Interview: Dan Parent on Kevin Keller
This is one of a series of interviews I did while researching the article “Just Another Day in an LGBTQ Comic,” which appeared in the May 2017 issue of SLJ. When I started thinking about LGBTQ characters in children’s comics, Kevin Keller immediately sprang to mind, because when Kevin made his debut, in 2010, he was the first openly gay character in a mainstream children’s comic. I asked Kevin’s creator, Dan Parent, to talk a bit about his creation and give his perspective now that Kevin has been around for seven years.
When you were creating Kevin Keller, which came first—the idea of a gay character or his particular personality?
I would say both came into mind. I knew I was going to introduce a gay character, but wanted to make sure he was a well formed character, in a story that was entertaining, not preachy.
How did the fact that he was gay affect your depiction of him? Did you approach him differently than the other characters? Were you concerned about stereotypes or about how the readers (and their parents) would react?
I wanted to show that he’s a normal, red-blooded American teen-age boy who is gay. I was definitely concerned about stereotypes, and tried my best to avoid them. I’m always concerned about how readers will react, but I was confident the Archie readers would like Kevin. As far as parents go, they’re harder to predict. All you can do is write the best story possible, and hope for the best!
Kevin is still the main gay character, but of course other gay characters in his world have been introduced. The dynamic really hasn’t changed at all. These are characters with the same life situations as everyone else. School! Dating! Heartbreak! Friends! There is the added tension of homophobia and other obstacles in life that straight characters don’t have. It helps that Riverdale is a progressive town!
I know that the appearance of Kevin drew both positive and negative feedback. What has the overall reaction been, and now that he’s been around for a while (seven years!), are you still getting reactions or is he just part of the scenery?
Kevin’s introduction has been probably 95% positive. Those are good results! Even some who were “on the fence” at first have come around to like Kevin. There are still reactions, I will get a negative reaction every once in awhile (usually not to my face!) but the overall reaction is still so good! Especially from the LGBT community, where representation was basically nil until this past decade or so!
How have children’s reactions contrasted with parents?
Children are always the most inclusive and welcoming. The prejudice and future hatred hasn’t been baked in yet! (and hopefully never will!)
What is your response to people who say that it’s inappropriate to include a gay character in an all-ages comic because that introduces sexuality into the picture, or because young children shouldn’t be exposed to that?
They are flat out wrong. We all have LGBT family members.
Why is it important to have gay characters in stories for young readers?
Well, many of these kids will have gay family members, friends, or may be gay themselves. Representation is important.
Are there any lesbian, bisexual, trans, or other genderqueer characters in Archie? Are any on the way?
There are more gay characters being introduced in LIFE WITH KEVIN! Check it out!! (shameless plug!)
About Brigid Alverson
Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.
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