Writer: Dan Parent
Pencils: Dan Parent
Inks: Rich Koslowski
Colors: Digikore Studios
Letters: Jack Morelli
Original Publication: Veronica, No. 202
Cover Date: November, 2010
On-Sale DDC Date: September 1, 2010*
On-Sale Newsstand Date: September 14, 2010*
Length: 24 pages
*according to solicitations
So this is a milestone story in Archie Comics history: the introduction of Kevin Keller, the company’s first openly gay character. The company generated a lot of buzz over the announcement. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
Here’s the official solicitation:
ARCHIE COMICS INTRODUCES FIRST OPENLY GAY CHARACTER
New York, NY (April 22, 2010): Archie Comics, home of the famous Riverdale High students Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Jughead, is about to welcome a new classmate this fall! On September 1st, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character, will be welcomed into the town of Riverdale.
“The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. 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,” stated Archie Comics Co- CEO, Jon Goldwater.
VERONICA #202 features the full-issue story, “Isn’t it Bromantic?” that introduces Kevin, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character. Kevin Keller is the new hunk in town and Veronica just has to have him. After Kevin defeats Jughead in a burger eating contest at Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe, she desperately latches onto him. Mayhem and hilarity ensue as Kevin desperately attempts to let Veronica down easy and her flirtations only become increasingly persistent.
In addition to the new ongoing achievements at Archie Comics–the #4 iPad book app and most downloaded comics on iTunes, the launch of Stan Lee Comics, Archie’s Red Circle superheroes at DC, and exciting new partnerships with Abrams, Dark Horse and IDW–the introduction of Kevin as an openly gay character is part of the commitment to keep Archie properties reflective of the current world of teens and teen media.
Kevin arrives in VERONICA #202‘s “Isn’t it Bromantic?” this September,
in comic shops 9/1/2010 and on newsstands 9/14/2010.
Here’s the solicitation for the second printing:
SOLD-OUT KEVIN KELLER DEMANDS FIRST REPRINT IN ARCHIE HISTORY
New York, NY (Septermber 27, 2010): Archie Comics’ teen sensation Kevin Keller–the first gay character in Archie Comics’ line of books–has been welcomed enthusiastically by Versace, the New York Times, and fans from every corner of the world. To celebrate the SOLD-OUT first printing of Kevin Keller’s debut issue, Veronica #202, Archie Comics is going back to the press for a special limited edition variant cover print run of Veronica #202.
Already selling wildly back and forth on online auction sites like eBay, Kevin Keller’s debut issue has become highly coveted world-wide. The special limited edition variant cover print run of Veronica #202 will feature a remastered and recolored cover.
“We never thought Kevin Keller would become so hot so fast!” exclaimed Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater.
“It’s been a thrill to see how well people have welcomed Kevin into their lives,” continues Goldwater. “His introduction was always just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. It just made sense at the time and we couldn’t be happier to have such widespread and enthusiastic support behind Kevin’s continued presence at Archie Comics!”
Kevin Keller’s full debut story “Isn’t it Bromantic?” will be re-released in the limited edition variant cover print run of VERONICA #202 featuring the full-issue story that introduces Kevin, Archie Comics’ first gay character.
Kevin’s limited edition variant cover issue of VERONICA #202 will be available through ArchieComics.com and in comic shops beginning October 6th and in limited quantities at the 2010 New York Comic Con taking place October 8-10.
Kevin’s next appearances will take place in VERONICA #204 & #205.
I own the second printing of the issue. Despite that, I decided to buy the digital edition and review it that way.
Veronica walks by Pop’s (oblivious to the guy checking her out) and is curious over the laughter inside. Nancy comes out and pulls Ronnie inside to check out Jughead’s burger-eating contest. Ronnie asks why this interests her (Ronnie).
Jughead and a blond guy are siting at a table and chowing down. Chuck, Kumi, and Archie are cheering on Jughead, and Dilton and Betty are cheering on Kevin (the blond guy). Ronnie gets a lady-boner for Kevin. She mentions mustard on his face, even though there’s no evidence of any. Nancy explains his name is Kevin Keller, he just moved to town, and he’s the first person to challenge Jughead’s burger-eating record. Archie says Kevin’s eaten 18 burgers, and Jughead’s eaten 17. Oh, Ginger is also here.
