On stands today: Riverdale’s “hot new guy,” who’s gay. Yes, that Riverdale, home of Archie, Jughead, Betty, and now Kevin, who is really, really, not interested in Veronica. As comics fans first heard in the spring, “the most mainstream, Middle-American comic book” — which last made headlines with a good old-fashioned traditional marriage — has now officially gone the way of, well, actual communities with gay people in them. Win.
What’s extra-cool here, as Barbara Spindel reports in the Daily Beast, is how — how mellowly — the gayness is presented and framed. “After Kevin and Jughead enjoy some homosocial bonding at a hamburger-eating contest, Jughead warns the new kid that Veronica isn’t likely to stop pursuing him until he returns her flirtations. ‘It’s nothing against her. I’m gay,’ Kevin explains nonchalantly, showing how much more casual coming out has become since the X-Men superhero Northstar made headlines in 1992 with this clunky announcement: ‘For while I am not inclined to discuss my sexuality with people for whom it is none of their business — I am gay!'”
Also, Spindel notes, the fact that he’s gay does not become the plot. Instead, it gets absorbed right in as the basis of some true-to-Archie-world hijinks: “Far from being labored, Kevin’s coming out feels entirely relevant to a comic book about how teens relate. What’s more, Parent uses Kevin’s sexuality as an ingenious plot device that fits seamlessly within the well-worn Archie narrative. ‘Kevin is going to tell her that he’s gay, but Jughead tells him not to because he enjoys seeing Veronica making a fool of herself,’ [veteran Archie artist Dan Parent] explains. ‘Everyone knows he’s gay except Veronica. Betty doesn’t push it because she realizes if Veronica is chasing Kevin then she’s got the time for Archie.'”
Setting aside my only concern — Veronica’s gaydar clearly needs to go into the shop — what I also like here is the reminder of connection made between gayness and wholesomeness (if, indeed, wholesomeness is to be considered a worthy goal). Gay here (and in real life) does not (necessarily) equal subversive, alterna-, Adam Lambert, or “worse.” Why, the gays fit right in, see? That’s what always puzzled me, in a certain way, about the whole gay marriage thing. It’s like, “People. We scared you when we were flamboyant and counter culture. Now we’re trying to settle down, just like you, and you’re really freaked out?!”
Speaking of marriage — and perhaps the best news of all — Archie Comic Publications editor in chief Victor Gorelick noted to the Daily Beast that protest was much more vociferous when the news broke that Archie would marry Veronica. Perhaps we can look forward to seeing Riverdale celebrate the wedding of Kevin and, I don’t know, Steve?