Commentary: Finally, Archie comic book has gay character

I read my first Archie comic book in sixth grade, in my best friend's carpeted den. She kept her collection on an end table next to a plaid sofa that was perfect for lounging and reading, which is exactly what I did every time I visited.

A voracious reader without discerning taste, I couldn't get enough of Veronica, Betty, Archie and Jughead. Oh, and that dreamy Reggie! Their average life in the average town of Riverdale was so different than mine. How cool.

Plots were predictable and the teenage characters two-dimensional and entirely familiar. They made the angst-filled process of growing up appear funnier that it really was.

Storylines mutated from this premise: Wealthy brunette bombshell Veronica and blonde girl-next-door Betty pine for freckled-faced, redheaded Archie, the lead singer in a band. Star athlete Reggie, in turn, pines for wily Veronica, and Jughead — well, had he been born a few decades later, his love of eating might have landed him a cameo on the Food Network.

These plain-vanilla characters with their typically vapid teen concerns have made the Archie gang one of the bestselling comic book series of all time, with 1.5 billion copies in print in a dozen languages.

But something has been missing in Riverdale: reality. So Archie Comics is introducing a character in a story titled "Isn't it Bromantic?" for Veronica issue No. 202. Kevin Keller is everything one might expect of the newest transfer student: blond and hunky, with a square jaw reminiscent of Ben Affleck's.

This dreamboat, however, is impervious to Veronica's lust. Kevin, you see, is gay.

The news has garnered headlines, blog posts and a tweet or two. For good reason. Though Riverdale High has changed some with the times — Archie is dating Valerie, the black songwriter for the band, Josie and the Pussycats — the students there haven't really kept pace with off-the-page American life.

"Riverdale has to reflect the diversity of the world today," Jon Goldwater of Archie Comic Publications told The New York Times. "We want to be all inclusive."

Enter the gay guy.

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