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Saturday, July 14, 2018

John Goldwater, the Comics Code Authority, 

and Archie

I had another Harry Lucey article from around the web all set to go, but then I saw this and re-read it, and... considering we're in that 'Comics Code' territory, i thought I'd reprint it here. From the Comics Journal Archives compiled online at their excellent
Note: I did add three pictures to it, the first three....

John Goldwater, the Comics Code Authority, and Archie

Ten years ago, when Marvel Comics withdrew from the Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA), it seemed likely that this oppressive force of cowardly comstockery was, finally, tottering on its last legs. Several publishers remained as dues-paying members of the CMAA—DC Comics stayed on but only with its kids books and a few of the DC Universe titles—but without the funding to which Marvel’s dues doubtless contributed in a substantial manner, the operation and its enforcement arm, the Comics Code Authority, could scarcely be imagined to have the wherewithal to continue its repressive regime much longer. But it staggered on for another nine years. When Bongo left in 2010, the only major publishers left to finance the program were DC Comics and Archie Comics.
Then as 2011 dawned, DC Comics ceased altogether using the Comics Code Seal of Approval, which has identified its comics as appropriate for all ages for over 50 years. Instead, it launched its own rating system for DCU and Johnny DC titles. As soon as the news came out from DC, Archie Comics, the last remaining CMAA subscriber, announced that it, too, was getting out. According to Newsarama, Archie had made the decision some time ago and hadn’t been submitting its books for approval for “a year or more,” but held off announcing the defection until DC took the plunge. With these two desertions, the CMAA and the odious Comics Code Authority were effectively defunct. Without members, the Authority had no funding and therefore couldn’t function.
Since 1964, the CMAA had been administered by the Kellen Company, a management firm that handles the operations of a number of non-profit trade organizations. The Comics Buyer’s Guide (No. 1677, May 2011) reported that “the last Kellen employee involved with the Code administration and oversight was Holly Muenter Koenig, who, on her own time, continued to look at the comics DC submitted throughout 2010.”
A tantalizing byproduct of the demise of the CMAA was the question, raised a few weeks after Archie’s departure, of what became of the Association’s records, brimming, we are assured by Amy Nyberg (who wrote a 1998 history of the Code, Seal of Approval), with acres of documents—minutes of meetings, correspondence and the like—a veritable trove of the history of the comic book industry under the thumb of the Code. Responding to a question at (January 27, 2011), Koenig said all the CMAA archives had been forwarded to DC’s legal department. There, presumably, the matter rests—in boxes in a damp basement somewhere in Manhattan. I haven’t been able to find anything more on the issue since late January.
It is serenely fitting that Archie should be the last publisher to leave the dismal Code room, turning on the light as it left. John Goldwater, one of the trio of founders of MLJ Comics out of which Archie emerged, was, as he himself claimed, “the prime founder” of the CMAA, which invented the Code and enforced it with the Comics Code Authority. Hence, this seems an appropriate moment to consider the dubious record of John Goldwater, the man who claimed to have invented Archie Andrews as well as the CMAA. About the latter there is less dispute than about the former. Let’s see whether his claims can withstand close scrutiny and the conflicting testimony of contradictory witnesses.
In the summer of 2001, I wrote a short biography of Goldwater for Oxford University Press’s online American National Biography. What follows is the freshly-polished and energetically embellished first draft of that essay, vastly longer than the necessarily abridged (to fit word-count limitations) version Oxford has—and liberally furnished with my own opinions about Goldwater’s Archie (opinions more-or-less omitted from the more scholarly, more objective, version at ANB online, omitted for want of the sort of definitive, documentary proof that posturing pedagogy demands before bandying opinionated assertions around, however reasonable and informed those assertions may, upon reflection, be; here, I’m including them; Oxford didn’t allow length enough to substantiated the opinions). But before we get to that, an introductory apostrophe:
Since at the time I approached the Oxford assignment, there appeared to be very little written about the late Goldwater’s life, I thought I could find out more by checking with Archie Comics. I assumed they’d have a complete biography which they’d be eager to get into my hands so it could be perpetuated in Oxford University Press’s magnum opus of the lives of American’s rich and famous. Alas, not so.
When I phoned to ask, I was instructed to make my request in writing. I faxed them the request, and shortly thereafter, I received a phone call from a secretarial personage who informed me that they would not be supplying me with any information about Goldwater. Nothing.

