Sunday, August 03, 2008

Steve's Comic-Con Contemplation: Part Two

To read part one of my Comic-Con report, click here.

So, Artist’s Alley was pretty cool. One of the people who came by looking for me was Anne T. Murphy, the widow of my old boss, Archie Goodwin. I don’t remember the last time I saw Anne. Probably before Archie died in 1998. She and her son flew out to accept the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. It was nice to catch up with her.

Archie Goodwin

I first met Archie Goodwin while I was a high school intern at Marvel Comics in 1985, and worked for him at Epic Comics after I graduated, from autumn 1986 until early 1989. I was just a kid then and, as might be expected, I was somewhat awed by him. I never told him this but, even though we were not “close,” Archie was kind of a paternal figure for me. The fact that he shared a birthday with my own father (though 4 years younger) helped, as well as the fact that I want to high school with Archie’s daughter, Jennifer. My years working at Epic were the working equivalent of my college education, the diverse projects, setting the groundwork for my career in comics & publishing.

When I decided to leave staff at Marvel/Epic, I used Archie’s departure as a good excuse for the timing. In Early 1989, the higher-ups at Marvel decided to massively restructure the Epic department, which they had, until then, pretty much left alone. In short, they decided to stop focusing on the “Creator Owned” titles that Epic was formed to develop, and use Epic as more of a “specialty” imprint, creating more “mature” versions of Marvel’s characters, like Havok/Wolverine and Typhoid. It was a depressing time for us. Archie decided it was time to leave, and I felt it would be a good time to pursue my freelance career. I left only a couple of weeks before Archie’s last day.

After that, Archie moved over to DC Comics, and I didn’t see as much of him. When I did get up to the offices, I always dropped by for a visit and usually showed Archie my latest work. I actively sought his approval, and he was always very encouraging.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1993, and saw Archie a lot less. I was not very good at keeping in touch with many of my New York friends, and this is something I regret. Not long after I moved, Archie was diagnosed with cancer. After several years of fighting, he died in 1998. I can’t believe it’s been ten years. I saw Archie only a few times in the years before he died, and it was very difficult for me. I think my response was to ignore and avoid. Only after it was too late did I even understand this, to my shame.

In retrospect, I look back and treasure my relationship with Archie Goodwin. He taught me more that I ever realized at the time. Some of his gifts to me include my love & fascination with European comics, a true understanding of the benefits & pitfalls of “creator ownership,” and an open mind toward the endless possibilities inherent in the art of comic book art & storytelling. I owe him a lot.

My thanks to Anne Murphy, for her visit, and for dredging up in me these thoughts & feelings. I’ve enjoyed remembering & writing about them. I hope we will keep in touch.

To be continued...(on with the con!)

For Part Three of my Comic-Con report, click here.


Sara Kocher said...

Steve, very nice post about Archie. One of my big regrets about my Marvel years is that I was too young and dumb to really appreciate working with people like him. It took a while for the lessons to sink in, but I did learn a lot from Archie, and not just about comics.

I hope you'll send a copy of your post to Anne...she might like to know how fondly he's remembered.

Steve Buccellato said...

Thanks, Sara. I hope that either Anne or Jennifer will contact me--I gave them the URL to the blog. In any case, I'm sure they know how fondly Archie is remembered; he really was one of the most-liked people in comics.