Archie Goodwin talks about DC in his last interview
Conducted by & © Jon B. Cooke
Book Artist #1
What follows is the final interview that Archie Goodwin gave before
he passed away on March 1, 1998. It was conducted via telephone on
February 20, 1998, while Archie was preparing to leave on what became
his last day in the DC offices. While I was not able to get a transcription
to Archie before his passing, Dennis O'Neil was kind enough to do
an initial edit, and the final transcript was approved by Anne T.
Murphy, Archie's wife. Very special thanks to Anne, Dennis, and Paul
COMIC BOOK ARTIST: I'm doing an issue devoted to DC Comics
between 1967 and 1974.
ARCHIE GOODWIN: Right.
CBA: I'm starting with Dick's arrival in '68 and ending with
your departure in '74.
CBA: I've chosen your departure kind of arbitrarily but in
the hopes of basically discussing why a lot of creative talent was
leaving DC at a period of time. Anyway, where were you working before
starting at DC?
Archie: Let's see: I think I was probably freelancing at Marvel.
CBA: Is that when you were doing Iron Man?
Archie: And the Hulk, and some other stuff. Yeah.
CBA: You did some great Hulk stories, I thought.
Archie: Yup. Or was that later on?
CBA: No. That was '72 or '73. What made you go over? You seemed
to jump around from company to company a lot.
Archie: Yeah, I would always try to get out before they caught
CBA: [laughs] What do you mean? Caught doing what?
Archie: Just a joke. I think I maybe suffered from a short
attention span a little bit, so I could do something for a year or
two but then I began feeling the itch to move on. I always find new
offers tempting. It's great if you're doing something that you really,
really like but it's also great to somehow have something shiny and
new waved in front of your face, too. While I had been doing freelance
writing for Marvel, I got the offer from Carmine Infantino of DC to
take over three of their War books that Joe Kubert had been editing.
Since he was taking on Tarzan and a couple of other projects he didn't
want to continue working full-time on those. I had been away from
editing-and away from War comics-since I did Blazing Combat at Warren,
so it was a tempting new opportunity.
CBA: Did you follow Kubert's War books at all? Did you have
to play catch-up?
Archie: Not too much. Back in those days there were not so
many comics being published that you couldn't go back and re-read
and pick up on stuff pretty well. You could also kind of keep up with
the stuff. Kubert's books were always interesting, visually exciting
books so I had a fair idea of what was going on in those.
CBA: When you went into the job, were you looking back at
Blazing Combat or were you seeing this as an entirely different thing?
Were you going to follow Kubert's lead or did you want to try something
Archie: No. I wanted to do a bit of a mixture of both. The
format of the books involved continuing lead features which I'd never
tried with War material and they also included some short stories
thrown in as well-and I could kind of do Blazing Combat-style short
stories and yet also get to try the longer-form material of the continuing
CBA: If memory serves, you did "The Losers" with
Johnny Severin doing the art.
Archie: Right. Robert Kanigher was writing it.
CBA: Did you say, "We're going to establish continuity"?
It never had continued stories before.
Archie: That was one of the things I tried to get going into
all of the books with the on-going characters. If you're going to
have continuing characters, I felt that there should be some continuing
continuity. [pause] What else would you have but continuing continuity?
CBA: [laughs] The Dept. of Redundancy Dept.
CBA: You also worked on Star-Spangled War Stories. You wrote
Archie: I think I wrote the first few. Later on, Frank Robbins
took over the writing on that stuff, but in the beginning, I wrote
the "Unknown Soldier" feature when I took over Star-Spangled
War, and I wrote the "Haunted Tank" feature in...
CBA: G.I. Combat.
Archie: ...G.I. Combat, of course.
CBA: Were you a fan of Russ Heath's "Haunted Tank"?
Archie: I was a fan more of the artwork than some of the stories.
I thought that the very best DC War book was Our Army at War with
Sgt. Rock which Kubert had edited. I don't think that anything I did
in the other War books ever reached the level of some of the Kanigher/Kubert/Russ
Heath Sgt. Rock stories-but I did some interesting things.
