A New Classic Monster – Frank Tieri On Jughead: The Hunger’s Ongoing Series

by Hannah Means Shannon

Jughead: The Hunger #1 arrives this Wednesday, October 25th, as the first installment of an ongoing series at Archie Comics that follows on from the very successful one-shot by the same title that the publisher released last Spring. Writer Frank Tieri is back with this title, and is joined by Pat and Tim Kennedy on art, as well as Matt Herms on colors.

The original one-shot shocked and delighted fans by exploring an alternate reality in Riverdale where Jughead Jones discovers he’s a werewolf and Betty Cooper takes on the duties of werewolf hunter to protect her hometown, with Archie in tow.

In the ongoing series, we’re going to pick things up with Jughead on the run, hiding his identity in a traveling circus, and Betty far from ready to quit on her mission. In this comic, just about anything can happen, so get set for mayhem and maybe learning a little more about these characters you may feel are familiar…until you read this series.

[Variant cover by Robert Hack]

Catching up with writer Frank Tieri during New York Comic Con, he joined us to talk about the new ongoing series landing this week and give us some insight on where this pulpy horror plot is headed.

I asked Tieri if he saw The Hunger as joining the other horror titles being published by Archie Comics, like Sabrina and Afterlife with Archie, albeit inhabiting its own space. He agreed.

I also asked if the “tone” or the context of The Hunger had been influenced at all by the existence of those other titles. Tieri said that when he pitched the series originally, being fond of horror, he suggested a “Jughead werewolf book” and was asked to send a full pitch. That led to the one-shot, and now the ongoing series. So, for the most part, it was a separate thing.

I wondered what made Tieri mentally connect Jughead with a werewolf story, since the two seem uncannily perfect in combination, but that’s only once we see them together. Tieri said he started with the basic fact that Jughead is always hungry, and asked himself why Jughead is always hungry. He posed to himself the idea that there might be “something else going on” there beyond an affinity for cheeseburgers. Maybe he had a “inner hunger brought on by the fact that he’s been a werewolf all this time, though he hasn’t yet become one, but he’s about to become one”. Hence, the contents of the one-shot and the events that happen in that issue.

I commented that Jughead is also more of a “loner” within the context of traditional Archie comics, and Tieri agreed that this quality “works well” for the story. “It kind of fit his personality”, Tieri said.

I said that when the one-shot was first announced, fans upon first hearing the idea felt like it was “ingenious” to bring Jughead and werewolf tradition together. Tieri said that when he looked at the line of Archie horror comics, which he thinks are “brilliant”, he saw that the line did not yet have a “classic monster”. Tieri is a big fan of Universal Monsters, Frankenstein and Dracula, and so he suggested a monster be included. And Tieri agreed it really “fits” to have Jughead as a “tortured” character who doesn’t want to be a monster, but “has no choice”.

I observed that Archie is a very classic American comics line, and monster traditions have also developed a very American way, particularly in film, so putting them together is like a “double dose of Americana”.

Tieri laughed, “There’s nothing more American than werewolves killing and eating people!”

I commented that Tieri has worked widely in many genres of comics and asked him how he’d characterize his career in comics so far. He said that if something interests him, he tends to pursue it. He’s mainly worked in superhero comics, but he was approached to do Hangman for Archie Comics by Alex Segura. He likes to be challenged, and had worked in noir before, in Punisher Noir. He’d also worked on Red Sonja for Dynamite, so he likes to “stretch different muscles”. He also works on video games and animation.

I asked if this was the first time he’s done an ongoing horror story, and he said he thought that was true.

“If the one-shot is a bite, this one is going to devour you”, Tieri teased about the ongoing series.

I recalled that in a panel at Baltimore Comic Con, Alex Segura had explained that within the Archie horror comics, the same rules of continuity do not apply and that characters can actually die.

Tieri agreed, and reminded that he killed characters in the Jughead: The Hunger One-Shot, in the first panel, with Ms. Grundy being decapitated. He wanted to show readers this was a different world with “serious issues”.

I mentioned that I’d recently seen a “first look” preview of the first issue of the ongoing series ahead of FOC, and been very impressed by the “carnivalesque” and “zoo” elements that tie into my own expectations of “classic horror”. Like “mid-century horror”.

I was also really interested by the coloring choices on the comic. Tieri was very enthusiastic about the colors, too, by Matt Herms, which are “consistent” with the one-shot, colored by Michael Walsh. Each page had a different color focus in the one-shot, and they’ve continued that idea somewhat in the series.

Tieri said that we have left off, after the one-shot, with Jughead as a fugitive, and Betty is on his trail, but “What’s more Americana than joining the circus?” Jughead has joined the circus as a fugitive on the run, which enables him to travel. “He’s hiding out with the other freaks”, I said. Tieri agreed, “He can blend in more”.

I asked, “You’ve got these characters and their central elements, but you’re allowed to do things that have more consequences with them. But you still have those essential characters. Has taking them and putting them in a horror context shown you new things about them you didn’t realize before?”

Tieri said the “big standout” for him, aside from Jughead being a werewolf was “Betty Werewolf Hunter”. I agreed. He said that fans really “dug that” and it was a “definite nod to Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. He’s a “Betty guy” he said, choosing her over Veronica as a favorite, and he always felt that she is “so nice” but “maybe there’s this layer underneath”. She’s a “kickass werewolf hunter” out there fighting them, too.

Jughead and Betty are his two favorite characters to write and he thinks it “shows in the series”.

I asked Tieri what he thinks Betty’s “drive” is in being a werewolf hunter, and he said protecting people is important, but “as we explore the lore between the Coopers and the Joneses”, we discover they come from long lines of werewolf hunters and a long line of werewolves.

Now, in the comic, they are going to start “expanding the universe” and we’ll “see other werewolves and we’ll see other Cooper werewolf hunters”. Expansion is a big part of moving from the one-shot to the ongoing series, Tieri said.

The horror universes are “separate” at Archie Comics, but Tieri would love to do a crossover someday, he said.

[Variant cover by Michael Walsh.]

Here’s a further extended preview of this week’s Jughead: The Hunger #1:

Many thanks to Frank Tieri for taking part in this interview with Comicon.com.

Jughead: The Hunger #1 will arrive in shops this Wednesday, October 25th, perfectly timed  for this spooky season, from Archie Comics.