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DF Interview: Dan Parent tells how author inspired new Archie character
By Byron Brewer
In the past few years, Archie Comics has become a much more diverse place, both in its publishing line -- thanks to titles like the zombie horror of Afterlife with Archie and the grown-up angst of Life with Archie -- and also within the fictional realm of its comics. Archie made headlines in 2010 with the introduction of Kevin Keller, the company's first openly gay character, who has since become a full-fledged part of the Riverdale gang.
With June's Archie #656, written and drawn by Keller's creator Dan Parent, another new character joined the crew: Harper, Veronica Lodge's cousin. Harper is a fashion designer, multiracial and a wheelchair user, following a car accident when she was a young girl.
Dynamic Forces met Parent at a fall football game at Riverdale High and discussed this new character. This is Harper’s story.
Dynamic Forces: Dan, tell us about Riverdale's newest citizen, Harper: who she is and how she came to be.
Dan Parent: Harper is Veronica's cousin. She is disabled and requires the assistance of a wheelchair and/or crutch. She's a trendsetter in that she is like her cousin Veronica, except her disability gives her a unique outlook on life.
DF: What more can you tell us about the real life inspiration for Harper, Toronto author Jewel Kats?
Dan Parent: I met Jewel at a comic con in Toronto, and thought she was very inspirational. And she kind of reminded me of Veronica!
DF: The world of Archie is certainly more diverse these days. Can you give us your thoughts on the trend?
Dan Parent: Well, it's 2014, and small towns don't look like they did in 1954! And that's a good thing. Diversity makes for a more interesting Riverdale!
DF: Give us a little bit of insight on Harper, her relationship with her cousin Veronica, and how she will fit in to "the gang."
Dan Parent: Veronica and Harper kind of go at it, being they're both Lodges, which means they're two girls with powerful opinions. Of course, they love each other. And she fits into the gang right away, especially with ol' Reggie Mantle.
DF: I would think that there would be a little bit more pressure working with characters like Kevin Keller and Harper, not making their social diversity, racial diversity or disability the defining aspects of their characters. Thoughts?
Dan Parent: That's the key right there. We have to recognize their diversity, but not let it totally define them either. It's quite simple. We all have things that define us. But we're all complicated, and that's good. But nobody wants to be defined by one thing.
DF: How did the idea come along that Harper is connected to Lodge? How important is that connection?
Dan Parent: I think the reason we made Harper a Lodge is because a lot of our characters are only children, so it's nice to add cousins and other characters to extend those families.
DF: So, Dan, what's ahead for Harper as a character? Could it be possible in the world of Archie, one or more characters may not be accepting of Harper, and what would that mean for the gang of friends? For Veronica?
Dan Parent: Harper will definitely be back soon. Our core gang will always be accepting of Harper, as we make sure they represent tolerance and acceptance.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Dan Parent for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.
Dont forget to grab your copy of Life wiith Archie #36 Commemorative Magazine Edition First Printing and tons more Archie books here!
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