Tom Bondurant and his wife are currently relocating to Memphis, so filling in for Tom this week is former Great Curve contributor, Tim O’Shea, who can regularly be found at his own blog, TalkingwithTim.com.
I fully admit that I am jumping the gun with this column topic, but when I have a high-traffic platform like this blog, I might as well make the most of it. Next month, March 1, will mark 10 years since Archie Goodwin died. I really hope no one reading this is asking: “Who is Archie Goodwin?”
DC’s Paul Levitz may have said it best in the official DC press release (thanks 1998 Michael Doran!) noting Goodwin’s passing:
“If the ultimate test of an editor is the quality of work produced under his auspices, Archie goes unchallenged as the ultimate editor. In almost four decades behind an editor’s desk, the best talent in comics consistently did their best work for him, and asked for the opportunity to do more. And yeoman talent often rose to heights they would not equal in their careers.”
Given that I did not start reading comics until 1977, I first learned of Goodwin in a rather backward way. From the start, one of my favorite artists was Walt Simonson, so in the 1980s when I stumbled across a reprint of Goodwin/Simonson’s 1973 Manhunter back-up feature in Detective Comics, I immediately scooped it up. And after reading that, before long, I quickly began noticing the Archie Goodwin name (and talents) far more frequently.
Look up Goodwin’s name at Amazon, and soon you will find his name attached to myriad comic books, horror magazines, comic strips dating back to the late 1960s.
I’m not a fan of horror, but the comics industry (and its loyal readership) are well stocked with EC Comics loyalists. Goodwin was no exception, growing up on a steady diet of EC Comics. That early influence came in handy during his stint as an editor-in-chief at Warren Publishing in the 1960s. As little as I enjoy horror, however, I do own (and enjoyed) a trade paperback of Goodwin’s Vampirella work.
While editor-in-chief of Marvel from 1976 to 1978, he was credited in the late 1970s with securing the publishing rights for Star Wars. Given how successful Marvel is these days–making movies out of their own characters and such–securing Star Wars may not seem like that big of a deal. But back in a 2000 interview with CBR, Jim Shooter said: “If we hadn’t done Star Wars … well, we would have gone out of business. Star Wars single-handedly saved Marvel… ”
In terms of his work with Marvel, some feel his later stint in the 1980s editing Marvel’s Epic Illustrated and Epic (creator-owned) comics line is of equal, if not greater, importance. The Epic line gave Marvel the opportunity to publish a variety of unique (to Marvel mainstream) creators, including Moebius, Katsuhiro Otomo, and Harlan Ellison.
I sometimes wonder how the DC universe would have evolved had Goodwin not passed away. His impact on the last title he edited was evident. Consider this–try to single out a successful long-term, ongoing series that came out of DC’s 1994 Zero Hour event. I can only think of one–James Robinson and Tony Harris’ Starman. I’ll always have immense respect for what Robinson did with the Starman credits after Goodwin passed away: Goodwin’s title went from editor to “Guiding Light”, as it stayed until the series ended in 2001.
A year or so after Goodwin’s passing, in the summer of 1999, Comic Book Profiles (published by As You Like It Publications) released A Tribute Issue to Archie Goodwin. The 74-page issue had recollections of Goodwin by people from every phase of his career, as well as his wife (Anne T. Murphy) and children (Jennifer and Seth). In a magazine that featured interviews with Alex Toth, Gene Colan, Al Williamson, Michael Kaluta, Denny O’Neil and James Robinson (among others), it’s hard to single out one interview worth quoting more than the others. But in re-reading the issue, I found a great bit of insight from Walt Simonson: “There was a quality he brought everywhere he worked of enthusiasm, and of integrity, above and beyond what you run into in everyday life. It makes everybody else try a little bit harder, and that’s a rare gift. I’m pleased to have worked with him, I’m delighted to have known him, and it makes me sad every day that he’s not around.”
One wonders how Goodwin would react to the seemingly consistent presence of editorial mandate to stories at DC and Marvel these days. Will Marvel and DC ever benefit from a storyteller and editor of Goodwin’s caliber again? I hope so.
After mulling this over a bit, actually, it might be great if you’ve never heard of Archie Goodwin before. Because now that you know who he is, you should seek out his work. And if you’ve never read something of his, be it something he wrote or something he edited, trust me when I say you’re in for a treat.