Jughead: Slackbeard Leads The Way (and steers the conversation!) ~ What'cha Reading?

Jughead: Slackbeard Leads The Way (and steers the conversation!)

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Jughead2015RegCoverWith Jughead issue 1, it was interesting to see how well it would fit into the masterful Mark Waid and Fiona Staples reboot of Archie.  The creative team of Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson were great additions to the Archie spin-off starring his best friend, Jughead Jones, but did it live up to the expectations of wearing the crown?  In my review for issue 1, I had written that I was slightly concerned that too much of a look into his own solo adventures may prove detrimental to how he appears within the pages of Archie.  Upon reading issue 2 and now 4, one that I was awaiting just as much as Archie issue 6 (releases this month), the further (mis)adventures prove to be even better than the first.
The needle nosed slacker, presented more as a perpetual 80’s Robert Downey Jr movie character, has only gotten better with each issue, along with Chip Zdarsky’s writing growing more assured and direct.  I’ve long been a fan of Zdarksy and artist Erica Henderson; I was excited when they were announced as the primary creative team on Jughead, and now we have another buzz worthy, must read title from Archie Comics with Jughead issue 4.
One of the most talked about aspects of Archie Comics and their relaunch has been centered around its cultural relevance and respect towards a widely diverse audience.  Jughead, already significant for addressing weapons on campus, continues a trend of acknowledging sexuality within the world of Archie, but without falling into the pitfall of exploitation.  It’s classy, respectful, and gives the series a culturally relevant spin that immediately demands to be placed on more readers pull lists.  Yup, you probably already saw the countless tweets and headlines, but Chip Zdarsky’s Jughead is asexual.  And it’s another reason why we love this series.
Jughead2015_04-5Yup, you probably already saw the countless tweets and headlines, but Chip Zdarsky’s Jughead  is
asexual.
And it’s another reason why we love this series.
The current Archie ongoing series by Mark Waid, along with Zdarsky’s Jughead features popular and fairly new character, Kevin Keller, an openly gay student.  He was a great addition to the original comics and his inclusion in the reboot was smart, charming, and begs a deeper question – When will Kevin Keller get his own title?  We know Adam Hughes’ Betty and Veronica debuts later this year, so possibly later on down the road we’ll get Kevin.
I’m a huge fan of the current slate of Archie Comics, along with their Dark Circle imprint, and every issue is another reason why I continually applaud their titles and creative decisions.  Jughead has always been an interesting character and Zdarksy’s choice to go with an asexual characterization of the burger loving and “whoopee cap” wearing hero is another character flourish that’s as subtle as it is buzz worthy.
It’s interesting to see various media outlets pick up on this – like Vulture – after preview pages were published on ComicBookResources.  Especially as Jughead, along with the comic book medium, still very much feels like it belongs exclusively to those that are reading them.  Maybe this echoes my sentiments regarding the Super Bowl 50’s half time show.  I’ve been a fan of Coldplay since “A Rush of Blood to the Head” and have only grown in fandom since then.  Seeing them as the band selected for Super Bowl 50 was not only a moment of sincerely enthusiastic pride, but also one of real vindication.  Every bully and taunt through the years that scoffed at my musical tastes and rock band heroes would soon laugh no more.  So when Coldplay was soon trending afterwards and spilling onto various social media accounts that I follow, why was I not more excited for their success?  Was it that I felt various friends and colleagues were posers and phonies?  Or was it that I soon felt that Coldplay was a little less mine and a little more everyone else’s?  Why was it that when Jughead now yielded Google News results and was now a comic book title worthy of tweet promotion and buzz did I feel like going on the defense?  Was Jughead a little less mine and a little more everyone else’s?
Was Jughead a little less mine and a little more everyone else’s?  
Having Jughead characterized as asexual feels like another step forward.  While there are certain readers and people that may feel sexuality has no place within comic books, I’d argue that it does.  Having a character representing a certain race and/or orientation will always be relevant and attractive to the given reader of said race/orientation.  Comic books are a great form of escapism, but also a surprising form of art.  One that can inspire, move, and bring hope.  As someone who has struggled with issues of identity and has been bullied for reasons beyond Coldplay, but for reasons tantamount to the same mean spirited translation, having Jughead represented makes him all the more endearing, another reason to be proud, and still very much mine.
“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,” he said. “That’s more interesting to me than writing him as just being behind everyone developmentally.” – Chip Zdarsky
I’ve been reading Jughead since issue 1.  I’ve been writing about Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson’s series since it debuted and will continually do so.  I hope Vulture and various media will continually choose to focus on Zdarsky, Henderson, Jughead, and Archie Comics.  But not because Jughead is revealed to be asexual.  Or that Reggie Mantle III is revealed to be a d****e.  But because of the quality and heart Zdarsky, Henderson, and Archie Comics ensure every title is infused with.  Because every issue is a monthly tribute to an icon and certainly an undeniable American literary figure.  Because comic books are more than just page and panel; because they’re art!
 Jughead2015_04-7
…So, in a nutshell, Jughead issue 4 follows our hero as he is still under the belief that Principal Stanger’s dismissal of Weatherbee, hiring of “intense instructors”, and various suspensions (not to mention “high-nutrition rations”) is a greater omen of something far more nefarious.
Chip Zdarksy enjoys employing the quintessential Archie back-up story/sub story within each and every issue of Jughead.  Every issue presents a charismatic, fun, and entertainingly drawn fantasy sequence by Erica Henderson and issue 4 gives readers “The Legend of Slackbeard!”  Zdarksy’s Jughead is filled with wit and tongue in cheek humor, enjoyable for universal audiences, but sly enough to maintain more of the high-brow readers and fans.  Henderson’s take on Slackbeard’s misadventure, mutiny, rescue, and milkshake sword fight is terrific and the sense of motion given to Jughead/Slackbeard’s fight with Captain Principal brings to mind the excitement of one Jack Sparrow fighting Jack Davenport’s Norrington.
 By the time we get to the tease of “The Gang vs. Riverdale” in Jughead issue 4, a mention of Jughead being asexual seems far less buzz worthy then, let’s say, the mystery of Souphead and why he looks so much like Jughead or… is Principal Stanger really converting the school into a training ground for secret agents because Jughead is, after all, The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.  
Jughead issue 4 gets five stars and is out Wednesday, February 10th. Read the all new JUGHEAD series by visiting a comic shop near you, the Archie Comics Online Store, or digitally on the all new ARCHIE APP!
JUGHEAD #4
 Jughead2015MackVar Jughead2015Jbonevar
Riverdale High has been taken over by a nefarious outside force! Or has it? It’s up to Jughead and Dilton to get proof, but can the mysterious Captain Slackbeard show the way? It’s adventure on the high seas and in the classroom for the gang! Yar!

Script: Chip Zdarsky
Art: Erica Henderson
Jughead #4 CVR A Reg Cover: Erica Henderson
Jughead #4 CVR B Variant: J Bone
Jughead #4 CVR C Variant: David Mack
On Sale Date: 2/10
32-page, full color comic
$3.99 U.S.

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About Author

Mild mannered reporter, Steven Biscotti, has an avid interest in all things comic books, movies, and music (especially pertaining to Coldplay.) Always ready, professional, and on the scene, those closest to him may suspect he's actually from another planet. @ReggieMantleIII

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