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Archie Comics adds a gay character

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Archie Comic Publications Inc.

(Read caption) Archie Comics prepares to introduce a new character to its mix.

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The times they are a'changin, even at Riverdale High. This fall a handsome blond named Kevin Keller will be enrolling and thus be added to the cast of comic book characters – Archie, Veronica, Betty, Jughead, Mr. Weatherbee – that readers have been enjoying since Archie Comics debuted in 1942. Why is this news making headlines? Because Kevin is gay.

"We're not trying to send social messages. We just want to reflect what's going on today. Riverdale's a melting pot," said Archie Comics co-CEO Jon Goldwater while making the announcement.

Victor Gorelick, editor in chief of Archie Comics, told The Washington Post that "none of the creative talent working on the Kevin story line is gay." He notes, though, that artist-writer Dan Parent has a daughter in high school and that in writing the Archie comic books Parent draws from her experiences at school.

"Another school will be shut because of budget cuts, and that closing will have a ripple effect," said Gorelick. That means that Riverdale High can expect to see an influx of 50 new students this fall – but none seem likely to get as much attention as Kevin.

In the blogosphere the news about the new character is so far drawing some of the predictable jokes (along the lines of "Don't Draw, Don't Tell"), but if there is going to be any negative backlash from readers it does not yet seem to have been unleashed.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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