Monday, October 05, 2009


Edgar Allan Poe believed that checkers is a more profound game than chess. The rules of checkers are extremely simple, he wrote, but their simplicity opens the game up to psychology and reflection while chess remains a closed game of complex mathematical combinations: "The higher powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more usefully tasked by [checkers] than by all the elaborate frivolity of chess [where] what is only complex is mistaken...for what is profound."

After 68 years, Archie Andrews (the world's most indecisive guy) has finally chosen Veronica Lodge over Betty Cooper.

He marries Veronica in the current issue of Archie (no. 601).

Now is probably a good time to reflect upon-- and honor-- the seven decades that Betty and Veronica spent in purgatory as they tried to persuade this lout to commit. Day and night the two girls schemed and competed, connived and begged without success. This had to be a frustrating life and, as the decades went by, an ultimately debasing one. But the girls were trapped in a loop; they were never permitted to graduate from high school and mature into women with the confidence and self-respect to walk away. Thus, the parable of Betty and Veronica became a demented combination of Ground Hog Day and the Myth of Sisyphus.

The fateful moment Betty met Archie (1941). How could she know she was at the threshold of 68 years of indecision and disappointment?

Ultimately, the girls received mercy not from their writers or artists but from the cold blooded marketplace. The comic book's dwindling circulation numbers and advertising revenues accomplished what the two girls could not: they squeezed a commitment out of Archie (assuming of course that these were not androids getting married, in which case the cruel jest continues).

You can fill in the gaps yourself regarding what took place during this long, long struggle. Each time Betty or Veronica was hungry for dessert, did she pause to consider whether gaining weight might give her rival a competitive advantage? How many ice cream sodas did Betty forego in 68 long years to make herself more attractive to that vacillating wretch Archie? And how do you calculate the toll on the human spirit of seven decades of doubt and guilt?

Then there's the huge disparity in wealth between rich Veronica and middle class Betty. At first, this would seem to make their competition as uneven as a competition between a rook and a pawn. But psychological advantages are not so cleanly divided. Veronica will live every day uncertain whether her father's wealth, and not her personal qualities, made the crucial difference to Archie. (That same uncertainty will probably help to console the vanquished Betty.) What does this portend for the marriage? Well, ask yourself: will the witless Archie be sensitive to the causes of a rich girl's insecurity? Is he capable of reassuring her in a way that will keep doubt from gnawing at her (and surfacing in a thousand little tests and spats)? Will she eventually seek reassurance in alcohol? Or in the arms of the gardener?

While you are filling in the gaps, consider the sexual favors the two girls must have surrendered in Archie's old jalopy. If each girl felt pressure to go further than she had on the previous date, how far did she have to go to keep the insatiable Archie intrigued after 68 years of dating? Even worse, each girl had to struggle with the pressure of what their rival might be offering the selfish boy on the following night, and perform accordingly.

This is not the type of straightforward competition won by the girl most successful at gratifying Archie's lusts. Archie himself was a simpleton, but the gamesmanship of their triangle must have been more complicated than 3 dimensional chess. The creators have not disclosed Archie's vile sexual preferences, but they did occasionally share his method of sweet talking his vulnerable girlfriends:

By constructing Archie as a cipher, the creators enabled readers to fill the vacuum with their own speculation. Readers get to decide: would an old fashioned boy such as Archie feel obligated to marry the first girl who gave him sex? Or would he feel uncomfortable committing to a girl who capitulated too quickly? Most likely, he'd be intimidated by a girl who seemed more hot blooded than he was. Betty and Veronica also had to weigh whether Archie was so clueless and self-absorbed that he might be unaware of the commitment they were expressing through sex. What if they sacrificed for him and he was just too oblivious to reciprocate? With stakes so high, what was the best course of action for the girls? They had many long nights to fret about this during 70 years of high school.

The art of Archie started out at the bare minimum quality level and frequently went downhill from there. But the art, like the character, was a basic checker piece, an empty vessel that could be filled with all kinds of content such as the embellishments offered above. If the creators ever began to fill in the gaps in the story or the art ever became more insightful-- or at least more committal-- then some of my speculation might have been ruled out. Archie, Betty and Veronica would have been converted from checkers into chess pieces with defined roles . But of course, then some of the implicit horror of their relationships might have begun to show through.

The ancient Romans tied clown masks on the Christian martyrs so that, as they perished in the jaws of the lions in the Coliseum, they were denied the dignity of their faces. Perhaps the cheerful vacuous templates frozen on the faces of Betty and Veronica (who are now blessedly released from their long martyrdom) were conceived with the same purpose.


Emma Cowley said...

