GAME CHANGERS: Dan Parent on Harper Lodge

Welcome to GAME CHANGERS, an interview series at Comicosity looking at female protagonists in comic books from the last decade or two (or more!) — and the original creators who brought them to life.

Today, we look at a character so new to comics, she’s only had a single appearance, but in that time made an incredible splash. The newest resident of Riverdale is Harper Lodge, cousin to Veronica and newest member of the Archie gang. What makes her so special? Read on.

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Who is Harper Lodge?

First Appearance: Archie #656 (2014)
Created by Dan Parent

Published by Archie Comics

Visiting cousin to Archie Comics headliner Veronica, Harper is a busy young woman! Fashion designer, advice columnist, children’s book author… and the newest gal to fit right into the Riverdale gang.

The victim of a car accident at a very young age, Harper has been through many surgeries and lots of physical therapy to regain the type of mobility she has. Still needing either a crutch or wheelchair most of the time (although never one not blinged out with awesome looking accessories), Harper believes very strongly that her disability is a key part of who she is as a person.

During Harper’s first visit to Riverdale, she gets to meet most of the gang, of course, but an immediate attraction arises between her and usual jerk-of-the-town Reggie. What’s so curious, though, is that Harper seems to bring out an unforeseen best in Reggie, making him unrecognizably nice and bearable to his friends. While Veronica is initially very concerned about the pairing, Harper makes it clear no one is going to tell her who to date, and the romance between her and Reggie is on — long distance or not.

Given how great an impression Harper made on Archie and the gang, it’s doubtful their relationship will be long distance for long. Harper Lodge belongs in Riverdale. She’s too cool not to be there!

 

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A few words from her creator

Matt Santori-Griffith: Can you tell me a little about the process you went through in creating Harper?

Dan Parent: Over the last few years, we’ve been trying to add more diverse characters to Archie. Harper came about when I met a girl up at the Toronto Comicon named Jewel Katz, who is disabled. She writes children’s books and is an advocate for handicapped and handi-capable people. I just thought she was really interesting. She was in a wheelchair, but her wheelchair was all sorts of blinged out, and she had this kind of crazy personality.

She reminded me a little bit of Veronica, actually. She just seemed like she would be a good Archie character.

Interior art by Dan Parent and Rich Kozlowski

Interior art by Dan Parent and Rich Kozlowski

So, I went back and talked to the Archie folks. We have had handicapped characters before — characters in wheelchairs — but never anyone that we wanted to make a regular character. The timing just seemed good. And Jewel was the inspiration for that.

MSG: One of the things we’ve been seeing in comics in just the last few years is this sort of intersectionality of identities. Harper is biracial and disabled. Is there a thought process for that and what are you seeing out in the market along those lines?

DP: Usually when you create a new character, you want to make them look different from the other characters, just to add some new life to the storyline. That was part of the reason we chose to do that. We thought the black hair with the pink streak looked cool.

And Jewel is part Indian, so that kind of look came into play. We have a few Indian characters. We say that Harper is multi-ethnic, but we don’t really know what all her ethnicities are. We just know that she’s not Caucasian. She probably is part Indian. Maybe we’ll go there with a story explaining it. Maybe not.

DisabilityIt’s good to break free of the Y2R2, which is the flesh tone we use in comic books for Caucasian flesh.

MSG: Harper, like her inspiration Jewel Katz, is a children’s author, but also a fashion designer and advice columnist — and presumably not too much older than her cousin Veronica.

DP: Right. We don’t really get into her age. In my mind, I’m thinking she’s probably 18 or 19, like just right out of high school.

She’s a little bit of everything. And she’s a Lodge, so she’s very outspoken and has that “Veronica” personality in there. In the story, she’s fun and kind of sassy, but she doesn’t use her disability as her main focus. She acknowledges that it’s there, though.

MSG: That’s something that struck me as really substantial with Harper’s introduction. In the first few pages, she says that her disability is part of her and she wouldn’t change a thing. That’s a very different thought process than what we often see, which is someone who “just happens to” have a disability, or be gay, or what have you.

DP: Right. And I had talked to Jewel about that, too. That’s how she feels. Her disability is who she is and who she’s supposed to be.

You can’t wish things away, and a lot of times, people who have hardships — it makes them who they are. It helps them to learn and share their experiences as well, with people who need them. Harper is like that. Jewel is like that. You’re not going to see her sitting there wishing she didn’t have the disability. It’s part of who she is.

MSG: Clearly, Harper has a big effect on Reggie. How did that come about?

DP: You know, I don’t really know. I knew that we were going to hint at some sort of romance, and then Reggie just sort of popped in. I don’t know why. Sometimes, characters click and you don’t know why.

Interior art by Dan Parent and Rich Kozlowski

Interior art by Dan Parent and Rich Kozlowski

I think she can hold her own against Reggie. That’s one thing. But it’s very hard to explain. Sort of like the storyline with Archie and Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats. We don’t know why it works. It just does. I think the chemistry between Harper and Reggie just works, so we’ll see where that goes. I wish I could explain why, but it’s just a good idea.

MSG: And Veronica seems very enamored with her cousin too.

DP: Yeah! They’re just alike basically. They’re the type of people who will bicker about everything, but they’re very close like many brothers and sisters, cousins, and friends.

MSG: Well, it sounds like you have a lot plans in mind for Harper going forward.

DP: Yes, we definitely have some more stories with Harper lined up for 2015. The response has been fantastic. We got a really big response. Bigger than we thought we were going to get, which is really encouraging. So, yeah, you’re going to see a lot more of Harper.

It felt sort of similar to Kevin Keller. First, not knowing that we were going to get that kind of attention. But secondly, people had such a positive reaction to the character that you feel like they’re going to be there to stay. We had that feeling with Kevin, and now we have it with Harper as well.

Keep your eyes open for Harper. She’s definitely going to be around.


“The awesome idea we get from Harper right away is that everything she is contributes to the greatness of who she is, and none of it is about being a girl who just happens to have a disability. It’s a part of her success like anything else she was born with, worked at, or was given to her.”

Matt Santori-Griffith, Comicosity

 

Where can I read more?

  • Archie #656 (2014)

 

For a full list of Comicosity’s Game Changers, please visit our index.

 

 

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