The first ever artist to depict the fundamental Archie Comic characters was none other than Bob Montana, way back in late 1942. Many of the comic’s primary characters were caricatures of people Montana new from his early adolescent days. Alongside other, more well known artists, he continued to draw for Archie Comics until his death in the 1970’s.
Bob Montana’s Archie was composed of several distinctive features including: Small, round eyes, characteristic freckle pattern around the nose and unique ear and mouth designs. He also made use of bold lines in his drawings which often added to the emotional state of the characters.
Alongside Bob Montana, Harry Lucey worked as an Archie Comics artist from the early 1950’s until the mid 1970’s. Lucey was well known for his depiction of fluid, natural movements in the comic series. He also made use of bold, stark lines which added depth and movement to his depictions. The contemporary comics artist, Jaime Hernandez, gives credit to Lucey as being one of his greatest sources of inspiration. Their shared drawing styles can be seen in many of Hernandez’s works, such as the long-running and well-known Love and Rockets series.
Next up, we have the prominent Jughead Jones artist, Samm Schwartz. Although Schwartz is not well known for his depiction of the Archie character, the long time he spent as an artist for the Archie Comics series allowed him to draw Archie in his own unique way. Unlike Schwartz’ two colleagues previously discussed, his depiction of Archie included new characteristics that were not previously seen. Some of these include: less substantial outlines of the face, messy hair design, ears that are higher set on the head as well as a unique ear design, slightly smaller and more wide-set eyes, as well as substantially less boldly drawn eyebrows.
Another classic Archie Comics artist was Dan DeCarlo, who was known for drawing the characters in clothing and settings characteristic of the time the comic was being produced. He was also a prominent Betty and Veronica artist who was noted for drawing the female form in a more pin-up style than previous artists. Like Samm Schwartz’ Archie, DeCarlo included features that were not typical of earlier Archie Comics works. For example, his use of additional lines around Archie’s eyes to give depth as well as characteristic mouth and ear shapes.
A more contemporary Archie Comics artist was Harry Scarpelli, who drew for the series in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. His Archie style is very similar to Dan DeCarlo but includes aspects of Bob Montana’s work, such as with eye design.
Over the 70 years that the Archie character has existed, his appearance has fluctuated based on both the preferences of the artist and the time period of the work. In the earliest stages of Archie comics the use of bold lines and more simplistic features were used to exemplify character movement and expression. During later periods of Archie Comics, subjects were designed with more subtle characteristics and greater amounts of detail. A gradual continuum in Archie’s appearance therefore exists when the designs of all the various artists who have drawn him are considered together.
In my opinion, the greatest Archie artist was the original, Bob Montana. He laid the foundation on which all other artists based their work, and although his art may not be the most iconic or recognizable, his style of Archie looks the most natural. Harry Lucey may have perfected the character’s movement and design, but the rawness of Montana’s Archie is unique and endearing.
– Ashley Shannon