American cartoonist Dan Parent is perhaps best known for his work on Archie comics. While most of us associate Archie with a group of youngsters from Riverdale, their adventures and misadventures, Parent can be credited for more than that. Starting from redefining the artwork that had been an intrinsic part of the series for years, to introducing elements that are socially relevant, Parent has helped the comic evolve through the years.
His most famous character from the Archie universe is perhaps Kevin Keller. And what’s so special about Keller? Well, he was the first man in Archie comics who openly admitted to being gay! Albeit, his heartwarming confession spewed from his mouth while he was bonding over food with Jughead, but it was that one little confession that proved to make Veronica #202 an instant bestseller, prompting an issue reprint! Quite the charmer, Keller’s introduction in Riverdale reinforces one thought that has been an essential part of this realm- Riverdale does not judge. In fact, the place is quite the safe haven for everyone.
However, it will be unfair to say that Keller was loved by all. An episode where Kevin returns from war and decides to tie the knot with his boyfriend prompted a group from the American Family Association (that opposes homosexuality, abortions and pornography), One Million Moms, to protest vehemently against this same-sex marriage on grounds of immorality. Though things did look pretty glum as the Moms stirred up a storm, Parent told us that their antics helped sales rise!
And while that was something all fans shared a laugh about, the recent death of Archie Andrews left them heart-broken, to say the least. After all, it isn’t easy to say goodbye to a face that has been such an integral part of the growing up years. Though the death was portrayed to be a heroic and selfless act of him trying to protect the newly elected senator Keller from an assassin’s bullet, it did little to calm the hearts of fans. Marking the end of the series Life with Archie, Parent is of the opinion that it was a rather suitable end.
A homosexual marriage, a death that shook the world and a character who hasn’t changed even a single bit- Dan Parent explains it all in an exclusive conversation with us.
ST: How would you describe your personal process of comic creation?
Dan Parent (DP): My process is pretty simple. You spend most of the time coming up with a good idea and a story. Or, if I’m just doing the art, on a good layout. Once all that is done, then comes the basic drawing. That’s the fun part! Then I ink the art with pen and ink. After that, the digital process begins, where I scan the art into the computer for colouring and lettering.
ST: What is the toughest thing about making a comic and what is the easiest?
DP: The toughest part is coming up with a good script or a cover idea. The easiest part is the actual drawing.
ST: Your thoughts about the death of Archie- a lot of fans all over the world are heartbroken. Though he did die a hero, would you have preferred a different end?
DP: I thought the story was quite emotional, but fitting since it was the end of that particular series. Would I have ended it differently? I’m not sure. But I think they did a good job on the story that they told.
ST: How would you introduce Kevin Keller to those who don’t know of the iconic character? Also, what do you think of “One Million Moms” who protested against the cover so vehemently?
DP: I would just say that Kevil Keller is a typical American teenager who just happens to be gay. One Million Moms are good at stirring up controversy. They’re also good at stirring up sales, which increased with all the attention they gave!
ST: How do you deal with creative barricades?
DP: You just ride them out, or look for help from fellow colleagues.
ST: Why has Veronica hardly evolved while the rest of the characters have- why?
DP: Ha! Well, Veronica doesn’t think she needs to evolve. So she’s probably the most resistant to change. But that’s why we love her!
ST: What is the biggest challenge a comic creator faces in the digital age?
DP: The sales of “paper” books in the digital age is possibly the biggest challenge.
ST: What inspires you? Can you tell us a bit about your influences as well?
DP: I’m inspired by the everyday things in life. Just normal people and the little things that we all share in common interest me. My influences are all over the place, but in comics, my biggest influences were Dan DeCarlo, Harry Lucey and Samm Schwartz.