That got my wattles in an uproar, of course. But, in retrospect, I should not have been surprised. I had heard that Archie Comics was, at that time—a decade ago— a hotbed of rival claimants to fame. And since the operation appeared back then to be in the hands of the descendants of one of Goldwater’s partners, they probably didn’t want to do anything to foster a Goldwater claim. Moreover, since I had widely broadcast my not-very-supportive view of their 2000 dumping of Dan DeCarlo, they might, even, recognize my name (unlikely though that seems to me) and, thinking me a hostile hack writer, elected not to supply me with any ammunition.
To avoid the inevitable footnote: DeCarlo, whose drawing style defined Archie Comics for half-a-century, had been fired in May 2000 because he’d filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Archie. He sought $250,000 damages in connection with a forthcoming film from Universal Pictures, “Josie and the Pussycats” (planned for summer 2001 release), which featured characters he created. DeCarlo concocted Josie (named after his wife) in about 1957 as a newspaper comic strip, Here’s Josie, aiming unsuccessfully at national syndication. Later, DeCarlo showed the strip to Archie’s Richard Goldwater, and the two tried to sell the strip to King Features. Again, unsuccessfully.  Subsequently, Richard and his father, John, decided that Josie would make a good comic book, and they asked DeCarlo to retool the strip for comic book publication. Josie was added to the Archie line-up in 1963. When Josie then formed an all-girl rock band (the Pussycats), the feature quickly spun off an animated tv version from Hanna-Barbera. In a 1988 contractual agreement, DeCarlo had given Archie rights only to comic book and comic strip productions featuring characters he created, not television or motion pictures. DeCarlo was suing for creator credit and 50 percent of the profits on all Josie and the Pussycats merchandise connected to the movie. Archie’s legal position was that DeCarlo had created Josie as “work for hire,” so the rights belonged to the company.
“I think anyone who's worked for this medium can relate to his situation,” animation producer Paul Dini said at the time. “We've seen it with [Superman creators] Siegel and Schuster and we've seen it with [Marvel Comics creator] Jack Kirby. Over the years, it's been ‘shut up and do your work,’ and now it's ‘shut up and get out.’ A man doesn't need to hear that when he's 80 years old and has created two of the franchises that have kept [Archie] alive” (Sabrina the Teenage Witch was the other character; DeCarlo was co-creator).
The next year, 2001, the National Cartoonists Society recognized DeCarlo’s contributions to American culture via comic books when it gave him a Reuben Division Award for comic book cartooning.
In any case, my biographical labors on John Goldwater were performed without any assistance from the official fount of information on Archie Comics. And they were right: I am, as far as their treatment of DeCarlo is concerned, a hostile hack. And after they slammed the door in my face, my nose was grievously out-of-joint, accounting, no doubt, for the snide tone that seeps into some of what follows. Despite this confession, once I began to research Goldwater, I very quickly came to believe that Goldwater himself claimed a little more than he was legitimately entitled to, at least in regard to the creation of Archie. The bald statement “I created Archie” is not quite the full truth of the matter. But he may have had a role in that creation—just as he did in the creation of the CMAA (perhaps, with the latter, even the “prime founder” role he sees for himself).
Like many who have had a role in the early history of comics and who have survived their contemporaries, Goldwater doubtless exaggerated somewhat his claims to fame. In recounting the events of his early life, for instance, Goldwater customarily recollected various of his romantic adventures with the fairer sex that paralleled Archie’s life with Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge and therefore seemed to support the claim that Goldwater had been Archie’s creator: Archie and his milieu, it seemed, came directly out of Goldwater’s life experiences. By the early 1980s, no one was around anymore who could contradict him. It seemed wonderfully pat. But I contacted cartoonist Bob Montana’s daughter (through their family website), and I was able to incorporate into my version of how Archie was created their version. Here, then, is my unofficial history of John Goldwater, knitting together as many of the known facts and reasonable testimonies as I can—in as charitable and sympathetic a construction as possible with a conspicuous lamination of some likely alternative interpretations.

John with John Jr.

