Kevin Keller Writer Dan Parent Talks About Creating the First Openly Gay Archie Character
Almost exactly a year ago. Archie Comics announced that they were adding a new character to the increasingly diverse roster of Riverdale: Kevin Keller, a young man with a love of comics who works for the school paper — and also happens to be the first openly gay character in Archie Comics.
Including a gay character in the relentlessly wholesome world of Riverdale is surely a sign of the changing times, particularly the way the comic presented the revelation of Kevin’s sexual orientation as absolutely normal and uneventful. Now, the character is getting his own four-issue self-titled miniseries this June, dealing with his life before he arrived in Riverdale. We spoke with Dan Parent, the writer of the miniseries — and the creator of Kevin Keller — about what he wanted the character to represent, the reaction from comics fans, and whether a love interest for Kevin is on the horizon.
ComicsAlliance: How did the decision to add a gay character to the cast of Archie come about? What made this the right time to introduce Kevin?
Dan Parent: There were a couple of factors that brought Kevin into Riverdale. First, we’d been actively expanding our audience with more diverse characters. Second, I had come up with the concept of a story where Veronica chases after the unattainable guy (who happens to be gay), and it all sort of just clicked.
CA: What was your process when you were creating Kevin? Did you give any thought to what you wanted the character to represent?
DP: Kevin is the all-American teenager who just happens to be gay. We wanted it to be an important factor, yet it doesn’t completely define him either. The reaction from the Riverdale gang is basically a non-reaction, because Riverdale is an accepting and tolerant community where it’s OK to be gay.
CA: What sort of reaction have you gotten from regular Archie readers, and from the public at large? Have you encountered much backlash to the idea of a gay character in Archie comics?
DP: The regular Archie readers are like one big family, and this family has accepted Kevin as you would another gay family member. It’s been very encouraging to see such love and acceptance. Of course, there’s always some backlash, but you can’t really do anything about that. Just put out the positive stuff, and most folks will follow!
CA: What sort of positive feedback have you heard about the move?
DP: Many of our friends in the gay community are happy, as they share stories about how being represented in Riverdale is an important thing. And we’ve been supported by so many gay people over the years, it’s nice that they have a place in Riverdale, finally. Parents of gay teens are also very supportive. There’s a lot of these folks out there, as teens are coming out to their parents more and more everyday. I think it’s so important to use the words “normal” and “gay” in the same sentence, especially with kids. And in Riverdale, you can be part of a “normal” all-American town, gay or straight.
CA: Should we expect to see Kevin dating or finding a boyfriend in the near future? Do you think it would be more difficult or controversial to portray a gay romance, as opposed to just a gay character?
DP: No boyfriend plans yet, but that’s going to be a whole new chapter to work on, for sure. As far as gay romance being difficult or controversial, I think people will want to see Kevin move forward in the romance department, just as we like seeing it with Archie and the gang.