MEDINA, OHIO, April 24, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A long-running, nationally syndicated comic strip will feature a homosexual couple holding hands and attending the prom together.

“Funky Winkerbean” will depict two men holding hands as they buy tickets at the fictional Westview High School.

“So, who are you guys taking to the prom, anyway?” asks a young female ticket seller. “Uh, that would be each other,” they reply.

The comic is featured in 400 newspapers nationwide.

“Dealing with intolerance is something I’ve dealt with many times before. Adding the gay angle is just a twist to the topic,” said strip creator Tom Batiuk (pronounced “Battick”), 63.

However, in December 2009, Batiuk featured six comic strips about the “bullying” of homosexual character Cody.

“I’m not trying to shock anyone,” Batiuk stated. “I’m just telling a story.”

The strip, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last month, joins a growing number of homosexual characters in juvenile literature.

Archie comic book character Kevin Keller “married” his boyfriend in the January 2012 issue. 

Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater said the introduction of the first openly homosexual character into the world of Jughead, Betty, and Veronica in September 2010 was “just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. Archie’s hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone.”

One Million Moms, a project of the American Family Association, asked for members to contact Toys ‘R’ Us stores to prevent the issue’s display in front of an impressionable young audience. “Unfortunately, children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage in a toy store,” the organization’s press release said. “This is the last place a parent would expect to be confronted with questions from their children” about sexual orientation.

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The homosexual teen storyline was opposed by co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit, a former third grade teacher. She and Goldwater are locked in a legal battle for control of the comic empire.

Jon Goldwater – who is distantly related to Barry Goldwater – wants to “update” the message to expand its earnings potential. He has discussed creating a Hollywood film about Archie with help from Rahm Emanuel’s brother, Ari, a Hollywood “super agent” who called for a Hollywood boycott of Mel Gibson in 2006.

The comic book’s new direction is a far cry from the example of Jon’s father and company founder John L. Goldwater, who reveled in the comic’s wholesome image. Although Jewish, he allowed the Archie characters to be used in Christian-themed comic books for a fee. Christian Spire Comics created 18 faith-themed Archie issues from 1973-1982. “That was a really nice piece of business for a long time,” said Michael Silberkleit, who ran the company from 1983 until his death in 2008.

Neither Archie nor “Funky Winkerbean” is the first comic strip to feature an LGBT character. In 1993, Lynn Johnston’s “For Better or Worse” revealed the character Lawrence was a homosexual.

Batiuk said “the younger generation’s attitudes toward gays,” though “not perfect,” are “more open and accepting than their predecessors.”

“It shows promise for an emerging generation that will bring this issue [of acceptance of open homosexuality in high schools] to an end.” 

“This [strip] is a pretty straight-forward expression of how I feel about the subject,” he said.

The comic strip featuring the couple will run on April 30.