Review of Kevin (from Archie Comics) by Paul Kupperberg (Grosset& Dunlap paper-over-board novel, April 18, 2013)
Kevin Keller is the first openly gay kid at Riverdale High. He had a comic miniseries which was very successful, so he went to an ongoing series which is now on its eighth issue. The second issue of that series dealt with Kevin’s first high school prom. Kevin had been elected class president in issue four of the miniseries, so it fell to him to select a theme for the prom and get all the decorating done. Being a smart leader he delegated most of the decorating to classmates Veronica Lodge and Jughead Jones.
The time the three characters spent decorating for the prom is the framing story for this novel, which tells of Kevin’s middle school prom. As with all Archie tales, the teenage characters are realistic and have a wide variety of family situations. This novel has a strong anti-bullying message and shows how both victims and bystanders can change the situation. One character has a particularly bad home situation where even his father bullies him. Kevin befriends the boy, whose name is Luke, and ends up helping him accept that many students at Medford Middle School are willing to be his friends.
In a time of crisis, Luke comes out as gay to Kevin, trying to show Kevin that no one will want to be his friend because of what he is. Kevin has a nice speech about what he thinks of people who will hate someone for being gay and tells Luke, everyone but the bully will like you for who you are, not who you love (Note that at this time Kevin was not identifying as gay). Helping Luke makes Kevin realize something about himself which had caused him a great deal of confusion and eventually leads to Kevin coming out to his middle-school friends (how he came out to his parents is shown in the comics).
This coming-out story of Kevin and Luke is sweet with a hint of sadness, as well as funny in some places, particularly when Kevin tries to figure out why he doesn’t think his female best mate Sammie is sexy. Luckily for Kevin she is understanding and she is more relieved that there is not something wrong with the way she looks than she is concerned that Kevin likes boys. For anyone who is struggling to find who they are, for people who want to understand those who are doing so, and for those who did so in a time when Luke’s words about hatred were true almost everywhere, this is an excellent read. Read it yourself to see how great it can be when you have understanding friends and family. Riverdale is a fictional place, but the relationships are realistic; share it with friends and family members to make your own coming-out story an easier one. For adults, sharing this book with your teen can help them understand themselves or someone they know because the message is not just about coming out as gay, it is about standing up to bullies and how people with differences can be accepted. It truthfully shows how sometimes having two differences can lead to acceptance, because identifying as a geek makes you fit in that crowd, no matter what other differences you have. If you have ever attended a science fiction convention, you have seen this idea in action because you see every type of person imaginable and they are all part of the geek crowd, and they don’t notice the differences of others because they feel different too.
If you like the Kevin Keller character and would like to read more, check your local comic or book store for comic issues, and compilation paperbacks. Issues can also be read by way of digital comic book apps.