John Goldwater was born February 14, 1916, in New York, New York, son of Daniel Goldwater and Edna Bogart Goldwater. About that, no dispute. His arrival, however, was (according to Goldwater) accompanied by melodrama enough to be a credit to an aspiring tragedian. According to various sources (for which Goldwater supplied the information), his mother died during childbirth, and the father, overcome by grief, abandoned the child and died soon afterward. Growing up in a foster home, Goldwater attended the High School of Commerce where he developed secretarial skills and some facility as a writer. At seventeen, he hitch-hiked across country, stopping first at Hiawatha, Kansas, where he found a reporting job on the local newspaper. In later years, Goldwater said he was fired because he got into a scrap over a girl with the son of the paper’s biggest advertiser. According to Goldwater, girl trouble was prominent in his young working life. Everywhere he went, his life was as complicated as that of Archie Andrews—and all because of girls.
Moving to Kansas City, Missouri, he found a job as secretary to the Administrator of Grand Canyon National Park. At the Park in Arizona, he violated a rule barring males from the female employee housing facility and was fired. Leaving for San Francisco, California, he went to work for the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, losing his job again because of his interest in a girl—this time, the secretary of his boss (she was, alas, also the object of the boss’s interest). Remaining in San Francisco, Goldwater worked at a variety of jobs and squired two girls around town, a blonde and a brunette. After about a year, he returned to New York via the Panama Canal, en route becoming involved (again) with two girls in a shipboard romance that went nowhere else.
Back in New York, he worked for various publishers and then became an entrepreneur, buying unsold periodicals, mainly pulp magazines, from publisher Louis H. Silberkleit and exporting them for sale abroad. Observing the success of the Superman character in the infant comic book industry in 1939, he joined with Silberkleit and Maurice Coyne to launch a comic book publishing firm with himself as editor (while continuing as president of Periodicals for Export, Inc.), Silberkleit as publisher, and Coyne as bookkeeper.
MLJ Comics (named with the first-name initials of the partners) produced its first comic book, Blue Ribbon Comics, with a cover date of November 1939. Top-Notch Comics followed in December, then Pep Comics in January 1940, and Zip Comics in February. These titles featured a cast of heroic characters similar to those in other comic books of the period—The Shield (the first patriotic comic book superhero), The Black Hood, Steel Sterling, Mr. Justice, The Comet, The Rocket, Captain Valor, Kardak the Mystic Magician, Swift of the Secret Service, and so on. None of the MLJ costumed crime fighters achieved the success enjoyed by rival publishers with Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, and Captain America. And then in late 1941, MLJ published the first story about the character who would make the company’s fortune. Archie Andrews, the irrepressible freckle-faced carrot-topped teenager, debuted in the back pages of Pep Comics with issue No. 22, and, almost simultaneously, in Jackpot Comics No. 4, both titles dated December 1941.
Drawn by Bob Montana, Archie quickly became the most popular character in the MLJ line-up and would eventually become the archetypal American teenager. Within a year, he was starring in his own comic book title, and on May 31, 1943, the radio program, “The Adventures of Archie Andrews,” began (to continue, on different networks, until September 1953). A newspaper comic strip version, produced by Montana, started February 4, 1946 and ran through the rest of the century and into the next. Also in 1946, the comic book company officially became Archie Comics Publications. Archie subsequently appeared in a television animated cartoon series (1969-77) and in two live-action television movies. For a brief time in the 1970s, the character lent his name to a chain of restaurants.
In the early 1950s, as the nation experienced an increase in juvenile crime, an assortment of critics, psychiatric and literary and political, charged that comic book stories bred youthful miscreants. Alarmed because the critics appeared to enlist greater and greater public support (particularly in governmental bodies with the power to enact controlling legislation), comic book publishers formed in 1954 an association to censor their product, cleansing it of objectionable content. The Comics Magazine Association of America was incorporated in September 1954 with Goldwater as President. “I was its prime founder,” Goldwater said. “Its purpose was to adopt a code of ethics to eliminate editorial and advertising material which was inimical to the best interests of the comic book industry as well as its readers. I ... succeeded in cooperation with industry leaders to quell the uproar and eliminate legislation which it is said could have put the comics industry in dire straits if not out of business altogether” (quoted in Mary Smith’s The Best of Betty and Veronica Summer Fun).

