I’m gay, says new Archie comic character

April 26, 2010

It’s official. Eternal teen Archie Andrews will soon be joined in his escapades at Riverdale High by an openly gay friend — Kevin Keller.

A screengrab from www.archiecomics.com shows gay comic character Kevin Keller in Archie Comic series. Keller will make his debut in the fall season issue of the comics.Kevin is the latest fictional character to have come out of the closet in a world where good always triumphs over evil.

As more and more cartoonists and comic writers embrace the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) theme, usually kept out of the purview of young audiences, readers weigh the merits of an all-inclusive world against traditional morality.

The outing of Albus Dumbledore, headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter series, caused an explosion of interest on the internet in 2007.

Most fans who loved the eccentric headmaster from the day he started the school feast with the words “Nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak!” till the day he died, did not seem to care if Dumbledore was straight or gay.

It prompted author J.K. Rowling to comment “I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy”.

As Herge’s immortal reporter Tintin celebrated his 80th birthday, former politician and writer Matthew Parris in a tongue-in-cheek article raised a lively debate over the cartoon character’s sexuality.

“Tintin is a callow, androgynous blonde-quiffed youth in funny trousers and a scarf. And his moving into the country mansion of his best friend, a middle-aged sailor? …And you’re telling me Tintin isn’t gay?” Parris writes.

For all the interest generated by Kevin Keller and his admitting to Jughead to being gay, LGBT characters are not new to comics.

The Japanese manga comics have had the ‘yuri’ theme depicting love between women since the 70s.

Underground and alternative comics, often published by small presses, have been around since the 60s and fan fiction is read by millions on the internet.

Garry Trudeau’s ‘Doonesbury’ comic strip had a gay character die of AIDS in the early 90s — believed to be the first comic character claimed by the disease.

Commentators however remain divided over keeping content meant for children free of sexual overtones.

Warner Todd Huston wrote in Chicago Now “we’re about to lose yet another safe haven for kid’s entertainment. Introducing a gay character may be ‘realistic’ but does Archie have to be realistic?”

He questions the wisdom of “presenting harsh realities or controversy” to children.

Marc Harshbarger who writes a blog ‘Deep Dish’ counters Huston’s argument by saying kids today are already exposed to Ellen (DeGeneres) — who is now on American Idol which millions of young people watch. DeGeneres is an openly gay TV anchor.

Harshbarger says gay kids will be happy to see someone they can identify with in a comic book they read.

With channels of communication opening up and increased social acceptance of LGBT people, comic book publishers are quick to realise a potential target audience that they can no longer ignore.

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Thank God For Archie Comics. Not only do they make us laugh and feel good about life in this cynical world they espouse a realistic attitude of tolerance of diverse groups such as racial and sexual minorities. And as Rituparna Bhowmik rightly says in her enjoyable blog, it makes business sense as gays across the world are an important customer segment. Maybe Archie Comics now can tackle the real issue of the need for young people to practice safe sex to avoid unwanted pregnancies and HIV. Sometimes, funny messages can be very effective.
One hopes the bigoted goons and self-appointed moral custodians (thugs) who harassed and hounded poor South Indian actress Khusboo for her comments on pre-marital and extra-marital sex should learn a lesson about tolerance from Archies. Kevin Keller, I hope you find your guy even if it means breaking Veronica’s flighty heart!

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