Archie Comics’ Chip Zdarsky Talks Reinventing Jughead

Currently in the midst of their 75th anniversary, Archie Comics is not content to rest on their creative laurels. Following on the heels of their compelling Afterlife with Archie zombie comic, the launch of the gritty, adult-oriented Dark Circle superhero imprint, and Mark Waid’s recent Archie reboot, the company’s latest attempt at reinventing their offerings for modern audiences is a relaunch of their Jughead title from the creative team of Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals, Howard the Duck) and Erica Henderson (Unbeatable Squirrel Girl).

Hitting stores today, Jughead #1 sees Riverdale’s legendary burger-eating non-conformist dealing with a new principal who threatens to replace his beloved school lunches with — gasp — a nutritiously dense gruel. Along the way he shares his views on the world and gets involved in a spine-splittingly funny Game of Thrones parody that will forever change the way you look at Archie’s sleepy-eyed best pal. We had the chance to interview writer Chip Zdarsky and ask about his work on the book and what readers can expect. Here’s what he had to say.

How did you get involved with this project?

I just wanted to do a cover! When the Archie reboot was announced, I was super excited as a fan of the characters and of Mark and Fiona’s work. So I reached out to the folks at Archie and I asked if I could do a variant cover for Archie #1. That’s when they floated the idea of me writing Jughead for them, which just sounded crazy to me. It was weird enough when Marvel let me write Howard the Duck, but Jughead? He’s iconic!

So, I ended up having a lot of conversations with Archie’s president about the character and my vision for him. I was just happy having the conversations, really. It was surreal and fun to talk through possibilities! Then I got the job, and it became super real. SUPER REAL. The first issue’s coming out and it’s barely sunk in.

What do you think it is about Jughead’s personality that continues to resonate with people?

He’s the weird teen! There have always been weird teens and there will always be weird teens. I love that he’s the coolest uncool guy around. People can relate to the guy who wants to float through life and just be himself, but still manages to solve the problems around him from behind the scenes.

Early on in the issue, Jughead says to Archie, “The world is out of our hands, pal. You’ve just got to make your own weird way in it,” which is the perfect mantra for the character. Tell us a little about how you’ll approach Jughead and his worldview in this series.

Yeah, Jughead is at the age where you think you’ve got the world figured out. It’s when cynicism sets in, but no matter how jaded you are, you still have your friends and family to offset that. So he may act like he doesn’t care, like, what’s the point, but he actually does.

One of the best portions of this book is the Game of Thrones-inspired fantasy sequence. Will there be more asides like this in upcoming issues?

Oh, definitely. We wanted to pay tribute to the Archie stories I loved as a kid, the “alternate universe” ones, but in a way that worked with the more grounded setting that Mark and Fiona have crafted. These dreams and fantasies were our way into that.

How much, if at all, will callbacks to previous Jughead stories like the Jughead’s Time Police adventures with January McAndrews or the United Girls Against Jughead make an appearance?

Ha! January and the Time Police show up in issue two! I had a list of older stories I wanted to incorporate, but issue two was originally just going to be a sci-if pastiche until Erica said, “What do you think of having a nod to Jughead’s Time Police?” which led me down a Time Police hole and issue two’s daydream became entirely Jughead and January fighting time-traveling baddies. I totally missed Time Police when it came out in 1990. Which makes sense cause I was 15 and Erica was, what, 6? 7? It’s good to have a youthful accomplice on stuff like this so I don’t turn it into “Mr. Grandpa’s Olde-Time Nostalgia Train.” Also, she’s killing it on the art. I’m in awe every time new pages come in.

Given your own Applebees & Me adventures (in which Zdarsky got into strange and hilarious Facebook conversations with his local Applebee’s), is it safe to assume you enjoy a good burger yourself? How much overlap is there between yourself and the character? Is this why you two are a perfect match for each other?

I think there was more overlap when I was younger? I had a CRAZY metabolism and came in second-place in my hometown pizza eating contest. I was also very much a “doesn’t live up to my potential” student, and I definitely had my own fashion sense with my beautiful mullet and ankh necklace.

I think, yeah, I’m tapping into a lot of my own high school experience, at least in terms of outlook. He’s much more well-liked than I ever was, or ever will be (stares into the distance).

How do you feel about Archie’s current high-profile crossovers, and what crossovers would you as a fan and a creator like to see? Along the same lines, how do you think Jughead and Howard the Duck would get along as they each are trapped in a world they never made?

Oh, man, I love what Archie’s doing. It’s like the company woke up one day and just said “why not?” as their life motto. When I was younger, I loved their Archie Meets the Punisher crossover. Such a ludicrous idea that actually worked! I think Jughead Meets Howard the Duck would be great to work on. They’re similar in some ways, but Howard is almost like a warning sign to Jughead of what he could become if his cynicism turned to exasperated anger. I’m literally typing an email to Marvel about this right now.

Jughead #1 is in stores now.