When Archie Comics decided to reboot "Archie" with a new #1 and Mark Waid and Fiona Staples at the helm, it was a really big deal. Debuting to much fanfare and critically acclaim, it also opened up the Archie Universe to more new takes branching off from the main story. One of them is "Jughead," starring Archie's burger-loving best pal from writer Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson. While "Archie" remained fairly grounded in its reboot, "Jughead" works within that same tone while allowing Jughead's daydreams and fantasies to take the book anywhere the creators choose.
Following the release of "Jughead" #1, Zdarsky and Henderson visited with CBR TV's Jonah Weiland at New York Comic Con to discuss the latest, buzzed about Archie title, balancing fantasy with realism and still being in awe of "Jughead" getting a high-profile relaunch. They also talk about whether Zdarsky, known for more books that tilt more toward the mature end of the spectrum than all-ages, struggled to find the line and the bizarre gifts his fans have given him.
Kicking off the conversation with CBR TV, "Jughead" creators Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson talk about the overwhelmingly positive reaction to their new series starring Jughead Jones. They also discuss why the first issue uses "Game of Thrones" to introduce readers to the types of adventures the series will feature, and how Archie's past stories like "Time Police" can fit alongside the rebooted "Archie."
On what inspired the "Game of Thrones" riff in Issue #1:
Chip Zdarsky: When I was a kid, the thing I loved most in Archie books were the alternate universe Archie stories like "Super Teens" and "Agents of R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E." -- stuff like "Time Police" -- and I wanted to weave those into this, but Mark [Waid] and Fiona [Staples] kind of set it up to be a realistic, grounded Archie Universe -- "Archieverse," I call it -- so the way in was kind of have Jughead's daydreams and fantasies takes the place of those stories. So the first one's "Game of Thrones," it's kind of like an easy entryway in, and in future ones we're tapping into the older Archie stuff. I think Erica was the one who got me to do "Time Police" for Issue #2.
Erica Henderson: We had to do the cover before the script was ready and he said, "Design something sci-fi." I said, "So we're doing 'Time Police,' right? Because that's the thing. It's Jughead's thing, it's a sci-fi thing." He was like, "Oh yeah."
Zdarsky: How old were you when "Time Police" came out?
Henderson: When did it come out? I don't have all of this memorized.
Henderson: 1990 exactly? I was four.
Zdarsky: You were four? Jesus... [Laughter] See I was like 15, so at that point I was like kind of reading super hero stuff so I wasn't as into the Archie stuff at that time, so I missed "Time Police." You sent me down a rabbit hole, like I started reading all the old "Time Police" and I was like, "This is crazy."
On balancing the absurdity and fun of Jughead as a character within the confines of the revamped Archieverse:
Zdarsky: For me it's easy because Mark and Fiona have done the heavy lifting on that, because they've kind of created the modern, grounded universe. We can just play with that as it's already set up.
Henderson: Great comedy is timeless.
Zdarsky: Great comedy is timeless. Good point, Erica. [Laughter] Also, I'm an old man, and so when I think of like teens, I think of like mullets and trench coats. [Laughter] Having Erica who kind of gets it--
Henderson: That's another thing that helps is Google Image Search. I just literally type in '2015 teen boy fashion.' [Laughter] 'Cause like I know what people my age are wearing, but not exactly what people 15 years younger are wearing.
Zdarsky: And the NSA is like, "Why is this woman googling boys' fashion all the time?" [Laughter]
In part two, Henderson and Zdarsky share their joy -- and mild disbelief -- at Jughead being a major comic book launch in 2015. They discuss what the "Archie" reboot made possible, how that affects their series, and whether "Sex Criminals" artist Zdarsky has ever pushed the story too far for Archie's target audience.
On why neither creator can believe "Jughead" is in the spotlight in a major way thanks to the "Archie" reboot:
Zdarsky: It's still weird for me to sit down and type the words, "Archie says this and Jughead does that." Like, how is this my life? But like Archie the company has kind of paved the way for these kind of interesting takes on their characters. One day they're like, they woke up and they were like, 'We can do whatever we want! We've got this amazing property and we can have like 'Afterlife with Archie' and reboot 'Archie' and kill him off. We can do all sorts of things with the characters.
Henderson: Right, yeah, as long as you have the characters there, and they're the same people, put 'em in whatever situation and just figure it out from there.
Zdarsky: Yeah, like the reboot, they're all recognizable as the characters, like the core of them is the same. It's weird 'cause like Jughead is an archetype. Archie is an archetype, Betty and Veronica are archetype. They're the shorthand other people use for their stories that aren't Archie. "We need a Betty character. We need a Jughead character." And there's a reason for that, because they are timeless characters. The fact that we actually get to work on it is crazy.
On how the "R-rated" Zdarsky is handling writing an all-ages title:
Zdarsky: I'm old enough, and I've been around long enough, that I know the line. Like I worked for a newspaper for like 14 years, which technically is a family friendly thing, which we were always reminded at the paper, "Can the publisher's son read this?" ... I get to work on a variety of things, so on one extreme end is "Sex Criminals," and "Jughead's" on the other end. But in between is "Kaptara" a bit closer to "Sex Criminals" and "Howard the Duck" which is kind of closer to "Jughead." Yeah, I think it just takes a little bit of common sense when you're sitting down that you can't make a pee pee poo poo joke with Jughead.
In the final part of the interview, Weiland tests the "Jughead" creators by asking him to name all of Jughead's past girlfriends. From there, they discuss whether or not the book will explore his dating life or stick to his strange, often imagined adventures. Zdarsky also reveals the strange gift given to him during the convention and hints at some of the other bizarre things fans have given him over the years.
On whether the book will dive into Jughead's dating life:
Zdarsky: My feelings about it are that primarily Jughead has been portrayed as being asexual. He's, you know, it used to be kind of referred to more as woman hater, but we're not gonna make him a misogynist, that seems like a wrong track to take with a character.
Henderson: It seems like his take was always it's a waste of money to go on dates, not so much that like he hated women. Because he always hung out with Betty. They were always friends.
Zdarsky: They always hung out, yeah. Exactly. They were close. But I feel like there's enough teenage, uh... sexual escalation amongst the Archie crew that we can reserve Jughead to be the outsider looking at them all losing their minds over their hormones. So we're gonna leave Jughead just to his burgers, I think.
Henderson: As a kid it always felt weird to me if I read a story with Jughead on a date. I was like, "That's strange. I don't understand what's happening here." [Laughs] And I would like skip that one.