Friday, January 29, 2010

Bob Montana

I was very happy to hear that IDW Publishing had the license to publish collections of classic Archie comics in hardcover. They are apparently planning "Best of" collections, starting with the ever-popular Dan DeCarlo. While I admire DeCarlo's work, he's not my favorite Archie artist. Hopefully IDW will follow up this volume with collections of Harry Lucey and Bob Bolling. The best news (for me, anyway) was the announcement of the first in a series of volumes reprinting Bob Montana's run on the Archie daily comic strip: 

The creation of Archie is another of those convoluted affairs; In The Best of Archie, published in 1980 (5 years after Montana's death), publisher John Goldwater takes the sole credit for creating Archie. This is iterated several times even before the book's introduction, just to be sure everyone would see it, one of which is a "correction" to the World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976), which "erroneously" attributed creator credit to Montana. The introduction tells of how Goldwater came up with the idea and the cast of characters. It reads much like Stan Lee's introductions to each chapter of Secret Origins of Marvel Comics, in which Lee describes how he created the entire Marvel Universe single-handed. So I don't put a lot of faith in this account, obviously.

Regardless of who came up with the idea of a teenage comedy, whether based on Henry Aldrich or Andy Hardy or real-life high school chums, Bob Montana was assigned to develop the idea. He was the artist on the first Archie story, with Vic Bloom writing the script. Eventually, Montana would write his own stories. Years later, when Bob Bolling was assigned to develop Little Archie, he was given free reign; I wouldn't think the case would be any different for Montana when he was assigned to Archie.

Montana served in the army during WWII, achieving the rank of Sergeant. When he returned, he started the Archie daily strip, which he worked on from 1946 until 1975.

The design of Archie and his friends has become iconic; I doubt any one person is responsible for creating it. More likely it can be attributed to a natural evolution, as all the cartoonists tried to emulate each other for a consistent look (much the way animated characters such as Bugs Bunny were developed). We can see the evolution happen in the first 4-5 years of the Archie strip, as Montana starts with the earlier version of the character, and ends up with the classic look by 1949-1950:

These pages are from Archie's Joke Book #3 (summer 1954) and Jughead #11 (April 1952):


joecab said...

I fell in love with Montana's daily strips back when they were being reprinted as filler in all the Archie Digests. Boy I'd love to see them in a book. 

January 30, 2010 5:25 AM

Mykal said...

Doug: I heard it here first! A collection of Bob Montana! I have been prowling Amazon for years looking for collections of his Archie (or any) stuff! Finally!! Thanks so much for the tip. Montana is my favorite Archie artists as well. Actually, though, of all the artists that came into the Archie universe, Bob Bolling has become my favorite because of his great writing as well as art. You certainly have come roaring back ofter the long Holiday hiatus! What a wonderful post from the State (of mind) of Montana! -- Mykal (off to Amazon I go!!!) 

January 30, 2010 7:17 AM

John Platt said...

I love Bob Montana's work. Plus, he grew up in the same town as my great-grandfather, and many of the characters are based on people he knew there, so I feel personally connected to his early Archie stories. 

January 30, 2010 8:30 AM

Doug said...

Joe: Me too! I still have a beatup scrapbook of strips that I clipped from gag pages in the comics and digests. His art just stood out, especially in the 70s. I actually learned his name from my parents, who remembered him from the daily strip.

Mykal: I agree with you about Bolling, obviously. No argument here!

Montana is hands-down my favorite of the regular Archies. Part of it lies in the fact that I am a big fan of newspaper strips in general, but also the fact that Montana was a fantastic cartoonist. His art is clean and expressive, and his timing is top notch. I especially admire the strips where he uses silent panels...sometimes as the payoff. Some great sight gags! And his rendering of the characters are still the first I think of...especially the girls! ...ARF! ARF! CR-RUNCH!

John: I heard there was an actual "Chok'lit Shop" there, do you know if that's true? Or did he change the name?

January 30, 2010 12:25 PM


Great post! Glad you're back! These Montana strips are wonderful. Fantastic! Thank you, Doug!

February 2, 2010 5:50 PM

Duffs said...

Bob Montana's strip is so consistently good--the run in the 50s especially so. It's great that it's being reprinted. Bill Blackbeard championed it in his Smithsonian book and in his "Comic Strip Century."

When I worked at Nick Mag, I arranged with Archie to run some Montana strips from my collection in our comics section. Always a big hit with the readers!

February 18, 2010 7:18 PM

Doug said...

Duffs: I agree, it's great that we will have reprints of the strip, finally. I've always wanted to read through the early years. Too bad about Nick Mag...the comic section was a wonderful thing.

February 18, 2010 11:31 PM

Anonymous said...

There's no doubt about it, Bob Montana created Archie, based on people and plces from his home town; John Goldwater had a nasty habit of taking credit for other people's creations, such as Josie and Sabrina, both created by Dan Decarlo. (Come to think of it, Disney tended to take all the credit for his company's creations too!)- Mikado

September 14, 2010 1:21 AM

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