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Alas, poor Jughead...

Started by DeCarlo Rules, April 21, 2022, 01:09:10 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

DeCarlo Rules

I was just browsing through the list of Jughead titles ACP has published over the years. I won't bore you with listing the short-run/miniseries titles, but just look at this list (in chronological order of first publication)...

Jughead (1949 1st Series) #1-352           [1949-1987]
Jughead with Archie Digest #1-200   [1974-2005]
Jughead Jones Comics Digest #1-101   [1977-1996]
Jughead (1987 2nd Series) #1-214   [1987-2012]
Jughead's Double Digest #1-200           [1989-2014]
Jughead and Friends Digest   #1-38   [2005-2010]
Jughead and Archie Double Digest #1-27   [2014-2017]

That's about 1,100 or so individual issues featuring Jughead as the main character (impressive if your name isn't Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man), and certainly more comics than ACP has published about any other character (except Archie himself, and Betty & Veronica as a duo).

Somehow, though... Jughead's relative popularity (and sales) seemed to begin waning some 20-ish years ago, and just fell off a cliff. To the point where there's NO comic published now featuring Jughead at all. And yeah, that's to be expected where floppy comics are concerned, since there's no ongoing Archie or B&V series any longer, either. But not even ONE digest comic for Juggy, when A, B&V both have two ongoing digests?

WHY?? Why, I ask you? What changed? After decades as one of ACP's "Top 3" (again, counting B&V as a team entity), how did he just become one more face in the crowd, no more important than Kevin, Reggie, or Moose?

Is he just "less relevant" now, somehow? Seriously, I want to know what people think. Any theories on this?

Hanna Barbera Montana

#1
Ruiz comment in the "Nobody here anymore?" thread got me thinking about that too. I wonder if Jug's quirkiness potentially alienates some readers (Betty and Ronnie are the usual "polar opposites who are somehow BFFs" and Arch is the classic everyman; while Jug is the "weird best friend"). It's hard to process a character as popular as he losing readers regularly.

DeCarlo Rules

#2
Clearly, from sometime in the '70s to the early '90s, they were tinkering with Jughead, trying to update him. At first they seemed determined to ditch the traditional beanie or crown as old-fashioned... Jughead wore a variety of different kind of hats, sometimes commonplace like a baseball cap, and sometimes eccentric, like a Civil War cap.

Then came the phase where he's dating girls lot in order to send the message "He's NOT gay!"... And then the addition of baby Jellybean, making Jughead the only one of the gang who was a big brother, leading to more variety of comedic situations.

Still, from 1989-1996, Jughead was popular enough to appear in four ongoing comics (1 floppy comic, 3 digests) named after him (plus a number of admittedly short-lived spinoffs around the same time). Even if the digests are mainly reprints. Not even B&V could outdo that.

A lot of people think that the best of Jughead didn't even happen until 1997-2012, when Craig Boldman and Rex Lindsey became the main (if not exclusive) creative team on JUGHEAD, resulting in dozens of now-classic stories. Boldman redefined Jughead as not just lazy and a voracious eater, but a quirky oddball given to various temporary obsessions that came and went. He was sometimes impulsive, sometimes set in his ways; he tended to think outside the box, didn't care what people thought about him, but invariably had his own blind spots.

I guess it was inevitable that as the list of floppy comics published by ACP began seriously shrinking, he was going to lose his own book before B&V and ARCHIE, but I was frankly shocked when his last digest title was cancelled in 2017 (even if he required Archie's name in the title to boost sales). I figured give it a year, two at most, and there would be some other iteration of a Jughead digest back on the shelves -- maybe "Archie and Jughead Jumbo Comics", but it hasn't happened and it doesn't look like it's going to.


steveinthecity

Quote from: DeCarlo Rules on April 22, 2022, 01:18:05 PMStill, from 1989-1996, Jughead was popular enough to appear in four ongoing comics (1 floppy comic, 3 digests) named after him (plus a number of admittedly short-lived spinoffs around the same time). Even if the digests are mainly reprints. Not even B&V could outdo that.

A lot of people think that the best of Jughead didn't even happen until 1997-2012, when Craig Boldman and Rex Lindsey became the main (if not exclusive) creative team on JUGHEAD, resulting in dozens of now-classic stories. Boldman redefined Jughead as not just lazy and a voracious eater, but a quirky oddball given to various temporary obsessions that came and went. He was sometimes impulsive, sometimes set in his ways; he tended to think outside the box, didn't care what people thought about him, but invariably had his own blind spots.
I'd say from 1989-1996 Jughead's popularity was coasting on 40+ years of past glory. My thinking is this period was the unraveling of Jughead as so many of us knew the character. The attempts to modernize an otherwise timeless character(to that point) with the aforementioned hats, haircuts, odd friends, skateboarding, etc. The Joani/Debbie love triangle also struck me as something "original" Jughead would have never been part of, and these sorts of storylines continued to both dilute and alter the characterization/personality of the Jughead we knew for decades.  No more Doyle or Gladir, either. The changes in writing and editorial direction seemed abrupt following the renumbering imo.

For the 1997-2012 era I'm wondering just who these people are that consider this timeframe the best?  I suspect the majority of those folks would fall into a much younger demo than fans of 40's to 80's Jughead. Maybe those stories are just as fun for some readers, but to me we saw a dilution of Jug's inherent quirkiness, cunning, and "street smarts", not a reinforcement.  I'd say Jughead fell victim(along with the core five) to ACP's efforts of inclusiveness and fairness which led to his being bested by Kevin or Toni(who?) in eating contests for example.

Without rambling on, I'd say Juggie's fall from grace occurred concurrently with the entire line.  Revamps or updates to all the Riverdale residents we knew and loved just went a mite too far.  Language, fashion, interests, and activities for the gang always updated somewhat through the years, but there was too much change.  Changes to Jughead might have affected his character more than others as he was possibly the most iconic of the Archie gang, at least for me.
Comics!

DeCarlo Rules

I think the problem with Jughead's "past glory" was that it was limited to too few tropes (also true of Archie) to keep repeating over and over with only the most minor variations.

1) stories dealing with Jughead's gluttony and/or obsession with food.
2) stories dealing with Jughead's laziness, or convoluted efforts to avoid work.
3) stories dealing with Jughead avoiding Big Ethel, or dating in general.
4) stories dealing with Jughead trying to mooch money (for food).
5) stories dealing with Jughead outsmarting Reggie (or occasionally, Archie or Veronica).

... and that's about it, really. Maybe a lesser number of stories proving Jughead's loyalty to his friends. But those tropes were already honed to their peak as early as the late 50s/early 60s.

That's not a long list, to stretch over the next 7 decades. So yeah, Jellybean stories added a new trope. And Craig Boldman added lots more variations just by the simple extension of logic that food isn't the only thing Jughead tends to obsess over -- you never knew what the next thing might be. New tropes added, they didn't subtract, since the old stories were still continually being reprinted. Jughead needed to stretch his boundaries at least a little.

The late 80s/early 90s in retrospect is interesting if only to see the weird transformations Jughead goes through (a bit like DC's Jimmy Olsen) by way of experimentation in testing his limits. Guilty pleasure, but glad it didn't stick.

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