CBA: Gee whiz, but some of the back-up material was outstanding,
Did you approach Alex [Toth] to do "Burma Sky"?
CBA: How do you approach a short story like that? Did you
have Alex in mind?
Archie: Oh, yes. You know, Alex Toth, Flying Tigers, gotta
do it! In that case, it's like me being a fanboy. To me, having Alex
Toth do any kind of airplane story, it's a joy for me. If I see a
chance to do something like that, I will. He did a really fabulous
job on it. And I thought it was a good story, too.
CBA: Did you initially call him and say, "I have a story
idea. Do you want to hear it?" or did you send him a full script?
Archie: That's a good question and I don't know the answer.
Often my method of working with artists, particularly on short stories-but
even on longer stories-is to kind of find out if there's something
in particular that you would like to draw, some subject that you'd
like to do, some kind of scene that you'd like to see, and then try
to work that into the material. I give them something that they really
get enthusiastic about. And I don't know if I talked to Alex about
doing something or if he suggested doing the Flying Tigers or if I
just did the script and said, "Would you be interested in doing
CBA: Were you happy with the results?
Archie: Incredibly happy.
CBA: What other artists did you seek out to work with that
come to mind?
Archie: I worked with George Evans, Tom Sutton (who I thought
did several really nice War jobs for DC-including some he wrote himself),
a Scottish artist named Ken Barr...
CBA: He originally worked with Kubert, right? For a period
of time, then he disappeared. That's what first made me buy your War
books as a kid-seeing the Simonson story "UFM" and Ken Barr's
work. Did he live in Scotland?
Archie: No, he was over here.
CBA: Do you remember him coming into the office or was it
Archie: It was usually... back then, people actually delivered
jobs to the office. Sometimes they'd have to mail them in but a lot
of the times they did deliver the work to the office.
CBA: Ken was predominately a Science-fiction artist?
Archie: No, he was just a good general illustrator. His background
in British publishing was some Science-fiction but he had done a lot
of the British War comics.
CBA: After working for you, he pretty much disappeared from
the comics scene in America?
Archie: Well, he worked for several other publishers. He did
work for Marvel-a lot of covers for Marvel's black-&-white line
later on, he didn't just work for me.
CBA: Did you discover Gerry Boudreau and Walt Simonson?
Archie: I think Walt made a trip to New York to show his work
and he showed it to several different editors. I think Joe Orlando
was the first editor to actually give Walt a job and I may have been
the second or third person. Gerry was someone that Walt knew from
Rhode Island. They had worked together on a project. So I tried Gerry
on writing some of the material as well.
CBA: Do any other short stories come to mind? Was that Wally
Wood story yours?
Archie: I tried to get Woody but I don't think I ever got...!
CBA: There was an aviation story, "Spitfire."
Archie: That may have been Joe's from a slightly earlier era.
CBA: Did you enjoy working on the War books? Was it all you
wanted it to be at the time?
Archie: Yeah. I enjoyed working on them. I think I felt like
I was never able to top the level of what we managed to do on some
of the Blazing Combat material, but it was interesting to do.
CBA: You dealt with issues-there was a Joe Orlando-illustrated
story in Blazing Combat that comes to mind that took place in rice
paddies about Vietnam, it was contemporaneous... 1965, I think you
came out with the book and Vietnam was starting to pick up. Did you
want to deal with real issues, either covertly or whatever in the
Archie: Yeah. As much as I could. The trouble with doing Vietnam
War stories back then was there wasn't a wealth of research available
like now where you can find anything you want about Vietnam. A lot
of what you had to do on Vietnam was to dig out of the newspapers
and some news magazines a little bit of research and then kind of
extrapolate-if this is happening, what's really going on? What is
it really like? My personal feelings were that we shouldn't have been
there but at the same time my feeling was also that what I'm most
interested in is telling the story of the people who get caught up
into the war, whether it's a war we should be in or not.
