I love Archie Comics. I love that light Archie tone — realistic, but a very stylized version of real life, if that makes sense. It’s cute, it’s funny, it’s retro, it’s a look into how we’ve imagined ideal life to be throughout the years. It’s a piece of Americana that most people are aware of, whether they’ve ever read it or not. With that in mind, what I’m about to say is understandable: I’ve mentioned media reactions before in this series, directed toward Green Lantern and Hulkling in particular, but those don’t hold a candle to the “Archie’s gay wedding” controversy.
Okay, people. First of all, Archie didn’t marry a man (although that would’ve been an interesting ending to the eternal Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle). Second, the gay man in question, Kevin Keller, had already been around for several years. And he is awesome. Creator Dan Parent did a fantastic job of depicting a well-rounded gay character in that classic Archie tone — he has realistic struggles sometimes, and people react to him in a variety of realistic ways, but you still know everything’s gonna be okay by the end of the comic. It’s still friendly, inviting, positive, and just homey in a way no other comic could be for me. Some reviews have said they don’t think Kevin is relatable because he has it too easy, and that’s a valid feeling, but I don’t feel that way. I think Riverdale has always been a safe place, and it’s appropriate to show a happy gay character there. What’s more, I like positivity and I don’t want LGBT+ characters to be miserable all the time, (although the fact that being happy is “less realistic” ought to tell you something about reality).
Kevin appears as a teen in the teenage comics and an adult in the adult-Archie comics. He’s been in the military, and subsequently elected to the US Senate. He sold out his first appearance, causing the first reprint in Archie history, and he also sold out his wedding issue. So, it may be a bit depressing that his existence is newsworthy, but on the other hand, there’s concrete proof that people love him and want his books!
Essential: Kevin Keller by Dan Parent (pub. 2012, ISBN 9781879794931).This’ll get you his introduction and essential early storylines, and it’s delightful.
Wedding issue: Life with Archie #16. This thing sold out in a heartbeat and is way hard to find if you’re a paper-comic collector. We’re talking $80 if you can find it at all. Fortunately, you can get it digitally on Comixology for $4! Be aware, there are two storylines — one where Archie married Veronica, and one where he married Betty. Kevin gets married in both, but the story’s barely about him..