You know, I really love the articles on your blog, critiquing as they do the ephemera and popular art that so often gets overlooked by classical art criticism. It reminds me a lot of Umberto Eco's Travels in Hyperreality. I look forward to reading your next post!

Anonymous said...

Since this is anonymous, I can confess that I used to think about whether Betty or Veronica would be better at oral sex.

David Apatoff said...

Thanks, Emma-- I really appreciate the comment (and especially the overly generous comparison-- yikes!) Glad to know that you're out there.

Rob Howard said...

Bob Montana was a native of Haverhill MA, where one of our studios is. It's rumored that he based everything on the town, although that's fitting the back-story to the front of the cart. There are still plenty who'd qualify for Jughead.

Speaking of the studio, there might be a slot opening up for someone who can really draw with a pencil from imagination with minimum reference. If you think that you can walk the walk through this door -
- send a link and your cv to

Rob Howard said...

Forget the backseat fellatio. More to the point is whether, after 68 years, Archie's hair is greying and he is secretly dyeing those cross-hatches on the side of his head.

Javier Rodriguez said...

Mr. Howard, I am from massachusettss area and I would be interested to show you my portfolio. I have driven by your studio a few years ago and thought it was closed. Do you have a studio website where I see your recent advertising work so I can make sure it's an active studio before I take up your time. Lately I don't usually go to local illustration studios because they don't have the clients anymore so they don't pay the bills. Most are closed since I began in the 1980. You have a URL?


Tomasz said...

OK.Get Real,you only have to look at Archie to see he's Queer.That marriage will not last,he's trying to convince himself he's straight- like so many of the closet case 'artists' who cruise this blog looking for action.

Tomasz said...

For instance,look at those 2 queens above,'Portfolio', Whatever!

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous, I suspect that if we surveyed the male readership here about how many of them had similar thoughts, the answer would dismay the female readership.

Rob, do you think they might let me perform that drawing job long distance? As for Archie, it's interesting that you mention his trademark cross hatched haircut. In many ways, Archie is a timeless archetype who can be filled with normative content from whatever time or place you use him, but that hair is always a dead give away of his 1940s origins. And no matter how much the Archie company strained to make him contemporary and relevant for younger audiences-- updating his slang, changing his clothes, using modern technology--that haircut always thwarted them. They just couldn't change the haircut without wrecking their brand.

Tomasz, your scenario might be more likely in the 1940s and 1950s than today, when there should no longer be a need for such ruses.

Tomasz said...

So no more closet queens in the army, church, police, politics or education system? Oh please! Where are you and your crew hangin'? it sounds like gay paradise, girlfriend.

ces said...

I was addicted to the Archie comics as a young girl in the early 50s. But even then I thought both girls were rather stupid intellectually. I'm amazed that they are still written and sold actually.

BTW - has anyone else noticed the, to me anyway, obvious similarity between Archie & Dagwood of blondie? Same haircut, & a haircut that can't ever be changed.

Anonymous said...

Awful cover art. It really is amateur hour over there at Archie comics these days. Betty is so lucky to have arms that can scratch below the knees without bending over.

Peter said...

A New York Times article on the series' denouement stated that Archie will have some kind of a memory lapse and will marry Betty in another ongoing series. Your "Groundhog Day" remark takes on a rather special meaning in that context.

David Apatoff said...

Tomasz-- if you are correct, and Archie was stringing those poor girls along for 70 years just for cover, then he is even more heartless than I imagined.

ces-- a very interesting point. In Archie and Dagwood, you see opposite choices on that great fork in the road. Dagwood chose the path of connubial bliss, a house in the suburbs, a family, a steady job. Archie picked the path of keeping his options open, with all of the conflicts and advantages that entails. The two could really serve as a springboard for a philosophical treatise (in addition, as you note, to a case study at a school of tonsorial arts).

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous, I agree with you about the art. Simply dreadful. You might think that for a landmark issue with a wider readership, the artist would exert some extra effort just out of personal pride. But if you thought that, you'd be wrong.

Black Pete, I waited until I saw Archie and Veronica take the vows before writing this but even then I knew that we were probably headed for some cheesy bait-and-switch. If Archie becomes a bigamist as a result of a memory lapse, that will ensure him a spot between Doctor Doom and the Red Skull in the Museum of Odious Villains.

Anonymous said...


As a long-time reader and a first time poster, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for maintaining such a delightful blog. I look forward to your weekly posts, which always provide me a smile or a debating thought that lasts throughout the day.

