Gay Kiss

14 Aug

KellerKissArchie Comics’ first gay character continues to blaze trails for equality. Since his introduction three years ago, Kevin Keller has become one of the publisher’s most popular characters. He received his own title only months after his introduction and his appearances have been instrumental in the updating of life in idyllic Riverdale. Kevin Keller #10 continues this trend with a story that mixes Archie-style hijinks with solid social commentary.

Kevin recently began dating Devon, a young man who ran away from home when his father reacted badly to discovering he was gay. Devon is staying with Kevin’s pal (and frequent Archie love interest) Veronica Lodge. After events of the past couple of issues, Devon decides to return home to reconcile. After a chat at Pop’s diner, he and Kevin exchange a quick kiss.

A woman in the diner responds badly, accusing the couple of trying to corrupt her young daughter. Veronica rushes to their defense, and Pop himself bans the woman from the diner for her bigotry and disruption. Things get wacky (this is a comic book, after all) when Veronica accidentally posts the kiss to YouTube. The story goes viral, threatening to disrupt Devon’s plans and creating a media frenzy.

The blend of social justice and comic energy is perfect. Kevin just wants to be a normal teenager, a theme that helps make his book so charming and successful. Accepting the responsibility thrust on him by circumstance, he agrees to appear on Ellen to discuss the hyperbolic response to a simple kiss.

The issue also takes a poke at the infamous group One Million Moms, the hyperbolically named group that has mounted failed boycotts and protests of many representations of LGBT people. The group went after Archie Comics last year when the series Life With Archie, set in the future, featured Kevin’s wedding to his partner Clay. Using Ellen as the group’s clever foil, the story dismantles their homophobia and hypocrisy nicely while staying true to the characters and overall story.

The pacing is excellent and the characters are strong and believable. Writer and artist Dan Parent manages to convey important messages without being overly preachy. Besides Pop’s stand for equality, Riverdale High Mr. Wetherbee makes a bold statement about treating everyone fairly. Archie and his current African-American girlfriend reflect that their kiss at Pop’s would have created a similar stir not too long ago.

It’s an Archie Comic, so everything works out pretty well in the end. The story rings very true and the characters are strong. Devon’s interaction with his father is realistic but hopeful. Kevin and Devon continue to grow as characters and as a couple. Deftly handled and cleverly written, Kevin Keller #10 gets a full five stars for telling an important story and remaining true to the spirit of fun that readers expect from Archie.

Celebrating LGBTQ History: June 7, LGBT Comic Book Characters

7 Jun

In the past few weeks comic books have received a great deal of attention in the broader media, mostly because of two major developments involving gay superheroes. One is the upcoming wedding of long-standing gay hero Northstar (more on that below). The other is the re-introduction of a major DC Hero as gay.

This week, DC released Earth 2 #2, featuring new versions of some of the oldest heroes in the company’s history. (This is part of a complete redesign that started in the fall.) Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, appears in the comic with his long-time (male) partner. For casual comic fans, it’s worth noting that this Green Lantern, introduced in 1940, has a magic ring rather than an advanced alien power ring. (For more on the complicated history of the dozens of Green Lanterns, visit the Gay League.) Alan Scott is a major character, and rebooting him as gay shows DC’s commitment to diversity in its characters. The introduction of his partner was handled beautifully, simply as a facet of Scott’s life. Writer James Robinson indicates that he intends to keep things in that narrative vein.

Openly gay and lesbian characters in comic books are a relatively new phenomenon. The tight restrictions of the Comics Code Authority – which almost wiped out hero comics in the 50s – kept any mention of sexuality out of comics until the 70s. Even as the Code eased through the 80s and 90s, the major comic publishers were reluctant to present LGBT characters in what was still perceived as a children’s medium. Jim Shooter, Editor-In-Chief of Marvel Comics from 1978 to 1987, famously prohibited any gay characters from appearing in the company’s publications. Even with this history, however, there are plenty of great gay and lesbian heroes to celebrate.

Perhaps the most famous is Northstar. Created by John Byrne in the pages of the X-Men in 1979, he was a member of the Canadian team Alpha Flight. He is the first mainstream hero to actually identify as gay, famously uttering the words in 1992. Byrne has said that he always intended Northstar to be gay; the writer and artist also introduced one of the first gay-from-the-start characters (Detective Maggie Sawyer in the pages of Superman in 1987. Northstar is now in a long-term relationship (with a non-hero) and is slated to get married in June. The announcement of his impending nuptials was made on The View, showing just how much press these four-color heroes are getting in the wake of big hero movies like The Avengers.

Another LGBT member of the mutant hero franchise is the villain Mystique. She is a lesbian in the comics, including a rare longstanding romantic relationship with Destiny. This aspect of the character was written out of the films. The Pied Piper is another gay villain. This long-time foe of the Flash came out in 1991 and took on a much larger supporting character role in the series. His portrayal won DC Comics one of the first GLAAD Media Awards for a comic book.

Batwoman is a lesbian hero who survived the DC reboot largely intact. Ironically, the original Batwoman was introduced in 1956 as a romantic foil for Batman to deflect criticism about the supposedly homoerotic nature of his relationship with Robin. When the character was re-introduced in 2006, Kate Kane was an open lesbian from the beginning. The stories are some of the best written and illustrated in recent comics and feature LGBT plotlines including references to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. (Kane has also started dating Maggie Sawyer, pointing out the limited number of women in the DC lesbian dating pool.)

Another famed gay couple are Apollo and Midnighter. The heroes were initially published by Wildstorm, a company that was absorbed by DC in 1999. While not clearly gay from the outset, their orientations and relationship developed over time. They eventually married (the first gay marriage in a mainstream comic) and adopted a daughter.

