November, 2011 / Author:

Things will never be the same in Riverdale

Fans of the Archie comics have had an especially interesting year. The introduction of a gay character, Kevin Keller, took the venerable series to a whole new level. Regular readers had fun watching Veronica making a fool of herself, trying to get the new guy in Riverdale to like her. Only Jughead knew his secret and was quite happy to watch all the confusion that ensued.

Well, Kevin proved so popular, he got his own four-part mini-series in the summer. Creator Dan Parent wrote and illustrated the series, which focused on Kevin’s journey before coming out to his friends and family. Outwords asked Parent about the genesis of Kevin Keller. The answers are fun and a little surprising.

Q. Introducing a gay character would seem to be a bold step for a comic series that has traditionally appealed to Middle America (and many Canadians) – how did you and the people at Archie Comics come to the decision to take this step?

A. I had the idea of a story where Veronica is chasing this guy who is seemingly uninterested in her (because he’s gay). At the same time, the powers that be at Archie were discussing adding new characters and more diversity to the Archie universe. So my story idea seemed like a good fit. Hence the arrival of kevin Keller.

Dan Parent
Q. What options did you consider during the process in deciding how to portray a gay character? In other words, how gay could he be? What kind of person would he be?

A. The main thing was Kevin had to be a positive portrayal of a gay character and the story had to follow the classic format of an Archie story.

Q. Was there unanimous support for introducing a gay character within Archie Comics? How did you resolve any differences of opinion?

A. The Archie team was all for it, especially CEP John Goldwater, who really nurtured the introduction of Kevin. He saw the importance of a character like Kevin, and was 100 per cent supportive all the way.

Q. What preparations did you make for negative reactions from readers, religious organizations, retailers and politicians?

A. If you do what you believe is the right thing, you can’t look back. There will always be critics, but we know what we’re doing. We’ve been doing this for 70 years. We know our audience. Most support Kevin and know the world of Riverdale as the heartfelt place it is.

Q. What was the reaction from readers – GLBT and otherwise?

A. Overwhelmingly positive. Of course the GLBT support has been great, but the straight community loves Kevin, too. He is part of the family now after all!

Q. How have you dealt with readers and others who oppose Kevin Keller?

A. By ignoring them.

Q. What persuaded you to launch a new series featuring Kevin Keller?

A. Well, the positive feedback and good sales of his first appearances in Veronica certainly didn’t hurt!

Q. What special marketing are you doing for this series (different from the other Archie series)?

A. From my side, I just handle the creative stuff. The marketing side is up to Archie, which they’ve done a beautiful job on.

Q. Would you consider romantic relationships for Kevin in future issues?

A. For sure!

Q. What kinds of adventures and relationships can readers expect him to get into?

A. Let’s just say awkward dates are funny, gay or straight!

Q. Can readers expect to see other GLBT characters in the Kevin Keller series or in the established Archie series?

A. That’s a possibility. As Kevin’s story continues. Stay tuned!

– Rachel Morgan is editor of Outwords.

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