April 9th, Waxing Gibbous. Tomorrow is the full moon.
I have promised myself to put up a new blog post every Sunday, or at least in time for Monday. I will get into some more complex analyses in future posts, but I thought I would start with a recent and somewhat lighter take on lycanthropy.
If you haven’t read the Archie comics since you were a child, Archie Comics is not what it was. The regular comic series was entirely re-booted in 2015, the Jughead spinoff has definitively stated that Jughead is canon asexual, and there is an Archie Horror imprint. How horror is Archie Horror? I couldn’t make it through more than a few pages of Afterlife with Archie, in which Archie n’ Pals face the Zombie Apocalypse. But this is about Jughead as a werewolf, and I considered it my duty.
And it’s pretty good.
[There may be some spoilers below].
Hunger has always been one of Jughead’s primary character traits, and he’s always been a bit odd. What if his hunger had a darker source? What if, one day, burgers just weren’t enough?
What’s entertaining here for a werewolf specialist is to see how so many classic werewolf literary and cinematic themes have been used. Those of you who have seen my talks know what some of them are. Almost all of them spring from Universal Pictures The Werewolf (1941), and from American Werewolf in London (1979), with a dash of Teen Wolf.
Like Larry Talbot, David Kessler, and Scott McCall, Jughead is a reluctant, sympathetic werewolf, and like them, he has a slowly growing realization that he is one. Becoming a werewolf has also been a metaphor for adolescence. It certainly is in Twilight, as Jacob Black becomes truculent and surly, eats ravenously, refuses to return phone calls, hangs out with the bad guys, and runs around shirtless. Will you be relieved when I tell you that Jughead is wearing his whoopie cap in many more panels than he is bare chested?
American Werewolf style transformation, with all of the cracking and re-setting bones, check. The threatening full moon, rising over our uneasy hero, check. Wolfsbane, check (according to Jughead, it has a “nutty flavor.” Don’t try this). Our ancient legend is narrated by the fearless werewolf killer of the issue, relating the curse of the Jones family dating back to medieval England. There’s an important exception to the standard list: you don’t become a werewolf by being bitten. You become dinner. Jughead’s curse is hereditary. I call this the “don’t be ridiculous” motif: there is always an exception to the standard list, just to prove that the reader or viewer doesn’t already know all there is to know about werewolves.
Finally, there’s one of my favorite tropes: the Eye of the Wolf. This is a moment in which the werewolf, caught in the throes of his violent rampage, meets eyes with someone he cares about. Suddenly, recognition dawns, temporarily disarming him. I’ve always loved the way this explicitly fails to work in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. Frequently, this is a romantic trope: Larry Talbot looking into Gwen Conliffe’s eyes, Jacob’s eyes reflecting two little images of Kristen Stewart, etc. Suffice it to say that when I saw it in this comic book, I let out a crack of laughter.
Full moon tomorrow night. I’d better get those last few things done.