Many newer LGBT characters are teen heroes. Writers get the chance explore the characters coming to grips with their powers and sexual identities simultaneously. In the case of Hulkling and Wiccan, two members of Marvel’s Young Avengers, the boys were much more concerned with their parents learning they were superheroes. This couple has been very well developed, resulting in two of the best LGBT representations in comics. Fellow Marvel teen Karolina Dean, a member of the Runaways is a lesbian; she’s in a relationship with a shape-shifting, bisexual alien, Xavin. In DC’s latest version of the Teen Titans, another gay teen has recently been introduced, the Mexican hero Bunker. He hasn’t had a major role to play yet, but he has been out since his introduction.

Set 1000 years in the future, DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes has introduced a number of LGBT characters. Most of these have been evolutions of long-standing characters. Heroines Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass had been published for over 30 years (and had both had superhero boyfriends) when they began a relationship. Still going strong as a couple in the latest Legion series, they are one of the longest-running pairs in comics. Element Lad was long believed by fans to be gay when he gained a girlfriend in police officer Shvaughn Erin. A few years later, it was revealed that Shvaughn was really Sean, a man who took a drug to become a woman to be appealing to Element Lad. When Sean settled into life as a man, Element Lad stayed with him. This was one of the first bisexual and transgender storylines in comics. Recently, trainee heroes Power Lad and Gravity Kid were shown to be a couple and implied to be married.

Special comic book notice should go to Kevin Keller. While not a superhero, Kevin is another character who was introduced as gay. He is also remarkable because he is published by Archie Comics. He’s one of their most popular characters and was awarded his own comic title only a year after his first appearance. He also celebrated his wedding in a “possible future” Archie series, Life With Archie, a very sweet ceremony.

Perry Moore, author of the great gay superhero young adult novel Hero, wrote an analysis of the fate of LGBT characters in comics. While costumed crimefighting is hazardous in general, he maintained (rather convincingly) that gay and lesbian comic characters suffer more disfigurement and death than their straight counterparts. A prime example is Freedom Ring. One of the rare Marvel heroes introduced as gay, he appeared in 2007. He was a complex character who’s sexual orientation was a simple fact rather than a plot point. Only a few issues after he first appeared, however, he was gruesomely murdered.

Despite this treatment of some LGBT heroes and villains, there are many active in the pages of today’s comics. Queersupe and the Gay League are great resources. Even with the introduction of new characters (and outed old ones), however, equal treatment of the affection between LGBT heroes is still not as visible. Comics are making great strides and the fans seem very supportive of Northstar, Batwoman, and the new/old Green Lantern. Let’s hope that these celebrations of the best in the human spirit continue to grow, better reflecting the vast diversity of people.

Hero of the Week Award: March 2, Archie Comics

2 Mar

Hero of the Week

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.

LGBTQ Review: Veronica #202 featuring Kevin Keller

10 Apr

Kevin's Debut Issue

Having posted about Archie Comics’ new gay character, Kevin Keller, I thought perhaps I should read the issue and see if it lived up to the hype. I got my hands on a copy of Kevin’s first appearance in Veronica #202 and was pleasantly surprised.

I was never much of an Archie fan, even in my 40-titles-a-month comic habit days. When I was young enough to be part of the target audience, the stories were too 50’s-ish and out-of-date. Frankly, I was surprised a couple of years ago when the comic blog I follow had an Archie Comics upcoming issues post, having thought the company was reduced to digest-sized supermarket reprints. Having not followed the characters in their updated (but familiar enough) issues, I can’t really put this story in context. (Johanna at Comics Worth Reading has a review that takes the continuity into consideration and finds the story a bit lacking from that perspective.)

What works well for me is that Kevin is just another teen in Riverdale. The story acknowledges that he’s new to town, gives him enough back-story to anchor the character (he’s a budding writer), and then shows him getting to know his new classmates. When Veronica and Jughead get into a typical squabble, wacky hijinks ensue. The central plot point is Veronica’s crush on the new kid and Jughead’s efforts to keep her from finding out that Kevin is gay.

The plot may be a bit thin, but it works as a kids-with-pretty-casual-problems kind of story. The great thing is that Kevin is so comfortable with himself – and so is everyone else. He is very matter-of-fact with Jughead and Betty about his sexual orientation and tries to be up-front with Veronica despite Jughead’s shallow ploys. It is this honesty that makes the story work for me. Kevin is just a new kid in town who happens to be gay. That fact allows for the somewhat goofy, very Archie plot to move forward, but not at the expense of Kevin as a potentially interesting character. This kind of light-hearted, easy-going approach to sexual orientation is exactly what kids need to see. It will be interesting to see how they build on this in Kevin’s own mini-series this summer.

I’m not going to start collecting Archie Comics as a result of this character or story, but they deserve great congratulations for creating a safe, happy space for LGBTQ kids who read their books.

(Bonus content: the inside back cover ad is for the American Library Association!)

Archie Takes Gay Character Seriously

29 Mar

Kevin Keller: Out in Riverdale

Regular readers of The Solipsistic Me will recall our posts about Kevin Keller, the first gay character published by Archie Comics. The company has just released a teaser of the first issue of Kevin’s own mini-series, due in June.

According to the publisher, these four issues will address important and relevant topics, including Kevin’s struggles with coming out to his parents and bullying. It’s impressive to see the commitment to making Kevin a real character in Archie’s world, not just a placeholder stereotype. As quoted in the New York Post, Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater says, “This is the most important book this company has released in 70 years.”

We’ll see how the series shapes up this summer, but things look very promising for Kevin and for all the kids — regardless of their sexual orientation — who get to learn from his adventures in Riverdale.

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