For decades, Archie Comics was viewed as somewhat out of step with society, as changes were slow in arriving to staid but friendly Riverdale, if they arrived at all. But in the past year or so, the winds seemed to abruptly shift, signaled first by an interracial kiss -- a company first -- between Archie Andrews and Valerie Brown, and then by the introduction of Kevin Keller, Riverdale's first openly gay resident.
The kiss, while groundbreaking for Archie, raised few eyebrows. Kevin, however, became a target for those decrying the alleged loss of "yet another safe haven for kid’s entertainment." But Archie Comics didn't shrink from the criticism, and instead gave the character his own miniseries.
It's with August's second issue that Archie Comics is perhaps its boldest yet. In a story by cartoonist Dan Parent, Veronica helps Kevin's family plan a birthday party for his father. It's a simple enough premise in which Veronica learns more about Kevin while he comes to realize that, of all the places he's lived -- he's a military brat -- Riverdale has come to feel like home.
However, it's the cover that (obviously) stands out the most: Against a backdrop of the Stars & Stripes, openly gay Kevin Keller embraces his father, a three-star general, and proclaims, "Dad, you're my hero!"
It's a nice moment of love and acceptance between father and son that's difficult not to view in a larger context, that of the heated and prolonged debate over gays and lesbians serving in the military, and the recent repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Do Archie Comics and Parent intend the cover as political or cultural commentary? Oh, I certainly hope so. They'll undoubtedly be accused of that and (sadly) more, so they might as well embrace it.
Kevin Keller #2 goes on sale Aug. 10 in comic stores and Aug. 16 on newsstands.