By Michael Cavna
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 23, 2010; C03
"Betty or Veronica . . . or Kevin?"
The decades-old question that has driven more Archie Comics plot turns than a white-walled jalopy just got a new twist.
Archie Comics announced Thursday that Riverdale High will enroll its first openly gay character in September.
The character, a blond newbie named Kevin Keller, will debut in No. 202 of Veronica Comics. In the initial story line, titled "Isn't It Bromantic?," Veronica is stymied when her womanly wiles hold no sway with Kevin, who has more in common with fellow foodie Jughead.
"Everyone seems to know where Kevin is coming from except Veronica," says Victor Gorelick, editor in chief of Archie Comics. "They don't tell Veronica -- they let her stew in it for a while. But he hangs out with Jughead -- they seem to have a connection as far as food goes."
Judging by Gorelick and Archie artist-writer Dan Parent, there's nothing more to be read into that last statement. Sometimes a malted is just a malted.
Kevin's debut is part of Archie Comics' larger efforts to contemporize the characters' world.
"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," Archie Comics co-CEO Jon Goldwater said in announcing the news.
This is just the latest step toward Riverdale showing more diversity. In the new story line of Archie Comics, the redheaded star is dating neither Veronica or Betty -- but Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats.
With some comics, these collective changes would qualify as non-news. But in the less-diverse world of Riverdale -- where everything but the sundaes has often been vanilla -- this registers as a major shift.
Gorelick says none of the creative talent working on the Kevin story line is gay. He notes, though, that Parent has a daughter in high school and is able to draw -- literally -- from a range of experiences at her school.
That might explain why Riverdale High will also see an influx of 50 students this fall, according to Gorelick. "Another school will be shut because of budget cuts, and that closing will have a ripple effect," he says.
As for whether any other Riverdale students will be gay, Parent has said: "Traditional Riverdale characters won't be coming out."