The evolution of Jughead Jones: From women-hating gourmand in the comics to sexualized teen in 'Riverdale'

This piece isn't about who we liked more. This isn't a debate. If anything, it is to look at Jughead as two sides of the same coin — part clean and part scarred


                            The evolution of Jughead Jones: From women-hating gourmand in the comics to sexualized teen in 'Riverdale'
Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones (IMDb)

Jughead could scarf down hamburgers and slurp sodas at Pop's all day in the comics. He knew how to needle Reggie Mantle and solve Archie's perpetual dilemma about who to date steady between Betty and Veronica.

The ideas weren't going to work all the time, but it did save Archie at times. The jug we saw in the colored strips of the Archies back in the day was simplistic, part sly, and an eternal woman-hater.

The beanie and the sweater with the huge S embroidered bang in the middle were his trademark outfits. In one of the comic storylines, Archie asks him about the S,  "Aw, shucks, that's my biggest secret," he says. 

The S was almost revealed by January McAndrews, Archie's descendant who comes back from the future in one of the 'Time Police' storylines when she enlists his help to solve a mystery.

She was probably one of the few characters who Jug actually melted for. Guess that sucked for Big Ethel.  Jug was a needle-nosed guy, his eyes were eternally shut.

They opened wide when the smell of Pop's delicious burgers wafted across the street or when Big Moose made a lunge if he saw him talking to Midge. It didn't happen many times considering the teen hardly ever spoke to any girl much. Betty was a friend, Ronnie was too, but she did hate Jug for his lack of class. 

He was Archie's best buddy.  If there were to be a buddy series featuring two goofy and looney characters, Arch and Jug would fit the bill. Almost every priceless artifact in the Lodge household is at risk when the duo waltzed in (Ask Smithers and Mr. Lodge).

While Arch cuddled up with Ronnie, Jug was probably in the kitchen, fixing up a mega-sized, humongous snack to while away time. In Riverdale High, the two could set the fire alarm going the minute they entered Professor Flutesnoot's chemistry lab.

If the school kept track of the students who would have detention almost every other day, Archie would be the frontrunner, and Jug would be a close second. 

Jug's first love was hamburgers (Archie Comics)

As the comics further evolved, readers were introduced to a more notorious, cuter, curious and even hungrier version of Jug known as Lil Jug. Nothing really changed.

It was the same crumpled tees, same adventures with Archie, who had the same carrot-top mop of a hair that he did when he was a teen, a bit of sport, just a bit, mind you.

He wouldn't run across bases or shoot a basket— not unless one of the pitchers or the players had a burger or a salami sandwich in their hands.  Plus, winning and being a hero meant sloppy kisses from girls. No siree, good ol' Jug didn't want that. 

And then came The CW's 'Riverdale' and our perception of Jug changed. The Jug we grew up reading about just sort of vanished. Here was a new Jughead — complex, curious, a serpent king (That's what the S stood for in the comics), a sleuth and the trait the comic version would cringe, he dated.

And his steamy love-making scenes with Betty (Gadzooks! Betty! Of all people). It would have sure knocked comic Jug out silly. 

This Cole Sprouse-essayed Jug didn't eat much at all.  Sure there were those trademark milkshakes, burgers, and fries laid out when the core four were hanging out at Pop's, but Jug was too busy writing.  He was officially Riverdale's Bob Woodward by investigating just about everything.

And since we're comparing, we might as well call him Franklin W. Dixon as he's writing the Baxter Brothers mysteries at Stone Wall Prep. And since he's in a relationship, we might as well call him a teen with James Bond's love-making skills. 

In an interview with Comicbook, Sprouse decoded Jug. "I am the point of view character, but [calling the show] Riverdale is a very intentional thing," he said.

"This is very much a story about all the lives, written from an outsider's point of view. It's not like I'm from a different town; I am the outsider just philosophically. Jughead has always been a non-conformist, anti-authority-type character, and he still carries that same sardonic, sarcastic attitude in this," Sprouse added.

And that's where the similarities end. Despite all these insanely major character changes, credit goes to Sprouse for trying to partly maintain the image of Jug from the comics.

Sprouse's Jug was not as lucky as comics Jug [IMDb]

This version of Jug didn't have a great family to go home too. A dad with alcohol issues, a gangster mother and a soon-to-be-gangster little sister aren't exactly role models.

Living in a trailer isn't exactly plush or comfort living for that matter. It's heartening to see he grew up in broken surroundings and is very sure that's the route he wants to avoid. "We're not our parents, Betty. We're not our families." Guess that does sum it up. 

The point is, both these characters are relatable and in their own ways, acceptable. A happy-go teen vs a troubled sleuth. A fun foodie vs a gang prince. Perhaps, it is fair to say Sprouse introduced us to a new side of the character — a rather dark, but mature one at that. 

This piece isn't about who we liked more. This isn't a debate. If anything, it is to look at Jughead as two sides of the same coin — part clean and part scarred. In short, this is the evolution of Forsythe P. Jones, one that is still enjoyable and interesting to watch irrespective of the persona change. 

Meanwhile, 'Riverdale' Season 4 returns to The CW on January 22, 2020.

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