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INTERVIEW: Chip Zdarsky on Creating the New “Jughead,” Turning Down the Harvey, and Crafting the A-1 Burger

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Calling all miscreants!  All slackers and gamers!  All those who would banish terrible cafeteria food to the secret tenth circle of hell (located in a specific unmentionable location on Satan’s person).  Archie’s Jughead is back with a new ongoing series written by none other than Sex Criminals’ Chip Zdarsky and illustrated by The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl‘s artist Erica Henderson.

Recently, Zdarsky made waves when he rejected a Harvey Award for humor in comics.  It was a move to show solidarity with his Sex Criminals co-creator Matt Fraction, who responded by coming up with the idea to only credit Zdarsky on the cover of the newest issue of the series.

In recognition on his stance for creator equality, and in celebration of Jughead #1‘s release today, The Comics Beat presents a special interview with the Harvey-less mastermind of comics humor.


Alex Lu: Chip, as someone who grew up in an age where Archie and company were thought of as “those comic characters mom and dad read about,” can you provide a brief introduction to the core of Jughead’s character and what he means to you?

Chip Zdarsky: Jughead is the coolest uncool guy in the world. He’s supremely comfortable with himself and stands on the periphery, watching his cohorts lose their mind over budding romances and hormones and other things he could care less about.

He’s the teen character I wanted to be when I was a kid reading these comics. I dressed like him for an art project in college. I literally carried a comic panel of him around with me all through my 20s. Writing Jughead is the weirdest dream ever.

Sell us Twitter-toting, Facebook-booking, Instagram-crackering kids on your take on this classic character.  Why should we read Jughead?

Zdarsky: In issue one Jughead twitters about a conversation he read on facebook about an instagram picture that was posted of a hamburger. tagged #hotburger. So we updated it from a few years ago when he was on Friendster telling Archie about finding Josie and the Pussycats on MySpace.

It’s a fun book about fun characters! Illustrated by ERICA HENDERSON! Which you can read in print or on your devices! It’s TIMELESS.

Lu: Jughead seems to love school lunches, but I remember hating the weirdly over-steamed vegetable mush and something that was ostensibly chicken but didn’t taste like any kind of fowl I’ve eaten outside the “hallowed halls of learning.”  Did you have access to some secret, quality food in school as a kid that I should be jealous about?

Zdarsky: In elementary school I had to bring my lunches, which were generally terrible. Moving on to high school with the cafeteria option was like discovering Shangri-La, if Shangri-La was reheated chicken fingers and pale french fries. Still miles above my crushed peanut butter sandwiches.

Lu: As you’ve demonstrated through this first issue, Jughead would be a slacker prodigy.  What’s the secret recipe to Jughead’s delicious burger?

Zdarsky: Love. Love of burgers.

Lu: What’s it been like working with Erica?  What do you think her greatest strengths are as an illustrator?

Zdarsky: Oh, it’s effortless. She’s a hugely talented pro, so I count my blessings I get to work with her. She’s clearly amazing at gestures and expression, but the thing I love most about her work are her layouts. They’re the kind of layouts an artist spends decades trying to achieve. When I’m writing I have a rough idea of how the page should look, but she just blows that away when she tackles it.

Lu: On a side note, you’ve recently received some attention for rejecting your Harvey Award for “Humor in Comics” after their committee refused to acknowledge Matt Fraction’s work alongside you on Sex Criminals.  I just want to say that I think your stance on equal credit for creative teams is admirable and needs to be promoted more.

Zdarsky: Thanks! It all feels like a given, y’know? As an artist I’m highly aware of being glossed over when it comes to various media shining their light on a book like SEX CRIMINALS, so I couldn’t possibly accept an award under the conditions presented.

Lu: As a humor illustrator and writer, who, historically, has inspired you and whose work is inspiring you now?

Zdarsky: Oh man, that’s … there’s too many to list. I feel like I’m just a sponge for everything I come across that makes me laugh. Off the top of my head, Michael Kupperman and Kate Beaton are probably the most consistently funny cartoonists I know. As a teenager I fell in love with the Giffen/DeMatteis run of Justice League. Kevin Maguire’s art was a revelation to me for illustrating with an eye towards comedy and emoting.

Lu: Coming back to Jughead to close things out, you’ve already taken Jughead to a fantastic garden filled with dinosaurs.  Where else might we see him in future issues?

Zdarsky: In future issues you’ll see THE FUTURE as we pay homage to an older Jughead series called TIME POLICE! We’ll also tap into other alternative universe Archie stories like SuperTeens and Agents of R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E., which I loved as a kid. I really wanted to find a way to weave those types of Archie stories into our comic. They’re so fun and weird, like Jughead himself.


Jughead #1 is on sale right. now.  If you grab it from your LCS today and then make your merry way to New York City, you can get it signed by Chip during his appearances at New York Comic Con.  Think of the value!  The burgers!

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