Monday, December 06, 2010

Jon D'Agostino

As the local Archie buff I should say something about the death of artist, inker and letterer Jon D'Agostino. His best-known credit is probably lettering the first Spider-Man story. He also did a lot of work as a penciller, including Charlton's Archie rip-off "Freddy." But his most distinctive and interesting work came after he joined the exodus to Archie -- following Dan DeCarlo but preceding his Marvel trainee Stan Goldberg -- where he mostly worked as an inker.

D'Agostino's inking style is similar to, though just distinguishable from, that of his friend Joe Sinnott; in fact, Sinnott spent several years moonlighting at Archie, picking up some of D'Agostino's workload and inking some of D'Agostino's own pencils. I have trouble describing it technically, but it's distinguished by a very solid and slick look, a less cartoony approach than most humor-comics inkers took.

The artist D'Agostino inked most frequently was Goldberg, whose pencils can sometimes be unsteady or "swimmy" because he works so fast. (Al Hartley was the same way. Dan DeCarlo was the only one of the ex-Marvel guys who could produce consistently good-looking work while turning out that much material, and he's the only one of them whose work looked more or less the same no matter who was inking.) With D'Agostino, Goldberg's art never looked that way, because he polished it up and gave it a sense of weight.

D'Agostino was Goldberg's main inker on most of the crazy adventure stories in Life With Archie and Archie at Riverdale High did in the '70s and '80s. He also inked for Gene Colan on the equally bizarre Jughead's Time Police, and for Bob Bolling on a number of stories (making Bolling's pencils look astonishingly like Goldberg's).

Here is an excerpt from one of the stories from perhaps the weirdest of the many weird experiments at Archie in the '70s: the attempt to transform Betty and Me into a soap-opera parody in the style of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Frank Doyle did the writing as usual (having characters repeat stuff we already read in the captions was a joke he got mileage out of for 45 years), Goldberg did all the pencils, and D'Agostino did all the inks.

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