Jughead IS Joe Strummer: Interview with Laura Jane Faulds

A “Veronica” says Archie comics are more punk than you think (well, just Jughead really).

Laura Jane Faulds is a writer, with a perfect name, who is from Canada.

When I first read her words she was on No Good For Me, and if you like to read, read the NGFM archive. These days she blogs in similarly fine company at Strawberry Fields Whatever whilst writing a book and publishing short stories that will remind you that you are “being alive”. Some classic LJ topics include things done whilst smoking pot, eating disorder recovery, the special charms of scrappy boys who mean it, and the complexities of really caring when you’re also a modern badass. This isn’t Women Talk Only About Comics Ever, after all.

Laura has taught me more about the meaning of John Lennon, the Kinks and Joe Strummer (etc) than twenty five years as a living, aware English person managed otherwise… and I think she’s kind of a master. Two years ago she wrote about Jughead Jones and blew my mind wide open. We talked.

Basically: my finding out that, in real life, real people read real Archie comics made in the present day was like stepping into a bizarre timewarp – we don’t have ’em here [in Britain] at all as far as I know, and I only saw old issues online presented as hilarious relics or read by people who had been alive in The Olden Days, who I assumed had just found it hard to let go. But you are a modern person, who uses miniature technology and drinks portable coffee and so on– so it is really hard for my brain to accept that my idea of “Archie comics” and my idea of “Laura Jane Faulds, person of today” can co-exist and enjoy each other.

That said, do you share any of my feelings above? Either way, does Archie just appear on the shelves of average shops (if not, where)? What was it that drew you to the book in the first place, and what kept you reading past that one issue?

You can buy Archie comics everywhere! Anywhere & everywhere! Mostly at grocery stores. We sell them by the registers, along with all the other magazines you’re meant to pick up and impulse buy. I remember the first time my Mom bought me an Archie comic – I must have been seven. It was a Betty & Veronica Double Digest and the cover was split into one spring-themed panel and one autumn-themed panel. B&V were wearing autumn-themed outfits and proclaiming “I love fall!” in one, spring-themed outfits, “No! I love spring!” kind of thing in the other. My mom suggested she buy it for me; she’d loved Archie comics when she was a girl.

I can’t remember what kept me reading. I think it was Veronica at first, I really related to Veronica. Being “a Veronica” is still a big part of my identity, and was definitely a big part of what shaped me. I remember developing the opinion “Betty’s such a pushover for Archie” really early. I don’t like Betty. I like the dark-haired characters: Veronica, Reggie, Jughead. I dislike the character of Archie; he’s a dullard. We had to do a project on collections in fifth grade and I brought in so many bins of Archie comics, it was kind of embarrassing. I think some of the boys in my class made fun of me. I liked that they were set in high school; that was glamorous to me.

A lot of people read Archie comics here. It never occurred to me that they don’t have them in Britain. It’s a funny, nostalgic thing. Archie comics come up so much, at age 27, in drunk social situations kind of thing, half hour long giggly conversations about stupid Archie comics jokes that stuck with us, which characters we most related to, and which Archie dude we’d rather date. When I was in eleventh grade my friend Hannah and I cut up a bunch of old Archie comics and whited-out all the text and then wrote dirty jokes in the speech bubbles and pasted them to our locker. Sometimes in books of Archie comics they’ll put a vintage Archie from the 40s or 60s or whatever, and that was neat to me when I was a kid. I imagined I was my mom reading them as a girl.

I still buy Archies from time to time, if I’m sick or at an airport. They’re a light, easy thing – it’s an experience akin to watching a TV show like Friends or Full House or Saved by the Bell. It’s low-effort intellectually, but it has that pang, of wanting to be a kid again. Comforting, familiar.

When you were talking about Archie & pals on NGFM, were you consciously “talking about comics”? Was it a thing to you?

No, I don’t think I was consciously “talking about comics.” I think I was “talking about Archie.”

Comix & You: Firstly, are you still reading Archie? But other than that – Laura Jane Reads Comics, a Short History, if you please?

