Today was my first time ever buying an Archie comic. Back up! It was my first time reading one, too. A long time ago when my fascination with comics began, my judgmental youthful self decided that Archie, Harvey, Gold Key, Charlton, and Dell comics were all beneath me. Oh, I probably looked through one as a last resort when I’d read all the others during the trips to the barbershop my father made sure my brother and I made. This kid certainly wasn’t going to read a copy of a months old Field & Stream. So maybe a look through, but never would I have read one. If it hadn’t been for a decision on Archie Comics part to include its first ever gay character (sidestepping all the rumors and jokes about Jughead) the blue eyed, blond haired new kid in town Kevin Keller it’s doubtful I’d ever read one in my lifetime.
After picking up comics today I drove a few miles to pick one of my nephews up from school. He’s just shy of turning 12 and reading Veronica #202 sitting in my car in the middle school parking lot seemed appropriate. I didn’t share it with him because his parents haven’t yet decided to have that conversation with him. Maybe I should let them read this?
Writer (and artist) Dan Parent’s plot is straightforward. New kid moves to town, makes friends, and shares on a one by one basis the news he’s gay. Veronica falls in love with him while Jughead sense an opportunity to humiliate Veronica and convinces Kevin to let her down easy at a time that seems best for her. Hijinks ensue, mostly at Veronica’s expense until the plan backfires on Jughead. Kevin and Veronica realize they’ve been used and go to the mall to celebrate their newfound friendship.
As for Kevin…he’s likeable, friendly, outgoing, low maintenance, and has an appetite matching Jughead’s. Kevin also reads comics as we find out from Jughead. There were several scenes in which Kevin texted a friend named William from his old home town, raising my hope that Kevin has a boyfriend, even if he’s off panel. That hope came down several notches when Keller’s two BFFs William and Wendy are mentioned in the text piece. It’s too soon to tell if Keller will be given a boyfriend or Archie will introduce another character who happens to be gay to act as a friend. Not only would those be important images for kids to see, one or the other will keep Kevin from becoming the token gay best friend.
Even so, Dan Parent and Archie should be proud of introducing a gay character who’s just as normal as the rest of the Riverdale cast. Thanks for all the kids who’ll see Kevin and understand the affirming message that it’s okay to be different and to the other kids who’ll realize difference doesn’t matter.
And thanks for scenes like this that I thought I’d never see in an Archie comic!