The CMAA’s chief function was to review in advance of publication every page of every comic book produced by its member publishers to assure that all comic books obeyed the Comics Code. Goldwater was one of the principal authors of the Code, which consisted of forty-one prohibitions concerning the portrayal of crime, violence, religion, sex, horror, nudity, and the like in both editorial and advertising pages. (“No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown”; “Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.”) Writing of the creation and history of the CMAA later in his book, Americana in Four Colors (1964), Goldwater said: “Taken together, these provisions constitute the most severe set of principles for any communications media in use today, restricting the use of many types of material permitted by the motion picture code and the codes for the television and radio industries.”
The day-to-day enforcement of the Code was performed by the Comics Code Authority, a panel of reviewers that operated under the direction of a full-time paid administrator. Comic books that passed the review carried the CMAA Seal of Approval on their covers. The Comics Code soon drove out of the industry several comic book publishers whose product could not pass the review and still retain its essential appeal. (The most celebrated of these was EC Comics, which had inaugurated an industry-wide trend of horror comic books. Bill Gaines, EC’s publisher, more than once rather strenuously suggested that it was to put EC Comics out of business, more than any other motive, that inspired Goldwater, who was, if we are to judge from Gaines’ alleged remark, every bit the prime mover that he claimed he was.)
Goldwater served as CMAA president for twenty-five years until he voluntarily relinquished the office, whereupon the board of directors created the position of Chairman of the Board, in which capacity Goldwater served for several years.
Goldwater married twice, the second time to Gloria Freidrun, with whom he had two children. (His son from his first marriage, Richard, became, for a time, an executive in Archie Comics; a son from his second, Jon, is at present co-CEO of the company and largely responsible for the rejuvenation of the line.) In addition to his involvement in the comic book industry, Goldwater was national commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, president of the New York Society for the Deaf, and Past Master of the Masonic Fraternity. In 1971, Archie Comics went public, but Goldwater’s son bought the company back in 1983 and installed his father as Honorary Chairman, a role he filled until he died of a heart attack at his home in Manhattan, February 26, 1999.

