Tuesday, March 20, 2012


When I was a kid I was a big comic book fan.  Of course, along with my terrific baseball card collection, my mom tossed them all.  Alas.

I was, however, not much into Archie and the gang.  I did read them from time to time, but they came from my sister.  If forced to choose between Betty or Veronica, well, I liked Veronica's looks and her attitude, but if I remember correctly she was richer than Betty, so I probably should have been all out for Betty.  But I wasn't.  Betty was just so goody two shoes.  Veronica, I always dreamed, had a dark side...and I always liked "bad" girls who took no crap from anyone.

I also have it on good authority that Veronica was a traitor to her class and was involved in some pretty heavy sh*t later on.  In fact, she was a prime target at one point of the COINTELPRO program.  I could tell you more but I simply do not discuss in detail and on principle that sort of thing.

What the hell am I talking about.

Well, now it seems that the Archie and his peeps are in a heck of trouble with the Christian Right.

It isn't about birth control and abortion, so it must have something to do with gay people.

You got it.

Let's hear a big Hip Hip Hurrah, for my old bud, Billy B. for this analysis and history.

The following is from TALK TO ACTION.

Archie Comics Defies Religious Extremists and Celebrates Gay Marriage
Bill Berkowitz
Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 01:51:15 PM EST

For 70 years the small pristine town of Riverdale has been home to Archie, Veronica, Betty, Reggie, Jughead and an assortment of decidedly wholesome and occasionally zany characters. In Veronica#202 - published in September 2010 - Kevin Keller joined the gang, becoming Riverdale's first openly gay chap.

"Archie's hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books," Archie Comics co-CEO Jon Goldwater explained. Keller "proved so popular that not only is he coming back to hang with Archie and the gang in issue 205 ... but he's getting his own Kevin Keller ongoing series beginning in June," USA Today's Brian Truitt recently reported.

While the public has responded favorably to Keller's arrival in Riverdale, the folks at the American Family Association (AFA) have gone bonkers, a fairly common condition for the anti-gay conservative Christian hate group.


Rae Ellen, a neighbor who lived with her parents on the ground floor of our five-story apartment building in the Bronx, collected comic books. However, unlike most of the rest of us, she didn't hoard them or keep them under lock and key. Instead, Rae Ellen ran a comic book lending library out of her apartment for the kids in the building.

All you had to do to get access to any comic book in her collection was register at her apartment and get one of her official library cards, select the comic you wanted to borrow, fill out the appropriate index card, and off you went, comic book in hand.

All sorts of titles were available: from Casper the Friendly Ghost to Bugs Bunny; from a selection of Classic Comics (for the budding "intellectuals" amongst us) to Batman; from Hopalong Cassidy to Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales; from Donald Duck to Scrooge McDuck.

And there were the Archie comics, which were hands down the most exotic-seeming comic book in the bunch. While Archie Comics definitely appealed mostly to the girls in the building, several pre-pubescent lads were also drawn to them, in large part due to Veronica and Betty.

Other than the Veronica and Betty factor, I'm not sure why the adventures of Archie's crew was so appealing. Maybe it was the fact that compared to our five-story walk-up, the small town of Riverdale with its private homes and acres of green fields seemed so idyllic.

Long after Rae Ellen moved on (maybe becoming a librarian?), Archie comics are still - after 70 years - hot commodities. And despite (or maybe because of) protests from the AFA's One Million Moms campaign, the recent issue featuring a storyline that brought gay marriage to Riverdale, has become one of the series' best-selling issues.
Enter the AFA

Of course it is not surprising that the AFA, named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, would launch a protest of a gay-themed Archie comic. After all, the multi-million dollar multi-media enterprise founded by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, could be legitimately called the King of the Conservative Christian Boycott.

Recently the AFA went on the warpath against JC Penny in the hopes of ousting Ellen DeGeneres as a company spokesperson, a move that failed.

The AFA, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, has been launching attacks like those on Ellen and Archie comics for decades, dating back to when Wildmon founded it in 1977 as the National Federation for Decency. While its outrage is always palpable, it has had a decidedly uneven success rate, except in one specific area: the raising of big money.
The organization has lots of money in the bank, operates on a multi-million dollar budget, publishes a daily news feed called OneNewsNow.com, owns and feeds programming via its American Family Radio network to perhaps as many as 200 radio stations, employs about 100 people at its home-base in Tupelo, Mississippi, and for a time, operated the Center for Law & Policy, a high-powered conservative legal enterprise and has developed an extraordinary sophisticated communications network.

Amongst the current "Hot Topics" headlines on the AFA Web site is "Tell Hardee's and Carl's Jr. you've had enough!: Company shows utter disrespect for women and children"; "Home Depot forces [pro-homosexual] agenda on employees"; and "Macy's fires Christian for protecting women's dressing rooms from cross-dresser: She endured expletives from transgender, then got fired for standing firm in her faith."

According to The Guardian, Archie's "publisher described the marriage of Kevin Keller, the series' first gay character, in the latest issue as `a historic moment'," when he announced "that the Life with Archie #16 had sold out."

Luke McKinney recently reported that "Secondhand issues [of the same-sex marriage comic] are already trading for 10 times the starting price."

"The strong sales follow a call from the American Family Association's website One Million Moms for Toys "R" Us to stop selling the new Archie issue," The Guardian reported. "The conservative Christian group is concerned that `children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage in a toy store.' Please remove all the same-sex 'Just Married - Archie' comic books immediately from your shelves. My decision to shop in your stores depends on it,' they have written to the retailer."

Archie Comics co-chief executive John Goldwater said that the company "stands by" the new issue. "Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone. It's an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday," he said.
"We're sorry the American Family Association/OneMillionMoms.com feels so negatively about our product, but they have every right to their opinion, just like we have the right to stand by ours. Kevin Keller will forever be a part of Riverdale, and he will live a happy, long life free of prejudice, hate and narrow-minded people."

In January, Kevin Keller's creator, writer/artist Dan Parent, was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. "When you're at different shows and conventions, and people come right up to you and talk to you about it," Parent said, "that's when it really hits you how much the character has affected people. It's all fantastic.

"I'm surprised how positive it's been," he added. "We knew going into it we were doing the right thing. You're always prepared in the back of your mind for some backlash. Not to say there hasn't been some. Not everybody's particularly happy about it, but from where I'm sitting it's been about 98% positive."

Judging from his current popularity, Kevin Keller could have a long and prosperous life in Riverdale. But don't cry for the AFA. They may be on a losing streak - Ellen and the JC Penny's flap, Kevin Keller's popularity - but it's never say die over at the AFA's Mississippi headquarters. After all, its very survival depends on its engagement in as many culture war battles it can conjure up.

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