Probably a disappointing answer, but I really have very little interest in comics. All I’ve ever read is Archie and Archie offshoots like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Josie and the Pussycats. I don’t know; it’s just indifference really. They never much spoke to me as a child, I think they were a little bit too “boy” for me. I liked Archies because they were gender-neutral. I liked things that didn’t feel like they were for girls or boys, but for everybody. All kids! In adulthood I’ve read a couple of graphic novels that people have given to me because I have to read them and have liked them alright. Oh, you know, I think a big part of my disinterest in them as a child is that I’ve always responded to things that are “like real life.” I hate science fiction, fantasy, anything that isn’t set in the real world. I don’t get it. It’s not interesting to me. It’s the same as not wanting to hear about people’s dreams. Most comics take place in a fantasy kind of realm and I have a big mental block up against that kind of stuff.

Did you ever read a comic – graphic novel, single issue, serial snippet, newspaper strip, whatever – that moved you?

Probably the most I’ve ever been moved by a comic was when you did the J.Crew on J.Crack thing!

Note: I totally did not engineer that last answer.

OK, Which Riverdale citizen could most do with learning to love the Clash? In your expert opinion.

Oh my God, this is huge. Jughead is so obviously a Clash fan. Joe Strummer Jughead!

Maybe Archie should listen to the Clash so he could be a little less boring. But no, I don’t want to even waste the Clash on Archie. I can imagine 1982 Betty & Veronica dancing in new-wave outfits to Should I Stay or Should I Go.

How has your love/lust for Jughead Jones aged? I hope that there is still a flicker to that candle, somehow.

Jughead Jones is my dream dude and that’s the end of the story. That’s how it’s going to stay, for the rest of my life, and every dude I ever date can be safe in knowing that that is the standard that he’s being measured up against. Like, the way the comic looks, if he were a real man, he’d be my male beauty ideal. Actually I’m in a place of being really obsessed with Adrien Brody as Peter Whitman in The Darjeeling Limited – Adrien Brody is SO Jughead!

I google image search jughead like once a month and I always find this:

So gross! They’re so wrong. Jughead is not a hippie, he’s a punk. Love that devil may care attitude. Love a dude who can eat. Everything. The CROWN.

Important research: does this Jughead float your boat?

A little effeminate for my tastes. I’m more into the fedora guy (reggie?)

As a writer you regularly work with illustrator Jen May, and last year I adapted part of one of your old posts to comic-form. Can you see yourself working in a graphic-sequential format in future – and out of interest rather than confrontation if not, why not?

Jen’s illustration for the introductory post at SFW

I really love having a visual component to my writing. I think that writing as a medium is probably the toughest sell of all. Reading a piece of writing is a big investment; you can’t multi-task while reading long-form fiction or creative non-fiction. I think that supplementing my writing with a visual makes it a lot less intimidating for people. And also Jen May is my creative soulmate and I don’t feel like anything I write is “finished” until she’s done an illustration for it. I loved your J.Crew on J.Crack thing! That is literally my favorite comic of all time. I thought it was fun and beautiful and interesting, and really interesting to see my thoughts presented in such a wildly different way. I am all about collaborating with as many creative people in as many different ways that I can, so on that level I could see myself working in a graphic-sequential format in the future. It would be a crazy challenge to try and write words to go along with a comic but I’d be into it.

Well, readers– I am off to make my boyfriend a felt crown and think about that very last sentence there. Please amuse yourselves with these links, and have a dandy day!

Jughead’s punk years summed up at SFW.
LJ on Jughead, again.
LJ on Archie Comics.
LJ on herself.
LJ & Liz & Jen’s Beatles zines.
twitter, tumblr,Jen May’s tumblr.
Amusingly non-relevant semi-relevancy: My Take on Kitty Pryde is that I Love Kitty Pryde, by Laura Jane Faulds.

Jughead above by Jill Thompson.
Jughead caricature from here.

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at clairenapierclairenapier@gmail.com and give me lots of money

3 thoughts on “Jughead IS Joe Strummer: Interview with Laura Jane Faulds

  1. Love this! There was a period of time in Archie when Jughead was straight up punk–Mohawk, Sid VIcious-esque padlock necklace and all!

    Also, there have been, more recently, a lot of nods to punk music in the attire of characters in series like Life With Archie (a much heavier read, too!) It’s very cool!

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