CBA: I think that there was a moment in one of the letter
pages where you confessed that you purposely left off the blurb "Make
War No More." Was there any reason behind leaving it off? Why
did you take it off?
Archie: I felt that if I'm doing a comic book, selling it,
and it's a War comic, I felt uncomfortable with that as a message
at the end. That was a personal thing.
CBA: Did you receive any heat for it in the office?
CBA: Did you go back to it or did you just stop using the
Archie: I just stopped using it. I felt like if the point of
my story was "Make War No More," they'll get that. I didn't
need that. It was something they added to the books under Joe Kubert
and it was probably a worthwhile thing to do. It slugged home a certain
message but it was just something that I felt uncomfortable with so
I dropped it.
CBA: Did you ever sit down with Joe Kubert and go over the
books? Did he give you any pointers? He was obviously doing a lot
of the books and you came in to take them off his hands-did you talk
to him about them?
Archie: Not a great deal. We were kind of a mutual admiration
society and he didn't try to direct me and stuff but he would continue
doing covers for me. If I asked advice, whether technical or how to
deal with a writer or artist or something like that, he was always
great with helping me out.
CBA: He came in a couple of days a week. Did you come in every
Archie: No. For a while, we alternated; on the days Kubert
didn't come in, I would be in using his desk with the same assistant.
CBA: Allen Asherman was your assistant?
Archie: Mostly I worked with Jeff Rovin.
CBA: You also worked on Detective Comics. How'd you end up
Archie: After doing the War books for about half a year, Carmine
Infantino, the Editorial Director, said that Julie Schwartz was going
to do Strange Sports Stories again and wanted to give up one of his
books, and it was Detective. Of all the DC characters, Batman was
probably the one that I liked best, so I jumped at the chance to do
something with Batman.
CBA: You really made an impression right off. Did you request
Jim Aparo for...?
Archie: That was the plan. The problem was that as a writer
and editor, I was not as efficient as Aparo and I couldn't keep up
with Jim's time slot for when he could do the book. So I began using
other people through no fault of Aparo's but through my inability
to keep matching his schedule. So I had stuff by Dick Giordano, Howard
Chaykin, Alex Toth, Sal Amendola...
CBA: Did you have to talk Alex into doing a Super-hero story?
Archie: No. He had always wanted to do a Batman story and,
in fact, he would occasionally still like to do a Batman story.
CBA: Would you seek him out for one?
Archie: We work at it, we work at it. He's a little less casual
about what he does in the way of a story now.
CBA: What was you favorite experience working on Detective?
Was it the Manhunter or the Batman stories?
Archie: It would have to be the Manhunter material.
CBA: What's the genesis of that?
Archie: You had three Batman books at the time. You had Batman,
Detective Comics and The Brave and the Bold. Each one of them had
a different editor. The ongoing Batman book was Julie Schwartz's,
Detective was mine, and The Brave and the Bold Murray Boltinoff edited.
The Brave and the Bold was a team-up book and obviously the Batman
book was the major Batman book. [In] Detective you sort of tried to
do Batman stories that fell in kind of a "detective" vein
but you'd usually have a back-up feature as well. My taking over the
book, I decided that I couldn't make a lot of changes in Batman and
what was being done with him because this was not the major book to
make Batman changes in. So I thought having a back-up feature that
would take on kind of its own continuity and create some excitement
on its own and not be totally out of whack in a book called Detective
would be a good way to go.
CBA: How did you come up with the idea for Manhunter?
Archie: At the time, Jack Kirby's Fourth World material was
coming out and in the packaging of them they reprinted a lot of Kirby's
earlier stuff, and they reprinted some of the earlier Manhunter stories
that he had done. I just thought it's a cool name: "Manhunter,
he stalks the world's most dangerous game!" It just seemed like
a neat idea that fit into this "detective" format and yet
was quite a bit different from the way Batman approached things. Although
Batman is a manhunter of sorts.