Although the question of who created Archie is clouded by rival claims from Montana and Goldwater, it may be that both contributed to the conception of the character that became the cornerstone of the publishing company. In official histories of Archie Comics, Goldwater is credited with inventing the characters and Montana with visualizing them. Goldwater usually cited his experiences in Hiawatha, Kansas, as the foundation for his vision of teenage life: as reporter for the local paper, he covered the high school athletic contests, which, in Hiawatha, were among the chief entertainments of the citizenry. Montana, on the other hand, points to his high school career at Haverhill, Massachusetts, where he encountered many people who later became characters in Archie. And the Thinker statue outside Archie’s Riverdale High School is a direct borrowing from Haverhill High.
Goldwater says the “catalyst” for Archie was Superman. “Archie was created,” he told Mary Smith, “as the antithesis to Superman—ordinary believable people with a background of humor instead of superheroes with powers beyond that of any normal being. Innumerable sleepless nights, dreaming and writing and rewriting characters that could catch the public’s fancy as Superman had was not just an ‘idea’ but a conscious appraisal of my experiences in the Middle West, California, and elsewhere. I had gone to school with a boy named Archie who was always in trouble with girls, parents, at school, etc.”
This notion seems at pretty severe odds with the usual supposition (mine, and I’m not alone) that Archie was an attempt to cash in on the popularity of such teenage heroes as Andy Hardy, played by Mickey Rooney in 15 films starting in 1937, and Henry Aldrich, the adolescent protagonist of “The Aldrich Family” on radio from 1939 until 1953—suppositions that Goldwater strenuously denied in a letter to the New York Times, August 21, 1988. And his memory may be more accurate than our speculations: MLJ hadn’t had any notable success with the superhero genre, so Goldwater might well have been looking into other more ordinary crannies for inspiration.
To suppose, for the nonce, that in this dispute, as in most such contests, each side has possession of a part of the truth, we can construct a situation that gives both sides credit for some part of the creation. Maybe it went something like this: Montana (according to his daughter quoting her mother) had been sketching ideas for a teenage comic strip for some years before he began freelancing with MLJ Comics in 1941. He presented his idea for a strip about four teenage boys to Goldwater, who was looking for a feature about teenagers (perhaps inspired, as I say, by the popularity of Andy Hardy and Henry Aldrich; perhaps not). Goldwater then suggested that the cast be reduced to two boys, Archie and Jughead (Forsythe P. Jones, who, incidentally, is named Forsythe Van Jones II in the newspaper strip), and, ostensibly drawing upon his own youthful adventures in the West with the opposing sex, he directed Montana to add a romantic interest, who was Betty Cooper. Vic Bloom is credited with writing the first story, perhaps guided somewhat by the Popular Comics character, Wally Williams, who had a sidekick named Jughead. (Ron Goulart told me that Wally Williams was written by a Vic Boni, who, he supposes, could have been Bloom writing under another name.) (Or vice versa.)
Veronica was missing from the initial appearances of the feature, but subsequently, after the first or second story, we may suppose that Goldwater recommended that Archie’s love-life be complicated by a rival to Betty (again, as Goldwater implied, relying upon his memories of his own escapades with blondes and brunettes in tandem). This was Veronica Lodge, a dark-haired vamp in contrast to Betty’s blonde wholesomeness. With the arrival of Veronica in April 1942, the stage was set for what became the feature’s chief plot mechanism—the competition between the two girls for Archie’s favors, a canny reversal of the traditional competition in which two men vie for one woman. (The sort of reversed configuration that Goldwater—again according to Goldwater—had apparently often found himself in. Known out West, he says, as “Broadway” because of his New York origins, he seemingly attracted the affections of at least two girls at the same time whenever he ventured out of the house.) In the comics, Archie complicated the reversal by not being able to make up his mind which of the girls he desired most.
Maybe, however, it was nothing like this. I asked around in various places to find out if any living witnesses could be found who recalled the creation of Archie and company. Journalist and comics connoisseur Jay Maeder kept my request in mind for a time and was able, eventually, to provide the following (all in italics):
Met a gent named Joe Edwards at a cartoonist function yesterday, and, as he turned out to be a very early MLJ guy who said he’d been around at Archie’s creation, I picked his brain a little. And he sez: One day he and Bob Montana were called in by John Goldwater and instructed to whip up something new, market-wise, something totally unlike all the costumed-superhero stuff flooding the stands. Whereupon he and Montana sat down and created Archie and the whole cast of characters. This was the entire sum and substance of Goldwater’s contribution. In short, Goldwater had nothing to do with it. Not only did he not specify an Archie-like character, he never even specified teenage humor. All he wanted was non-superhero. 
RE the story Goldwater told me about his having hitchhiked around the country and gotten into some small-town trouble over the local Indian babes, this ostensibly being the genesis of Reggie: Edwards says he’s heard that story many, many times, and it’s a total crock. How self-serving Edwards’ own version might be, I can’t say. He didn’t seem to be a braggart or a blusterer (unlike JG, for example), and his Bails listing supports the career history he gave me. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s a primary-source reminiscence for ya. End of Maeder’s report.
RCH again: The Maeder-Edwards account fits somewhat with another Goldwater version (the one in which he was inspired by Superman to find something wholly different). And I’m inclined to believe Edwards on Jay’s recommendation. It’s possible to incorporate the Montana family contention into this version, too: although Edwards says he and Montana, in effect, jointly invented the Archie ensemble, he may not have known that Montana had been toying around with teenage characters for some years; so when the opportunity presented itself in conference with Edwards, Montana simply pulled his notions off the shelf in the back of his mind and offered them. It may have been Edwards (not Goldwater) who suggested dropping two of the teenage foursome that Montana had originally envisioned. In fact, perhaps we could safely substitute Edwards’ name for Goldwater’s throughout the narrative of Archie’s conception.
In the last analysis, I favor Edwards’ version because Goldwater’s seems so self-aggrandizing, so typical of a survivor: because no one can any longer contradict his assertions, the survivor, however marginal his actual participation in the events being turned into official archives, feels free to claim all sorts of achievements, thereby elevating his role in history. Highly suspicious. Maybe true, but still suspicious.
A fallacy lurks in favoring Edwards’ version of these events: since I’m already inclined to disbelieve Goldwater’s version, I’m likewise inclined to believe any credible alternative—in this case, Edwards’. In other words, I’m a sucker for anything that agrees with my own biases.
For an early Montana version of the creation of Archie, I turn to the May 1970 issue of Jud Hurd’s Cartoonist PROfiles. Interviewed by Hurd, Montana says: “John Goldwater came to me and said they’d like me to try and create a teenage strip. John thought of the name ‘Archie’ and together we worked it out. I created the characters and developed it.”
This interview undoubtedly took place well before the official version of Archie’s conception was formally adopted as a compromise between the Goldwaters and the Montanas (with Goldwater inventing the characters and Montana visualizing them), and while it fits, albeit somewhat awkwardly, into that formulation, Montana says quite unequivocally “I created the characters.” At the time of this interview, Montana was producing the Archie newspaper strip, but he was still working for Goldwater, and presumably anything he said had to conform, more-or-less, with whatever notions Goldwater was nurturing—hence, Goldwater names the character and “together we worked it out.” Still, “I created the characters and developed it” is a pretty straight-forward refutation of the official Goldwater claim. And it fits better—although scarcely perfectly—with what Edwards said.
I’m tempted to let Montana have the last words, but a few syllables need tweaking, so I’ll plunge further into the thicket.
By the mid-1950s, most teenagers in comics had faded away, leaving Archie as the nation’s perennial adolescent, and his high school adventures, laced with romantic frustration as well as simple juvenile pranksterism, embodied in popular culture a widely accepted notion of teenage life for generations thereafter. Montana left MLJ Comics in late 1942 for military service in World War II, and when he returned to civilian life in 1946, it was deemed time to introduced Archie to newspaper readers and Montana was given the job. While Montana was solely responsible for the newspaper comic strip version of Archie until his death in 1975, Goldwater continued to oversee the operation of Archie’s fate in an ever-lengthening list of teenage comic book titles from Archie Comics. He also doubtless perpetuated the myth that he was the principal creator of Archie.
A myth, comics historian (and editor of this site) Dan Nadel tells me, still alive and well at Archie. But the IDW publication lately of Archie: The Classic Newspaper Strips (1946-1948) “goes some way towards giving credit to Montana,” Nadel said, adding that the volume “shows Montana to be a better writer/artist than anyone thought.”
It’s possible that Montana was working with better writers on the strip than he’d been collaborating with earlier on the comic book Archie, but in the Cartoonist PROfiles interview, Montana says he’s working solo: “I do all of the writing of the daily and Sunday Archie strips,” he says, adding that he usually writes a week’s worth of dailies in one eight-to-noon morning session; the Sunday, on another morning. And with the dailies, Montana successfully produces the most challenging of the newspaper comic strip genre—humorous continuity in which an on-going story is punctuated every day with a punchline.

