Thursday, June 14, 2012

Issuing A Challenge

****IMPORTANT UPDATE, JUNE 29, 2012****

Some people have interpreted my blog post as a suggestion that Dan Parent shouldn't be writing Kevin Keller because he isn't gay. Let me be clear:

In no way did I intend to suggest Dan Parent should be replaced as the writer for Kevin Keller. I think Archie Comics should give Jeff a shot, but there should be tons of space for a 'special issue' or a backup story written by someone else with Dan continuing his great work.

Or hell, introduce another gay character, maybe Dilton's uncle comes home to Riverdale on a vacation from his work on warp-drive and brings his new boyfriend with him. Who cares? The point is I never, ever meant to suggest that Dan shouldn't be writing for Kevin because of his own sexuality. No way. Dan is Archie's best writer, he's funny as hell and he has done fantastic things with the character. I'm not a fan of what Archie is doing on an executive level, but I'm a Dan Parent fan.

I do think Jeff, through his experience, has a unique voice to bring to the conversation. I shouldn't have said, in #4 below, that Dan doesn't 'get it'. I don't know his experience or what he 'gets', and I apologize for ever bringing Dan's sexuality into it. That was just sloppy, when the same point could have been made like this:

4- Part of the reason for Kevin's existence is to provide a role-model for LGBT youth reading your comics. Don't you think they'd appreciate hearing the voice of someone who survived the experience back in the days when things would, most likely, not 'get better'?

Original Post:

Consider this blog post a glove across the face of Jon, Mike, Victor and Alex
Dear Archie Comics, 

(Specifically Jon Goldwater, Mike Pellerito, Victor Gorelick and Alex Segura)

We need to talk about Kevin.

When you introduced Mr. Keller, the promise was that he wasn't merely a stunt character, but a new part of Riverdale and RHS. A real character, not just a cipher to sell comics. And at first, you (more or less) lived up to this.

Now? Not so much. It looks more and more like you're just going to ride Kevin (totally intended) until his sales drop, and then what? Off to hang with Frankie Valdez? Maybe he'll become BFFs with Cricket O'Dell and never be seen again?

If only there was some way to prove that you are in fact committed to including the gay community in Riverdale for reasons beyond sales and media attention. If only there was a way to talk about being a gay teen in a way that carried real (and real-world) meaning.

Oh, wait. There totally is. And his name is Jeff Krell.

Jeff is one of the pioneers of gay comics, and has been writing and publishing 'Jayson', an Archie-esque strip about a gay character and his cast of friends, since 1983. It's been in several papers, was syndicated, was developed as a musical and has been published in several collections by Ignite! Entertainment. He has also translated several works by German cartoonist Ralf Konig and has been recognized at several conventions and on many panels as one of the most important figures in the history of gay cartoons.
Meet Jayson, for those of you who haven't.

So gentlemen, it's time to hire Jeff Krell to write an issue featuring Kevin Keller, and I've got 5 great reasons why.

1- He's got the goods. Have any of you read his 'Jayson' strips? He has proven, for almost 3 decades, that he understands the format, has a sense of humour and is good with balancing actual insight and emotion with gags.

2- He wants the gig. In fact, he's been trying to get the gig since the late 70's. He still has a message his roommate left him that Michael Silberkleit called. He's been talking to you at conventions for years. He's been pitching stories to you for a long time, so far without success.

3- He deserves your f**king respect. You guys can be as proud (again, intended) as you want that you were the first comic company to step up to the line with a gay character, but give due to the dude who was walking that walk 30 years ago. You think you're tough because you dared face the heat of being a pro-gay comic in 2010? Well, he was writing a gay comic in Philadelphia in 1983. 1983! Now who's tough?

4- He gets it, in a way Dan Parent doesn't. Now don't get me wrong, I think Dan is awesome. Totally awesome. But he ain't gay. I'm not saying you have to be to write a gay character, but part of the reason for Kevin's existence is to provide a role-model for LGBT youth reading your comics. Don't you think they'd appreciate hearing the voice of someone who survived the experience back in the days when things would, most likely, not 'get better'?

5- You can mainline some more press coverage. Next year is the 30th anniversary of 'Jayson', an ideal time to honour the man and his achievements and a good story for the press. For the last year you have been doing anything it takes to get coverage, why not something good for once?

Of course the one argument against using Jeff could have been that some of his past material is racy, and Archie would want to distance themselves from that. Luckily, you guys have eliminated this problem by paying Gene Simmons to be in Archie comics.

Yes, those 4 issues featuring the proudest misogynist in America have removed the final barrier to hiring Jeff. After all, Gene's back catalogue is far worse than Jeff's. There's the song about forcing his girlfriend to try anal sex because he doesn't want to use birth-control ('Nothing to Lose'), the song about getting his weiner immortalized ('Plaster Caster') or the charming one about statutory rape ('Domino'). We don't even need to get into his abusive and insanely sexist interview with Terry Gross (so horrible that Gene wouldn't allow NPR to archive it like they do every other Fresh Air interview) or the fact that he loves to brag about the thousands of women he's slept with.

The point? If you're willing to get into bed (yup) with someone as filthy as Gene, you can never say a word about Jeff's work being a factor in not hiring him. So thanks for that.

So gentlemen, I dare you. I dare you to prove that you aren't simply having Kevin be 'gay for pay'. I dare you to let an actual gay role model, who has all the experience necessary to do the job, write for your fictional one. And I dare you to show Jeff the respect he's earned. You wouldn't have a gay character, and be reaping the financial benefits of how popular he's proven, if Jeff hadn't blazed the trail during a time when being openly gay was, quite frankly, dangerous.

If any of my readers (all 3 of you!) agree, feel free to express your sentiments to E-I-C Victor Gorelick (, President Mike Pellerito ( Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing Alex Segura ( or PR Coordinator Rik Offenberger (

For more about Jeff Krell, here is a link to the Haiku duel him and I once fought, judged by Vancouver's poet laureate Brad Cran. I also did a 2-part interview with Jeff for First Comics News a few years ago....sadly the images are no longer hosted, so the interviews aren't anywhere near as good as they once were, but are still worth a read. Part 1 and Part 2.

Archie Comics, the ball is in your court.

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