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Topics In the News
 
Kevin Keller Gets Married
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 01/12/12
Last updated on: 01/12/12
 
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Kevin Keller marries Dr. Clay Walker.

Teresa Theophano observed in 2005, in our entry on Comic Strips and Cartoons, that in their representation of glbtq people comic strips and graphic books "serve as a barometer of shifting attitudes toward gay subcultures." Thus, the release on January 11, 2012 of Life with Archie #16, in which Archie Comics' first gay character, Kevin Keller, marries his partner, is noteworthy.

In the storyline, Kevin returns to Riverdale as an adult after having served in the Army and having recovered from a battle-related injury in Iraq. He eventually ties the knot with Dr. Clay Walker, an African-American rehabilitation expert who helped Kevin regain his ability to walk, in a ceremony presided over by Riverdale's mayor.

Keller first appeared in the venerable Archie series in Veronica #202, published in September 2010, in a story entitled, "Isn't It Bromantic?" In that story, Veronica expresses interest in dating Kevin, but he explains to Jughead that the reason he does not want to date Veronica is because he is gay.

The issue sold out, prompting Archie Comics to issue a reprint for the first time in its 70-year history.

Keller returned in Veronica #205 and then in 2011 headlined his own 4-issue miniseries, Kevin Keller. That series focuses on Keller's life before he arrived in Riverdale, including his struggles in junior high school.

Archie Comics co-chief executive Jon Goldwater last year explained that "The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive."

He added, "Archie's hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books."

Besides, he said, people who might be offended by a gay storyline "aren't the kind of people we want reading our comics anyway."

Max Gouttebroze, entertainment media strategist at GLAAD, welcomed the new storyline: "With Riverdale being a picture perfect image of the reality we live in, it is important for readers to see the diversity of American life reflected in this idealistic universe. Kevin, a charismatic and loved character, gives readers an image they can look up to and relate to. His prominence as an LGBT character, his dating life, the depiction of his wedding and his military career are important images for comic book readers across the country who are fans of the series."

However, not everyone is pleased. As Alvin McEwen at Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters has pointed out, anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera sees the whole development as an insidious plot to indoctrinate children.

LaBarbera has fulminated that the storyline is "really manipulative. Of course they are going to have a soldier having a homosexual so-called marriage with a black, so it's interracial, they want to work that in there, which is fine, interracial marriage is good but not between two men, and he was the physical therapist for this soldier so they're really manipulating these kids. Here you are taking something that parents take for granted is wholesome, Archie Comics, and now even that is being turned into a promoter of the radical homosexual agenda."

Of course, what really infuriates homophobes like LaBarbera is precisely what Teresa Theophano noted: comic books serve as a barometer of shifting attitudes toward sexual minorities and thus the mainstreaming of same-sex marriage in a beloved comic strip like Archie Comics is a reflection of increased acceptance of glbtq people.

Kevin Keller is not, of course, the first character to marry a same-sex partner in comic book history. Same-sex weddings are neither rare nor controversial in gay and lesbian comic strips or in alternative graphic books generally. But Karl Keller's wedding is a landmark in mainstream comic books targeted at young people.

 
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