As we mentioned earlier, Archie Comics has some big news this week: Kevin Keller, their first openly gay character, is getting his own series. We fired off a couple of quick questions to Kevin creator Dan Parent and here’s what he had to say:
Robot 6: What makes you think Kevin has a strong enough personality to sustain his own series?
Dan Parent: I think he’s proven that with his popularity beyond his initial appearance. He feels like he’s been a part of the gang for years already.
Robot 6: Will he have his own set of friends, or will he hang out with Archie, Betty, Veronica, and the rest of the Riverdale crowd?
Dan Parent: Both actually. We’ve met some of his friends from his past who will continue to be around, and we’ve seen his relationship with the main five characters. What will be interesting are his relationships with other members of the Riverdale gang. And there will be a few new characters too.
It may have seemed daring for Archie Comics to introduce their first openly gay character, Kevin Keller, in Veronica #202 last year, but it’s a move that has paid off handsomely. Not only did the move draw a lot of attention to the publisher, but Kevin himself has proved to be a popular character, and his creator, Dan Parent, has been fleshing out his personality and backstory in a four-part miniseries that debuted last month. Today, the New York Times revealed that Kevin will get his own series next year, and readers will get some glimpses of the grown-up Kevin in the Life With Archie magazine, which features dual storylines in which Archie marries Veronica and Betty, respectively. And yes, Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater says, they are going there: Kevin will get married in early 2012.
Parent has already taken on another controversial topic in the current miniseries, which reveals that Kevin’s father is in the military and Kevin himself would like to serve someday. The comic also tackles homophobia head-on but in a very Archie kind of way, by having the kids who are taunting Kevin turn out to be friends from his old school who were just trying to get a rise out of his Riverdale buddies. These new friends are a refreshing addition to the cast, and hopefully they will stick around for a while. Parent says that Kevin will be class president in the new series, but he adds, ” “Even the most popular kids are not popular with everybody. There’s some adversity he’ll have to deal with.”
As for controversy, Goldwater says it’s a non-issue: “Out of all the people who subscribe to the Archie books, we only had seven total cancellations,” he told the Times.
Publishing | We noted in late April that Archie Comics appeared to be embracing cultural and political commentary with its upcoming Kevin Keller miniseries, which features Riverdale’s first openly gay character and his father, a retired three-star general. But now the publisher, or at least the character, is going a step further, marching into the middle of the debate over gays and lesbians openly serving in the armed forces by revealing that Kevin aspires to be a journalist, but only after attending the U.S. Military Academy and becoming an Army officer. “Even though we don’t tackle the specific issue of Don’t Ask Don’ Tell, the goal was to show that patriotism knows no specific gender, race or sexual orientation,” cartoonist Dan Parent says. “While it sounds like heavy subject matter, I tried to show it simply that Kevin, like his dad, loves his country. Being gay doesn’t effect that in any way.” [The Associated Press]
Publishing | DC Comics’ line-wide reboot has received extensive coverage by mainstream media outlets, based largely on the original USA Today article or The Associated Press report. But my favorite piece is this one by George Gene Gustines that turns back the clock to 1985 and attempts to explain to The New York Times audience the effects, and problems, of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the publisher’s subsequent attempts to streamline continuity: “… If the goal was to make the DC universe easier to understand, the end result was the opposite: to this day, fans frequently mention ‘pre-Crisis‘ and ‘post-Crisis‘ as a way to distinguish stories. Twenty years later, in the Infinite Crisis limited series, DC tried to clean continuity up again: Superman’s career as Superboy was back; Batman knew who murdered the Waynes; and Wonder Woman was a founder of the Justice League again.” [The New York Times]
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.
Response to the new Archie character, Kevin Keller, has been so strong that starting this June he will be starring in his own four-issue miniseries by writer/artist Dan Parent. If you had said to me two years ago that Archie Comics would one day build a miniseries around the first openly gay character in the company’s history, I would not have believed you. But clearly (as noted in this 2010 CBR News Parent interview) the fine folks at Archie Comics want “to make Riverdale more diverse while avoiding the pitfalls of stereotypes and parody”. So to find out more about Parent’s plans for this new miniseries, we conducted a quite enjoyable email interview. As an added bonus, Archie’s Alex Segura was generous enough to share an exclusive preview of issue 2′s variant cover. If you happen to be at the Pittsburgh Comicon this weekend, be sure to visit Parent in Artists Alley, where he’ll be doing sketches and signing books.
Tim O’Shea: Is it challenging to build comedy around an openly gay character, or is it a non-issue as if I was asking you “is it hard to build comedy around a left-handed character”?
Dan Parent: It’s not really that challenging, since we have the core Archie characters to play off of. Their familiarity helps us build a story around Kevin.
Conventions | Although final figures aren’t yet available, WonderCon organizers confirm attendance likely surpassed the 39,000 fans who came to last year’s convention. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | On his always-interesting new blog, Jim Shooter reminisces about the genesis of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars: “We went through a number of ideas for names for the toy line and series. Mattel’s focus group tests indicated that kids reacted positively to the words ‘wars’ and ‘secret.’ Okay.” [Jim Shooter]
Publishing | Longtime print broker Chikara Entertainment, which also offered book packaging and consulting services, has closed. [ICv2.com]
Retailing | Sarah Cohen provides a snapshot of South Florida comic stores struggling amid a weak economy and a changing marketplace. Some retailers have changed their strategies by diversifying their merchandise, holding events and reaching out to customers via the Internet. Others, however, prefer to do business the way they always have. “Making events and using social networking is pushy,” says Jorge Perez, owner of A&M Comics and Books in Miami. “It might help business, but then you would be on the computer all day doing stuff like that.” A&M, the oldest comic store in Florida one of the oldest in the nation, has seen business drop by about 40 percent since 2008. [Miami Herald]
My friendship and association with Alex Segura dates back to late 2004 when he invited me to join Robot 6‘s ancestor blog (or however you want to call its relation) The Great Curve. I wear my bias on my sleeve for this interview–I’ve always been a supporter of Segura’s work–be it years at DC Comics, or more recently, his current role as Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing at Archie Comics. In addition to discussing what he’s accomplished to date at Archie (and hopes to achieve in the near to long term), we delve into his own writing and musical pursuits (in the band, The Faulkner Detectives).
Tim O’Shea: Before your first stint with Archie a few years back, you worked at Wizard. So I gotta ask, what’s your reaction to the end of the print magazine?
Alex Segura: On a gut level, it’s sad. Wizard was a big part of my getting into comics – or at least, sticking with them – in middle school and into college. There were times when I wasn’t actively buying any regular comic books but would still pick up Wizard to keep tabs on the industry. Working there was also huge. It was my first full-time job in the industry and gave me a crash course in comics and how they work. I also met some of my best friends there – many of whom I still talk to on a regular basis. Hell, I live with Ryan Penagos, who I first met at Wizard. So, yeah. I have a lot of fond memories of both my time at the company and my relationship with the magazine leading up to that.
Professionally, I’m not all that surprised. There was a time when Wizard was a major tastemaker – they had a big part in the rise of Image and for a long while broke major news from the Big Two. But with the rise of comic news on the web, it just seemed like they got left behind. Hopefully this new incarnation can revive the company. We’ll see.
The first thing I did when I got to C2E2 was head to Artist Alley to see who was there. It’s always fascinating to see big-name talent rubbing shoulders with creators who haven’t been discovered yet. Here’s a quick look at some of the tables that caught my eye today.
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