Dan Parent, the artist who has defined Archie Comics's house style for years, has launched (along with Archie) a new Kickstarter campaign to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his most famous creation, Kevin Keller. Titled Kevin Keller Celebration!: A 10th Anniversary Omnibus, the one-shot is set for release in December, and has about a week remaining before it's done. It has already passed a stretch goal that will see readers' paperback omnibus upgraded to hardcover, so if you get on board at this point, you can get a hardcover for the same price as a paperback would have been.
The character of Kevin Keller first appeared in Veronica #202 with a cover date of September 2010, and quickly became one of the most popular characters in Archie's world. The first openly gay character to play a prominent role in Riverdale, Keller also played a key role in the Life With Archie series a few years later.
"The pluses of crowdfunding are just that it's totally supported by people who are really, really into it," Parent told ComicBook. "It just creates an energy that's just so intense, because it's supported by the fans. Kevin especially has a lot of hardcore fans. It just made sense to me. And because it's a big, big project, not just a regular trade or graphic novel. That would be easy to put out, but this is big, so it just seemed like this was a good fit for it."
One of the things that attracted some media attention when Kevin first came on the scene was the fact that he was a military brat, with a father who was supportive. This was not a common characterization in the media at the time; the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which would allow U.S. servicemembers to be fired if they came out as lesbian or gay, would not be repealed fully until September 2011.
What was even more surprising for many was that it came from Archie Comics, where former chief Michael Silberkleit made sure to keep the company's outlook pretty conservative throughout the 2000s. Parent said that the philosophical change came when Silbekleit passed away and was replaced by Jon Goldwater (both men are descendants of the original two founders of MLJ Comics, which would go on to become Archie).
"That whole time was sort of a turning point for Archie," Parent explained. "It has a lot to do with the new management of Jon Goldwater coming onboard. That was really when the change came, because you need to have the higher-ups want to do the change. You can come up with as many great ideas as you want, but if the management or owner is not going to be interested in it, it's not going to do any good. I had come up with ideas before this, and nothing really happened in the past. It was very status quo. When Jon came onboard, he really wanted to add more characters, and to add diversity. He wanted Archie to not look like so much like it was in the 1950s. And so, Kevin was kind of the start of that. It was him, and we did add a bunch of other characters at that time too. And that kind of led into adding the [New Riverdale] style of Archie, when they did the updated style. And then, that style led to Riverdale. And then of course, even the horror titles, like Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, that added a new twist. And so, it all started from the new ownership of the company, and it just led into now."
And, yes, it's always shocking when your character immediately joins the publisher's pantheon and becomes an indispensable part of the universe. Still, that was exactly what Parent was shooting for when he created Kevin Keller.
"The initial goal was not to just create a character that was going to be a one-off, or just get a quick burst of publicity and then go away," Parent said. "I was dead set against that. At the time, we wanted to make sure that we were really not going to do that. We fleshed out the character of Kevin very carefully. I had come up with some ideas, and some designs, and then discussed it with the management about what we wanted to do with the character. Our ideas went back and forth, and then we just decided to give the character a basic backdrop of a history. And then, when he got his own series, we were able to really explore that, and really go into detail about how Kevin was an Army brat, and moved around, and we gave him a good family history, and the history he had with his old friends. Giving him that sort of history helped. And when they were doing his issues, the Archie characters were in the books, but we could have also done them without the Archie characters too, and I think that that kind of proved there was a strength in the character."
Kevin Keller Celebration: A 10th Anniversary Anthology is available for preorder now on Kickstarter.