Written by Dan Parent
Art by Dan Parent and Rich Koslowski
Published by Archie Comics
Release Date: June 18, 2014
There’s a new girl in town and she’s caught the eye of one of the guys. The only problem is that guy is Reggie and that girl is Veronica’s cousin! Harper Lodge may be an author, advice columnist, and famous fashion designer, but to Veronica, she’s still just the girl who’s going to get crushed by her nemesis. Or is she?
Way back in the golden age of Archie Comics — 2010 to be exact — writer Dan Parent introduced us to the character Kevin Keller, and it’s been gangbusters for Riverdale’s first gay resident ever since. The star of his own title, and a feature character in many others like Life with Archie, Kevin resonated with a comics audience that wanted to see a little more of the real world reflected in the soft glow of 1950s-esque Americana. It’s thrilling that his success encouraged Archie Comics to continue being bold in its features, as today we receive Harper Lodge as the next big contribution to Archie’s world.
Harper isn’t just Veronica’s cousin, but she is also a woman of color with a disability — she uses a wheelchair (or alternately a crutch for short periods of time) and moves through her very active professional life not in spite of it, but simply with its support. Harper is proud of her accomplishments, and recognizes how the challenge her disability has granted her is a privilege, not a curse. Her honesty and directness are also balanced with a sharp wit and a great deal of creativity, making her a unique addition to the Riverdale community with or without the identifying trait of her disability.
Parent takes this personality and really transforms the story to being more than just about a lesson in sensitivity (or oversensitivity, as the case may be) — bringing Harper together in typical Archie mayhem with resident bad boy Reggie. What Harper does to transform Reggie is the real story here, and it has nothing to do with her ability to walk unaided. Or does it?
Because 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. And now it’s impacting Reggie in ways one could never think possible.
One of the overwhelming characteristics of Archie Comics in the 2010s is clearly that everyone is welcome in Riverdale and that the characters consistently strive to be the best versions of themselves — and make each other better in the process, as well. Does this result in a less conventional drama? Sure. But does it lessen the pure entertainment kids and adults alike can get from Archie after all these years? Not a chance.
The introduction to Harper Lodge may come off as a little heavy-handed, and as someone who spends a lot of time thinking about representation and diversity in comics, it may seem unsophisticated. But the reality is, Archie Comics is for everyone, not just the most astute or exposed among us, and the ability for all of us to come together once a month (or more) to follow the characters we love — and meet brand new ones with the same potential — is a tribute to diversity, too. Here’s hoping fans from all paths in life get to meet over a Harper Lodge solo book sometime soon. I’ve got my $3 ready for issue #1.
The Verdict: 8.5/10