There's a New Hunk in Riverdale

By Advocate Contributors

Originally published on Advocate.com May 20 2010 12:10 PM ET

Just when you thought gay life couldn't penetrate any deeper into the mainstream, Archie Comics announced there's a gay high schooler coming to the über-American town of Riverdale. That’s right, all you comic-loving kids. Archie, Veronica, Jughead, and Reggie will be joined this fall (in Veronica issue 202) by Kevin Keller, a handsome, sandy-haired, good-natured fella, and the object of Veronica’s affection (good luck, girl). Kevin is expected to pal around with the guys and be both proudly gay and as wholesome as the rest of Archie’s crew.

Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater gave The Advocate an up-close look at the comic's first openly gay character and how Kevin Keller came to be.

The Advocate: When did the idea for the character of Kevin first come to the folks at Archie?
Jon Goldwater: I think early fall of last year. We were having a sort of informal, fun conversation with the staff. Dan Parent, one of our artists and writers, said, "You know how Veronica always gets what she wants? Wouldn’t it be great if one time she couldn’t?" I said, "That sounds cool, but how could we do that?" Dan said, "A new guy comes to school and Veronica is crazy about him. But she can’t have him." Again, I said, "Great, man, but why not?" Dan paused and thought for a second, then said, "Uh, because he’s gay!" I thought it was a brilliant idea. Dan went right to work on the story and drawing Kevin.

When word leaked out, what sorts of responses did you get?
For the most part, they were overwhelmingly positive. I think our audience knows that the world of Archie stays current, even if the kids have traditional values. Our readers know there are plenty of gay teenagers. Why shouldn’t we have one in Riverdale?

But there must have been some negative reactions, I’m imagining.
There were. But all these people seemed to worry about was, by introducing a gay character, would we be sexualizing Archie? Or trying to turn Archie’s whole world gay? That’s ridiculous. Kevin is gay, but just as nice, normal, and wholesome as the rest of the kids. As a comic? Archie is still Archie, man!

So you’re not concerned about any backlash when the comic hits the stands?
Not really. Hopefully, the little bit of negative reaction has already come and gone.That may be positive thinking, but the reaction has been so great, I feel optimistic.

KEVIN KELLER ARCHIE X390 (ARCHIECOMICS.COM) | ADVOCATE.COM

Sexualizing
or not ... will Kevin be allowed to have a boyfriend?

I don’t see
why not. The best thing about introducing a new character is that the
future is wide open. I think it’s certainly going to happen, after a
little while. The other kids have boyfriends and girlfriends. Why not
Kevin? Dan Parent and Victor Gorelick, who is our editor in chief, have
lots of story lines cooking. But I can’t reveal everything.

Although some people thought Reggie [Riverdale’s playboy] was gay, I was always sure it was Jughead. And he
was sublimating his feelings for Archie by eating.

[Laughs] No,
man. Jughead absolutely likes girls. Now, it’s very important that you
have to understand Jughead. He’s complex. He’s Archie’s best buddy and
he’s watched him go through all these agonies with Betty and Veronica.
And he’s not into all the drama. He floats above it. So he eats his
burgers and hangs out. Hey, he marches to his own drummer, man. That’s
why he’s the drummer for the Archies!

So how will Kevin relate
to guys like Jughead? They’ll be cool together?

Oh, absolutely.
Not to tip too much, but we’ll have Kevin and Jughead in an eating
contest in the future. He’s just going to be one of the kids. Worried
about grades and stuff.

Certainly, the attention you guys received
when you made the announcement of a gay character had to make you feel
good. All the wire services and places like CNN covered it.

It
was tremendous. We’re not introducing Kevin just for the press, but it’s
a great thing for us. We’ve been publishing Archie since 1941 — my dad,
John, was one of the three people who started the company — and we’re
always looking for ways to stay current and keep the interest of kids.
While still staying PG. It’s a challenge when you publish a million
copies a month of all your combined titles. Still, to find that so many
outlets found the Kevin story newsworthy is tremendous.

You’ve

heard from various gay leaders and groups, I would guess.
Yes, no
names or anything, but they’re thrilled. Everybody, gay or straight,
loves Archie. So the fact that we’ve included Kevin in that world they
love, they’re very pleased.

That’s one of the things I think we
all love about Archie and Riverdale. They’re so ...

Inclusive?

Yeah.
That’s been our intention from the start. Everybody is
welcome. That means everybody.

Any plans to do a big launch for
Veronica
number 202, the issue that introduces Kevin?

We’d like to.
We’re still brainstorming about it. The uncontrived publicity the
character is generating has been pretty good on its own, though. So
we’ll see.

Now, when Kevin rebuffs Veronica, will it be a big
thing?

No. When Kevin defeats Jughead in a burger-eating contest,
Veronica will think he’s amazing and become interested in him. It’ll be
funny and there will be confusion, but Kevin will ultimately just let
her down easy.

For years I’ve heard about a live-action Archie
movie. Is that still something you’d like to see happen.

I think
we’re pretty close with a screenplay. We were disappointed with the Josie and the Pussycats movie a few years back. It was a little
too ... suggestive for our demographic. We’d like to do something more in
the spirit of the comic.

And we can assume, if there’s a film,
that Kevin Keller will be in it?

Of course. That’s the thing
everybody loves about Archie comics and Archie’s world. Once you’re in,
you’re in. So, Kevin? Yeah, man, he’s a part of the Riverdale family
from now on.