Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--A Safe World For Everyone
Column by Steve Bennett
Published: 04/28/2010, Last Updated: 11/30/1999 12:00am
Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett looks at the introduction of Archie's first openly gay character.
The introduction of Kevin Keller, Archie Comics first openly gay character* in Veronica #202 garnered the kind of free publicity the publisher had undoubtedly been dreaming of (though I must admit I'm still a little taken aback that last Saturday's SNL Weekend Update segment didn't take the cheese) so it really doesn't merit much of a mention here.
I've been guilty of using the term "impossible" to describe things which have come to pass so either (a) like "inconceivable' in The Princess Bribe ' the word does not mean what I think it does, or (b) in the future I should avoid using hyperbole. But not only did I think this wouldn't happen in a million years, I consulted the woman in my life (an actual former girl who read Archie Comics growing up) and she didn't think it would either.
But like a lot of "impossible" things this one was inevitable, or as Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater put it…
"The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. Archie's hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books."
Or to be cynical (which is more or less my default position) Archie has to keep up or get left behind. Meaning they're not likely going to get another Hollywood development deal for an Archie movie (though I believe the last time they were shopping it around they had started calling it Betty & Veronica) if the brand doesn't start reflecting the world the tweens they're chasing live in.
Here's a confession; I generally don't read the "User Comments" sections of news stories as they tend to make me crazy but I did want to see how Archie fans were handling the news. So I stiffened my resolve and read the responses to a story on The Atlantic Wire titled "Die-Hard Archie Fans Grapple With New Gay Character" and found them mostly positive. But there was this line from Ralph "a longtime Archie fan weighing in at Animated Magazine" that I think crystalizes the argument against:
"The majority of the Archie comic audience are kids and sexual orientation has no place in this comic."
This is a reaction that I think has to almost be purposely disingenuous because I really don't think the publisher has ever exactly made it a secret that their comics are, almost exclusively, about "sexual orientation." The complaint instead is really about who's being oriented towards whom.
Me, I'm more curious about what Archie actually does with the character because part of the problem with Riverdale being "A Safe World for Everyone" (which if it isn't the archly ironic title of a Grant Morrison story it really ought to be) is that it severely limits the kind of conflicts your characters can have. Something else to be considered is, as I indicated in my column of 01/20/2010 (see, "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Diversity Delayed") Archie Comics has a long history of introducing new characters who end up being as short-lived as they are well-intentioned. Kevin Keller could very well turn out to be just one more.
So while this move is definitely groundbreaking I think I'll be actually impressed when the publisher shows us what happens when the second openly gay character appears in Riverdale.
The Smurfs, especially since we're still a couple years away from the release of the big screen movie. But the first volume, The Purple Smurf, is set for an August release; I know this won't likely be a big seller for a lot of us, but as I've previously demonstrated European comics like TinTin and Asterix have proven to be strong, steady sellers for us over the years. Given a chance The Smurfs might become another.
And, finally it's sneaked up on me again but this Saturday is once again Free Comic Book Day and I'm happy to report that I'll be spending it in the best possible way (reading comic books, talking to customers) at the best possible place, Super-Fly Comics & Games. I hope you all have as good a one.
* I don't know if Archie intended it this way but the way that phrase is worded in all their press releases suggests (to me anyway) that the company is withholding the possibility of revealing the identity of "Archie's first closeted gay character" given a slow news day. I know Jughead usually tops the Internet usual suspects lists but I nominate Pepper from She's Josie, the comic that eventually became Josie & The Pussycats.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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