Bob Week continues with a look at a Bob who created one of the longest-lasting characters and franchises in comics history. And it ain’t the fellow from Sunday.
Oh, and the archive is here.
145. Bob Montana
I was speaking, of course, of Bob Montana, the creator of Archie Andrews and all his pals. Bob’s is not a name you hear flinging about the comics industry– in fact, I’d be surprised if many comic readers know who created Archie.
Raised on the vaudeville circuit, young Bob was surrounded by all sorts of wacky humor, which only served to hone his comedy skills for later use in the comics business. And lo, in 1941, in the back pages of MLJ’s Pep Comics #22, he debuted Archie and the gang, based on people he knew from the town of Haverhill, Massachusetts (the story was written by Vic Bloom, however). Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and even Pop Tate and his Chocklit Shoppe were apparently all patterned after real people.
Archie soon proved more popular than the lead feature of Pep, the Shield, and quickly took over Pep Comics, as well as launching his own series. Bob ceased being the primary artist and turned it over to a staff of several. World War II rolled around and Bob joined up. Upon his return, he started the Archie newspaper strip and drew it until his death in 1975.
(“Refund your nickel?” So that what the kids were calling it in those days.)
Originally, Archie was a funny looking kid with gigantic buck teeth. No idea what the ladies saw in him. As you can see, Betty and her fellow females were drawn as foxy as possible. Mr. Montana’s cartooning became smoother and more stylized over time, giving way to the more standard Archie style we’re used to today (though Dan DeCarlo solidified it).
Now, we hardcore comic nerds might not appreciate Archie as much as we should, but by God, Archie’s still out there, still selling, still helping kids learn to read with its family-friendly light-hearted storytelling. There’s debate over who’s the most create-y creator in the Archie mythos, with the credit shifting in various directions, but I think it’s safe to say Bob Montana is a Reason to Love Comics thanks to his contributions to the medium we so dearly adore.
What do the Archie experts out there think? I know there must be a few of you.