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Street Smarts: Gay comic book characters mirror traditional American life

Remember those good old days when you couldn’t wait for mom or dad to hand you over the comic section of your local newspaper?

I admit, I still get excited every once in a while when I get a quick glimpse of those few color pages tucked away behind a gray-scale sea of today’s most current news.

To a child, those three to four pages of color paper can mean the world. It is a bright light of laughter and joy tucked away behind the horrors of today. Hidden behind the tragic reports and obituaries are a few short moments where an artist could fabricate a beautiful picture of what American life was or take a comical spin on the puppets of politics and science.

Family Circus was an all-time favorite of my fundamental Christian parents. Every week we would switch out the latest Family Circus clip on the refrigerator, using a magnet shaped like an angel with a spiritual quote plastered across her body representing the perfect American life.

My personal favorite was none other than Archie. Nothing brought more happiness into my little heart than a $2 copy of Archie and Friends from the local corner store or comic shop. Twenty or so pages spewed out a barrage of bright shooting colors to feast my eyes upon!

Not only did he have fabulous hair, a fit body and all the ladies, but Archie had personality! He was the image of the guy I wanted to be. But unfortunately, the Comics Code Authority banned any mention of homosexuality until 1989. Even still, Archie, to my disappointment, is straight.

Well, today’s family structure isn’t as it was in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s or ‘90s. This is the 21st century, and when knowing or having a LGBT individual in your family is more common than it’s ever been, it is only fair that LGBT characters in entertainment and media are just as present.

So this month Archie Comics introduces you to its first-ever openly gay character, Kevin Keller, in Archie’s newest issue of “Veronica.” He’s a blond-haired, blue-eyed stud who just rolled into Riverdale.

“The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. Archie’s hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books.”
- Jon Goldwater, co-CEO of Archie Comics

Goldwater claims keeping it “current” aligns with Riverdale’s safe and inclusive feel for its new openly gay individual.

But how safe and inclusive is the reality of our own world? With today’s LGBT youth suicide rate three times higher than straight youth and 80 percent of LGBT individuals claiming to have experienced “social isolation, emotional isolation, and cognitive isolation,” according to www.GayFamilySupport.com, it’s fair to say that this groundbreaking decision by Archie Comics couldn’t have come at a better time.

Archie Comics is giving its readers a view on the world in the way the world should be. Isn’t that what comics have always been about? Painting a picture of the perfect American life? I know my family wasn’t as squeaky clean as the Family Circus had portrayed it. It was more of a circus than a family, if you ask me.

The picture-perfect American life is a country where LGBT youth feel safe and included. Where the number of LGBT kids who take their lives is depleted. Where kids can grow up not hating themselves. I wish that I had some source of knowledge when I was younger that let me know I wasn’t the little outcast I thought I was.

Today, the number of LGBT shows grow higher every season. From NBC’s “Will & Grace” to Showtime’s “The L Word,” the number of LGBT characters, shows and plot lines have shot high over the last 10 years. It’s only fair the comic book industry begins to take the same steps for equality and education in pop-culture for our LGBT youth nationwide.

So my deepest gratitude to Archie Comics and Jon Goldwater for his latest addition to Riverdale, Kevin Keller, and his steps for LGBT equality. Good luck Kevin Keller! Show those straight, two-dimensional boys whose boss!

To get your copy of “Veronica 202” with new character Kevin Keller go to www.ArchieComics.com.

To contact Josh Scarpuzzi, send an e-mail to JoshS@dogsontherun.com or visit his professional dog training website at www.DogsOnTheRun.com.