This week’s entry is Kevin Keller, the alliteratively-named Archie Comics character. Debuting in 2010′s “Veronica” #202, Kevin’s Archie’s first openly gay character. Kevin was created by Dan Parent, who’s written/drawn most of Kevin’s appearances so far.
Summarizing his backstory to date, Kevin’s an “army brat” who’s moved around with his family to various cities, before they finally decided to move to Riverdale. Kevin shares Jughead’s voracious appetite for food, but otherwise seems to have become a closer friend to Veronica (who initially tried to hit on Kevin in his first appearance). Kevin’s other interests include writing and serving as class president. He’s also been out to his family, and to everyone else in general, for some time (like many gay teens these days).
Kevin’s also made appearances in “Life With Archie,” where his adult self’s achieved his current self’s goal of becoming a military man like his father, and even married an African-American doctor (Clay Walker). This got the attention of the so-called “One Million Moms,” whose protest of Toys-R-Us over selling the wedding issue merely resulted in the issue selling out.
Despite only being a few years old as a character, Kevin’s made quite an impact in comics, to the point of earning his own ongoing series, the only one that I know of from a major US comic producer that specifically headlines a gay male character. While yes, there’ve been LGBT characters from Marvel and DC (including DC’s Batwoman and Marvel’s Northstar and Wiccan), Kevin is unique in that he marks the appearance of an openly gay character in a comic aimed at children, which is something that’s still a rarity in American media. For animation (and live-action) aimed at children, gays are still personae non gratae—-idiot yellow sea sponges, evil teenage girl babysitters, shape-shifting aliens from Mars, and mischievous twins living in a Boston hotel may appear by the ton, sure, but no openly gay characters yet. Children’s shows from outside the US, such as Canada’s live-action “Degrassi” (admittedly aimed at teeangers/older pre-teens) or the animated series “6Teen,” don’t seem to have as big a problem with mentioning or depicting gays. However, this didn’t stop the US’ Cartoon Network from crudely dubbing over use of the word “gay” in episodes of “6Teen” it aired.
Books, however, don’t have TV’s limitations, so not surprising to see gay characters show up there. Though it is surprising to see Archie, a company noted for its old-school approach toward its storytelling, not only depict an openly gay character, but do so in a well-done manner. (Though I’m still waiting to see them show Kevin actually kiss someone male on-panel…) Didn’t think I’d see the day when Marvel and DC’s recent news re: Northstar and Alan Scott would be met with some online forum commenters accusing them of “playing catchup with Archie.”
As for Kevin, he’s currently starring in his own ongoing bimonthly comic, plus his adult self (and his better half) appear in “Life With Archie.” Regarding his future, there’s still a chance Kevin might meet the same fate as Cheryl Blossom, the last secondary character Archie introduced that’s had a lasting major presence. But for now, Kevin seems to be doing just fine.