When Archie Comics announced their series relaunch in December 2014, I — like many other children who begged for double-digests at the grocery store check out — was thrilled. As I grew older, the quaint world of Riverdale seemed a bit too campy for me, and while it was a title I would flip through, I never outright bought it as a teenager or young adult. But the relaunch spoke to me. It was Archie and friends for the twenty-first century, and I was all in. After all, I was getting a contemporary Archie Andrews who looked more dreamy than goofy — and illustrated by Fiona Staples no less.
A few months after the announcement, Archie Comics launched a Kickstarter campaign to speed up the relaunch, and during the campaign, announced more titles: Betty and Veronica, Jughead, and Life with Kevin, a series that would feature Riverdale’s first openly gay character, Kevin Keller. While Betty and Veronica and Jughead would be print editions, Kevin would be a digital-only comic. While disappointed, I understood in that moment that Archie Comics was trying to revitalize itself and Kevin wasn’t a headlining character. Then Josie and the Pussycats was announced.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m a fan of all the Archie characters and wish each of them had their own series, but why was Kevin relegated to the digital-only, rather than another character? It’s not to say that the all-femme force that is Josie and her gang shouldn’t be front and center on the shelf, but why hasn’t Archie Comics put that same trust in Kevin Keller?
Life with Kevin has been touted as a chance for fans to get a “tale of an older, more experienced Kevin as he navigates a new city, new romance, and leaving home,” and that description struck me as everything Archie Comics was trying to sell to a new generation of comic book readers. But not only has it been relegated to digital comic status, it’s also a trial run. If the digital series doesn’t do well, then it will not be developed into an ongoing series. Why does Kevin’s series get caveats while all the other properties are given on-going series in the physical world, without a second thought?
While a recent Advocate interview with Dan Parent has indicated that a print collection of Life with Kevin will come after the four-part miniseries, in my opinion, it isn’t enough. While Parent has said that the comic is digital because it’s “more instant and easier to produce,” I feel as if there will be a large amount of readers who will miss out on Kevin and his life.
Growing up, Archie was always seen as the safe bet in comics. Parents have no problem giving their children an Archie comic because it is seen as so wholesome. When Kevin was introduced in (in Veronica issue 202, published in September 2010), I was in college, but what I would have given to see that representation on a comic rack as a kid. What I would have given to see that my sexuality was just as wholesome as Archie’s or Betty’s.
Kevin Keller was a big step in comic book history, but the move to digital with no guarantee of an on-going print edition has me worried that Kevin might be going back in the closet.