On the heels of the massively-successful Archie reboot, writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson have been charged with reinventing one of the most recognizable supporting characters in all of Riverdale with next month's Jughead #1.
The first story arc sees Jughead squaring off with a new principal, who has come in and immediately started messing with something sacred to our hero.
Zdarsky joined ComicBook.com to discuss the series, which launches October 7.
The art here isn't quite as stylized as Erica's Marvel work. Is that a question of just different styles for different books, or did you guys talk about trying to kind of evoke or fit in with what Fiona was doing over in ARCHIE?
I can't really speak for Erica, but I was heavily influenced by Mark's take for the writing, so I'd imagine Erica had the same idea with Fiona's art. You tweak your style based on the subject matter and the world, so Riverdale definitely gets a different treatment than the Marvel Universe. We never really had a conversation about that. I just trusted Erica and she, I hope, trusted me!
During our first "Everything's Archie" column, Mike Pellerito acknowledged that the "Applebees Story" played a role in them thinking of you for the book. My wife started reading Sex Criminals after I told her that story. What do you think of that being a thing that follows you around for however long it lasts?
Ha! Hey, I'll get a job ANY WAY THAT I CAN.
I've done ... a lot of stuff. Like, I have a weird, varied career filled with comics and videos and stunts and art where it's all just work I do for fun. Some catches on and some doesn't, but all of it builds this weird situation where people follow one thing into another and life takes you in strange directions as a result. It's ... I don't know, it's hard to explain. Short story is, I have zero problem with people coming to my work through the Applebee's thing. It made people laugh or smile and I can't ever get tired of that.
Can I just say...YOU HAVE EDITOR'S NOTES?! Was that you, or an editorial idea? I assume they were scripted since it's attributed to you.
Anyway, thank you for that.
Oh yeah! I love editor's notes. I use them in HOWARD too because they feel so comic book-y and work so well with humour books as additional jokes.
How long are you and Erica planning to hang around Riverdale?
I have the first six issues planned out, so after that we'll see! It may sound silly, but it's an honour to be working on this book and I definitely don't want to overstay my welcome.
There's a pretty big change to the Archieverse in your first issue -- and one that comes along with an "I know change can be scary" speech. Is that a little bit for the benefit of the readers?
Well, the change in the story is BAD, so I don't know what that says about how I view myself as a creator! I knew I wanted the first storyline to take place within the high school, since it's obviously the place that brings everyone together. This just meant that I needed an element of change in the environment to spark conflict. So, it's to benefit the readers in the sense that I want to give them a story!
There's also an extended fantasy sequence in the first issue. Is that something we'll be seeing fairly regularly, or is it just kind of how #1 played out?
Yeah! For the first arc at least. I want to use the daydreams and fantasies as a way to kind of pay homage to the alternate universe Archie stories of the past. Some of them will be new, like the Game of Thrones sequence from issue one; and some will be callbacks to previous stories, like the Time Police bit from issue two. I like being able to play with these while still staying within the more grounded world Mark and Fiona have been crafting.
What, to you, are Jughead's defining traits? What made him an appealing character to commit to writing a series around?
He's the one character who can easily shift to the outside looking in. A teenager who's comfortable with himself, smarter than he appears, feeling more deeply than he lets on. I think he's the most interesting character as a result, so giving him his own series just makes sense.
Asexuality is something that is more of an identifiable, publicly-discussed thing now than it was when Jughead was first introduced. Being girl-averse was often played for laughs in the early days, but would you say your take on him is somewhat asexual, or just that he's nonconformist and Riverdale being so romance-centric requires a different take?
Yeah, for the stories it's good to have someone not as mired in the hormonal teen romances, and it adds to that "outside-looking-in" quality I talked about before. I'm writing him as asexual, but this is comics, yeah? The next writer could make him discover girls or boys or both and that's totally fine. There have been iterations of Jughead over the decades where he HAS been interested in girls, so there's room to play around if someone was inclined. For me though, I like an asexual Jughead. That's more interesting to me than writing him as just being behind everyone developmentally.
The nonconformity is strong in this first issue in general. How did you crack what Jughead's philosophy was going to be?
THE HAT. His hat kind of says it all, which is why it stays. It's weird and unique and he pulls it off because he's the coolest uncool guy around. So, yeah, he's a nonconformist, but he's smart enough to work within the rules if need be, just to make his life easy, which is paramount.
Having a character with a defined philosophy and who's generally been depicted as pretty smart in ARCHIE so far, how does that track with some of Jughead's more buffoonish traits?
My Jughead's not really buffoonish, he just doesn't live up to his potential because that's too much work. Some people within the story can view him as having a middle-of-the-road intelligence, but I think he's the smartest guy in the room. He just doesn't need to show it.
You're jumping right into the deep end with the food thing, and the result is that your book feels a little more fanciful and less grounded in a literal reality than does Mark's. It feels almost like an episode of COMMUNITY. How much did you have to kind of massage this book and discuss it with Erica and editorial to nail the tone you wanted?
I think each book needs its own flavour, even if it takes place in the same universe. Mark and Fiona have the classic high school feeling down pat with ARCHIE, so we really wanted to make sure this had a bit of a different take. Both are kind of heightened reflections of life, it's just that ours is less about the interpersonal dynamics and more situational. In terms of tone though I actually don't see a lot of difference! That great bit in ARCHIE with the gang trying to save Archie's job as he goes around obliviously wreaking havoc would totally fit in to this JUGHEAD book.
What's your elevator pitch for Jughead? Assuming for the sake of argument somebody doesn't know the characters and isn't reading ARCHIE...why should they buy your book?
If I encountered somebody who didn't know the characters I'd probably check to see if their diaper needed changing cause they're clearly a baby who has yet to encounter these books.
I'm really bad at elevator pitches even though I practice CONSTANTLY when I'm in elevators with strangers. I feel like Erica and I have made a fun, funny comic about a weirdo that you can enjoy as an adult but also feel pretty good about giving to a kid! WHAT A WORLD!