Life With Archie: The Bravest Comic On The Stands?
AUTHOR’S NOTE: When I posted my last entry (Unhappy Trails: A Farewell To “Scalped”, 12/13/12), I also had this entry in mind and had, in fact, planned to write it that night. However, by the time I finished that entry, it was 4 AM, I was tired, and decided instead to write this article the next day. That next day, I didn’t wake up until after noon Pacific Time. As a matter of habit, one of the first things I do after waking up is read online news, and after reading of the events of December 14, 2012, I decided to delay this post. I think it’s been long enough now.
I’m going to go ahead and say this: Life With Archie is the bravest comic book on the stands today.
Why, you ask?
Because they’re not afraid to take a stand on issues.
Take, for example, marriage equality. (I don’t call it “gay marriage” because that implies an explicit difference between “straight marriage” and other types of marriage, and since all marriage is two people that love each other making a public, legal commitment to each other, I see no need for the distinction.)
Gay characters are not new to comics. Underground comics have had homosexual acts and characters depicted since the late ’60s. . .but of course, that’s the underground stuff, and who pays attention to that? Mainstream comics publishers largely ignored homosexual characters until the 1980s, when DC published their first obviously gay character, Extrano (“strange” in Spanish) for the mercifully short-lived series The New Guardians in 1987. The biggest reveal, however, was that Marvel’s character Northstar, longtime member of the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight, was gay (because he’s already French-Canadian, so why not make him gay?), though his creator revealed later that he was supposed to have been gay from his first appearance in 1979 but wasn’t due to an anti-gay character policy at Marvel Comics.
After that, gay and bisexual characters fell out of the woodwork. The Authority’s Apollo and Midnighter were the world’s finest gay couple; Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, a major supporting Batman character, was outed as a lesbian by Two-Face; John Constantine of Hellblazer was revealed to be bisexual (though he mostly sleeps with women and is married to a woman); Hulkling and Wiccan of The Young Avengers were a gay couple; the new Batwoman is a lesbian; and in revising their entire universe, DC Comics made Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of Earth-Two gay (sorry, Jade and Obsidian, the guy who was your dad pre-revision is now gay, so I guess you won’t be coming back for the New 52). . .the list goes on and on. By 2010, you wouldn’t think a gay character would make news anymore.
But it did, when Archie Comics, long thought of as the most traditional, wholesome, conservative, “safe” comics company out there, introduced an openly gay character named Kevin Keller in Veronica #202. It made news worldwide that gay had finally come to Riverdale, and at that point, it was a surprising move but not exactly a groundbreaking one.
Until February 2012, when, in the pages of Life With Archie, Kevin Keller married his boyfriend, Dr. Clay Walker. Gay kissing was still new to comics then; longtime homosexual Northstar had just finally kissed his boyfriend on-panel the year before (after almost 20 years of being out of the closet); although The Midnighter and Apollo had been shown kissing before then, Neil Gaiman had been exploring gay and transgender themes in Sandman, and John Constantine had been in several homosexual sex scenes, they weren’t as mainstream and being written by mostly British writers besides. At that point, marriage equality was only the law of the land in six states and the District of Columbia, with many many more states having laws on the books specifically preventing same-sex couple from getting married, so it was a pretty bold move for “traditional, wholesome” Archie Comics to make at the time.
Just to add a little more controversy to Kevin and Clay, their story was that they met in the military, when Kevin was injured fighting in Iraq and Dr. Walker had been his medic. . .and this was just after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Archie Comics wasted no time jumping on that subject, and the issue containing the wedding (#16, if you want it; it sells for $20-$40 now) of Keller and Walker became one of Archie Comics’ fastest-selling issues of all time (which is no mean feat, considering they’ve been going for over 70 years).
But that’s not why I call Life With Archie the bravest book on the stands.
In issue #22 of Life With Archie, Clay Walker is shot while attempting to prevent a robbery. (Had to be the black guy, didn’t it, Archie Comics?) Luckily, he survives the shooting and the would-be robber is captured after being clocked with a hammer by the store’s owner.
In issue #24, Kevin discovers that the unnamed shooter was a previously-convicted felon who bought the gun from a licensed dealer through a “loophole” (it’s later stated that he’s talking about the gun show loophole). Kevin then rattles off a few statistics (“gun-related homicides are more than twenty times higher than in other developed nations”) and announces he is retiring from the Army to do something about it. . .and his “something” is. . .
Wait for it. . .
Kevin Keller decides to run for the US Senate on a gun-control platform!
Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) just proved in November that an openly-gay candidate can win a Senate race; she became our first openly-gay US Senator and was sworn in on Thursday, January 3, 2013. So you could say the precedent has been broken. . .except that #24 came out in November and was solicited three months earlier (as all comics are), so the story was written before her election, when she was still running a very tight race against Tommy “I’m gonna kill me some Medicare” Thompson. (It’s worth noting that Tammy Baldwin still can’t legally marry in her home state, though she can have her same-sex marriage from another state recognized in Wisconsin as a “domestic partnership,” so Kevin Keller’s still got one up on her.)
In issue #25, Kevin expounds more upon his gun-control views, states a strong view that the Second Amendment pertains to the right to bear arms for “a well-regulated militia” and asks “why do we need an estimated 200 million guns in the hands of this country’s 300 million citizens?” (His number is actually quite low; the 2007 estimates are 88.1 guns for every 100 US citizen,which comes out to about 274 million guns in this country, a figure that has no doubt gone up, since there were massive spikes in gun sales every time a black guy got elected President.)
Now, I am sure that some of you are saying that it’s not such a big deal to jump on the gun-control bandwagon now, after what happened in Newtown. You’d be right; that terrible tragedy has changed a lot of views on gun control for many people, as it and numerous other tragedies before it should have done.
And I’d agree if it wasn’t that Life With Archie #24 came out in November 2012, and #25 hit the stands (and my greedy little palms) on Wednesday, December 12, 2012. . .two days before Newtown.
And that’s why I call Life With Archie the bravest comic book on the stands today: it took on marriage equality before the 2012 electoral sweep that nearly doubled the number of states with legalized marriage equality with a firm, unmistakable statement of support; it took a strong pro-gun-control stance before the tragedy that catapulted gun control back into the national conversation; and it’s poised to do even more with Betty-and-Veronica rival Cheryl Blossom having been ravaged by breast cancer and now starting up her own foundation to fight breast cancer.
I never thought I’d say this, but here it is: I wish Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image Comics, and IDW had half the intestinal fortitude that Archie Comics does when it comes to addressing relevant social issues.
Life With Archie: the best-written and bravest comic book on the stands today. Go read it, it’s brilliant.
VS – 1.6.13
This entry was posted on January 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm and is filed under book review, brilliance, comic books, politics with tags apollo, archie, authority, batman, batwoman, betty, blossom, bravery, cheryl, clay walker, DADT, dark horse, dc, extrano, gun control, gun show loophole, idw, image, john constantine, kevin keller, life with archie, Marvel, midnighter, new guardians, newtown, northstar, politics, shooting, tamy baldwin, tommy thompson, veronica, young avengers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.