Jughead reaches his 18th burger. Archie says they’ve both tied the all-time record. They both go for a 19th burger. Jughead concedes defeat. Kevin wins, setting a new record. Betty congratulates Kevin. Jughead sorta does but adds no one’s beaten his buffalo wing record. Kevin’s ready to challenge him.
But not today. Jughead agrees and lets out a loud burp. Ronnie hugs Kevin, congratulates him, introduces herself, and announces his winning prize: a date with her. Jughead and Ronnie exchange some insults. Ronnie exclaims “Fail!” Ronnie chats with Kevin. Ginger and Kumi have a laugh over Ronnie’s persistence. A small art error makes Kumi lose the little bow that she had at the bottom of her neckline earlier.
Over the next however many days, Ronnie pesters Kevin all over town. One day, at Pop’s, she invites him to go with her to the carnival in town, which pisses off Archie. Kevin tentatively agrees to go. Archie angrily wants to talk to Ronnie, and she angrily agrees.
Jughead brings over a stack of burgers and joins Kevin at the counter. He warns Kevin of the “royal pain”. Kevin says she’s not so bad and adds he’s just not interested in dating her. It’s nothing against her; he’s gay. Kevin guesses he should just be up-front. However, Jughead thinks otherwise, because he wants to have some fun seeing how long that it takes Ronnie to figure it out for herself; this will “teach her to make a fool of” him. Um, what? I’m guessing Jughead’s thinking of their little insult swap from earlier. Doesn’t exactly count as Ronnie making a “fool” of him. Kevin sees Betty, Archie, and Ronnie and asks Jughead about the deal with them.
Jughead quotes Bon Jovi as Ronnie, Betty, and Archie suddenly go from smiling to arguing. Kevin gets a text from someone named William and texts him back regarding this cool town and its stupid motherfuckers. Jughead insults Ronnie. Kevin decides to come out to her, because he doesn’t want to lead her on, but Jughead advises against it, saying Ronnie is “sensitive”. Kevin agrees. As he imagines Ronnie walking away from Kevin in tears, Jughead snickers (he laughs in the scene in his imagination), which isn’t suspicious at all.
As the story advances to another day, the caption reads “Over the next few days…”, which seems more appropriate for that little Ronnie-pestering-Kevin montage earlier. Anyway, Ronnie walks past Kevin’s house on her way to Pop’s on this “lovely day”. Ronnie sees Betty talking to someone in shadow, which doesn’t make sense, since they’re both out on the sidewalk. Anyway, the shadowy figure is immediately revealed as Kevin (so that was pointless). Ronnie is shocked, despite them being outside Kevin’s house. Ronnie loudly declares Betty to be a “predator”.
Neither Betty nor Kevin seem to hear her. Ronnie runs (in 4-inch heels) over to them. Kevin says she looks beautiful today, which makes Ronnie go all love-stupid. Kevin says he and Betty were just talking about the Honesdale Gazette, his hometown newspaper. Ronnie curses (it’s censored). Betty asks Ronnie if she knew Kevin’s had some articles published. Ronnie says the subject hasn’t come up.
Betty adds Kevin’s going to be an intern at the Riverdale Times. Just how many newspapers does Riverdale have? Betty says Kevin’s going for a scholarship in journalism. Ronnie didn’t know that either but mentions Kevin’s “baby blue eyes”, hair, and dimples.
Ronnie asks to talk to Betty privately and then begs her to not interfere, because she knows Kevin is the guy for her. In fact, he’s “the hottest guy ever to walk the Earth”.
Betty tells Ronnie to make up her mind regarding if she wants him or not. Huh? Ronnie has clearly stated she wants Kevin. Anyway, Betty puts an arm around Ronnie and says she doesn’t think Kevin’s the guy for either of them. What could have been a sweet coming-out moment is ruined, though, when Betty brings up her interest in Archie (who’s fucking winking in her thought bubble). Ronnie makes a deal with Betty: Ronnie will back off Archie, if Betty doesn’t interfere with Kevin. Betty agrees and leaves (without saying bye to Kevin).
