Six years ago, Archie Comics made history with its first openly gay character, Kevin Keller, in "Isn't it Bromantic," which ran in Veronica Comics Issue 202. Introducing Kevin, created by writer/artist Dan Parent, was one of many ways Archie Comic Publications chose to make the kids from Riverdale High relevant again, bringing them into the 21st Century.
Kevin has proven popular enough to warrant his own successful series. In one flash forward issue set in the future, Kevin marries his African-American boyfriend, Clay Walker.
Last year, the company unveiled their new lineup of relaunched comic book titles, known as the new Riverdale Library series; the first reboot of Archie comics in over 75 years. Many of the titles feature a dramatically different aesthetic than fans are used to, but Life with Kevin still features the classic art associated with Archie through the years. But Life With Kevin Issue #1 did unveil a slightly older Kevin, who has moved from Riverdale to New York City for an internship at a TV news station.
“The idea here was to keep the classic feel, but make it contemporary too," Parent explains to Plus. "We decided to play around with the style and coloring a bit. This makes it clear that it's a different series from the previous one. Think of it as Kevin Keller 2.0!”
Parent says it's a pleasure and a privilege to be able to tell a positive story about a young gay character, who is not defined by his sexuality — but doesn't have to hide from it either. That's one of the advantages of taking Kevin out of high school and aiming the series at young adult readers rather than pre-teens. Doing so opens the way for Kevin to finally have a sex life: in fact, he hooks up with a cute Asian neighbor in the very first issue; setting the tone for what to expect in Life With Kevin. “We never show anything graphic," Parent assures fans. "[But] we do imply that Kevin is a healthy young guy who’s breaking into the dating world — a lot. We show him with a lot of his new dates, and we let the reader figure out the rest!"
He adds, "And some of it is done with comedy, like Veronica overhearing an encounter she wishes she hadn't. But everything is appropriate for teen readers, and nothing you wouldn’t see on say, the CW — where a new [TV] series featuring the charcaters, called Riverdale, will launch in 2017."
Letting Kevin date "lots of guys" also sets the perfect stage for the character — and readers — to learn about HIV, safer sex, and the importance of getting tested. Of course, Parent is still in the entertainment business: "It’s not that I'm afraid to take on a serious issue," he says. "But I'll never hammer someone over the head with it.”
Acknowledging that the new direction could turn off some old fans, Parent says, "You'll never please everyone! So don't try!"
Life with Kevin #2 will be available at comic book stores everywhere and digital on Wednesday, September 7. Read our exclusive preview, with an advance of the first 6 pages here.