Visually, these first two years of Archie burst with energy: the characters are often depicted full-figure, and they seem constantly in motion. Greg Goldstein, the book’s editor, marvels that the strips seem “overstuffed with animated characters bursting at the panel edges—the antithesis of today’s simplistic ‘talking head’ approach to the gag strip.” I agree, but I don’t go as far as he does when he says the strips have a “kinetic energy that’s rarely been matched before or since in humor strips.” It would seem that Goldstein has never seen Gene Byrnes’ Reg’ler Fellers, for instance, or any of a dozen other pre-1950 humor strips that were rendered in an equally lively manner. Most comic strips, in fact, were better drawn in the years before post-World War II shrinkage set in, reducing the space available for any kind of drawing at all.
Montana, like many cartoonists who produce daily newspaper strips, employed an assistant who helped with the drawing. But it was Montana’s visual sensibility that shaped the strip. “It usually takes me from one to two days to pencil the six daily strips,” he told Hurd. “I pencil the Sunday page, as a rule, the same day that I write it. Next, I ink the heads or anything particularly important, and then send the stuff down to my assistant in Manchester. He inks the bodies, the backgrounds, etc., and delivers the finished strips to King Features.”
The recent revitalization at Archie Comics has indirectly, or directly, provoked a small flight of books about Archie. In addition to the IDW volume reprinting the first two years of the comic strip, Dark Horse has launched an archival series, beginning with Archie Firsts, a compilation of stories recording the first appearances of Archie (whose nickname is “Chic” in the first story), Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and Reggie, and continuing with volumes that reprint the comic book stories in sequence. Artists Dan DeCarlo, Stan Goldberg, Harry Lucey, and Samm Schwartz have each been spotlighted in collections of their Archie art. Archie stories are being packaged in book form at a furious rate—the best of the 1950s, 1960s, Christmas “classics,” and so on; the excitement threatens to go on forever. But Craig Yoe’s Archie: A Celebration of America’s Favorite Teenagers, is the best of this conspicuous spate.
Yoe begins with a short history of the founding of the company by Goldwater, Silberkleit, and Coyne, then provides brief biographies of the Archie characters, followed by essays about most of the principals involved in creating Archie stories—John Goldwater, Bob Montana, Harry Shorten, Victor Gorelick, and Dan DeCarlo and other artists (Bob Bolling, Harry Lucey, Samm Schwartz, Stan Goldberg, Dan Parent, Fernando Ruiz) and writers George Gladir, Frank Doyle, and Craig Boldman, concluding with Jon Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit and Mike Pellerito, the trio responsible for the present rejuvenation of the company’s funnybooks.
Like all of the books Yoe has produced in the last few years, Celebration is a trove of rarities, a veritable feast of visual treasures—many never printed before—among them: from Close-Up magazine, a 5-page fumetti-style article showing how comic book characters are made (employing photos of various MLJ staffers at work), promotional brochures, paper dolls, fan club premiums, company Christmas cards, pages from calendars featuring the Archie characters, dozens of photos of various personages through the years, and, rarity of rarities, a previously unpublished story about Archie’s cousin Andy Andrews, an adventuring journalist up to his neck in Cold War espionage, drawn in a somewhat more realistic manner by Harry Lucey and reproduced from the original art. It also includes a few other complete stories from the Archie canon—Archie’s debut story from Pep, for instance.

