Today, Ryan M. and Spencer are discussing Jughead 12, originally released January 11th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Ryan M: Cliques get a bad rap. The term itself conjures groups of snotty teens keeping out the riffraff and wearing coordinated charm bracelets. But, really, a clique is just a group of friends with shared interests that hang out consistently. The chemistry of clique is essential. I can think of a few times that a friend group went through a few permutations before settling into a regular crew or times that I floated in and out of a group’s orbit without getting pulled in. Even when a friend group (see how concise and useful the word clique is?) is steady and cemented, you can still wonder why it hangs together at all. Ryan North explores the group dynamics of the Archie gang in Jughead 12 by focusing on the two characters least likely to get along: Jughead and Reggie.
North is able to show us how the gang functions through a day of video games with escalating stakes. Reggie’s win makes him King for a Day, and then a week, and then a month. Jughead and his friends honor their bet, begrudgingly carrying Reggie around and serving him food. Veronica saves the day with her access to caterers and oily megahunks, but it’s Jughead who can’t let it go. He challenges Reggie to a series of rematches, each of which he loses, even with Dinosaur mode. In the end, Reggie reveals that what he really wants is for his friends to form a band with him. Obviously, they’ll call it The Reggies.
Jughead and Reggie are traditionally set up as foils and North plays their differences in a way that furthers the story while giving each a fair shake. The true difference between Jughead and Reggie is about confidence. Jughead walks through life sure of himself and his place in the world. He isn’t worried about much beyond perhaps where his next burger is coming from. Jughead is quick-witted, gets by in school with minimal effort and has best friends that love and support him in his weirdly fixated-on-food glory, even if Betty had to mute him on social. Reggie, on the other hand, masks his deep insecurities with a cocky attitude. Jughead’s cocky attitude is rooted in a deep belief in himself. Because he is so secure with the image he presents, Jughead thinks Reggie’s desire to manage his internet presence is foolish.
Jughead’s social accounts are pitch perfect. Derek Charm captures the feel of social media while also reinforcing the point that Jughead is not overly precious with that appears online. Details like including the food Jughead and Sabrina are subtle references to previous issues that don’t distract from the story but situate Jughead in the book’s universe. Jughead doesn’t care about the path he leaves online, posting a LinkedIn profile just so he can be sassy about the site itself. Of course, his approach works for him, giving him a follower/follower ratio that Reggie would kill for.
Because Reggie wants to be liked, even though his behavior would indicate otherwise. In the moment before Reggie sheepishly reveals that he wants the others to join him in forming the band, we get some insight into the rest of the group’s insecurities.
The things that Reggie could conceivably take away from the gang include: commitment to the environment, status, money, kisses, and scientific ethics. Veronica’s is the most overtly sad, as reinforced by North’s footnote, but each of these thought bubbles contains insight into what the character values. Kevin’s supposition is the most reasonable, and he has proven to be the most reasonable character in the series. North balances the humor of these instantaneous fantasies with the underlying truth about the character’s priorities and fears.
The story may have Jughead’s name on the masthead and spend a lot of time on the Jughead/Reggie dynamic, but at its core it’s a story about the gang together which is why it makes sense that it begins with a roll call of sorts.
Charm gives the image an aesthetic that feels like some sort of Drive-meets-Speed Racer mashup while establishing the video game avatars that resemble but don’t quite match up with our characters. It’s a tough needle to thread and Charm does it perfectly. It’s also a strong choice to introduce everyone except for Archie on this first page. He is clearly a sideline character in this story, and acts as a punchline on the second page.
Spencer, if it’s not clear, I really enjoyed this issue. What did you think? There was a lot of meta-commentary, especially in reference to the upcoming arc. How well do you think that was handled? Do you have any thoughts about the video game sequences? Would you let a Reggie into your clique?
Spencer: I’m pretty sure I’ve had Reggies in my cliques before, Ryan, but I tend to not realize they’re a Reggie until things start to fall apart. It’s a mess.
Anyway, Reggie actually reminds me a lot of Roger Klotz from the 90s Nickelodeon cartoon Doug: he’s a loudmouth and often a bully, but for some reason he’s always included in the main clique’s activities anyway. North and Charm’s previous Jughead arc actually found Jughead and Reggie bonding (thanks to one of Sabrina’s spells), but I’m not sure if Reggie’s inclusion in Jughead’s clique is meant to be a consequence of that, or just a nod to the fact that Reggie’s been hanging around with kids who can’t stand him for years.
And that’s the thing: Reggie gets a lot more out of this than the rest of the gang do, and I’m not talking about being “King for a Day.” I’m always surprised that the Riverdale kids don’t just shun Reggie or just stop inviting him (a testament to their inherent goodness, I suppose), but Reggie’s got good reason to hang around them: he’s got no other friends. Ryan’s right that much of Reggie’s arrogance stems from his insecurities, and it’s why his desire simply boils down to forming a band with his friends. Being in a band would bring him fame and attention, but it’d also ensure that the Riverdale gang has to keep hanging out with him.
Looking at Reggie’s second word balloon there — “I think about it all the time” — make me sad. It’s a hushed afterthought, printed in smaller font, but those kind of admissions are usually gospel. Reggie’s fantasies are surprisingly sympathetic, even if he does act out in frustrating ways. That said, the Reggie of North and Charm’s Jughead is also far tamer than we’re used to, as evidenced by the second panel above, where Reggie takes the time to make Betty feel validated.
I think that’s the touch North brings to Jughead. Much like in his Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series over at Marvel, there are rarely true villains in Jughead — North’s got an endless well of compassion and empathy, and wants all his readers to see his characters through that lens. North’s sentiments translate through to his characters as well, almost all of whom look out for one another in ways that go far beyond simple politeness. Reggie’s taken the time to learn about Betty’s political views, Betty teaches Jughead about proper social media photo etiquette, and several different characters are worried about the “hunks” Veronica hired to carry out some of Reggie’s more daunting requests.
Clearly, they’re more than happy to do the job (kudos to Charm here — I got a hearty laugh out of this bit, and giggled pretty much every time the hunks showed up on the page). Thanks to the interest Veronica has shown in their lives and the more-than-generous wage she pays them, the hunks are willing to do just about anything Veronica asks. In a North book, being considerate, empathic, and generous always pays off.
In that sense, Jughead may actually be the villain of this issue. While the rest of his friends are rather thoughtful and selfless throughout the story, Jughead is a bit more prideful and thoughtless. Even though Veronica mostly gets the gang out of their work, and even as the gang grows more and more hesitant about the idea, Jughead continues to challenge Reggie to rematch after rematch because he just can’t handle his loss, just can’t stomach the idea that Reggie could be better at video games than him. His pride is wounded, and pride isn’t an element that comes into play for the rest of the cast this month; the only exception is Reggie, whose pride fuels his jerkish behavior, and makes him so embarrassed to admit his own needs that he has to resort to a bet in order to tell his friends what he wants. In that sense, Jughead and Reggie continue to be really interesting parallels to each other, and I can’t wait to see what North does with that in future issues.
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