EXCLUSIVE: Chip Zdarsky Channels "Jughead" for Archie Comics

When Archie Comics Publisher and CEO Jon Goldwater announced the New Riverdale series of titles, he said cartoonist Chip Zdarksy is Jughead.

In other words, tapping the co-creator of the Eisner Award-winning "Sex Criminals" to write the reimagined, ongoing adventures of Archie Andrews' iconic, burger-binging sidekick makes perfect sense.

Archie Comics has confirmed to CBR News that "Jughead" is 100 per cent a go -- despite the recently launched and cancelled Kickstarter campaign -- and will debut in October.

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CBR News connected with Zdarsky exclusively and the fan-favorite writer of Marvel's "Howard the Duck" openly shared his long-time admiration for Forsythe Pendleton Jones III and teased that "Jughead" features a leading man that can ever-easily transition from easygoing bystander to helpful hero and back to slacker again.

That's worked for Bob Montana's creation for the past 74 years, so why mess with success, right? But not everything is going to be the same for Jughead, especially with Zdarsky onboard. In the eponymous series, Zdarksy revealed a stronger friendship between Jughead and Betty Cooper will be explored and that the son of Fred and Gladys Jones will be an insatiable daydreamer whose visions tend toward alternate Archie universes like 'Super Teens' and 'Agents of P.O.P.'

Zdarsky also teased the death of Reggie Mantle -- it's new "Archie" writer Mark Waid's fault -- and a Jughead/Howard the Duck crossover. (Neither are likely.)

If that's not enough to whet your appetite, Archie Comics also informed CBR News that Erica Henderson of "Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" fame will be joining the series as the new ongoing artist and shared exclusive covers by her, Zdarsky, Francesco Francavilla, Ramon K. Perez, Robert Hack & Steve Downer and Anton Emdin.

CBR News: Chip, your love and admiration for Garfield is well documented. And you are channeling Howard the Duck almost too expertly for your current run with Duckworld's finest for Marvel Comics. How does Jughead rate in terms of your all-time favorite characters, and what was your introduction to him and the rest of the Riverdale gang?

Chip Zdarsky: Jughead is the one character that I totally attempted to emulate when I was younger. Cool without being cool, voracious appetite, a slacker who doesn't always live up to his potential. It's true I also tried to emulate Garfield, but my parents really drew a line with me sleeping all day and pooping in a box.

But honestly, Jughead was always there when I was a kid. The digests were such a staple of my family road trips that I have no specific first memory of them because I'm pretty sure they put one in my hands as soon as I could read at the age of 14. [Laughs]

If you asked me a year ago which characters I'd love to write one day, it would be Jughead, Howard and Spider-Man. So, it's been a pretty great year, even though I've broken Spider-Man in "Howard the Duck." Sorry.

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Did you reach out to Archie Comics about writing "Jughead" or did they approach you? And did you consider drawing it yourself before Erica came onboard?

I got super excited when they announced the Archie reboot with Mark [Waid] and Fiona [Staples], so I reached out to Alex Segura to see if I could do a variant for it. Alex, I believe, had the initial thought of me writing "Jughead," so he passed me along to Mike Pellerito, Archie's President. Mike and I had a few long chats about our love of Jughead so I formally pitched him and next I know I'm writing "Jughead." What a world!

And drawing, coloring, lettering and designing "Sex Criminals" is such a full-time job that there's no way that I could possibly draw another book. Besides, Erica is a much better artist than I am, so having her onboard is just the best. The best!

The capital "N" on "New Riverdale," has a very "New 52" feel to it. Will "Jughead" and the other new series be getting a hard reboot like DC Comics unleashed in 2011 -- and as a result will Forsythe Pendleton Jones III be getting a new 'secret origin?'

The best part about being involved with this is that I get to see what Mark and Fiona are doing before everyone else so I'm largely taking my cues from them since Mark's scripts definitely delve into 'secret origins.' And Fiona has been drawing Hot Dog exactly like Lying Cat [from "Saga"], which is a little weird, but I guess we'll just roll with it.

Getting inside Jughead's head and beneath his trademark whoopee cap has been an unattainable goal for everyone from Ethel Muggs to Trula Twyst since his introduction in 1941. What makes him tick and what about Jughead allows him to drive his own series, as opposed to being one of the most iconic sidekicks in the history of comics?

Yeah, Jughead is a bit of an enigma. He always seems to know more than everyone else, which is a fun trait to play with. The key is to make Jughead go from easygoing bystander to helpful hero and back again. He has moments where he shines and then goes back to being cool and zen. I love Jughead. He's the teen who's comfortable with himself, which is such rare, weird thing.

Obviously Archie Andrews will have a role in his best friend's solo series but how big will it be, and which other characters from Riverdale will be featured supporting players in "Jughead?"

Yeah, for sure! All of the action takes place at Riverdale High so we get to see Jughead interact with all the classic and newer characters. I'm kind of focusing on building a friendship between Jughead and Betty, who both kind of share a deserted common ground when Archie and Veronica are a thing.

Will "Jughead" feature shorter digest-style stories, done-in-one adventures or longer story arcs over multiple issues?

Well, I have a larger arc planned out but trying to give each issue its own done-in-one feel because I like to have my cake and eat it too in single slices.

Can you give us a tease of what's planned for this larger arc?

An insidious infiltration of Riverdale High forces Jughead to rise up and become an uncomfortable leader! And there's another thing that I'm sneaking into the first arc. I'm a huge fan of the alternate Archies like Super Teens and Agents of P.O.P., so I'm incorporating those into the series as daydreams of Jughead!

With this relaunch, the New Riverdale titles are all set in the same continuity, but how tightly will the events and stories in "Jughead" be tied to what's happening in "Archie" and "Betty and Veronica?"

Really, I'm just following Mark and Fiona's lead here. "Jughead," as a series, will be a little weirder, but I do like the idea of keeping it within the realm of what the main "Archie" series is doing. Also because it's really, really good.

Will we finally, once and for all, get to definitively find out what the 'S' on Jughead's sweatshirt stands for?

On his world it stands for 'hope.'

When this series was announced, Jon Goldwater said you were a perfect choice for writing this series because "you are Jughead." I can see it but if you were casting Jughead for a live-action film or TV series, which actor would be your choice?

Chris Evans, for sure. Captain America, Human Torch, that guy from "The Losers," Jughead. Keep that comic movie train rollin'.

Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica and relative newcomer Kevin Keller are all getting new ongoing series from Archie Comics as part of this proposed "New Riverdale" relaunch. Should we feel bad for Reggie?

Yeah, I mean it's weird Mark's killing him off in "Archie" #1, but what can I do? I'm just one man and Mark is unto a god.

Finally, one of the most amazing (if not bizarro) crossovers in the history of comic book crossovers is "Archie Meets the Punisher" from 1994. Any chance that we might get to see "Jughead meets Howard the Duck" during your run on both titles?

As President of Marvel Comics, I declare this series greenlit!

Archie Comics will release the all-new "Jughead" series by Chip Zdarsky & Erica Henderson starting with issue #1 on Oct. 7.

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