Several of the biographies about Archie creators include interviews conducted by Yoe,and all of these essays, whether derived from ancient records or contemporary transcripts, are presented with exemplary journalistic objectivity. Taken together, they can be viewed as testimonies, often in the witness’s own words, offered as they stand without editorial adjustments or comment, regardless of the occasional contradictory assertion. Yoe lets us be the jury: based upon the testimonies before us, we get to decide who’s embellishing the truth and who isn’t. Goldwater and Montana each testify about the creation of Archie, and each essay shines a little new light on the dispute.
The Montana essay notes that Montana “visually modeled Archie after himself.” Quoting from an unpublished  John Goldwater autobiography, Yoe supplies the whole creation myth from the publisher’s perspective, beginning with Goldwater’s “sketching” characters, displaying a heretofore unheralded drawing ability: “One day, while I was sketching, a face stared back at me. ‘Why are you so special?’ I asked the penciled drawing on my table in front of me. He reminded me of someone else, an old school friend named Archie. ... [who] used to commiserate with me all the time about the problems he had with girls because of their rivalries for his affection.” There we have it: Archie bursting full blown from Goldwater’s forehead.
On the other hand, the Montana essay is accompanied by copies of pages from Montana’s highschool diaries that depict a teenage youth in plaid pants, bow tie and saddle shoes, an ensemble that would materialize years later as Archie’s standard wardrobe.
Joe Edwards is not among those who rate a professional biography in the book, but he’s quoted in the Harry Shorten essay. Shorten was an editor at MLJ, and he conceived, wrote, or edited much of the line during the company’s early period “and was, in fact, the editor of Pep when Archie debuted.” Shorten’s “was the guiding editorial hand. Artist Joe Edwards told comics historian and Archie inker Jim Amash, ‘He was a very good editor. He made the guys feel very important. ... [He] was very instrumental [in the development of Archie] and kept it afloat. Let me put it this way: Harry was a good writer. He knew how to take a story and make it into a viable product.’ According to an anecdote passed down in Shorten’s family, Harry himself suggested the Betty-Veronica rivalry, inspired by his own daughters, one of whom had dark hair while the other was blonde.”
In the Harry Lucey essay, Yoe quotes Lucey’s daughter, Barbara Lucey Tancredi, who believes that Goldwater asked Montana and Lucey to create the new character when the two young men were sharing a studio on 14th Street on Union Square. “They met my mother and my Aunt Betty,” said she, “who both worked in a nearby building, in a restaurant in the area. Bob Montana dated my aunt and named the character Betty for her. Veronica was my father’s character—based on Veronica Lake with the pageboy haircut.”
Nothing in Yoe’s book settles anything about individual creatorship. Nor is it intended to. Everything in it, in fact, supports the notion, as Yoe says, that creating (and producing) Archie was (and is) a team effort, a collaborative enterprise. (Instant of revelation: I count Craig Yoe among my friends, so my opinions in this segment may be as suspect as they are on Goldwater, about whom I don’t feel very friendly—although he was undeniably a nice fella; how else would he keep all the friends he had?)
Despite all the competing versions about the conception of Archie—or, perhaps, because of them—Goldwater’s role has shrunk to considerably less than his claim to have invented Archie out of the whole cloth of his own life.
Goldwater was still in charge in December 1961 when Harvey Kurtzman published a satiric attack on the Playboy life style in Help!, the humor magazine he launched in the wake of the failed Trump (which he had left Mad to found in 1956). The story was part of a series in which Kurtzman starred a character named Goodman Beaver who encountered the evils of American society in the manner of Voltaire’s naive innocent, Candide. In order to hone his satire on the Playboy life with ludicrous contrast, Kurtzman (aided and abetted by Willie Elder on the artwork) deployed a supporting cast of characters that looked remarkably like Archie and his Riverdale cohorts but behaved like shameless hedonists, chasing relentlessly after booze, broads, and bon temps galore.
The Goldwater cabal took umbrage at this high-handed appropriation of its flagship characters. On December 6, 1961, James Warren, publisher of Help!, received a letter accusing him of copyright infringement and demanding that all issues of the offending magazine be removed from the nation’s newsstands (an impossibility). The contending parties settled out-of-court: Warren paid Archie Comics $1,000 and agreed to publish an apology in the magazine; and Archie gave up the fight. For the moment.
But not for long. Shortly thereafter, Kurtzman and Elder arranged with MacFadden-Bartell Books to publish a volume reprinting their Goodman Beaver stories. Elder modified the appearance of the Archie-like characters so that, while they still suggested their prototypes, they weren’t identical copies as they had been in their first incarnation in Help! Archie Comics again took to its legal guns, and, again, the dispute was settled out-of-court: this time, Kurtzman and Elder signed over to Archie Comics all rights to their lampoon story, effectively giving up possession of their own creation. And so when Denis Kitchen undertook in 1983 to publish the Goodman Beaver stories again in a definitive edition, he had to ask Archie’s permission to use the Playboy satire. Archie said, “No.”
Oddly, the Goldwater Gang seems to have been so completely humorless as to fail to understand that the object of the satire was Playboy, not Archie Comics. Even odder, when Kurtzman had specifically ridiculed the Archie universe in four-color Mad Comics, Goldwater and his minions did nothing. No objection at all. And that satire has been reprinted in paperback re-issues frequently since it originally appeared in the June 1954 issue of Mad Comics. Had Kurtzman and Warren gone to court over the first objection that Archie Comics made to the parody, they most certainly would have won the case under the usual freedom of speech banner of the First Amendment. But once Kurtzman had given Archie Comics possession of the material, he’d given up his freedom to speak in the form of this parody. The Comics Journal, in its customary display of daring (or foolhardiness), reprinted the verboten story in No. 262.
This episode coupled with what Goldwater says about his role in the formation of the CMAA seems ample evidence of his somewhat stiff-necked self-righteousness. Not the sort of guy, really, who can be imagined as inventing the prank- and pratfall-ridden world of Archie Andrews. Well, not readily imagined in that role. But Goldwater is more likely to be remembered for his pivotal part in the CMAA than for his participation in the life of Archie Andrews. And that ain’t all bad. Although the CMAA was blamed for stifling the growth and development of the comic book as an art form, the creation of the Code may have forestalled the passage of stringent laws regulating the industry. Who can say for sure? And now the entire edifice has crumbled to pieces. And a good thing, too.

