Harper Lodge (AKA Veronica Lodge's previously unheard of cousin), in ARCHIE #656 Harper has been all over the news in recent weeks. Everyone keeps writing about Archie Comics' first disabled character (disregarding the long-forgotten Anita Chavita and also forgetting that Moose Mason has been outed in recent years as being a teen with learning disabilities).
This is what we know about Harper. She became disabled as a young girl following a car accident. Now she ambulates by wheelchair, though she also uses an elbow crutch to get around for short distances. Beyond that, she has lots of talents. She is a clothing designer. She writes children's books. She writes an advice column titled "Dear Jewel" -- although only Veronica knows that Harper is the writer of that column. And she spends her free-time blinging-up wheelchairs.
Harper was created by writer/artist Dan Parent and patterned after Toronto-based author Jewel Kats. Kats is a disability advocate who challenged Parent to create a disabled Archie Comics character. It is difficult to read Harper's debut story and not see a lot of Kats shining through. Not only do the two girls look alike, but they both became disabled the same way and they both have a lot of the same professional interests.
So back to the story. Archie arrives to take Veronica to a dance and meets Harper. Despite the expectations of many fans, Archie actually does not hit on Veronica's famous cousin. Instead, he muddles through a bunch of questions about her disability and background. That isn't to say that romance doesn't bloom for Harper. She literally knocks Reggie off of his feet, which leads to a love at first sight scenario.
The big question is whether Harper and Reggie can sustain their relationship when she moves back home "across the country." At least for now, they are going to try to make this thing work.
I keep wishing that Archie Comics would publish a comic book featuring Reggie again. I really think that it would only work if they continued to portray him as a jerk, but I'm not sure that they would want to have a title character who causes trouble for everyone else. But wouldn't it be cool if Harper became a recurring character in a new REGGIE & ME comic book? (Drop me an email, Archie Comics! I've got some ideas for this proposal!)
Here are a couple extras that I enjoyed about this issue:
First, check out the dancers in the background of this panel. There were a few like this. Back when I was in school, it seemed like most kids stood around in corners and avoided dancing. These Riverdale kids are dancing maniacs! Must be residual effects caused by their recent "Glee" crossover:
Second, my buddy Jimmy found himself inserted into this Riverdale dance. Look at Jimmy sporting the bow tie! Most important, do you think that he got the courage to ask Kevin for a slow dance?:
Dan Parent has promised that we definitely will see more of Harper in the future, which I'd definitely like! "Here Comes Harper!" was written & penciled by Dan Parent and inked by Rick Koslowski.