On to the frustrating love triangle that is Archie, Betty and Veronica. As a female and longtime comic reader, I can relate exactly to what each of these girls are going through. Let’s face it, checkered hair or not, the redeeming qualities of Archie are sparse. It really boils down to the competition. Poe’s and your comments about checkers versus chess nail the situation right on the head. Archie won’t give either of them what they ultimately want, so they need to maintain sanity by imagining what could be. They are mistaking Archie and what he has to offer (extreme simplicity), for what they think could be there (a complex profound relationship). This illusive relationship, paired with the rough competition, is enough to make any girl pass on dessert or descend to her knees in order to please.

As previously debated within my circle of friends, many were disappointed that Archie chose Veronica over Betty. Although rooting for Betty myself, I think she is the true victor in this scenario. Why would you want a man that has been indecisive about the status of your relationship for 68 years? Socioeconomic status aside, if I were Veronica, I would be thinking “Is he thinking about Betty when we are intimate?” or “Does he wish he was really with her?” -Which would be enough to fuel the demise of the relationship. Plus, not only is Betty free of cruel mind games that she has been plagued with, but she now can have as many ice cream sodas as she wants, with a man that not only appreciates her, but is one that deserves her. Have fun with that one, Veronica.

Thanks again, David!

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous-- it's nice to hear from you. I can tell you've really caught the spirit of this thing.

As the direct and grateful beneficiary of a female's low standards and unwarranted optimism, I must choose my words carefully. But I agree that "the redeeming qualities of Archie are sparse" and I have long wondered why Betty and Veronica thought he was worth the effort. His primary quality seems to be an absence of malevolence. I recognize there are days when women are reduced to believing that this quality by itself can be a sufficient foundation for building whatever else a couple is capable of building together. But jeez-- can it really motivate and sustain you for 70 years of competition without turning you into an existentialist? Your insight that the competition takes on a life of its own, fueled by the illusion (or should that be delusion?) about what the relationship can be, adds a new dimension to this analysis for me. Thank you for that.

I also agree with you that Betty would have been the better choice for Archie, and I can only hope you are correct that she will ultimately be better off. But look around that school-- Reggie, Moose, Dilton... the pickings are awfully slim. Who could offer her the kind of relationship she yearns for? If she's not going to be happy, maybe the smart move would be to make a play for Mr. Lodge, get rid of the old bat Mrs. Lodge, and disinherit Veronica, leaving Archie to reflect on the wisdom of his choice.

robyn hyzy said...


Great post! I can't believe Archie finally chose between Betty and Veronica, and that he chose Veronica.

I grew up reading Archie comics as a kid and was lucky enough to start with my mom's collection from when she was a little girl. (she had ALL of her old comics- boxes and boxes of them) Not only was the artwork much better back then, but the stories were as well.

And while I liked both Betty and Veronica for different reasons, I have to say that I am satisfied with the final decision. I think that Betty deserves better than Archie. I always thought she and Jughead would make a good match.

Guess we'll have to wait and see what happens next!

Thanks for posting this!

अर्जुन said...

Archie is a cad. Married or not, he'll still be spending late nights at the malt-shop.

Quality of the art seldom matters with a character of his stature. The reader always superimposes the drawing from the perfect model-sheet. You can see wonky drawings of Popeye, but he'll always look like the one depicted on a Koons canvas.

StimmeDesHerzens said...

Not the best art, not even very funny, but imbues so many of us with with a warm remembrance of times past... I loved to collect them, big stacks, summers by lake Nojiri...where were you readers?
That one can write about this comic to this day, that it is not forgotton and the blog entry brings pleasure,shows the depth to which we were impacted!
greetings Beth

David Apatoff said...

Thanks, Robyn, but... you purport to be friend of Betty, yet you think that she and Jughead would make a good match? I'm going to need a little help with that one.

अर्जुन, I agree that people tend to project and fill in the gaps (in both the art and the plot). Joseph Campbell might suggest they feel they are able to do that because Archie is a primal archetype. Campbell taught that there is one hero with 1,000 different faces. Who knew that one of those faces was Archie's?

Einbildungskraft / Beth-- Google tells me that Lake Nojiri is in Japan. Don't tell me Archie made it all the way over there? Mercy, what must the Japanese think?

robyn hyzy said...

I consider both Betty and Jughead to be good people, to do the right thing, and to help their friends even at the expense of their own happiness. I find the other characters of the comic to be much more selfish by comparison. She is the closest girl to him, and he is her shoulder to cry on.

That and she cooks enough for him to eat.

Perfect match!

David Apatoff said...

Robyn, the mere fact that you're able to get past the name "Jughead" qualifies you as one of those charitable, open-hearted girls discussed above.

