If there's one thing on television that speaks to comic book fans in particular, it's Robot Chicken, the action figure-animated show on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
Now one of the creative minds behind the series will help celebrate a comic book icon's anniversary as Robot Chicken's Tom Root writes Jughead #200, due out in March.
Root, who started his comics-related career as part of the team that did the Twisted ToyFare Theatre in ToyFare magazine, will write the milestone 200th issue with art by Rex Lindsey.
Newsarama talked to Root about the gig and why writing Jughead was something that got him interested in writing more comics.
Newsarama: Tom, how did you get the job of writing Jughead #200?
Tom Root: I had the chance to meet John Goldwater, who's the CEO at Archie Comics. We met at San Diego Comic Con and we really hit it off. After the convention was over, I got an email from him asking me if I wanted to write their next big anniversary issue, which happened to be Jughead #200. And I said, "Sure! Absolutely!"
Nrama: When you first met him, was there any thought in your mind that you'd want to work on Archie comics?
Root: Not really. I mean, I've got so much going on that I kind of have tunnel vision. Between Robot Chicken, and we were just about to launch Titan Maximum as well, and we're working on something for Fox -- a pilot. And I thought my plate was pretty full. But when he offered doing an issue of Jughead, it seemed like too much fun to pass up.
Nrama: Were you an Archie Comics fan or collector?
Root: I never collected them, but I did read them all the time when I was young. I was mostly into superheroes, but I would read Archie because it was always around and was always a nice change of pace and funny. Even as an adult, every once in awhile I would pick up those digests because they're in every supermarket check-out. And a lot of adults I know do the same thing. So I was never too detached from it. Every few years, I was reading Archie comics again. It didn't feel like something from my distant past.
Nrama: How has Jughead changed since you were younger?
Root: I actually didn't like Jughead when I was younger. Kids are so judgmental, and he was this really visually unappealing character. I didn't know what that thing was that he wore on his head. I thought it was a crown. I was sort of turned off by him. The other characters were much more interesting to me.
But as I got older, I realized Jughead is actually kind of the smartest character in the whole series. He sort of stands off at a distance and makes fun of all the foolishness going on around him. He's got more going on under that crown than I ever gave him credit for.
Nrama: Now that you mention it, he's kind of the Han Solo of Archie's universe, in that he kind of provides that outsider view of all this Force foolishness like Jughead does for all the Archie foolishness.
Root: Well, he's kind of a foolish character himself, so I'm not sure I'd go as far as Han Solo. [laughs] But Han Solo sort of stood in for the viewer there, and this is how we as the audience would see the Force. Jughead is kind of like that because he provides the commentary on all the things we're privy to. He right there on our side.
Nrama: Exactly. And you've been part of the comics industry for a long time, haven't you?
Root: Yeah, I started working after college at Wizard Magazine, sort of on a lark. I had rediscovered comics for a year or two and then I had a job at a comic book magazine. That's where my entry into that world originated. After I was professionally employed in the industry, I started going to conventions and really became a full-time reader of comics.
And it wasn't too long before I was writing some comic book stories as well. I did a bunch of back-up stories for Antarctic Press publications and did a mini-series in 2002. But I really sort of learned to write comics when I was working at Wizard because I was doing Twisted ToyFare Theatre for ToyFare magazine, which was a monthly six-page comic book. And I was sort of in charge of storyboarding it month after month after month. So that's where my original comic book training came from.
Nrama: And that led to your Hollywood gigs?
Root: It did. But it's still appealing to that same comic book crowd. I think Robot Chicken is the one show on the air that speaks to that same audience. It's sort of an extension of the comic book and toy and cartoon influences that me and the other writers grew up with. So it would be one thing if I went on to do CSI or something, but Robot Chicken is pretty close to where I came from.
Nrama: Kind of "comic book Hollywood?"
Root: Yeah, and it's growing all the time.
Nrama: Is there any chance we'll see more comics from you?
Root: I'm going to try. It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of work, and way more time-consuming than I remembered it being. But I had a great time doing it. And if I can sort of call my own shots and just work on projects that interest me the most, then I'd really be into it.
Nrama: Is that a hint that there's something in the works for you?
Root: That very well might be a hint.
Nrama: So tell us about the issue you're doing. What kind of story will we see in Jughead #200?
Root: Well, I think everyone's familiar with Jughead and his voracious appetite. I think if anybody knows anything about him, it's that he doesn't like girls and he eats an awful lot. I don't really touch on the girl aspect, but I touch on his appetite. His appetite finally gets him into trouble -- really big trouble. Trouble on a sort of mystical level. And he's really got to come to terms with curbing that appetite, or it's going to destroy him and everyone he holds dear.
Nrama: That sounds dire. But do you bring some of the humor that we've seen so much on Robot Chicken?
Root: Oh of course it's a funny comic. It's Jughead, after all. But I think more than a tone of humor I bring from Robot Chicken is sort of the frequency of the jokes. We can't ever slow down very much on Robot Chicken. And when I was writing this issue, the only reason it's there is to be funny, so I tried to never go too long without a joke, and I wanted to never be too obvious with anything but be surprising and hopefully be clever with it. So in some respects, there's some Robot Chicken rapid-fire joke telling in there. But it's still very much an Archie comic. I hope people check it out.