Ronnie invites Kevin to Pop’s and then to see a movie. He accepts. She then asks him if he has a girlfriend. He says no and wants to come out to her. Jughead just happens to be walking by and quickly drags Kevin off to the comic shop to get the variant-cover edition of Bloodbath City #1. Kevin readily ditches Ronnie and goes off with Jughead. Okay, both of these guys are dicks. Ronnie decides to “kick it up a notch” in order to “land this guy”.
Y’know, one thing that absolutely has not aged well in this story in teenagers’ interest in comic books. Oh, teens obviously love movies based on comic books. And shows. And manga. And anime based on manga. But there’s no way that two teens would run down to the local comic shop to get a variant-cover edition of a monthly pamphlet. Honestly, I find it hard to believe teens would have done that even back in 2010.
At Pop’s, on another day, Betty and Kevin are sitting at the counter. Betty’s getting worried about Ronnie and suggests Kevin just tell her. Ronnie walks in, wearing a red dress and shoes. A guy checks her out. Jughead calls Kevin over to his table to check out a comic book. Betty compliments Ronnie’s look but also calls her “Miss Thing”, which is weird.
Ronnie says she wants Kevin to notice her. Betty says Ronnie needs to talk to him. Ronnie ignores her. Archie comes by and gets a massive boner for Ronnie. She shoves him aside and walks over to Kevin, who’s checking out Jughead’s comics, which include titles such as Super Cat and Tales of Blood. Actually, it turns out that these were Kevin’s old comics (he collects them), which he just gave to Jughead, despite the fact that Jughead had just called a comics-less Kevin over to his table to check out comics.
Ronnie asks Kevin about the carnival, but he’s hanging there with Jughead later. Ronnie’s pissed and storms off. Betty guesses Kevin didn’t tell her and decides to do so herself, because she doesn’t want Ronnie to make a fool of herself. Then we get a dumb fantasy sequence of Devil Betty and Angel Betty popping up and trying to influence her. Instead of this being about the ethics of outing someone, it’s about Betty saving Veronica from embarrassment versus having Archie all to herself. Sure, Betty does tell her angel that it’s up to Kevin to tell Ronnie, but her motivation is clear. Also, she throws in some dumb line about the “need to shake things up” instead of always listening to her angel. Her devil cheers her on, and Betty flicks her angel away.
Jughead brings over a bowl of buffalo wings. Kevin wants to compete. Jughead is hesitant (these are “three alarm fire wings”). Kevin orders wings for himself, even though an art error already gives Kevin his own bowl of wings. Kevin texts William about the contest.
Chuck starts the contest. 20 minutes and 113 wings later, Kevin concedes, his stomach hurting. Dilton declares Jughead wins by a wing. Ginger was also watching. A girl that looks a lot like Ronnie (but apparently isn’t) walks by with a pistachio sundae, so Kevin orders one. Jughead is astonished and guesses they were separated at birth. Jughead orders one, too, as well as pie.
At the carnival (which everyone changed clothes to attend), Kevin marvels at Jughead’s appetite and calls him a “great friend”. He mentions wanting to tell Ronnie, and that sets off Jughead’s “I wanna be an asshole a bit longer” alarm. He tries to dissuade Kevin. Ronnie shows up. Jughead’s pissed to see her.
Ronnie insults Jughead and pulls Kevin away to go on the Ferris wheel. Jughead tells Kevin to “remember the deal”. Jughead then decides, privately, Kevin should let Ronnie know, because keeping the secret is a hassle for Kevin, and Ronnie will give Jughead something else to laugh about.
The next day, Kevin observes Ethel chasing Jughead and wonders why he doesn’t just tell her that he’s not interested. Jughead runs to Kevin and begs his “buddy” to “save” him. Kevin takes Jughead to his house, right around the corner.