Does it affect your equation at all that Jughead dresses and behaves like a misfit? For Jughead to be anybody's "perfect match," I think you'd have to conclude that all these years his misfit ways were just a protective mechanism to keep the world at arm's length to conceal his extreme sensitivity, and that once Betty explained to him that it is OK to dare to love, he changed completely.

Rob Howard said...

>>>Dagwood chose the path of connubial bliss, a house in the suburbs, a family, a steady job.<<<

Let's not forget the eponymous sandwiches.

Rob Howard said...

Javier, we're particularly interested in people who can do quick turnaround on storyboards. We're not looking for designers, ADs or anything other than sketch artists who are fast and prolific and can follow orders. We already have two and that section is growing.

Please, no superheroes, monsters, dungeons and dragon, just people putting the kids into cars or rhapsodising about packaged foods. Basically, life in Pleasantville, not a sword fight on the Second Dirylistab of Gorth.

you can contact me via email at with a brief overview and a couple of samples

Dan V. said...

Rob, Javier is obviously a fake, one of your many "fans" pulling your leg.

And stop taking advantage of David's hospitality. We're all pretty sick and tired of you ruining this blog with your self advertisements. If you want to do business, take it elsewhere. I'm sure you can find a generic storyboard artist to fit your needs on craigslist.

David Apatoff said...

As Black Pete noted, the New York Times reports that after 3 issues married to Veronica, Archie will try 3 issues married to Betty (

It is possible that Veronica gets a quick annulment after 3 months on grounds of mental cruelty, or that, after winning the competition she took a fresh look at Archie and simply lost interest. But whatever the reason, Archie apparently goes for another long walk in the woods and comes out in an alternative world.

May I suggest to Archie's creators that if Archie is to walk into the woods as one person and come out in two different directions simultaneoulsy, he do so in the intestines of timber wolves?

ces said...

. . . or at least with a new haircut and a closed mouth.

Dan V. said...

To the Group and David: I apologize for my bad manners. You must think I was raised in a barn. I can be an ass at times (too many times to mention, I'm afraid, and I shouldn't post when I've been drinking). My comments are embarrassing for me to read the next day. When I have something positive to offer, I'll rejoin the conversation.

Again, my apologizes.
Dan V.

David Apatoff said...

Dan, lots of people mouth off around here for reasons I don't quite understand. Very few of them have the character to think twice about what they've said and the courage to circle back to make this kind of statement.

doug rogers said...

David Apatoff said...

Doug, a very plausible scenario, and a fitting end for Archie. Of course, you may be giving him more credit than he deserves, thinking Archie would ever feel a pang of remorse over being a kept man. That may have been his objective all along.

Rob Howard said...

>>>We're all pretty sick and tired <<<

I'm distressed to learn of your current sickness and tiredness. How nice of you to rise from your sick (and tired) bed to don the mantle to speak for everyone...or was that the royal "we." I can understand that, with the weight of the legions you have been warranted to champion, how the pressure and responsibility would take it's toll on your health.

My best advice (and I speak on behalf of the entire medical and mental health community) is to lie quietly in your bed, take plenty of fluid and put a sock in it until the worldwide election results come in and once again declare you to be the majority spokesman.

I have no idea of who Javier is and published that to call the bluff of all the BS artists (many of whom operate under different names to preserve the sanctity of name as appears in their own hagiography). That he could not locate one of the studios was a giveaway to being yet another poseur.

Rob Howard said...

David, you have to understand that Archie brings with him the social mores of a society that existed before politically corrected speech. Back then, it was okay to use the term "girls" (we now know that's gender demeaning) and "boys" (we know know that, like most things is racist). That Archie should find himself on the horns of a dilemma is natural, given his unique position as teenager-cum-septagenarian.

Using today's yardstick...err, meter-stick to judge him could easily be considered a form of not-so-subtle agism. For all we know, beneath that waffle-hatched hairdo, Archie suffers from Alzheimer's disease. So let's give the kid/geezer a break and display a bit of modern day sportspersonship.

Javier said...

Mr. Howard, like many, I ask to see your URL because I think your studio was a dead. Most dead studio also have no website like you have no studio website. So my thoghts are natural. Sometimes a dying old studio will use freelancer work to get jobs for themselves and then forget about. I assume then because you have no URL that, like you say, there is no work. I think you make a bluff because you do not want the people to think you lose the discussion from all your claims.

I would guess that most would not want to work with you anyhow, given you sayings. I think if there were a poll you would be vote off the island very quickly! Haha.

Nice blog.


Anonymous said...

Rob, did you just call Kev a Bullshit artist?

Anonymous said...

>>Mr. Howard, like many, I ask to see your URL because...<<
Huh? What's with all the people here speaking for others. "Javier", take a clue from Dan and get some manners.

Rob Howard said...

