Friday, June 6, 2014

Archie Comics Introduce First Character with a Disability

Anyone who has read an Archie comic probably knows that they're not really what one would pick up to get a healthy dose of drama, controversy, or even the smallest trace of the unexpected. However, in the past few years, Archie comics co-CEO and publisher, Jon Goldwater, has made it part of his mission to add more and more diversity to the Riverdale gang. For instance, in 2010, the comic introduced its first openly gay character, Kevin. This month, Riverdale and Archie readers will be introduced to the comic's first character with a disability.

According to Archie writer and artist, Dan Parent, the new character, Harper, is inspired by real-life author, Jewel Kats, from her sense of fashion to the origins of her disability. Parent says that because of Jewel's snappy personality, it seemed natural for Harper to be connected to the fashion-forward, sassy Veronica, so they made the girls cousins. This also allowed the writers to give Harper an edge that she might not have had if she were, for instance, the cousin of girl-next-door Betty.

Regarding integrating Harper's disability into the story and her character naturally, Parent says:

"The important thing in creating a character with a characteristic like Harper: you do want to address it, but you don’t want to make a whole story about it. And in future stories, it probably won’t come up. Or it will, but only when it needs to. You don’t want the character to be only about that. With Harper, we acknowledged her disability, but we also acknowledged how it doesn’t define her, and it’s not all she’s about. And she uses her disability to empower other people. So we address it, but we don’t make the entire story about it. We want it to be entertaining. You don’t want to do it by preaching, just giving a list of characteristics without a story."

This fits in well with the comic's goal of making Riverdale a contemporary environment, where variety actually is the norm. By increasing character diversity and putting those characters in the always-welcoming environment people seek from Archie comics, a sort of seamless ideal presents itself, where everyone is different and that's just how things are without question or awkwardness.

Harper is set to debut on June 18th in issue #656.

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