Comics Alliance has a big story up about the latest twist in Archie Comics’ storyline about Kevin Keller. Not only is his character going to be in the military in the future, not only is he getting married to a character who appears, at least in these sample pages, to be of a different race, but the twist is going to be that he met his future hubby during his term of service. But what actually struck me about the story is not that it’s about a post-Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell world, not that it’s about an interracial gay wedding, but that Archie is following Doonesbury and telling a story about injured veterans.
I don’t know how many of y’all have followed B.D.’s arc over the past couple of years, but Doonesbury’s done more than any other pop culture artifact that I can think of to explore what happens to soldiers who bear the cost of our current involvement in two disastrous wars. Whether it’s B.D. losing his leg and struggling through physical and mental therapy; Toggle’s battle against traumatic brain injury; Ray Hightower’s panic attacks; and Melissa’s struggle to overcome the lasting impact of surviving command rape, the strip’s effortlessly, compassionately, and often hilariously integrated B.D.’s military family into the strip.
Archie’s decision to do something similar may be derivative, and it may not be as sustained — the stories about the characters as adults are, after, part of a one-off storyline. But I’m glad to see another American institution in comics integrate the diverse experiences of servicemembers and their families into key storylines, and to emphasize that war is not cost-free, and it’s not temporary. Not everyone’s going to be lucky enough to get rehabbed by a hunky gay nurse in a military hospital. But a lot of folks are going to have to deal with lost limbs and the lasting effects of injuries that might have killed them in earlier conflicts.