Bibliographic Details. Goldwater wrote a history of the CMAA, Americana in Four Colors: A Decade of Self-Regulation by the Comics Magazine Industry (1964) and collaborated on The Best of Archie(1980), chiefly a collection of reprinted comic book stories. The most complete biographical account was obtained by Mary Smith by interviewing Goldwater and is published in Smith’s The Best of Betty and Veronica Summer Fun (1991), a publication of the Archie Fan Magazine. The creation of Archie is recounted in Archie: His First 50 Years by Charles Phillips (1991) and again by Craig Yoe in his Archie: A Celebration of America’s Favorite Teenagers (2011). Yoe also supplies the story of the founding of MLJ, which is also rehearsed in Over 50 Years of American Comic Books by Ron Goulart (1991), and the birth of the Comics Magazine Association of America and the criticism of comic books that prompted its creation are discussed at length in Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code by Amy Kiste Nyberg (1998). The first two years of the Archie in the funnies appear in Archie: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics, 1946-1948 (2010). Montana discusses production of the newspaper incarnation of Archie in Cartoonist PROfiles No. 6 (May 1970). Goldwater’s obituary appeared in The New York Times,March 2, 1999.
Editor's note: For more on the Comics Code, click over to Jeff Trexler's recent series on TCJ. 

And for those who don't click over to tcj's website, here are two interesting replies to the story, one from Archie and all around comics historian Shaun Clancy:

Gary Dunaier says:
“Even odder, when Kurtzman had specifically ridiculed the Archie universe in four-color Mad Comics, Goldwater and his minions did nothing. No objection at all.”
Not only that, but there’s an “Easter Egg” reference to it in Archie #601 (the issue where Archie marries Veronica in the “Archie Gets Married” storyline) – Archie complains that the collar on his tuxedo is too stiff and he can’t breathe. Reggie says “From now on we’re gonna call you ‘Starchie!’“, to which Jughead replies “You sound mad, Reg!”

shaun clancy says:
You forgot a major portion on your coverage of the Bob Montana side of things. I wrote an interview of Barbara Lucey’s aunt Betty in Alter Ego #104 as a teaser for my upcoming book. If your readers like your article, they will love this upcoming book where I show them where everything came from and expose all the untruths that you gallantly tried to cover. You have been a lot closer at this than most and I applaud you for digging into it. My book has been two years in the making and is in the editing stages but look for my name next year. I will have never before seen autobiographies of Harry Shorten, Harry Lucey and Bob Montana in addition to testimonials from people who were there at the time Archie was created. I grew up in Haverhill/Lawrence, MA, my parents went to Haverhill High and my grandparents went to Haverhill High…..I believe this background will make me an authority on this subject if you also take into account the 15 years of interviewing of golden age artists too. Side note…..Gary Groth would never return any of my phone calls :)
shaun clancy

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