Archie and his gang have been getting more and more diverse over the past few years, and now they are adding a character with a disability to the cast: Veronica’s cousin Harper, who uses a wheelchair. Harper will make her debut in this week’s Archie #656, and writer and artist Dan Parent told Comic Book Resources that she will be a recurring character.
Harper is based on the real-life activist and writer Jewel Kats, who has written a number of children’s books about living with disabilities and is also the author of the comic strip DitzAbled Princess, a gag strip in which the main character uses a cane. Kats, who lives in Toronto, met Parent at last year’s Fan Expo. “Met” is a bit of an understatement; as Kats told CBR, she wheeled up to Parent’s booth and asked him “Why isn’t there a character with a disability in Riverdale? How is that possible?” Parent was inspired by Kats, and he started developing the character with plenty of input from her.
There was an earlier character in Archie Comics who used a wheelchair, Anita Chavita, but Parent said she was not well fleshed out. Harper, on the other hand will have more depth, and her character will not be solely defined by her disability. Here’s what Parent and Kats had to say about Harper:
[Parent:] Harper was fun, because even though she’s in a wheelchair, she certainly is not a shrinking violent. She’s outspoken, and she’s fun. She and Veronica have this great banter that goes back and forth. She’s just accepted as Veronica’s feisty cousin. The disability is there, but it doesn’t completely define her. Jewel, that’s how I sort of think of you — you don’t shy away from your disability, but there are many more facets to you, too.
Kats: It doesn’t own me. In my eyes, Harper’s basically the epitome of confidence. It’s not easy growing up different. People stare, and they glare. Like me, Harper’s turned her differences into gifts. She’s proud of her disability, she owns it. She’s eccentric, she’s sassy and a total diva.
The comic will be available on June 4 in comics shops and digitally.