>>>Rob, did you just call Kev a Bullshit artist?<<<

That's not in my lexicon. The nearest I've come to that is referring to Chris Ofili as an Elephant Shit artist. The quality of an artist is judged by only one criterion, the quality of the work and, generally speaking, how it is able to weather the tests that time imposes.

Rob Howard said...

"javier" this may amaze you, but a fair number of businesses do not and have never had websites because the Internet is a waste of time as a venue for attracting serious art buyers.

The Duncan Street studio was long ago closed as the building was being rehabbed into condos. The only reason to publish addresses was (and is) to alert students to the workshops, which I enjoy giving. Now, how about seeing a bit of that portfolio coming from a "Javier" in the Merimack Valley...or is that, as many suspect, bullshit? Unless you can put up some work from a bona fide "Javier" you'd do best to shrink back into another online personality that is adopted so it won't reflect on the greatness of your real name.

Back in 1910, Theodore Roosevelt in a speech entitled "Citizenship in a Republic" at the Sorbonne. Here's an excerpt you might wish to contemplate on the way toward manhood:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Urchin Tracker said...

I love coming here to read your blog, Rob. And you update so frequently!

Could explain a little bit more about what makes your work timeless.

Anonymous said...

>> Urchin Tracker said.. <<
Hi, "Javier".

अर्जुन said...

"do not and have never had websites because the Internet is a waste of time as a venue for attracting serious art buyers."

Pikers all:

"More to the point is whether, after 68 years, Archie's hair is greying and he is secretly dyeing those cross-hatches on the side of his head." ~comic genius

Rob Blowhard said...

Serious art buyers = people who buy generic storyboards from dead studios.

Rob says, " call the bluff of all the BS artists..."

BS = Bullshit

"Did you call kev a Bullshit artist?"

"That word is not in my lexicon."

= BS

David Knows Me said...

We're looking for a pompous blowhard to write hilariously self-regarding text on a blogpage for free. He should have nothing better to do with his time, and such a fercociously delicate ego that he spends hours perfecting his self praise and otiose dismissals of others. Something like a Keith Olberman, but older.

Please begin filling in your pompous text below this post. Understanding full well that you will receive no compensation for this effort. You will be contacted shortly if you fit our needs.

Begin typing now.

Rob Howard said...

>>>Could explain a little bit more about what makes your work timeless.<<< I don't watch the clock as you cubicle workers do

Rob Howard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Howard said...

Goodness, it appears that I have once again offended one of, what the Hollywood stars call..."the little people."

Perhaps the little person will post it's website so we can see what the real thing in illustration should be.

I'm all ears and eyes to see what this shape-shifter produces besides invective.

Rob Howard said...

Where I live, we have hawks and eagles flying above. Occasionally one of the eagles will fly low and find itself mobbed by little birds. They are inconsequential sparrows and finches, noisy and numerous but without any real abilities or the testicular fortitude to do harm to the eagle. The eagle simply flies to an altitude that the noisy little birds cannot attain. One suspects that, from those heights he could easily shit on the little perishers, but he doesn’t.

I’ve often wondered about the eagle’s forbearance. He could easily destroy all of them or send them screaming back to whatever little nests they live in. But he doesn’t. I suppose that’s the reason the eagle is the symbol for so many countries and the sparrow is the symbol for none.

That said, I admire the diligence of this sparrow in taking the time to create new identities (hmm, sounds familiar). For those who have seen the lads skulking about the locker room in shame for not measuring up, one can only assume that it's some sort of Freudian compensation for a perceived lack.

David Apatoff said...

HEY!!! Anybody around here interested in talking about art?

अर्जुन, I see you have listed Jame Jean at the top of your list of noteworthy professionals. I would be interested in hearing what folks out there think of his work. I gather he is all the rage these days.

StimmeDesHerzens said...

re: Google tells me that Lake Nojiri is in Japan. Don't tell me Archie made it all the way over there? Mercy, what must the Japanese think?

:-) yup. all the way over there. (Japanese to this day are masters of comic-drawing so I imagine they loved Archie and his gals too) As kids there in Nojiri (mostly missionary kids altho I was a business brat) we read comics in the rustic cabins... and played spin the bottle!!

g- Beth

अर्जुन said...

I am a great admirer of James Jeans work. His solid drawing, arabesque designs, and subtle color palette. How he uses mult-media, exploiting each for a particular effect, creating a rich variety of texture and color. A near perfect synthesis of art noveau, comic-art, anime/manga, japanese prints* and pop-art (both fine and commercial). Which is to say he is a product of the 20th century, and possibly an art icon of the 21st.


Unknown said...

