- Associated Press - Friday, April 1, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - After his debut in “Veronica” No. 202 caused Archie Comics to do a second printing for the first time in its history, the publisher is giving its first openly gay character his own mini-series this summer.

The character, Kevin Keller, has connected with the comic book publisher’s fans, said Dan Parent, who is writing and drawing the four-issue series that comes out in June.

There have been and are gay characters in other comics, but Keller’s role as a friend to Archie, Veronica and the others at Riverdale High is part of the company’s push to keep them relevant and contemporary.

“I think as time marches on, gay characters in comics will become more commonplace and it won’t be a big media event every time a gay character is introduced,” Parent told The Associated Press on Friday.

He noted that gay characters are commonplace in film and television, too. “And not just adult-oriented shows, but youth-oriented shows like ‘Glee,’ ‘Degrassi High,’ ‘90210’” among others, he said.

Archie Comics has strived to make its fictional world relevant and contemporary to the real world. In recent months, it has published stories about Archie getting married and the death of teacher Geraldine Grundy, who succumbed to cancer.

“The world of Riverdale has to reflect contemporary culture and to show it is an accepting, diverse place,” Parent said. “And that’s why Kevin is important, to show that everybody is welcome in this all-American town we’ve embraced for over 70 years.”

He said the series will focus on Kevin’s friendships, his strong bond with his father and his coming out to friends and family.

“We’ll see Kevin getting involved at Riverdale High, his ongoing friendship with Veronica and the rest of the gang, and more background on who Kevin is and how he came to be,” Parent told the AP.

Part of that story will include a series of flashbacks on the teenaged Kevin’s childhood, including his experiences growing up as an Army brat, and the relationships within his family, particularly the strong bonds he has with his father.

“We address his coming out and, while the story may be somewhat serious in tone in places, it’s still entertaining and funny, since those are always a staple of a good ‘Archie’ story,” Parent said.

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