To be or not to be

New twist Archie's latest character has evoked a mixed response among its readers  


Why are we making such a big deal about sexual preferences, say some, while some others say it hardly matters. NEETI SARKAR seeks opinions on the entry of a gay character in Archie comics

Come September and Archie Comics is all set to welcome its first openly gay character, Kevin Keller. While not many foresaw a drastic leap like this in the world of Archie, Jughead, Veronica and Betty, the creators of the stupendously popular comic strip felt the need to keep the series current and inclusive.

On the one hand, there are a whole bunch of people (not just petrified parents) who feel they're not quite ready to embrace Keller. On the other, there are many youngsters who think the introduction of a gay character is nothing but an avant-garde revolution.

Does that mean homosexuality has become mainstream? Is Archie Comics keeping abreast with the changing times? Or is this just about increasing sales and circulation? College student and comic book fan Dushyant Sharma feels: “We're wasting far too much time even talking about issues that don't require much attention. Some people are gay, so let's just get over it! Also, I'm sure Kevin will make a grand entry with the burger eating contest but he might not end up being the real star.”

Viren Peres, a student of Law, seems to concur with this opinion. “This is for real. It's great that the writers have included the gay character. It keeps in touch with the present scenario, and with what is relevant. Cheers to the creators!”

There are those Archie Comics' fanatics who believe that even when Kevin makes his appearance, the comic strip will be only about good and clean fun so there really is no harm in introducing a new twist.

“We've grown up with Archie and gang. In real life, we have friends who aren't straight. So what's the hassle dealing with a gay character limited to the pages of a comic book,” asks 17-year-old Ayushi S. On the flipside, there are people who are certain there is truth to all the hype but aren't comfortable with their favourite comic book making way for someone of a different sexual orientation. Mohammed Younus, a training consultant at an HR firm says: “Cultural aspects have to be taken into consideration. In the West, this might not even be an issue one would debate. However, in India it might sound strange, funny and even offensive. Maybe we're still not ready for the change.” Fresh graduate of Journalism and Literature, Jeanine Hendricks believes: “The introduction of Kevin Keller is a closer reflection on American society and I don't think the comic created the character. In reality, society actually did.”

While Archie Comics are a favourite among school and college goers, Indian parents seem to have a new fear to deal with. Rani Mathew, a mother of two teenagers says: “Keeping the storyline current is necessary but not to the extent that the change gives someone on the other side of the globe a culture shock. I'm not worried about my kids reading plots that revolve a gay character. I'm more concerned about how we've allowed something that was never a norm to pass off as something trivial and inane.”

While only time can tell if Kevin Keller will be a reality and whether or not he will have a colossal fan following, there is no doubt that a topic as grim and delicate as homosexuality has knocked on the doors of the comic world as well.