I find I have the same lack of emotional reaction to all of James' work. He's developed a charming decorative style (even the grotesque comes off as lovely) but from one image to the next there's very little substance and absolutely no insight in to the artist himself. He fails to use color or composition to drive a message, instead, the images seem to be more attempts at mental games... what I used to think of as "stoner art". His work fits well in the trendy package and design market. The style might already be approaching the passé, but he's young with a wonderful career and time to reinvent himself a couple times over.

MORAN said...

I agree with LCG. I think James Jean is more sizzle than steak. He is young and talented and has time to reinvent himself but he also has time to produce more trendy pap. Only time will tell.

Laurence John said...

James Jean's work looks like pretty psychedelic mural/wallpaper art. he can obviously draw as evidenced in his sketchbooks, but his covers and paintings lack any spontaneity with the materials at hand and the content just looks empty-headed.

Vincent Hui works in a similar stoner/anything goes realm, but for my money is a FAR better draughtsman and handler of paint.

theory_of_me said...

I find James Jean's work to be almost completely stupid. It was a lot more interesting when he was still in art school (and I was still in art school.) I still check out his blog for the figure drawing sketches but even those have gotten weird and distorted lately, and not in a very interesting way.

I meet many young artists who try to emulate his drawing style but they're just shooting themselves in the foot.

kev ferrara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kev ferrara said...

Jean's work is not only fashionable, but it is also like fashion. It has the feel of a hollow-eyed waif billowing down the runway... languid, sensual, and ephemeral.

kenmeyerjr said...

Yeahhhh...I am gonna have to go ahead and disagree with a few of you on Jean (see me holding my coffee cup, leaning over your cubicle?).

From what I can tell, the guy can draw rings around most of us. His figures are just simply gorgeous, he flits back and forth between traditional and digital media seamlessly, and he seems to be an almost endless font of interesting and arresting designs. Sometimes, I think people like to dump on whoever is really popular at any given time.

theory_of_me said...


"Sometimes, I think people like to dump on whoever is really popular at any given time."

Well, given that most people are simple-minded sheep desperate for any kind of positive stimulation in their tediously awkward and lives, I'd say popularity is a sure sign that you're probably a fraud or overrated. Just look at two of the most successful living artists of our day, Damien Hirst and Thomas Kinkade. Here in New York, I hear people talk about stumbling upon Hirst's shark in the Met as if they've just had a religious experience. Speaking of which, just look at all the religious leaders in the world and the people who get elected to public office. How can anyone say that popularity is any kind of virtue, after considering people like that?

I'm not calling Jean a fraud, since he's never claimed to be anything other than a humble illustrator/artist but saying that if others fail to appreciate something that you really like it must be because of its popularity is B.S. Cut it out, will ya?

Rob Howard said...

>>>I find James Jean's work to be almost completely stupid. It was a lot more interesting when he was still in art school (and I was still in art school.) <<<

I couldn't agree more. I championed his work when he was still at SVA and I have one of the little handmade portfolios of his. His painted illustrations were pure and truly inventive. The new work is contrived andplaying to a crowd of chic artsy people who haven't got a scintilla of James' talent.

The same thing happened with another SVA grad, Nicolas Uribe...a stunningly talented painter who again, lost it when playing to the chic and fashionable artsy set.

Both of those men were astonishing as students and have lost much of that masculine athleticism that was once apparent. Perhaps not coincidentally, the decline can be marked by marriage. Taking on the emotionally charged roles of hubby and daddy seems to take away focus from when they were selflessly (and selfishly) devoted only to their art.

Both learned that they could make money playing to certain fashions and, being hubbies and daddies (I don't know if James has kids) the focus shifts from the selfish joys of art to being a solid practitioner.

Sadly, it appears that both of those wonderful young artists may have peaked in art school.

Rob Howard said...

Oh, and for those interested in the walk

El caimán de Legutiano said...

I like your Blog, man...

theory_of_me said...

Rob Howard:

"Perhaps not coincidentally, the decline can be marked by marriage."

I'm willing to bet that it's more than a coincidence, which reminds me of a quote by one of my favorite philosophers:

"No one can be a slave to two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot be a slave to both God and money."

Just replace God and money with art and marriage, or marriage and anything else. Kids should be taught stuff like this (minus all the stupid magic tricks) before they decide what they're going to do with their lives.

Oh look, I just noticed that we're almost back on topic again.

Unknown said...

>>"Perhaps not coincidentally, the decline can be marked by marriage."

I'm willing to bet that it's more than a coincidence,...<<

Yes, I'd think it is more than a coincidence, too. I've speculated before that marriage and having children (especially having children and not any form of cultural sexism) is why there are fewer women than men who excel in the arts.

