Jughead 15

Today, Ryan M. and Patrick are discussing Jughead 15, originally released May 17th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Ryan M: If fiction is to be believed, magic is dangerous. If a character starts dabbling in magic, it is not long before a wise elder tells them to be careful, that there are consequences. Sure, a parlor trick is fun, but the power inherent in breaking natural laws can easily get out of control. Magic can consume your soul, inspire a sense of megalomania and, sometimes, make you a sidekick in your own comic series. When Sabrina casts a spell in Jughead 15, our title character is lost in the shuffle even as he inspires and amphitheater of admirers.

Josie and the Pussycats are in town and the whole gang is trying to get tickets. Veronica uses her father’s connections, Archie blows what is likely months of his allowance and Jughead works for his tickets the Jughead way. He eats hamburgers. When his plan to take advantage of Pop’s hamburgers for a ticket promotion is foiled by his own inability to pay, Jughead gives up on all the delicious fried offerings at Lodge Amphitheater. Luckily, Sabrina is there to “fix” everything by casting a spell to make the band fall in love with Jughead so that they will give him tickets. Not to sound like Salem the cat, but this is a pretty convoluted plan considering all she needs to do is conjure some tickets. Of course, the magic backfires and the female half of the audience goes gaga for Jughead as soon as the Pussycats start playing.

It’s a fun beginning to Mark Waid and Ian Flynn’s arc on the series, but Jughead is lost a bit in this issue. Sabrina is the primary instigator of any action in the story. Jughead makes the choice to run out on the check at Pop’s but otherwise is a passive actor. It’s easy to cede the spotlight to Sabrina. She is mischievous but well-meaning, and has power beyond her ability to wield it. Plus she has a talking cat. Before Sabrina meets up with Jughead outside Pop’s, the issue is a completely different story.

The first nine pages of the issue are grounded in the Riverdale one can recognize from this series. The gang banters, Archie makes a fool of himself, typical stuff. Waid and Flynn also give us more Toni Topaz, my favorite pink-haired bi-sexual competitive eater. It’s a group scene with little room for Jughead to do more than sit in the back eating his meal. It isn’t until the rest of the gang leaves that he is given the spotlight in a wordless page that shows Jughead’s determination to eat his ten burgers.

Derek Charm simplifies this passage of time by splitting the page into three rows of nearly identical columns. By keeping the left and right columns nearly the same, Charm is able to make the small differences pop all the more. On the left, we see grumpy Pop from Jughead’s point of view as he orders three burgers, gets a soda refill and looks at the menu. The last one is the most Jughead move of all. He may be an unrepentant binge eater, but he’s also a smart ass. By the end of the nine panels, Charm has taken the reader on a journey. Those wrappers crowding the punch card both imply gluttony and act as foreshadowing for the loss of the card.

Even with Jughead as the central focus of this page, he is offering little beyond what we expect of him. Waid and Flynn give Jughead little agency. It’s not a disappointment in a book that offers so much other hijinx but it makes Jughead feel far from the center of the action.

Instead, it’s Sabrina who keeps the plot moving and Josie and the Pussycats who offer some of the more fun moments in the issue. Even Betty and Toni have more agency in the issue once they realize that Jughead must have some kind of secret mojo to inspire obsession.

Their shared evil smile and run off the page sets up a plot point that probably won’t ever pay off, but it gives the issue a bit of a pick me up in terms of things happening with our regular characters. Otherwise, it’s the guest stars that get a lot of the fun, including Josie and the Pussycats who become purveyors of a magic love song.

Charm gives the band a sense of dark purpose as they begin their Jughead song. They stand in silhouette on the stage, with the energy behind them looking like hellfire in shades of pink and yellow. They even have the same Zorro mask look that Sabrina has when she cast the spell in the first place. Even without seeing the effects of the song, it’s clear that things are about to go wrong.

Patrick, what did you think of the issue? Did you miss having Juggie front and center?

Patrick: I do. I’m not even sure that I need Jughead to have any agency — he’s one of those mystic creatures that floats through life eating cheeseburgers and helping / confounding the people who do have agency — but it’d be nice to see a little more of his personality. From what little Waid and Flynn do show us make ol’ Juggie seem like kind of an asshole.

I do think there’s a little of his magic pixie burger boy persona coming through — you just gotta dig for it. Let’s just trace over his plan to get into the concert for a second: Pops has a promotion whereby you eat a bunch of burgers, get punches on a loyalty card, and can exchange that for a ticket to the Pussycat show. Jugs is on his way out, and has essentially forgotten the stated “why” of the issue until he notices the J&tP poster on the window.

This is one of those classic Jughead moments: he’s not just “foiled by his inability to pay” but by sheer forgetfulness. He forgot that there was a goal beyond Eat All Burgers. And even if he had the card in his hand, was he going to try to exchange it for a ticket while simultaneously refusing to pay for the burgers? This is Jughead addressing his appetites one at a time: he doesn’t take a holistic view to self-care. Which of course is charming, and why we like Jughead in the first place.

But yeah, then Sabrina comes in and sorta owns the issue. Sabrina’s plan is absolutely as convoluted as Ryan says it is, and Charm makes a point of staging the majority of her panels as though she’s appealing directly to the audience. In her introductory page, that means placing Juggie in the foreground, so Sabrina’s face is always turned toward camera. The camera also spends a lot of time peering up through the skylight in the Pussycat’s trailer, so as Sabrina looks down at her subjects, she’s also looking down at us. Then, of course, Salem is always there to represent the audience’s “I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” so she’s got someone in-universe to convince.

And whether or not she makes an effective case to either Salem or the reader, Sabrina casts the spell anyway, which goes about as well as you might expect. I think we can agree on this point: love spells and love potions are gross. They inherently rob the victim of any way to consent to what’s happening, and are therefore more than a little rapey. The near-perfect antidote to this problem is the final page reveal, in which we discover that everyone is infatuated with Jughead. There’s a similar set-up in the Rick and Morty episode “Rick Potion #9,” but the conclusion to that story is so characteristically fucked-up that there’s no way Jughead could follow it. (I totally recommend that episode, by the way — it informs so much of that series’ plot and tone going forward.) I’m excited to see how Waid and Flynn write themselves out of this corner, and I think there are plenty of opportunities for Juggie to take the reigns in the next issue.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

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