Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"It's the Chicago South Side Choir Society! It's their annual uplift cruise for Meditation Week!"

One more Archie-related story that I wanted to upload, this one drawn by Samm Schwartz. Schwartz was one of the great teen-comedy illustrators, both for Archie and outside titles like Tippy Teen. He always drew the characters in a way that always stood out in the digests; he was the guy who drew the characters in a way that was modern (unlike the stories that obviously came from the '40s or '50s) and yet very cartoony and not as prettied-up as the others; he wasn't exactly a sexy-girl artist, or at least he didn't draw the girls that way. Jughead stories were his specialty, and his best work was on the Jughead title in the '70s.

Some of his designs could be a little grotesque, like his Little Archie artwork, but at his best he was by far the funniest of the Archie artists, in part because he often felt free to throw in gags of his own: another thing that stood out about his stories was that he would have random characters doing funny things in the background, gags spilling out of one panel and into another, little things that weren't scripted but were thrown in because Samm thought they'd make the panel look funnier. Whenever Frank Doyle wrote a Schwartz story, the combination of Doyle's Vaudeville humor and Schwartz's deadpan humor was perfect; they were arguably the best writer-artist team Archie ever had.

I wish I had more Schwartz/Doyle stories than I do, but this story, drawn by Schwartz and probably written by Doyle, is a fairly good example of their work together, though it doesn't contain quite as many crazy throwaway gags as my very favorite Schwartz stories. But it does have the guy slipping on the ice in the first panel, and that broad pratfall in the background is very Schwartzian. The story itself starts out as a typical Frank Doyle patter/chatter about nothing, and then turns into a fantasy sequence where Jughead helps Al Capone (called by name, and puffing on cigars with lots of thick comedy smoke; two things the current title probably couldn't get away with) smuggle hamburgers into the U.S.

Update: After posting the above, I found, and scanned, the story I transcribed in my Frank Doyle post, "In Search of Sanity"; this story doesn't have a lot of background characters either, but it's a great showcase for Doyle's minimalist storytelling, and Schwartz's way of making that storytelling work; there's no plot, but there doesn't need to be when Schwartz makes these characters so much fun to hang out with. (Schwartz's take on all the characters is to make them as likable as they can be, even Veronica.)


Albert Giesbrecht said...

Notice Jughead doing the Steve Martin bit from 1979?

Jorge Garrido said...

I love Samm's artwork, even his Little Archie stuff. I always recognized it as a kid. What I love about it is not that it's modern, but that it's old-fashioned. I've seen stories from the 1990s with Jughead's baby sister drawn by Schwartz that looked like they were drawn in the 60s. I don't think anybody else drew like that so late in the game.

Jorge Garrido said...

Just had to add this. The greatest Samm gag ever was Svenson carrying two ends of the same ladder in the background of a story at the school, with Mr. Weatherbee being shocked at this in the second panel. He also always drew his own name into the background all the time.

Ben said...

I liked Schwartz's style because it stood out from a lot of the other stories: there was a detatched minimalism to his drawing. His stories tended to have the titles in a standard font as well.

I'd have to say I liked Harry Lucey's stuff the best though.