4) Jughead's Ever-Changing Hair
It was a tough choice, but Jughead #32 is the nadir of this makeover experiment. In the issue, Jughead and pals (including a bemused Archie, who shows up to comment on how nonsensical the issue is) deal with an alien invasion of Riverdale...one that involves extraterrestrial cats. Well, kind of anyway.
Also, there's virtual reality involved.
Anyway, the real fun of this issue is watching how Jughead's hair alternates between his skate look and his usual hairstyle, seemingly from panel to panel. Now you can easily chalk this up to laziness/indifference on the artist's part, which would be completely understandable given the story he had to work with. But I think there is something greater happening here, and that it was the Archie company's way of weirdly transitioning Jughead back to his usual appearance. By the start of the next issue, he looks like the Jughead readers know and love. He's a little older and a little wiser, but mainly he's just rid of the dumbest hairstyle ever to hit Riverdale. Well, maybe except for Mr. Weatherbee's toupee.
3) Manufactured Quirkiness
As you've probably figured out by now, I'm not a fan of this run of Jughead. And not just the skateboarding issues either, but this entire era.The skate stuff is ass enough on its own, but when it is coupled with bizarre editorial decisions like giving Jughead a catch phrase like "Yowza" that seems more suitable for a shitty Vegas comedian than Riverdale's king, it results in a book that is largely unreadable. Unlike the Schwartz era, there is no time for subtlety or organic gags here. Instead there are pies exploding in faces and an inexplicable obsession with soy. This is the sort of garbage that passes for humor in these books. Every joke here is big and broad, and these issues are filled with oddness that feels designed by committee. From a mind-swapping subplot to killer robots, these issues are full of randomness that attempts to fill the void where comedy should go. Meanwhile, each experiment leaves Jughead floundering on the printed page, a purportedly wacky and creatively stillborn shell of his former self. Yowza indeed.
2) It Sidelined Established Characters for Uninspired New Ones
An especially odd thing about these comics is that they seem to have no confidence in the characters and concepts that initially made Archie comics so successful. Archie, Betty, Veronica and Reggie have been reduced to a limited role here. Taking their place are such forgettable new folks as the aforementioned Anita and Jeffrey, Jughead's GILF relative, Grandma Jones (a woman who creepily hangs out with teenaged skate punks), her country music-loving/wisdom spouting pal Cowboy Bob (ditto), Jughead's therapist Sara Bellum (whose sessions result in the most bizarre and unethical doctor/patient relationship this side of The Sopranos), low-rent riot grrl Sassy Thrasher (a divisive character whose name was inspired by 1990s teen-based magazines) and the virtual reality hacker Sector (sigh).
Of these, Sassy gained the most traction with readers and hung around the longest. (She also briefly reappeared last year). However the rest all are now residing in Riverdale's Where Are They Now? file, just waiting to be dusted off and reincorporated into the brave new world that Archie comics has now created for itself. Personally, I'm keeping my fingers crossed they show up as zombie fodder in Afterlife with Archie.
1) Jughead Was Already The Epitome of Cool
Even today, Archie has a Jughead problem. The character has been without a solo comic for two years, and while there's been talk of a new title none has materialized as of yet. This is understandable, because the character is primarily known for his love of food and aversion to women. (Leading many to joke that he is Archie's first gay character instead of Kevin Keller ). But what Jughead has always been first and foremost is a non-conformist. It wasn't a random choice to make him The Archies' drummer, since he marches to his own beat. That sounds goofy to say, but for over seven decades he has been the character who has always seemed one step ahead of everyone in Riverdale.
Sometimes his schemes are to score free food or get revenge against Reggie, but usually he comes up with plans to amuse himself and his friends. He's an inherently weird character whose crown has grown from a fashion accessory in the 1940s to a symbol of how he is a man who seems to be displaced from a cooler, more relaxed age. There are many methods to make him relevant again (such as in Tom Root's hilarious story in Jughead #200), but saddling him with an unfortunate haircut and some edgy new friends didn't do anything but leave a blemish on his sterling reputation. Keeping up with the times is one thing, but when doing so requires stripping away everything that is unique about the character it is better off to him leave Riverdale gracefully then even have him don a rat tail again. Man, that thing was the fucking worst.
Previously by Chris Cummins
The 10 Best Things About the First Three Issues of Afterlife with Archie
10 Casting Suggestions for the Archie Film