Forsythe Pendleton Jones III – better known as Jughead to generations of Archie Comics fans – has never been one to mince words. But in March, a verbal barrage will be unleashed on Reggie Mantle like he’s never experienced before as Tom Root, co-head writer and co-producer of the Emmy Award-winning “Robot Chicken,” visits Riverdale High as the guest writer of the milestone 200th issue of “Jughead” for Archie Comics.
Root, who is also the co-creator and executive producer of “Titan Maximum,” is writing “Something Ventured, Something Gained” for “Jughead #200 (which ships in March), a haunted tale in which Jughead trades his metabolism to a witch in exchange for an irresistible mega cheeseburger.
The 200th issue is also special as it will feature the first-ever variant cover in Archie Comics’ history, which will be created by noted comics artist and “Jughead” penciller Rex Lindsey.
No stranger to the Archieverse, Root and his collaborators featured the Archie Gang in an episode of “Robot Chicken,” itself a send-up of the blockbuster movie, “Final Destination.”
Root, a big fan of “New Teen Titans” and “Uncanny X-Men” back in the eighties, told CBR News that he was desperate to have his agent set up two meetings for him for future collaborations. Archie Comics returned the call. He’s still waiting to hear from Keira Knightley.
CBR News: First off, Tom, can you connect the dots for us? How do you get from being co-head writer and co-producer of the Emmy Award-winning Robot Chicken to scripting an issue of “Jughead” for Archie Comics?
Tom Root: I had a meeting of the minds with the Archie crew at Comic-Con [International] 2009 and we hit it off. When they asked me to write an issue, I jumped at the chance. Even better that it’s a big anniversary issue, because it’s sure to be worth thousands of dollars before long.
Did you reach out to Archie Comics, or did they seek you out?
I reached out to them. In Hollywood, half your job is “taking meetings.” Just meetings and meetings and meetings where everyone acts very interested in working together and then never, ever works together. My agent, Doug Johnson, asked me, “Who do you really want to meet with?” I said, “Keira Knightley. Or Archie.” To date, I have only met with one of them.
Are you a long-time fan of Forsythe Pendleton Jones, the Third?
As a child, Jughead was probably my least favorite Archie character. His face was weird. Kids are very judgmental. But over time I appreciated him more. It’s his job to stand off to one side and observe the madness and make witty comments, and since that’s also a comedy writer’s job, I could kind of identify.
Are you more like Jughead, Archie or Reggie? And where would Seth Green and Matthew Senreich fit into the Archie mythos?
Reggie’s handsome as hell, but Archie gets all the girls. So I’m kind of a combination of both. No, honestly I’m probably like Mr. Lodge with way less money. He’s constantly appalled by the goings-on around him, and I can relate to that feeling. Matt is a lot like Mr. Weatherbee. He’s kind of a taskmaster and God help you if you’re late for class. Seth’s hairstyle is getting dangerously close to Ms. Beazley’s. It’s out of control.
You’ve worked with the kids from Riverdale before for an episode of “Robot Chicken.” Did that episode come up when you were discussing this project with the folks at Archie Comics?
It did. They were very tickled by it.
Can you share any details about the story that you’re telling in “Something Ventured, Something Gained?”
Jughead confronts his greatest temptation, and it might not only destroy him, but the lives of everyone he holds dear. Does that sound dramatic enough for a big event comic?
Did you have to temper your humor at all to make the story more kid-friendly, or will readers hear Robot Chicken voices when reading “Jughead” #200?
The worlds of TV-MA late-night cable and Archie Comics are very different, but it never felt like I was sanding the edges off the comedy to make it safe for kids. As long as I was writing the characters in character — which is the job of any responsible writer, which I guess I am sometimes — then the humor followed suit.
Meanwhile, in our “Robot Chicken” parody, Veronica has the Grim Reaper murder her father when he discovers her credit card bill. Somehow that seems out of character. Not much, but just a little.
Did the story come to you quickly, or was this the Archie Comics story you’ve been dying to tell since you were a young boy growing up in middle America? Actually, I’m not really sure where you grew up…
I grew up in Michigan. It used to be middle America, but now that everyone’s unemployed, we might let Canada have it.
This story did not come to me quickly, that’s for sure. But the more I thought about what makes Jughead tick, the easier it was to find a good way to totally screw with his world.
Did you actually read comics growing up? If so, what were some of your favorites?
I read tons of comics. My absolute favorites were the Lee-Ditko “Spider-Man” issues, which in the seventies you could buy as full-color paperbacks at supermarket check-out counters. At first, I was still too young to really read them, so I’d make my parents read them out loud, which they hated because the word balloons were so tiny in paperback size. Later on, I was obsessed with the Wolfman-Perez “New Teen Titans.” Then in college, I was on some kind of crazy mission to read every “X-Men” title ever published.
Not only is your issue the landmark 200th issue of “Jughead,” it’s also getting the first variant cover in the history of Archie Comics. Is that a badge of honor and something you’ll wear proudly?
I kind of can’t believe it. Archie Comics have been coming out since 1941, and they haven’t done one variant cover? It does make me proud. Next stop, holographic chromium polybagged “Jughead” #201!
Leads nicely into my next question, might we see you writing more “Jughead” – or any comics for that matter – in the future?
I’ll definitely be writing more comics, but TV is still my day job. Next year is already shaping up to be crazy busy, so it’s all about finding the time. I’m trying like hell to collaborate with Ben Dunn on “Ninja High School” — I worked with Antarctic Press several years ago and “NHS” is near and dear to my heart. And I’ve already run another idea past the Archie folks that they love. So the future does hold comics for me, but is it the near future or the distant future?
Can you share any details about what’s ahead for “Robot Chicken” and “Titan Maximum?” Is there anything else you’re working on?
There will be a fifth season of “Robot Chicken” and a third “Robot Chicken” Star Wars special. We’re close to finishing the “Titan Maximum” first season DVD. And Matt and Seth and I are developing a show for Fox. That feels like more than enough work to do.
“Jughead” #200 is scheduled for release on March 17.