Rob Howard said...

>>>is why there are fewer women than men who excel in the arts.<<<

Some of that may be conditional but I'd hazard a guess that there a lot of hard-wiring involved in the disproportionate balance of physical accomplishment (art, architecture, scientific and technological invention, finance and virtually any other highly competitive field) than can be laid to staying home with the kids.

Testosterone in no more poisonous than is estrogen. That's not the point. The point is that operating with more of one than the other is a clear prediction of what sort of lifestyle and output of labor that human will have.

That said, that's a lab case. Stick a powerful intellect and talent in a burqa and you all but destroy the human. The subtle slavery of being a college-educated trophy (or equal) wife attempting to apply her education to the raising of children and managing a household strikes me as wasted potential. Then again, as Mike Judge's Idocracy demonstrated so enjoyably, the "dull-normal" margarine eaters (inside joke based on scientific findings) are out-breeding their more intelligent counterparts by a zillion to one. They are nothing is not fecund.

The reality is many men (not the chic metrosexual types) have a hard-wiring that kicks in with "I Do" and comes to a full head of steam the first time his child looks at him, smiles and pukes all over his necktie. That sure triggered it for me.

Anonymous said...

>>>The same thing happened with another SVA grad, Nicolas Uribe<<<

I am glad someone had the courage to say it.

Anonymous said...

It sure didn't take James Jean long to sell out, did it?

theory_of_me said...

Rob Howard:

"Stick a powerful intellect and talent in a burqa and you all but destroy the human."

I don't know about that. Seems to me that if all it takes is a burqa to destroy someone's humanity then whatever intellect or talent they had couldn't have been that powerful to begin with. I think what really happens is that burqas or any other tools of oppression are applied way before the talent or intellect has a chance to develop.

If you forced people of real intellect to wear burqas, they'd revolt so furiously and get themselves in so much trouble that they'd probably end up dead as a result. To them, death would be preferable to that kind of a life. Do we see this from the women of Afghanistan or Pakistan? No, in fact they've convinced themselves that they enjoy it.

I think what happens with talented and sensitive artists is that they get so emotionally involved with the search for a superficial sense order and harmony in life that they leave themselves vulnerable to the easy answers that their unconscious biological drives offer them. Their intellectual side is left largely undeveloped while they pursue their intuitive aesthetic ambitions, which keeps them from seeing the far-reaching consequences of their immediate choices to hook up and start a family. After the ball gets rolling in that direction it gets harder to understand or even begin to imagine what was sacrificed.

Remember the "men's movement" with its wildman retreats and all that crying, hugging and howling? Do you think anyone with real masculine potential would allow themselves to sink to that level? I don't.

Here's a pretty funny video I found about it on Youtube:

Rob Howard said...

I cannot say that either James or Nicolas sold out. That's far too cynical an assessment and I think that neither are cynical nor venal. The path to a meaningful art has side roads, each of which has increasingly glittering blandishments to offer. I believe that both of these men took a side road that made sense at the time. That certainly happened in my case and I'm not convinced that I have gravitated back to my original path.

Both James and Nicolas were to me, young glowing gods and every tragedy begins with one such golden boy who comes a-croppers in the second act. That act still has to be played out before we find out how the third act turns out.

Happy endings are in the movies, not on the field. I'll admit that I had hoped for a Hollywood ending for both of those very talented artists.

David Knows Me said...

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We regret we have no alternative but to recommend you try a larger firm. Good luck with your continued search for employment.

Insane Stuffed Shirts Inc.

Laurence John said...

the Rob-baiting is getting tiresome.

StimmeDesHerzens said...

from Rob: "Both of those men were astonishing as students and have lost much of that masculine athleticism that was once apparent. Perhaps not coincidentally, the decline can be marked by marriage."

Rob, at one time I commented about the "marriage" of Gilbert Bundy ("Possibly he simply wanted to 'get away'?"), and you smashed my thoughts very unceremoniously (I thought) with the reply: "To speculate on the state of his marriage is a breach of taste...and probably a breach of character."

Now here you are blithly blaming/speculating on an artist's marriage.... Whats up with that?
Be consistent!

g to D Beth

kenmeyerjr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kenmeyerjr said...

Theory: I did not say that if anyone did not like someone I did, that their opinion was bs...far from it...but it is, after all, just an opinion. And mine is that Jean has not sold out, lost any magic, or any of that stuff. He might have chosen a different path than gallery artist, but that does not make him any lesser of an artist, does it?

Watch out, Beth, Rob swings a big dictionary!

And thing that does seem to happen with the Rob baiting is more posts are added, which makes David's blog look more popular David masquerading as all these anonymous people???

kev ferrara said...

