I’ve been asked what I think about Archie Comics’ decision to introduce a gay character. I have to admit that though I am an unabashed Archie Comics buff, my buffery is mostly about the ’50s and ’60s stuff, by the likes of series creator Bob Montana. I don’t follow their recent stuff very much. The company’s art is probably better now than it’s been in a while (except, ironically, their senior artist, Stan Goldberg), but they’ve placed so many restrictions on what they can do and the kind of jokes they can make that it’s impossible for them to be as funny as the “classic” stories of the ’40s through the ’70s (and even the ’80s if Samm Schwartz was wielding the pencil). In fact, that’s one good reason for the company to go in for long soapy story arcs like Archie getting married: since Betty can’t be an insane murderess, and characters can’t take recreational drugs or go into prostitution, then six-page comedy stories aren’t easy to do.
Which is the nice thing about the introduction of this character, that the decision was made not to make it a very special “event” story, but simply bring him in as a traditional comedy twist in a traditional comedy story (girl likes guy, doesn’t realize he’s gay). Obviously, like most of what this company does nowadays, it’s partly done for the sake of getting news coverage — and as you see, it’s working. Archie has belatedly adopted some of the techniques of DC and Marvel: headline-grabbing announcements, big story arcs (including imaginary ones). But it’s also a fairly important step considering that this is just about the only remaining non-superhero comic company. They’re the last “mainstream” U.S. comics that are regularly sold to people who are not comics buffs, and to girls as well as boys, so for them to admit the obvious — that some people are attracted to the same sex, or that people of different races sometimes date each other, is a pretty big deal.
The other question people are asking is “wait, what about Jughead?” Having Jughead be so involved in the story may be their way of saying, no, Jughead’s not gay. And you know what? He’s probably not. Like Sheldon Cooper, he’s asexual.
The most closeted character in Riverdale is probably Reggie, a classic over-compensator whose obsession with Archie frequently turns into an open man-crush. (I can’t find it online, but there’s a story where Reggie becomes attracted to Archie in drag.) And Betty seems to think there’s some tension between her and Veronica:
I should also note that there are rampant signs that the company may already have a bisexual character, Melody, who seems open to the possibilities with both of her friends, Josie and Pepper (progress aside, I never liked Valerie much; bring back Pepper!)
Finally, though this isn’t directly related to the post, it is related to Katie Engelhart’s story from last week’s issue: I should note that this company won’t really have shaken off its past until it deals with the issue of Jughead’s unsavory political affiliations.