He may be your regular, all-American boy, but Kevin Keller’s debut in Archie Comics’ “Veronica” #202 last September marked a significant moment in the publisher’s 70-plus year history, even making headlines in “USA Today,” “The Washington Post” and NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.” Kevin became Archie’s first openly-gay character when he moved to Riverdale in September, but despite this, his appearance was marked with little fanfare or soapbox-style debate by the likes of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and Reggie. Instead, Kevin hit it off with several characters right away and even got roped into a friendly prank. CBR News spoke with longtime Archie cartoonist Dan Parent, Kevin Keller’s creator who wrote and drew his initial appearance, about his plans for the character, which includes a spotlight in “Veronica” #205 on sale March 2 and a four-issue miniseries launching in June.â€¨â€¨
The introduction of its first openly-gay character has been an overwhelming success for Archie, with “Veronica” #202, Kevin Keller’s first appearance, becoming the first comic in the publisher’s history to receive a second printing. The issue is also now available in digital formats. “The reaction has been overwhelming,” Parent told CBR News. “I think Kevin’s appeal lies in the fact that he’s your all-American kid, the boy next door if you will.Â And the fact that he’s gay is important, but doesn’t make him much different from most American teen-agers.”
This attitude toward the character plays out in that first appearance, which feels like a traditional “Archie” story rather than a sensational or controversial new event — Kevin moves to town, has a burger-eating contest with Jughead and gets caught up in Jughead’s prank on Veronica when she falls for the new boy, not knowing he’s gay. “Job # 1 was this:Â the story has to read as an ‘Archie’ story,” Parent said of the issue. “It has to have the same humor and warmth that our other stories have had for s decades now. We did discuss how Kevin should be introduced, and decided that the best way was to make itÂ a non-issue.Â He comes out to the gang, and it’s no big deal, because the Archie gang is accepting and tolerant.”
Even with the non-confrontational intro story, it would seem likely that some readers would be less than pleased with Kevin’s introduction simply because of the current social divide regarding homosexuality. But Parent said he’s encountered “very little” resistance to the new character. “Of course you can’t please everyone, but the vast majority has been on board.Â The thing I was most pleased with were the fans who were skeptical about the announcement of Kevin, but were happy and supportive when the story came out,” the writer said. “The best compliment we received was, ‘Gee, that seemed like a regular ol’ Archie story!’Â Mission accomplished!”
March’s “Veronica” #205 finds Kevin in the process of settling into life in Riverdale and finding his place among the gang. “This is the first time we get to see Kevin and Veronica in action, as friends,” Parent told CBR, “and they do make a great team.Â In fact, everybody loves Kevin, except for Betty, who normally is the most welcoming person in Riverdale.Â But she’s threatened by Kevin’s friendship with Veronica, and tries hard to hide it.”
Readers know from Kevin’s first appearance that he enjoys a good burger, but as his story progresses Parents said that fans will see a bit more of what makes Kevin Keller tick beyond his appetite for Pops’ cuisine. “He loves to write, and gets lost in his own world when he writes.Â He’s also passionate about his family and friends, past and present,” Parent said. As to whether readers will see much of Kevin’s pre-Riverdale life, Parent said, “We will see a lot of Kevin growing up.Â And that’s all I can say about that now!”
Though Parent would not reveal much about the June-debuting Kevin Keller miniseries, he did say that “I think the first issue is even better than Kevin’s debut in ‘Veronica’ #202. I think it’s probably the best story I’ve ever written in all my years at ‘Archie,’ which makes me quite the braggart!Â But I put a lot into it, and I’m proud of it, so what the Hell!Â I had a great time drawing it, too.Â The second book is written and I’m onto the third issue now.â€¨
“Storywise, I’m not giving away details yet, but a lot happens.Â Stay tuned!”
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