This year's Pride celebrations have a definite comic twist: Two brand new gay comic book titles are being published. In July, Bluewater Productions offers The Stonewall Riots, a fact-based graphic novel which tells the story of that fateful night in New York City, 1969, when LGBTs fought back against oppression for the first time.
The three-day battle they waged against harassment from the New York Police Department is credited with launching the modern equality movement.
On August 7, Archie Comics will publish issue #10 of Kevin Keller. In that issue, openly gay Kevin, who hangs out with Archie and the gang at Riverdale High, will kiss his boyfriend in full view of readers. The storyline was inspired by an Archie boycott organized by One Million Moms, a Christian conservative group which seeks to silence entertainment they find "unwholesome".
Michael Troy, writer of The Stonewall Riots, and Dan Parent, writer/creator of the Kevin series, spoke with SFGN about why this turn of events is coming.
"It seemed like the right time," Parent said in a phone interview. "He's dating. There's a kiss, but done in a very natural way that kicks off the story."
Parent told SFGN that one of the characters in the story is a potential member of One Million Moms.
"Veronica tapes the kiss and uploads it. The Million Moms lady goes crazy, it gets media attention, and there's a community forum,” he said. “The Moms are on one side, the pro-Kevin camp is on the other."
Parent said that the familiar Archie characters are all on Kevin's side.
"It's the most political storyline we've done so far, but it's not going to be like this every issue,” Parent said. “There's a lot of fun stuff coming: There will be some competition between Kevin and Veronica."
The Kevin comics are near and dear to Parent's heart, yet the popular comic book auteur, who has became a staple at fan conventions, is straight. He said that a person's sexuality has never been an issue with him.
"I grew up in Vermont, the 'first gay state', in a very liberal household," he said. "I was raised in an open minded manner, and I always find it strange to meet people from conservative areas — I'm astounded by their views!"
Parent reported that parents of Archie readers have been very welcoming of Kevin, but that the most gratifying mail has come from LGBT youth.
"We hear from parents of gay kids who thank us for having a gay character in a normal fashion,” Parent said. “We've also heard from kids and older gay men who tell us that Kevin 'makes a difference.'"
Parent is very excited to report that Warner Brothers is now developing a big screen, live action Archie movie, and that Kevin will be included. He's grateful to One Million Moms for drawing so much attention to his baby.
"They've increased sales and opened discussions," he said.
Openly gay Michael Troy told SFGN that he has a more personal stake in The Stonewall Riots, the book he authored.
"Part of the reason we're doing the book is that it keeps the story of Stonewall alive," he said, speaking via phone from the gay mecca of West Hollywood, Cali. "The younger generation has never heard of Stonewall. They have no idea of its impact."
Troy, 40, can recall a time when it wasn't easy for gay couples to hold hands on the street.
"That's why people fought so hard. Rather than bitch about it, I'd rather educate. Stonewall is an important part of American history — it should be taught in schools."
He said that the world of comic book fandom has been largely supportive of his work.
"I've been associated with gay comics for years," he said. "There are more gay comic geeks than you think. Comic book geeks, even when straight, feel ostracized as it is, so they're more accepting."
Troy remains confident that the sea change in society will continue. "We're the only group of people still denied our rights," he said. "One hundred years from now, this will be an embarrassment."
For more info on Kevin Keller, go to archiecomics.com
For more info on The Stonewall Riots, and other gay interest titles from Michael Troy, go to bluewaterprod.com David-Elijah Nahmod