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FRIDAY NEWSPOST - Representation in comics

HippieVan at 12:00AM, July 11, 2014

I've written about Archie comics before - it seems every time I go searching for comic news they've got some new gimmick. (See my “jumping the shark” newspost, about Archie being killed off)

This time, they've added yet another character to the Archie comics line up in an effort to modernize Riverdale. Harper, who was in a car accident as a child, is the comic's first disabled ever character, according to news stories (although I remember this differently from old issues I had as a kid). She seemingly is only appearing in a single issue for now, but she is intended as a recurring character.

There's no question in my opinion as to whether representation of different kinds of people in fiction matters. Having spent my childhood poring over superhero comics in which the girl's job is usually to turn invisible and press a button or something, I remember being impressed and delighted by some of the badass female characters in The Spirit. Lady-people could be cool, too?!

My question is really whether this is just a gimmick, no different from Archie's marriages to both Betty and Veronica, or whether Archie comics is making a legitimate attempt to become more representative of the real world - and how useful that really is.

Harper about as three-dimensional as an Archie comic character gets, I think. Her defining trait is apparently her love for fashion. Does that mean she isn't a “token” character? I'm not sure.

What do you guys think - is it insulting when comics add token characters to their line up, or does it really make a difference? And what makes a token character anyways? Has the way certain groups of people were represented in comics affected you?

UPDATE on the images issue: according to Ozone he and JNP have managed to fix the problems we were having, so you can all go back to uploading and viewing your comics as normal. Sorry for the downtime with the images!

Have a comic milestone, a community project or some comic-related news that you'd like to see in a newspost? Send it to me via PQ or at hippievannews(at)!



HippieVan at 9:03PM, July 13, 2014

@CornTown: She is apparently based partly on Jewel Kats, who looks like she is in fantastic shape.

KimLuster at 5:39PM, July 13, 2014

hehe glad I wasn't the only one who thought that CornTown...

CornTown at 10:26AM, July 13, 2014

All things aside, I have to say that Harper managed to stay in great shape for being crippled.

KimLuster at 5:22AM, July 13, 2014

@HippieVan: it's called 'A Chinese Life' (any websearch will find it). It's a large and sweeping piece of work and deals with lots of major political happenings (the revolution), but has lots of slice of life moments that made the characters feel 'real' to me

HippieVan at 6:20AM, July 12, 2014

Good memory, Dreadnok! I was sure I remembered another disabled character!

ozoneocean at 5:13AM, July 12, 2014

Good one Dreadnok! The "Bechdel Test" can apply to anything. That's a good yardstick :)

Dreadnok at 7:50PM, July 11, 2014

I'll give it a chance. I love Archie comics. (I taught myself to read with them). However, this young lady isn't Archie's first disabled character. There was a young lady named Anita Chavita who was a recurring character in Jughead's title in the 90's. Not only was she wheelchair bound, but she was African American. "tokenism" is really a game of numbers (as well as character development.) If you have, say, the black guy in a group of whites, who's just there to be "black" (stereotypically so) like some sort of landmark or point of reference, then yes, that's tokenism. If that character has a personality (and isn't the only black guy in the whole universe of the comic/toon/movie, etc.) Then that's more realistic. The "Bechdel Test" may specifically be about female characters, but that line of thinking applies to 'minorities' as well.

HippieVan at 11:58AM, July 11, 2014


HippieVan at 11:57AM, July 11, 2014

@KimLuster: That sounds really well down, what was the graphic novel?

KimLuster at 10:36AM, July 11, 2014

Totally agree with that Bravo. Have initial scenes depicting them engaged in things *everyone* does (worrying about bills, having lazy moments, smelling something good to eat...). I came across a graphic novel recently, full of Chinese characters, and the way they milled around in the street, their body postures, I instantly identified with them. The little things, and then they were people just like me. And then, when the culturally specific things did come up, it just made it richer.

bravo1102 at 10:23AM, July 11, 2014

It's best if you put in a character and have he/she be a person first and their particular group second. Even if the story is all about that particular group the character should still be a person rather than oppressed minority #2 in Oppressed Minority:the comic.

KimLuster at 9:42AM, July 11, 2014

@ozoneocean: I agree you should never add any character in an attempt to curry favor or avoid critique from a particular group of people. Even so, you're going to catch flack from some regardless. For example: Trying to depict the real thing that is Hispanic culture (ways of talking, dressing...). I have several Hispanic friends, and there is absolutely a different 'feel' when in their 'world' vs. my own ('whitebread' haha), yet if I try to add Hispanic characters to a story and have them talk/act in ways I feel they really do, inevitably someone will say I didn't do them right, that I caricatured or exploited them. So what do I do? Not include them (or any other group that isn't 'mine')? Include them but have them act like 'mine'? Someone will call me on it. In this overly-sensitive web-based age of ours, there's just no avoiding criticism. So, I just go with what I feel to be 'true' and don't overly worry about it.

Banes at 8:38AM, July 11, 2014

I guess the thing with "tokens" is to give them a personality with flaws and wants and all that stuff. In the past it seemed that many token characters would have a pretty blank personality (probably an effort to avoid offending). The effort to give Harper something beyond her disability to define her (the fashion thing) is good. It would be interesting to see her (as well as other diverse characters) show up in other stories, where it's not just a big intro. I don't read enough Archie to know if they'll do that, but giving her jokes, goals or stories that let her show a personality seems like a good idea. I liked that her introductory story addressed her disability and didn't just ignore it. Archie had some initial discomfort when he was staring at her chair, I think? That was good. Archie's usually ogling other things.

ozoneocean at 7:08AM, July 11, 2014

I think the trick Kim is to avoid treating them like tokens... basically, their purpose in the story isn't to represent whatever minority or group, they just are as they are. Look at the way the gay characters were portrayed in the Scott Pilgrim movie for example: they're side characters yes, but their sexuality isn't there as a checkmark on a list, rather it's a part of their life that interacts with the plot in a meaningful way.

KimLuster at 5:33AM, July 11, 2014

Seems like it's just really hard to write certain 'token' characters. If you don't have minority characters, or LGBT characters, or disabled characters, or (if you're male) non-cheesecake female characters, then you're chastised for it. If you do include them, you're gonna get shredded by some for not portraying them correctly. There's a phrase for this: Damned if... Darned... If you don't... do... I forget haha - See more at:

ozoneocean at 2:38AM, July 11, 2014

Tokens are pretty crap, yes. They insult the people they're trying to appease and for the rest they either provide a false impression that whatever imbalance that needed addressing HAS been addressed or that whatever the token represents is an annoying, unnecessary intrusion into their favourite fictional world, mainly because characters with token roles ARE unnecessary to the flow and structure of a story.

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