Inside, Jughead compliments Kevin’s bedroom, especially the art (Kevin has a large framed picture of a burger). Kevin’s room is big. He’s got a lava lamp on his computer desk. He also has bookshelves filled with plenty of books. Jughead meets Kevin’s parents and two sisters. Kevin’s mom and one sister have red hair, and his other sister has blonde hair (like him), but his dad seems to have brown hair. Anyway, Kevin’s sisters made cookies, and the younger one gives Jughead a plate of them for his walk home. Jughead seems happy to get the cookies but leaves Kevin’s house without them, suggesting he ate them all before he got out the door. Oh, and Ethel’s been waiting outside Kevin’s house, and she’s confused over…something.
On another day, Ronnie buys a big box of chocolates for Kevin from a chocolate maker. These are “the most expensive chocolates”. And they’re sold in Riverdale? Anyway, they’re filled with “all kinds of exotic fruit”. Ronnie feels Kevin is worth it and vows to give up, if this doesn’t win him over.
Once Kevin gets delivery of the chocolates (on the same day? if not, wouldn’t they have melted by now?), he decides to tell Veronica that he’s gay today. Oh, and Kevin hates fruit – especially when it ruins chocolate. I don’t care much for fruit in chocolate either, but I don’t outright hate it.
Later, at Pop’s (both Ronnie and Kevin are wearing different clothes in this scene), Ronnie vows to Betty that she’s giving up on Kevin, if he doesn’t respond to her today. Betty, setting aside having Archie all to herself, tells Ronnie that Kevin’s gay. Ronnie doesn’t believe her but then sees Kevin giving Jughead the box of chocolates outside Pop’s.
Ronnie falls to the floor in shock. Jughead and Kevin check in on her. Ronnie can deal with losing boys to Betty and Cheryl – but not to Jughead. Jughead exclaims “Fail!” to Ronnie. Y’know, this “Fail!” response is also outdated, and I seem to recall discussion about it being outdated even back when this story was published.
Kevin finds Ronnie “awesome” and wants to be “good friends” with her. Ronnie agrees. Kevin points out that they were both used by Jughead, and Jughead gets nervous. Ronnie and Kevin leave. Kevin wants to go to a mall, which Ronnie happily drives him to. Haha, the mall: another outdated element of this story. The retail apocalypse and the plague have definitely changed things. Actually, as I recall, I was making notes of the decline of my local mall nearly eight months before this issue came out.
Anyway, while riding in Ronnie’s car, Kevin texts William about “these characters” but adds he thinks he’s going to like it here.
Overall, this is a fun story and a good introduction to Kevin. However, there’s one major plothole: Kevin is openly gay, but Veronica apparently never once looked him up on social media.
Between pages 12 and 13 are 2 pages of Veronica’s fashions called “Veronica’s Smart Style!” Some of these outfits make me think Veronica’s mindset is something like “Okay, I’m gonna go out. Ugh, you mean I have to put on clothes in public? Okay, I’ll do the absolute bare minimum.” This isn’t a criticism, just an observation.
After the story is a 1-page “Meet Kevin Keller” text interview (with some Kevin artwork by Dan Parent). Archie Comics interviews Kevin. I’m not sure if Dan Parent wrote this interview or not. It’s not included in the digital edition, so I got out my physical copy to read it. It provides a bit more info on Kevin:
William is one of Kevin’s BFFs from his hometown.
Kevin’s other BFF is named Wendy.
Kevin’s been published in some magazines.
Kevin is now writing for the Blue and Gold at Riverdale High.
Kevin is old school; he likes blogging but prefers physical media.
Kevin hopes to write the great American novel.
The Veronica title would continue for another four issues as Veronica’s title, and then it would be turned into a stealth Kevin Keller miniseries for its final four issues before being cancelled at #210 (on sale on December 14, 2011; cover-dated February, 2012) after nearly 33 years.
Kevin Keller got his own ongoing series, which debuted on February 8 (cover-dated April), 2012, and ended after 15 issues on September 17 (cover-dated November), 2014.