Interview: Paul Kupperberg on His Kevin Keller Young Adult Novel and Kevin's Life Before Riverdale

Fans know Kevin Keller as the fun, lovable openly gay character from Archie Comics. Now, veteran comic book writer Paul Kupperberg is telling Kevin's story in a new format - a young adult novel. Set before Kevin arrives in Riverdale, Kevin tells the story of Kevin's middle school years as he makes new friends and faces bullying.

GLAAD recently spoke with Kupperberg about the novel, its strong anti-bullying message, and Kupperberg's process in adapting the novel from the wildly popular comic book.

 

GLAAD: What was it about Kevin Keller that made you see him as a good fit for novelization?

Paul Kupperberg: I think it’s mostly that out of all the Archie characters, Kevin has a unique point of view and a message for readers in a way that the others in the series don’t. Archie, Betty, Veronica, and the rest were created to represent “typical American teens,” and, over the last seventy years they’ve been very successful reflecting current kids and pop culture in their stories. The novel is one way to draw the character out and really dive into what makes Kevin different from the rest of the gang.

GLAAD How was writing the novel different from writing the comic? Were there any specific challenges you faced or opportunities it presented?

PK: Writing comics and writing novels are as different as apples and oranges. Word balloons aside, comics are a mostly visual medium, so you have to keep the story moving along to keep things visually interesting...and you’re forced to do it in the constraints of those twenty pages or whatever length the story will run. You can force a lot of story into twenty pages of comic book, but nowhere near as much as you can work into twenty pages of a novel. What I like most about novelizations is that they allow the writer to dig into the character and “discover” bits about them that you can share with the reader in a way that you just don’t have the room for in a comic book story.

GLAAD: You revealed a lot about Kevin's future in Life with Archie #16, but this novel is set in Kevin's past. What sort of things can his fans expect?

PK: Kevin is set in his first year in middle school, so readers will meet kind of the proto-Kevin, the dorky adolescent who will grow up to become the hunky teenager. We’ve seen him at this age in flashbacks in the ongoing Kevin Keller comic, but this is the first chance we’ve really gotten to get into what made him tick at that age. Most kids that age feel like they don’t fit in sometimes, especially a kid like Kevin, who’s not only new in town -- and because of his father’s military career, never gets to stay put in any one place for very long -- but starting to come to the realization of WHY he feels so different from his friends and dealing with it.

GLAAD: Speaking of Life with Archie #16, it was certainly incredibly successful in terms of sales and fan reaction. What was your reaction to the media attention and success?

PK: You know the old saying, “the only bad publicity is no publicity!” We expected that LWA #16 would make a splash, and it was, for the most part, very positive and supportive. I think the public knows that a company like Archie, with its squeaky clean, all-American image, isn’t going to do anything offensive in their comics. And the few that did protest the issue only served to stir up interest, leading people who don’t normally buy Archie, or comics at all, to seek it out, resulting in it becoming the second comic in the company’s history to sell out (after Kevin’s debut in Veronica #202).

GLAAD:  Kevin is said to include a very strong anti-bullying message. What made you feel this was important to include while working on the novel?

PK: It would be almost impossible to write a story like the one in Kevin without dealing with bullying. Any kid who’s different, out of the mainstream, is going to be picked on or bullied at some point in his school life. I think the whole rest of the story would have felt like a lie if that element hadn’t be included, not to mention the fact that it’s way too important an issue to be ignored in a young readers novel about a gay kid.

GLAAD: Kevin himself has certainly been a groundbreaking character who has been fully integrated into the Archie universe and whose story many readers find refreshingly hopeful and light hearted. What else do you hope readers will take away from this novelization of Kevin's story?

PK: I mainly hope they’ll be entertained. I wasn’t writing an “After School Special” message story -- there’s no faster way to bore and lose a reader than to lecture at them -- although that doesn’t mean there’s not a message in the story. But it’s really the same message that the Archie universe has always had for its readers concerning acceptance and inclusiveness.

 

The novel, Kevin, will be released Thursday, April 18, 2013. To kick off the book's release, writer Paul Kupperberg will host a signing at the famous Strand Bookstore in NYC. For more information, click here.

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