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Kevin Keller #1

By Hervé St-Louis
February 9, 2012 - 23:47

That cover is ugly
Kevin Keller is the new gay character introduced to Archie Comics recently. Archie Comics has made a big push to address sexual orientation matters in its comic books. This series is the first issue of something Archie Comics considers groundbreaking, a comic book about a gay teenager aimed at an all-age audience. This issue Kevin is excited about a series of firsts in his life, including his first date. Will he make it out alive?

I would say it’s about time that Archie did something about representing gay characters in its line up. After all, I’m the one who asked way back to the late Archie publisher Michael Silberkleit about the portrayal of gay characters in its comics. Specifically, I asked if Jughead was gay. At the time, Silberkleit responded around my clear and direct question. It really felt like he did not want to address it or even allude that it was a matter that would interest Archie Comics readers. You can read all about it from way back in 2006. So I take all the credit for whatever endeavour towards representing gay characters that Archie Comics is taking today. It’s funny to compare Archie Comics’ reaction to this issue six years ago and today. It’s  a new leadership and it shows. But is Kevin Keller any good?

It’s an Archie comic book so it’s has a certain bland flavour meant to not hurt anyone nor offend. I don’t know how Kevin Keller was handled in previous appearances, but the issue of his sexuality here was treated as a non event. And the non-event in a way conflicts with the big deal Archie Comics is making with this comic book. Do they want to milk this issue or not? There is little’s that’s provocative here. I bet they justifiably decided to keep the eventual kiss with the boyfriend for another issue, to you know, drum up sales should this series fail. I ask myself who is the reader of this series. Is it the gay teens or straight girls, just like in yaoi? I ask the question because of the activity page Archie Comics included which strikes me as very similar to the kind of offering found in clearly girls’ comics, like Betty and Veronica. They had one of those match em up dress up activity that in theory appeal more to girls than guys. Maybe Archie Comics knows something about gay teens that I couldn’t guess. Maybe it did research and figured out teenaged gay boys would like this kind of activity. I’m not a gay teen, but I’m not sure one can lump all of them in one group the way marketers have done with girls for years. Maybe if it had been tempered with a clearly boy activity, like I don’t know, help Kevin fight some bad guys, it would have felt like Archie Comics was not insinuating that gay boys like to play dress up like girls.

This is the current that runs through the entire comic book. Great length are taken to show that Kevin Keller is a normal kid. But I think too much of that is done and he turns out to be very boring notwithstanding the humour added to his panicking over the date. Kevin is the president of the students association, he’s a budding reporter. He’s everybody’s best friend. In a sense he is as bland and sanitized as all the other Archie characters, but in his case, he’s even more boring because Archie Comics chose to iron out any controversy or anything out of the ordinary. Kevin doesn’t have a drama queen friend which could act as comedic relief or is not taunted by anyone over his sexuality. His family is all understanding. I bet Archie Comics could have related to many gay teens by keeping Kevin closeted to his dad or mom and built up many contrived but funny plots for him to cover his track. I’m pretty sure this would have help those gay teens that are not as fortunate as Kevin to be surrounded by an understanding family.

But Kevin is about entertainment and not an after school special. So would I recommend the book? I would. It ends in a soft cliff hanger. We’ll see how the date goes next issue. Not until there is a significant body of work with material available in digest format will we know if Kevin Keller is a hit.

The art is handled by Dan Parent who seems to be the big man on campus in the Archie universe. I’m not a fan of his portrayal of Archie character. He lacks the rounded figures and soft edges that makes them enjoyable to watch. Inker Koslowski’s lines are too thick in many places and it overpowers the work, making it too simplified. Simple but rich artwork like this can exists without overtly thick lines. I like anything by the late Mike Parobeck for example.

Rating: 9 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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