Writers: Dan Parent with Bob Smith
Artists: Dan Parent with Bob Smith
Original Publication: It Gets Better Project
Posting Date: October 10, 2019*
Length: 5 newspaper strips (mostly 3 panels each, last one 2)
*National Coming Out Day is October 11, but at least one article dated October 10 linked to the site where you could read the strips online, making the actual release date somewhat ambiguous.
In 2019, in celebration of National Coming Out Day, Archie Comics teamed up with the It Gets Better Project to create a series of five newspaper-style comic strips (yes, there was a long-running Archie newspaper strip). These were written and drawn by Dan Parent (the creator of Kevin Keller and also the person that drew the final Archie newspaper strip for September 11, 2011) and Bob Smith.
Titled #ABetterUniverse, this loose “storyline” presents situations in which various Riverdale High School students come out to the main characters and are greeted with kindness and complete acceptance.
Betty finds her (ambiguously brown) friend, Claire, sitting on the steps (presumably of Riverdale High) and texting someone on her (awesome pink) phone. Claire has cute, short brown hair. Betty asks Claire who she’s been texting so much and assumes it’s her boyfriend. Claire corrects her: she’s been texting her girlfriend. As the two of them walk off together, Betty asks Claire when she’ll get to meet her. Claire says in due time.
Kevin greets his blond friend, Tommy, getting books out of a locker. Kevin is then corrected that Tommy is now Phoebe. Kevin is the first person that she’s told. Kevin is honored and thanks Phoebe for putting her trust in him.
In class, Veronica’s unnamed blond friend (with glasses) tells her that he has someone that he wants to ask to the dance. Ronnie assumes it’s a girl and asks who she is. Her friend says he is Brad from Math class. She offers him help accessorizing, so he makes a good impression on Brad. He thanks her.
Kevin’s ambiguously brown friend, Brian (who has a pink mohawk), comes to him in the hallway and lets him know their pronouns are now them/they/theirs. Kevin thanks Brian for telling him. Brian feels a bit awkward coming out. Kevin knows the feeling and thanks Brian for putting their trust in him. Kevin says it’s a bright new day and tells Brian that he’s proud of them.
This one’s a bit different. The file is named differently than the others, the dimensions are a bit different, and it’s only two (larger) panels. In 11th grade, Ronnie, Archie, and Jughead’s unnamed black friend introduces them to her boyfriend, Jeff (a white, blond guy). In 12th grade (this is a rare instance of the characters being explicitly stated to be high school seniors), she introduces them to her girlfriend, Sarah (a cute Asian girl in short shorts). This being classic-style Archie Comics, Sarah ends up looking like Tomoko or Kumi.
These strips are nice. It’s a bit concerning, though, that two of the characters don’t get names.
You can read the strips for yourself at the above link to It Gets Better. Click on each of the strips and then click View full size for some massively huge files, if you’re so bold.
Anyway, I just wanted to shine a spotlight on this series, since I somehow doubt these characters will show up in the regular Archie Comics digests. I could be pleasantly surprised, though.