In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
– Martin Luther King Jr
I didn’t think it was possible for the storytellers behind the Kevin Keller miniseries to top the first two issues of the four part miniseries (namely issue #2), and yet, somehow, they did so with the power and fury of a 1000 suns. This is definitely one of those times where I don’t mind standing corrected.
Issue #3 is pretty light-hearted and enjoyable in a typical Archie fashion. Keller is recruited by the gang to represent Riverdale High at the annual televised Witmasters competition. Only one problem: we learn that Keller has terrible stage-fright. In a series of flashbacks we learn that Keller’s phobia was contributed by the continual torment of an old bully and rival, Jerry. Nonetheless, Keller participates in Witmasters. So of course, Murphy’s Law kicks in and Keller’s past comes back to haunt him in more ways than one. With the support of his friends and family, Keller overcomes said fright and brings the win. He also has a run-in with Jerry which results in an unexpected turn where both teens make amends. This of course leads into Issue #4.
When issue #4 opens, we learn that Jerry has had trouble at home and is staying with the Kellers until his aunt is able to pick Jerry up. Meanwhile, student body presidential elections are coming up and the gang think that being the popular new kid, Keller, is perfect for the job and is once again volunteered. Keller is reluctant, but he soon learns what the rest of the world has known for decades, no force of nature will stop Veronica when she’s made up her mind.
What he initially believes will be a clean and amicable election against David Perkins, Keller soon learns that politics (of any sorts) are dirty and often rife with bigotry. Perkins launches a campaign encouraging voters to support him because he’s “A Real Man.” The mud-slinging and the microaggressions hit a fever pitch as stereotypes, homophobic attacks are relentlessly hurled at Keller. Perkins is confident this tactic will work because “The students will never vote for a gay kid for president. They need a real man!”
Gay men aren’t real men. No matter what we accomplish, we’ll never be considered real men. Whether police officer, soldier, professional athlete, doctor, politician, we’re never “A Real Man.” Even though he’s one of the few characters in comics who can call Sabretooth, Wolverine, Deadpool, Punisher, Daredevil, Batman, and Bane a bunch of punks (and can actually back it up), Midnighter will never be considered “A Real Man” by many. Whether president of student body or president of the United States, Keller will be deemed less than “A Real Man.”
But like the rest of us queer males who are “REAL MEN,” Keller knows who he is and doesn’t apologize or explain himself to anyone because that’s how “REAL MEN” roll. What I loved about this is that unlike what we see too often in the media, Keller isn’t some helpless gay who is waiting to be saved by a cis straight Samaritan. He fights his own battles and stands tall against whoever steps to him because again, Keller is “A REAL MAN” and that’s how “REAL MEN” roll.
Issue #4 is very layered and sophisticated and even the most astute reader may find themselves catching something new with additional reads, such as the black students in the background who overhear Keller take Perkins to task on his bigotry (and yeah that wasn’t symbolism about the intersectionality of isms).
I’ve also been impressed by the continual theme of family. The Keller clan is a tight-knit and nurturing one. And a family’s love and support can make a world of difference for a queer kid who is facing homophobia in his day-to-day.
But more than that, I’ve been impressed with how Keller’s Riverdale family steps up and stands tall. To be honest, this should be mandatory reading for fauxial justice fauxgressives on how REAL ALLIES operate. Archie and the others have no qualms about telling homophobes off and standing up for Keller, even when he isn’t around, when it isn’t glamorous and when they have something to lose. Even Reggie, for all of his scheming and duplicity, won’t cross certain lines and will defend Keller rather than sit on the sidelines.
People often forget that conservative bigots aren’t the only bigots. Liberal fauxgressives also constantly try to qualify that gay men aren’t real men and think we should stick to serving as their queer fashion accessories. These are the individuals who will spew platitudes about how homophobia is sooooooooooo wrong, and how they’re such an ally to the community but when it’s time for them to stand up for the gay co-worker, or even their online buddy who is being flamed by homophobic trolls, suddenly they’re nowhere to be found.
To quote Jay-Z, “You know the type, loud as a motorbike but wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.”
Or to go back to the MLK quote, In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
But what really brought this home was the message from Archie to Keller (and by extension LGBTQ everywhere) where he practically broke the 4th wall: Riverdale is what I’m all about…and you represent the best things about Riverdale! And Riverdale High! We all believe in you! Win or lose, you’re one of the gang! Get used to it!
Because of the continuous success of his appearances and the miniseries, Keller will be getting his own ongoing series in February which happens to be the month of my birthday. I couldn’t think of a finer birthday gift.
Editors’ Note – See you next week for a special look at Octobriana: Samizdat Edition! Thanks for reading! – PKA