Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

things comickal

-- things comickal -- fear of an ... archie comics book? really? REALLY?


So here's what Archie Comics gets for being the most progressive and interesting comics company today: a threatened boycott.

American Family Association targets Kevin Keller comics at Toys ‘R’ Us [Updated] | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment

The American Family Association, a conservative Christian group whose mission is to “inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture,” has aimed its ire at Archie Comics and Toys “R” Us over retail chain selling comics featuring the same-sex marriage of Kevin Keller.

Through its website, the nonprofit organization has asked members to send emails to Toys “R” Us “requesting they remove all the same-sex ‘Just Married – Archie’ comic books immediately from their shelves.”

[...] Toys ‘R’ Us employees do not actually set up the displays; they leave this up to the vendor, but they should be aware of the merchandise being sold in their stores nonetheless. These comic books are sold at the front checkout counters so they are highly visible to employees, managers, customers and children. Unfortunately, children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage in a toy store. This is the last place a parent would expect to be confronted with questions from their children on topics that are too complicated for them to understand. Issues of this nature are being introduced too early and too soon, which is becoming extremely common and unnecessary.

You want to know the really funny thing about this? The issue that they're targeting -- the one in which Kevin marries Troy not once, but twice! (depending on how you view things) -- is over two months old. Life with Archie only comes out once every two months. Issue 16 has already been largely replaced on shelves by issue 17. (In which Veronica -- the version married to Archie -- pretty much loses her freakin' mind, and Mr. Lodge -- both of him -- turns out to be much more than you'd expect. Oh, and then there's the X-Files thing. And anyone who didn't know it finds out Jughead's real name. And both continuities come to a crossroads that DC only wishes it could have managed as well in "Flashpoint". But that's all rather beside the point.) What I'm wondering is how long it will take these yahoos to notice that Kevin Keller actually has his own title now. One in which being a gay high school student is considered (GASP!) .... normal. As though he's just another Riverdale high school student, in exactly the same way that Archie or Reggie or Veronica or Betty or Moose or Jughead is.There's nothing in particular to distinguish it from any other Archie Comics title ... which is more or less their point.

Toys-r-Us has, so far, been utterly silent on the subject. This may be their best tack. They're not really in a position to say, in quite as tactful yet blunt a way as JC Penney said regarding One Million Moms' wildly ineffective protest regarding Ellen Degeneres, "Bite me, bigots!" Granted, that's not really how JCPenney phrased it (NOTE: Link below has autoplaying Flash video):

JC Penney CEO on Ellen DeGeneres Boycott Threats: “America Believes in Ellen”
...Ron Johnson, CEO of JC Penney, tells [Aaron Task of Yahoo Finance] in the accompanying video. "We believe in Ellen. She shares our values and America believes in Ellen."

So enamored is Johnson with DeGeneres that he says the comedian and talk-show host was "the only spokesperson" JC Penney even considered for its pending campaign. "My that spokespeople aren't really necessary unless a company is going through a profound change," he says. "We looked around...and Ellen was the one who stood out. She's honest, she's funny, she has integrity. Americans like her but they really trust her. She seemed to be the perfect person." [...]

So One Million Moms is now wagering that America believes less in Toys-R-Us and Archie Comics than they do in Ellen The Trustworthy. Symbol of Americana for, what, four generations of people now? Seriously, these people, do they know how to pick their targets or what?

I have to admit, I do love the response of Archie Comics' CEO to these people, as reported by Robot6 at

...When asked for comment, Archie sent us the following statement from their CEO, Jon Goldwater:

“We stand by Life with Archie #16. As I’ve said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone. It’s an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday.

“We’re sorry the American Family Association/ 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.”

No, it's not a tactful "Bite me", but it's still beautifully stated. Although ... "free of prejudice, hate and narrow-minded people" is, perhaps, pushing it a bit far. After all, in his first longer story arc, Kevin had to deal with someone explicitly using the fact that he's gay against him in the election for student president, trying to take advantage of people's prejudices, implying that Kevin being gay made him unsuited, somehow less of a man. (Said bigot was, quite firmly and repeatedly, put in his place.) So it's not as though he won't face obstacles ... but this is Archie Comics we're talking about, so he'll usually get through, somehow.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I think Life with Archie is one of the best, if possibly not the best, titles being published in comics today. They manage to combine the melodrama with a somewhat realistic depiction of the sorts of things that young people go through today -- the Great Recession, although not mentioned as such, has not left Riverdale untouched -- as well as the odd touch of science fiction and fantasy. (They probably won't pay attention, but come awards time next year, the Hugos and Nebulas really should consider Life with Archie in their comic book section -- although usually it's graphic novels and webcomics compilations. Nonetheless, the title wouldn't exist without the explicit science fiction concept at its core, which is beginning to pay off big time. But I digress. Again.) I suppose today's news is a sign that Life with Archie has arrived -- again -- in a really odd way. After all, if Archie Comics wasn't considered meaningful in some way, why would you bother protesting or boycotting? Toys R Us just happens to be the merchant in the middle this time.

Questions? Comments? Boycotts? Babblings?

Posted by iain at 01:51 PM in category media and society , things comickal