Thursday, March 11, 2010

There's more to it than just making "pretty pictures" - Part One

Drawing a character falling down can be a real challenge. Standing, running, even flying is easy, but a pratfall or a stumble is hard to show clearly in just one panel. So what do you do when a script calls for it? You might start by studying the work of a terrific "Archie" artist named Samm Schwartz.  This five-page story from 1977 has at least five separate examples of Jughead falling flat on the ground. It's also worth noting that Schwartz did his own inking and lettering. I like the way the sound effects are incorporated into the art, not just arbitrarily pasted over the figures. Like his contemporary, Harry Lucey, he was skilled at gestures and body language. The fretting victims in this story show their emotions in every movement. I especially like the motorist in the last panel on page three.


  1. This is an interesting topic for sure. I think displaying movement in pictures has got to be the most challenging aspect of artwork. And when you add "gag" panels in, it just has to compound that factor. The fact that in some cases, the brain will fill in those aspects of movement in cases like flying, fighting, etc. But falls, slips, etc. these are prime examples. Think the characters, artwork and title can help dictate how successful this can be though.

  2. smeerp !! is a terrific sound effect!

  3. Ha!
    Poor, latently gay Jughead!
    Great educational post!

    Present in each fall was:
    1.speed/action lines to indicate movement.
    2. sound effect.
    3. body on/near ground in an unnatural position.
    4. pained look on faller's face.

    That's good, solid art, too. I haven't seen one lately, but I find it notable that the ARCHIE comics characters, aside from Montana's original (more earthy) designs, have followed the same design from the late 50's/early 60's through 2007(a new look was introduced), which does speak to the talent of the mostly unheralded artists. I guess that's a two-edged sword, in that it shows the strength of artists like Schwartz (or Lucey), but on the other hand, if you hadn't told me who the artist was, there is nothing in the 'house' art style to readily identify the artist(s).
    The curse of a house style!

    Now let's see your version of Archie, Kevin!

  4. but on the other hand, if you hadn't told me who the artist was, there is nothing in the 'house' art style to readily identify the artist(s).

    There are a few ways to identify Schwartz; particularly the way the characters' legs and arms protrude out of the panels, and his obsessive use of silhouetting. Also by this time his way of drawing the girls was very simplified and (unlike all the other artists) kind of deliberately un-sexy.

    Eventually a lot of Archie artists started imitating Dan DeCarlo, but Schwartz, Lucey and a few other veterans always had their distinctive styles that they retained. In fact Schwartz was the first artist who, as a kid, I was able to recognize; the Marvel and DC guys looked alike to me (at the time, I mean, not any more), but I always knew that Schwartz's Jughead stories looked like nobody else's.

  5. Jaime, I knew right after I wrote that last comment that many astute comic fans who were knowledgeable in Archie comics (for one) would in fact recognize the personal 'trademarks' such as you have mentioned. Thank you for enlightening me.

  6. Terrific thread - and what a thrill to see original Samm Schwartz boards! As a kid who read (nay, imbibed) Archie Comics digests, which juxtaposed Archie artists from all eras, I learned to discern the different styles and pick my faves. Though I hasten to add that they were all undeniably talented and multifaceted, as seemed all of the artists who came up in the 50s and 60s. The frustrating part was not having names to go with the art because Archie didn't print credits. Samm Schwartz was the house artist on Jughead long enough, bless him, that his signature eventually began appearing on covers and I learned his name. However, it was literally only a few months ago that I personally learned Mr. Lucey's name (either in conversation with Archie editor Mike P. or with another Archie art god, Stan G.). I consider Mr. Lucey to be the Jim Aparo of the Archie set: a Toth-like distiller of style, observation and experience whose art appears so effortlessly conceived that, ironically, the art and artist receive less recognition and appreciation than IMHO is deserved. And I echo all kudos re Kevin N.'s Juggy rendering.