C2E2 2017: Dan Parent Talks Sharknado, Kevin Keller, and Your Pal Archie
After graduating from the Joe Kubert School, writer/artist Dan Parent got his first Archie Comics creator credits in 1988 and has been one of the company’s shining stars ever since. He has continued the tradition of the Archie “house” style” into the 21st century and worked a variety of classic storylines, including 1994’s “Love Showdown” that posited an end to the Betty/Veronica/Archie love triangle. and co-writing and drawing the crazy 2015 Archie vs. Sharknado crossover.
Possibly, best of all, Dan Parent created the first gay Archie character, Kevin Keller, who may or may not be my boyfriend. Kevin first appeared in 2010’s Veronica before getting his own solo title in 2012. He has played an important role in other Archie related material, like Afterlife with Archie and the Riverdale TV show. The adult Kevin Keller currently stars in the digital-exclusive Life with Kevin miniseries that Parent writes and pencils and will be wrapped up soon.
At C2E2, I had the opportunity to chat with Dan about the timelessness of the Archie characters in pop culture, the creation of Kevin Keller and his relationships as well as his upcoming comic Your Pal Archie that is coming out later in 2017 and will be written by Ty Templeton.
Graphic Policy: I’m proud to be a third-generation Archie fan. I was wondering why you think the Archie characters have endured in pop culture when its imitators, like Millie the Model, have gone into obscurity.
Dan Parent: Well, Archie was first so it was engrained in people’s heads early on. Archie is a part of Americana at this point, like Superman and Batman. He’s been around 75 years and is part of the culture. And the characters stand on their own. They’re unique characters.
GP: I like your Life with Kevin series. Why did you decide to have Kevin move to New York, and have it be the setting of the series?
DP: We wanted to do something different with Kevin, and since they were doing the other reboots with the other characters, we decided to do a soft reboot. We didn’t reinvent the style. We just tweaked it a little bit. You can do so much with Kevin as a character when he’s 20-22 years old because he’s in the real world, he’s dating, and jaunting up his career path. There’s so much more you can do storywise.
We took him out of the Riverdale background and also pushed the Veronica/Kevin friendship because they were a great pair in the original series.
GP: This actually leads into my next question. Why did you continue to make Kevin and Veronica BFFs in Life with Kevin?
DP: Who knows why it works, it just does. When Kevin first came to Riverdale, Veronica had a crush on him, and she wasn’t smart enough to realize he was gay when everyone else knew. And they have this unique friendship, which started out with her crushing on him, and then evolved into a really strong friendship.
They have this yin and yang kind of thing going back and forth that works.
GP: They definitely have chemistry. You’ve been working at Archie for 30 years, do you have any classic Archie artists you might want to recommend to fans who have only watched Riverdale or read the more recent Mark Waid Archie run.
DP: Absolutely. Dan DeCarlo to start with. I worked with Dan in his last decade and learned a lot from him myself. He’s the master of Archie as far as setting the modern style.
You can go back to other great artists, like Bob Montana, who was [Archie’s] creator and set the style. Dan DeCarlo kind of tweaked it and made it the house style. Harry Lucey was another inspirational artist and did a lot of great slapstick. Samm Schwartz was *the* Jughead artist for decades. His style is different than the other Archie artists. You can always tell his art right away. He’s good at Jughead because Jughead is different, and it suited his style.
Bob Montana, Dan DeCarlo, and Harry Lucey are the main go-to’s in my head. Especially Dan DeCarlo. As a kid, I was very inspired by him
GP: What was it like working with DeCarlo in his last decade?
DP: It was great. I probably learned more from him than from art school. Even though I learned a lot in art school. I’m not dissing my art school. Just the hand-on experience. He would lay out stories, and I would finish his stories for a while. So, I got to see how he would draw. And he was just a really sweet guy. I was very lucky to work with a master like him.
GP: What do you personally love about the Archie “house style”?
DP: I like it because I love simple art. It’s deceiving because it’s more difficult to pull off a simple style than a rendered style. People don’t see that. Growing up, I always loved the art that was simple. I grew up loving Harvey and Archie comics because there was a simple line to them.
Even with superhero stuff, I loved Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke’s art. I’m even wearing a Darwyn Cooke shirt right now. These guys had a clean, slick style that looked a little cartoon-y.
GP: You have great taste. So, there have been a lot of crazy Archie crossovers. I know you did Archie vs. Sharknado so what about Archie lends itself to being thrown into the world of Predator or the Punisher in these crossovers?
DP: Archie is such a part of pop culture any way. You’ll read old Archie stories and see him with whatever the latest fad or rock star is. I worked on Archie Meets KISS [in 2011], which gets the most fan response still. Something just works. Archie vs. Sharknado is the weirdest one.
But the personalities in Archie adapt to any situation. Jughead is always Jughead, Betty and Veronica are always the same, but they can adapt to these crazy situations. Even the Predator. They’re still the Archie gang, but they’re getting ripped apart.
GP: That’s probably my favorite one of the crossovers. You have Your Pal Archie coming up in July with writer Ty Templeton. Why should fans the of the all-new Archie and Riverdale check that out?
DP: Your Pal Archie is great because it fills the need for people who want classic Archie because the stories are very fun, simple, and old style. The style is still my style (Which is classic), but I just tweaked it a little bit. I was inspired by the fashions on the [Riverdale] show. I changed Archie’s hair and added a little detail to their faces. The changes are minimal when you look at the book, but it’s sort of a makeover.
I did Betty and Veronica Spectacular 10-15 years ago and changed the style of the book a little bit. It’s just keeping it fresh, but not straying too far from the classics.
GP: What can we expect from the first story arc?
DP: The first issue is about Jughead learning how to drive and Archie trying to teach him. I was thinking, “Of all the stories that were ever drawn, you rarely see Jughead driving.” You don’t see him driving that much. So, Ty Templeton latched onto a good story about Jughead driving. The story’s really funny. It’s like an old style slapstick story.
GP: What was has collaborating with Ty been like? I know you’re a big fan of Batman: The Animated Series, and he worked on the Batman Adventures comic back in 1990s.
DP: I’ve known him for a while and have always admired his art and writing. I was trying to come up with people to write [Your Pal Archie]. It’s good I didn’t write them because he brings a fresh outlook to the stories. Ty fills the bill because he’s flat out funny. He’s inking it too and has that nice line style that I like that adds to my artwork.
GP: This is kind of a weird fan fiction-y question. If every male character in the Archie universe was gay, bi, pan, or queer, who would Kevin Keller date?
DP: Maybe, he’d like Jughead. They have a similar taste in food. Kevin likes to eat, but not as much as Jughead. That was kind of their bonding experience in the first issue where Kevin appeared. So that might work.
GP: For my last question, I’m a big fan of the Shade the Changing Girl series from DC Comics and saw you got to draw the “Life with Honey” backup in issue 7. How did that happen?
DP: I know Jamie Rich, had done some DC covers in the fall, and reached out for work. And he had that in mind because I have a retro style like the Life with Honey show. It was fun, and I hope to do another one.
Dan Parent is currently writing and penciling Life with Kevin, writing and drawing numerous stories in the Archie Double Digests, and is the penciler on the upcoming Your Pal Archie series. He is also the co-writer and one of the artists on Chapterhouse Comics’ Die Kitty Die.