Bob White, Forgotten Archie Artist

Of course, you can take that ‘forgotten artist’ notion with a grain of salt: most Archie artists aren’t forgotten, because they were rarely acknowledged in the first place. There are cases such as that of Scrooge McDuck creator Carl Barks, aka the Good Duck Artist, whose identity latterly became known through the efforts of a handful of devoted fans… but such fortuitous events are rare as Gladstone Gander’s off days.

No such luck for Robert “Bob” White (1928-2005), who got the short end of the stick despite being the Archie line’s signature artist during its peak period* (pretty squarely 1959 to 1965) and crafting uncluttered, expertly-designed covers and stories. Of course, these years coincide with most of the classic Archie bullpen hitting its stride, bookmarked at one end by the ascent of White (who’d arrived at Archie around 1954, but details are scant) and at the other by Samm Schwartz‘s departure for greener, but sadly ephemeral (1965-69) pastures, an art director post with Tower Comics.

According to The Comics Reporter, writing on the occasion of White’s passing, « He was let go by Archie after working on Tippy Teen for Tower, at which point he moved into other lines of work, including a stint as an artist at United Artists. »

Archie’s illiberal response to a guy simply, and wisely, trying to avoid putting all his eggs in one basket was typical of the publisher, and of the reactionary comics industry in general, but it’s to White’s credit that, unlike Dan DeCarlo and Samm Schwartz (who at least made a break for it), he didn’t just fold, kiss their ring and take their abuse. Who’s to say? Perhaps that principled departure really stuck in their craw.

There are simply too many outstanding White covers to feature in one go; I suppose I’ll have to return to the well a couple of times. Still, these ought to give you a sense of the man’s style.

LWA5A
Before Afterlife With Archie, there was… Life With Archie, which « was a comic book published from 1958 to 1991. It featured Archie Andrews in adventure stories that were more dramatic than the standard Archie tales. » This is Life With Archie no. 5 (November, 1960.)
Madhouse15A
« As I looked there came, I thought a change – he seemed to swell – his face became suddenly black and the features seemed to melt and alter… » ― Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
‘Delicious’ is a good start, but what about the side effects? This is Archie’s Mad House no. 15 (Oct. 1961).
Laugh129A
Hey, the Macabre Trio’s in town! This is Laugh no. 129 (December 1961). Cool ghoul Bob White is truly in his element here. Also, do bear in mind that the word “Horror” was banned by the Comics Code Authority, yet they approved this cover. Asleep at the switch!
LWA12A
This is Life With Archie no. 12 (January, 1962.) Correctly acknowledging the facts of evolution? Obviously, Al Hartley hadn’t made the scene yet.
Pep153A
I’m especially fond of the period when you get a sense from the covers (chiefly those produced by White and Schwartz) that Riverdale was built over the Hellmouth or an ancient burial ground, as monsters and aliens routinely ask for directions or take Betty out for a soda. This is Pep no. 153 (March, 1962).
LWA16A
Ah, there’s some of that “more dramatic” stuff. Life With Archie no. 16 (September, 1962.)
Madhouse27A
« So don’t be persistent / Please keep your distance / You know my resistance is low »
It would appear that Madison Avenue’s brand of wizardry is more than a match for Sabrina’s. This is Archie’s Mad House no. 27 (August, 1963).

– RG

*I’m in complete agreement with cartoonist-connaisseur Gregory Gallant, aka Seth, when he writes, in his introduction to John Stanley‘s Thirteen ‘Going on Eighteen’ (Drawn & Quarterly, 2009… where’s volume 2 at?) that « I like Archie comics quite a bit and own hundreds of issues of Archie and its various spin off titles. I can even tell you which years are the good years (1959 to ’65, incidentally) »

14 thoughts on “Bob White, Forgotten Archie Artist

  1. tref May 31, 2019 / 23:51

    Have you checked out the Best of Madhouse collection that came out a few years ago. Any thoughts? RE-posted on twitter @trefology

    Like

    • gasp65 June 1, 2019 / 22:41

      Oh, I picked up the Madhouse collection the moment it came out. It’s as good a collection as could be produced from that material, really. I particularly enjoyed Craig Yoe’s fun and well-informed text. Sadly, Madhouse was never all that clever or fresh, writing-wise, though Samm Schwartz, Bob White and Orlando Busino clearly had a ball livening up the hoary groaners they got.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bud Plant June 3, 2020 / 10:28

    Bob White did an outstanding cover for Darling Love #11, published by Close-Up (Archie) in 1952. Last issue, with no month. So he was around a bit earlier than you mention. Thanks for the info about his career with Riverdale.

    MLJ AND archie vet Harry Lucey also draws some appealing stories in this issue. Interestingly, the stories seem aimed for an older audience (“I Hate Men” features a single mother who is always being hit on by creeps, two stories deal with jealousy, one unjustified and one well justified, and pretty sexual flirting (with a married man). Quite a cut above the average in those days.

    Odd little Imprint, Close-Up did a few interesting things before Archie gave it up, all pre-code.

    https://www.comics.org/issue/243585/

    Liked by 1 person

    • gasp65 June 3, 2020 / 12:20

      Thanks for dropping by, Mr. Plant — it’s quite an honour! I fully agree about the Darling Love 11 cover, it’s a striking one, and it’s notable that Mr. White’s style was already distinctive and fleshed out. I knew that he had been around earlier than the period I cover (Cosmo, for instance, preceded it), but he had yet to make his mark. Those were more Harry Lucey’s dominant years at Archie.

      And indeed, that’s a pretty harrowing issue, between the creeps and wolves, the rabid dog and the possessive or faithless neurotics. Reminds me of Matt Baker’s ‘romance’ comics, where the sleaze factor can be pretty high. If anyone’s curious, Darling Love no. 11 (and the rest of the series) can be read here: https://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=55949

      Like

  3. firewater65 January 5, 2021 / 18:48

    I loved Bob White’s Archie, even without knowing who was responsible. He had a distinctive style. Archie and the gang were always my secret addiction, even when all of my friends were certified Marvelites.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gasp65 January 6, 2021 / 11:15

      Thanks for chiming in! Mr. White did indeed have a distinctive style, even within a system where such luxuries were discouraged.

      As for life among the Marvelites, well, they don’t call ’em ‘Marvel Zombies’ for nothing. But there’s no shame in dissent! Me, I always was a Charlton-leaning omnivore — but then that’s pretty plain to anyone who passes through these parts.

      Cheers, and may the winds of 2021 blow your way!

      Liked by 1 person

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