|Meet Jayson, for those of you who haven't.|
Thursday, June 14, 2012
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.
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 (email@example.com), President Mike Pellerito (firstname.lastname@example.org) Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing Alex Segura (email@example.com) or PR Coordinator Rik Offenberger (RikO@archiecomics.com).
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.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
|Uh, who exactly is that with the 'We are the 99%' sign? Is that supposed to be Sabrina?|
And where is Adam? Outrage!
3 years ago I started this blog as a new era was beginning at Archie Comics and I was working on my record 'Aim for the Roses'. I was very optimistic that Jon and Nancy would bring a much-needed jolt of energy to a stagnating company and characters that were in danger of growing stale.
I tracked these changes by examining the hidden messages in Double Digests, specifically Jughead Double Digest, as this is the only reliable source of information. The Double Digests are where the third-tier characters battle for legitimacy, where reprints can say what nobody dare now say, where Bingo Wilkin stills exists and where L'il Jinx continues to be annoying.
I published a post when the plans to bring Kevin Keller to Riverdale were first announced (I was infuriated that Archie would introduce another male character with light brown, wavy hair as this is Adam's only real identifier) which led to me being in touch with writer/artist Dan Parent which led to me writing for a website called First Comics News.
And then the story becomes cliche. The fast and easy world of review PDFs, interviews with Archie writers and artists....I lost track of my path, and abandoned the Double Digests for current single issues.
But it was good! A brief golden age! Archie and Valerie had a real romance, a crop of new kids came to RHS, the untold stories of freshman year were finally told, and more!
And then 'Life With Archie' came out; a magazine format comic that told two separate stories set in possible futures, one where Archie and Ron married and one where Betty was his bride.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The magazine format was a bold move to open new avenues of circulation, the grown-up themes appealed to a new audience...it was a great idea.
Why they dressed it up like an issue of 'Tiger Beat', I'll never know. Or why they made the stories so convoluted, especially once the realities started crossing into each other. Issue numbers were absent from the covers of most of the first 10 issues; sloppy and stupid.
Around this time I started writing for the Archie Comics website. For 3 months in the spring of 2011 I got to champion Adam Chisholm on the Archie website. Bliss.
Then it all fell apart. The guy I was dealing with at Archie was an asshole, it was impossible to actually get paid what we agreed on, and the upcoming plans were terrible. Archie and KISS? WTF? The disconnect began to show.
Stunt issues became the status quo. The planned magazine following Betty and Veronica around the world and away from Archie? Canned. Anything interesting or creative? Abandoned. Dark days.
And then the lawsuits began between Jon and Nancy. And all hope was lost. It seemed like a matter of months until the characters would be sold off.
So for the last year, I've been out of the Archie analysis game. It got too sad. I saw no pleasure in ripping apart the dreck coming out of Marmaronek.
But now, there is a new hope. 3 new hopes, the daughters of Richard Goldwater, Lisa, Taylor and Summer. They stayed on the sidelines up until now, but it seems like they've had enough of Jon and Nancy.
Bravo! Bring it on, ladies. You own the same percentage as Jon, and you are willing to call him out as the sleaze he is. Exciting times! It's been so long since Archie had me excited! Maybe, just maybe, this story will have a happy ending after all.
So back to the Double Digests I go, searching for clues and meaning as this all unfolds. I may have abandoned my post once, but rest assured I am once again your sentry on the wall around Riverdale.
Stay strong Adam Chisholm, I'm coming back to find out where you are and what you've become.