Archie Goodwin and his Golden Age at Warren
For those of us collectors who remember the peak years of the highly acclaimed line known as Entertaining Comics, much of the namby-pamby mediocre material that came after E.C. was a disappointment.
The era of quality horror, science fiction, and war comics had vanished sometime in 1956 and, thanks to the Comics Code Authority and the anti-horror mood of the country, most of what remained of the comics field was dishwater bland. Many of E.C.'s super-stars, artists like Wally Wood, Bernie Krigstein, Al Williamson and Jack Davis were forced to look for work in marginal "semi" science fiction and horror comics like Atlas' (now Marvel) Strange Tales, Journey Into Mystery, and Tales To Astonish. Some of those artists, like Krigstein and Davis, dropped out of the field entirely.
And then came James Warren's Creepy. Warren had first entered the publishing arena with Famous Monsters of Filmland (edited by Forrest J. Ackerman), a magazine devoted to publishing horror movie features and photos for young readers. The magazine was a success and (with "4E's" encouragement) Warren premiered another publishing effort in 1964, Creepy,sporting a suitably creepy cover by Jack (Tales from the Crypt) Davis
Creepy featured art by other E.C. artists like Al Williamson, Reed Crandall, Frank Frazetta, and Joe Orlando, to name just a few, as well fine material by Steve (Spider-Man) Ditko, and relative newcomers like Dan (Dr. Strange) Adkins, John (Howard the Duck) Brunner and Bernie (Swamp Thing) Wrightson. By and large, the written material in the first few issues was handled by some other newcomers like then-editor Russ Jones, Larry Ivie, Bill Pearson, and... Archie Goodwin. By the fourth issue Jones had departed as Creepy's editor, replaced by Goodwin.
An improvement and quite fitting: Goodwin had been a dyed-in-the E.C. fan since the 1950s, a contributor to the E.C. fanzine Hoohah (edited by John Benson) as well as a cartoonist for a science fiction fanzine (Twig Illustrated) that Dan Adkins art-directed. Archie had been so enamored of the E.C. era that he enrolled in an art school that many E.C. artists had attended, the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (now my alma mater, the School of Visual Arts). By the time he graduated, there was precious little left of the field worth working for, and Goodwin found work first at Redbook magazine and later working as an assistant for Leonard Starr's comic strip, On Stage.
Goodwin left a second stint at Redbook to become editor of first Creepy and then Eerie, Warren's second black and white horror title. During Archie's tenure on those magazines, the list of artists that contributed material to the magazines reads like a virtual who's-who of the best in the field. Just as important, Goodwin's scripting was superb, mastering the elements of mood and suspense that had made such collectible titles like The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror a macabre pleasure to read. As an editor, Goodwin's ability was on par with his scripting skills, matching up stories to the appropriate artist's talent that he recruited.
In October of 1965 a third title was added to the Warren comic magazine stable, Blazing Combat, debuting with an impressive Frazetta cover (a mint copy of the first issue is valued at $150).
Blazing Combat was a worthy successor to the earlier E.C. war titles, Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, edited by the late Harvey Kurtzman (in whose honor comicdom's Harvey Awards are named). The stories were both gritty and realistic, with art by Wally Wood, Alex Toth, Russ Heath, George Evans, Reed Crandall, and John Severin, showing the true horror of war.
Perhaps the timing wasn't right; an understatement: America was just entering the morass of the Vietnam War, which may have taken away an appetite for war stories. Sales were poor, and, with the fourth issue, Blazing Combat was no more. (Later the series would be reprinted by Apple Press in 1994: both the Apple and Warren versions can be found for sale on eBay.)
Goodwin left Warren's magazines in 1966 (although he would continue to freelance for them until 1970) to begin work editing and writing in the mainstream of comics, which -- thanks to the Marvel Revolution -- had become a more interesting field in which to work in. During the course of his three-decade career the quality of his writing and editing skills remained high. In his second stay at Marvel, Archie held the position as Editor-In-Chief and went on to edit the entire line of that company's Epic Comics from 1982 to 1990. In addition to his editing work, Goodwin found the time to write various titles, including Dazzler, Wolverine,and the movie adaption of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi.
After leaving Marvel, Goodwin served as group editor at DC, editing Starman, Azrael, Batman: The Long Halloween, and Legends Of The Dark Knight,among others.
During his span at Marvel, Seaboard, and DC he also picked up many friends and admirers; Archie Goodwin was warmly regarded by the majority of the people he knew. Unfortunately, shortly after returning to DC, he was diagnosed with cancer and fought with the disease for eight years until March 1, 1998. The field is poorer for this loss.
An Archie Goodwin Memorial Award has been
set up at The School of Visual Arts, an award given to a top student in
his/her Junior year. Anyone wishing to contribute to the Scholarship fund
may contact: SVA Foundation, School of Visual Arts, C/O Mark Dawson,
209 E. 23rd, New York, N.Y., 10010.