There’s a new hunk at Riverdale High School.
He’s blue-eyed, blond — and gay.
Riverdale High, of course, is the school of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and other mainstays of Archie Comics. And the new guy — Kevin Keller — is Archie Comics’ first openly gay character.
The character makes his debut in “Veronica” No. 202, arriving in comic book shops Sept. 1.
“Veronica” is written and illustrated by Dan Parent. Keller is his creation.
The story in “Veronica” No. 202, titled “Isn’t It Bromantic?,” finds the raven-haired Veronica chasing after Kevin, who seems immune to her charms. She doesn’t know Kevin is gay, though others do.
“Comedically, you see Veronica kind of falling all over herself trying to win the guy over, where the audience knows what is going on and half of Riverdale know what’s going on,” Parent said. “It just seemed like it would be a fun story.”
But it’s not all about laughs. The introduction of the character also comes as Archie Comics has been working to bring more diversity to Riverdale.
“We’re trying to show that Riverdale is contemporary, and that it is a diverse and accepting place,” Parent said. “At some point, you have to address these subjects.”
To the kids at Riverdale High, Kevin’s sexual orientation is a nonissue, Parent said. “Their reaction is very nonchalant.”
It’s a reaction reflective of the real world, he believes.
“My daughter is that age, she’s 16. I see in her high school that there are a lot of openly gay kids. It’s not even like a big deal.”
One character who quickly becomes Kevin’s friend is Jughead, but that doesn’t say anything about Jughead’s sexual leanings, Parent said. Kevin and Jughead are fellow foodies.
“The reason they’re friends is because Jughead is the character you would befriend first, because he’s so accepting of everyone.”
While gays in comics aren’t new, they are in the wholesome, family friendly realm of Archie Comics. So Parent wasn’t particularly surprised by the mainstream attention that followed the publisher’s announcement back in April of the gay character.
“We had to be careful that it didn’t come off as a stunt,” Parent said. Kevin is not a one-shot character, but one who will be sticking around in Archie’s world, he stressed.
And that world is still family friendly, he noted.
“We don’t get into sexual situations with the straight characters, let alone the gay characters,” he said. “It’s still a safe place for kids.”