CBA: Thinking about it, it really was a mystery that was unravelling.
Walt has said that it wasn't necessarily Paul Kirk to begin with but
became Paul Kirk?
Archie: First we were going to do just an all-new character
but then we began thinking, "We've got this kind of neat character.
If we call him Tom Schmutz, it doesn't make him a better character,
it doesn't gives us a past history to draw upon or anything."
It just began seeming logical to just kind of extrapolate out of the
CBA: You say "we." Did it start off as a collaborative
effort? Was Walt in on the beginning with the first story as co-plotter?
Archie: We go back and forth on that a little bit. My memory
is that yeah, we pretty much... when I work with any artist, I try
to collaborate with them-draw them into the process. My memory is
that Walt would always be contributing stuff to the plot. He's a great
storyteller. His memory is that I did a full, typewritten plot and
maybe even some thumbnails and things like that. And it was not until
maybe the second or third episode that we stopped writing plots and
just began discussing the stuff. So that, for me, is lost a bit in
the shrouds of time.
CBA: You didn't last that long at DC. Was that just wanderlust
or...? Why did you leave DC after only about 18 months?
Archie: One, I got an offer from Warren to come back and edit
a couple of his titles which I found interesting and wanted to try.
At the same time, I also felt that DC was falling behind in terms
of giving back original artwork to the creators. Marvel began doing
it, Warren began doing it, most other companies started doing it and
we could not get DC to return people's original artwork-they insisted
on keeping it. So it began making it harder to work with a lot of
the better artists and again, being a thing I felt uncomfortable about-if
I was getting an offer from someplace else where they would give back
the original artwork which I felt should go back to the artist then
I certainly felt more comfortable about going in that situation.
CBA: In your memory, Marvel was returning original artwork
Archie: Yeah, they started doing it.
CBA: I thought DC was the one who did it first.
Archie: I don't think so. That's not my memory.
CBA: And Warren was returning artwork?
Archie: Warren started doing it, yes.
CBA: Who was first? Was it by request from creatives?
Archie: Around that time in the mid-'70s, they formed this
organization, the Academy of Comic Book Arts, and a lot of issues
came up in meetings we'd have, and return of artwork became a very
CBA: You did attract some very fine talent right when you
started off with Warren. I'm doing a Warren issue down the line and
I hope to be able to talk to you about that then.
Archie: Certainly, I'd be happy to.
CBA: In a nutshell, how would you characterize your time at
DC? Was it a good time?
Archie: Yes, it was. I think that Manhunter is one of just
several projects that I've worked on that I consider a highlight in
my career. It is something that I may never be able to top in a lot
of ways. To have done that and for DC to have given me the opportunity
to do that was great.
CBA: What made Manhunter so special beyond the team-up of
two people who worked so well together-was it the finite storyline?
Archie: It didn't start out to be a finite storyline but I
knew long enough in advance that I would be leaving so that Walt and
I could plan to bring the series to an end. We checked with Carmine,
the Editorial Director, and Julie Schwartz, who was going to take
the book back, to see if they would go along with our doing that and
they were fine with it.
CBA: There must be some gratification that the character has
never been revived.
Archie: Well, the character has.
CBA: It has?!
Archie: Several times. It still remains the version that people
tend to remember.
CBA: Did you have a hand in the revivals?
Archie: I did in one of the last ones that fared no better
than anyone else's.
CBA: Where was it revived?
Archie: It was revived as a title called Manhunter as part
of the Zero Hour spin-off.
CBA: I probably just assumed it was that Steve Englehart thing
[Justice League of America #140-141].
Archie: No, but Steve did some Manhunter stuff, too. I think
John Ostrander and Kim Yale did a Manhunter as well-but the main reason
I decided to try it one more time was just to make sure to do one
that had nothing whatever to do with the version that Walt and I had
CBA: To backtrack just a little bit, was your idea to do the
opposite of the War books-you really didn't do continuity, you did
arguably-well, not Elseworld stories-but you now currently edit Legends
of the Dark Knight which is very self-contained.
Archie: I did more self-contained stories. I tried to give
them a slight, spooky, supernatural edge even though they usually
have an explanation at the end.
CBA: Did you try to get Neal Adams to illustrate any of your
CBA: Do you remember one of the stories that credited "Story
Idea" by Neal Adams?
Archie: There was one story called, I think, "Night of
the Stalker" that Steve Englehart did the dialogue on and Sal
Amendola and his brother had plotted. Neal may have given them some
advice on that.
CBA: So you don't remember what his specific contribution
to that was? The cover wasn't done first? It was by Neal.
Archie: No, the cover was done after the story.
CBA: So you gave quite a bit of warning to DC that you were
Archie: I said that I'd like to leave after we finish the Manhunter
CBA: So obviously it wasn't "Nope, forget it. Pack up
your stuff and go."
Archie: No, no, they were very cooperative and we parted on
CBA: Did you see changes-beyond the non-return of _artwork-that
were taking place at DC at the time that made Warren more fun to work
at, more interesting to work at? There seemed to be an exodus of talent
at DC. A lot of the good artists went over to Warren: Bernie Wrightson...
Archie: Warren had gone through a period where he almost went
out of business but fought his way back and became a stronger company,
a better-paying company, and he started giving back artwork and all,
too. So yeah, they were able to lure artists.
CBA: You were with Jim Warren at the inception, right? You
were there at the beginning of Creepy, Eerie...?
Archie: Yeah. I didn't become Editor until about the fourth
issue; but I was writing most of the stories at the beginning.
CBA: How long did you stay with Warren on your second tenure
Archie: Not very long. [pause] My status was a little less
independent than I thought it was going to be when I took the job
and I didn't feel comfortable working with the other editor, Bill
CBA: You returned to DC after Epic? Pretty much during the
'80s, you were at Marvel?
CBA: When did you return to DC?
Archie: That would have been 1989.
CBA: I'm sorry if I'm too forward asking this but how is your
recovery? Do you feel that you're going to be editing more books in
Archie: I'll probably be editing the same amount of material
in the future.
CBA: Are you enjoying your responsibilities?
Archie: Oh, very much so. DC is right now the place to be.
It's a great company to work for. The people that run it still have
connection and feeling with what we do. Paul Levitz comes from an
editorial background. Jenette Kahn comes from a publishing background.
They like doing commercial work that does well but also appreciate
and like doing projects that are just good projects-and I think that
more and more that will count for more and more in comics.
CBA: I have to say as an aside that I really do very much
enjoy your book. I can't say that I buy every issue but it seems to
be an art-driven book and that's what I've always bought comics for.
You did a Michael T. Gilbert book a couple of years ago, and I go
back and buy the Gil Kanes, the Russ Heaths, and I find that of contemporary
comics-of which I buy very few contemporary Super-hero comics-yours
is consistently the one I do buy.
Archie: It's a pleasure because of the variety on Legends of
the Dark Knight. You can afford to go wrong on an episode or two.
But you can also play around and try some interesting choices that
you probably wouldn't be able to do on a book where you're involved
with setting the continuity and running the characters' lives.
CBA: That again gets back to your old run on Detective. In
a lot of ways, that was really the cool thing. I remember some of
my peers not being happy with Alex Toth's story-but [laughs], wait
a minute! We got an Alex Batman which we would never normally get!
A "Super Friends" Batman, maybe. It was cool that you almost
had the Elseworlds idea, way back when.
Archie: More of the Legends kind of thing, I think.
CBA: Yeah, right. So it wasn't stuck-there's something eternal
about the character that was neat.
Archie: But also that's partly that you're trying to find a
market niche for your own book so you don't want to-if you're doing
one thing in a Batman book, you want to have slightly alternative
programming in the other book.
CBA: Well, thank you very much, Archie. I appreciate this.
Archie: I enjoyed it.
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