I didn't mean to imply that I didn't like James Jean's work because I compared it to fashion. Just to be clear. I like it in the same way that I might appreciate a fashion show and I think he has very strong and individual imagination that is enjoyable.

अर्जुन said...

Jean has a few more years to go before I would use the word disappoint.

Kev~ If only a stiff wind would waft a few of those waifs my way.

Michael Swofford Paintings said...

Despite the enthusiasm of the great Poe for the game, checkers has been pronounced dead after the publication of a mathematical proof showing that it always ends in a draw if neither player makes a mistake.

theory_of_me said...


"I did not say that if anyone did not like someone I did, that their opinion was bs...far from it...but it is, after all, just an opinion. And mine is that Jean has not sold out..."

I was just attacking your notion that people only "dump" on things because they're popular.

I don't think he sold out either, he's just doing what comes naturally to him. The concept of "selling out" doesn't really make any sense to me. It seems to be something that people accuse others of doing when they fail to meet their unrealistic and unfair expectations.

theory_of_me said...

Michael Swofford:

"checkers has been pronounced dead after the publication of a mathematical proof showing that it always ends in a draw if neither player makes a mistake."

Yup, that's exactly what happened the last few times I played checkers. I'm not bored enough to pick up chess though.

Laurence John said...

"it seems to be something that people accuse others of doing when they fail to meet their unrealistic and unfair expectations."

true... how do we know Uribe or Jean aren't doing exactly what they intended to do ? there is an interview with Jean in issue 12 of 3x3 magazine where he claims to be producing really personal work now that he's given up the comic book covers.

i can't really speculate as i haven't seen the earlier (art school) work of either. Uribe can still handle paint like no one's business, but the imagery isn't very exciting is it ?

Anonymous said...

So Archie was named 'Chick"...which apparently rhymes with "inbred hick"?

But betty was wwwwwaaaaayyyyyyy hotter!

Roger Reed said...

Go is a game with even fewer rules than checkers, and hence richer strategies and psychology. And, it could be played on Archie's hair.

Roger Reed said...

David has explored the limitless dynamics of the girls in Archie, but Archie's own single redeeming quality is his hair. Seriously.
As a child I pondered the substance of those horizontal strokes, which I took to form a plaid pattern. Do they make him more "square"? Or more fashionable?
Is there any graphic precedent (in comics or otherwise) for this treatment of hair?

Roger Reed said...

And I'm sorry but Dagwood's hair is totally different. Dagwood's hair is more like an explosion in a shingle factory.

Please, David, "Archie picked the path of keeping his options open" is an oxymoron, and "his primary quality seems to be an absence of malevolence" -- speaks for itself.

No, I'm sticking with the hair. It's a marvel.

David Apatoff said...

Welcome, Roger. I always assumed that if you showed up around these precincts, it would be with some erudite contribution about a 1930s playwright or some illustrator that none of the rest of us had ever heard of. But if Archie's hair is what it takes to induce you to pitch in, that's fine too.

अर्जुन said...

Those lines are a chess/checkers board, if you've got the pieces Archie is always ready to play.

Casey C-P said...

Delights upon delights. Having traipsed in here unwittingly, following a link from Eddie Campbell's blog, I find myself rapt at the unfolding of a purely internet phenomenon, a type-written conversation among friends and strangers born from the analysis of the metaphysical angst of being a love sick eternal teenager, and somewhere along the way transforming into a conversation re: the rise and fall of James Jean. I love teh interwebs!

My GOD are illustrators (and those that admire and discuss this arcane craft) neurotic (myself included).

Thank you, Mr. Apatoff for setting up this little water cooler/museum for a subject I too hold dear, the illustration. I now have something else to read at my boring day job.


Anonymous said...

I almost feel out of my intellectual depth after reading the entire blog and all its comments. I expected it to be a post-graduate discussion of the Archie/Veronica/Betty love triangle; well, it started there and then took some pretty loopy turns. Hey, just like real conversation!

But back on topic... It seems to me that the story has never really been about Archie. In a way, he's just a mirror for American society to look into; as America evolved (or is it devolved?) during the last 70 years, Archie has always seemed to be a reflection of the middle ground that most Americans occupy.

No, the real story is about the female archetypes (Archie-types?) of Betty and Veronica: middle-class versus upper-class, mid-west values versus Park Avenue self-absorption, even blonde versus brunette and all that that implies. By polling the readers' preferences for one girl over the other, we get a barometer-reading of current American perspectives. In other words, if we were to devise a 1-10 scale of the American psyche at an given point during the time that Archie has been around -- with Betty at one end of the scale and Veronica at the other -- we might get a pretty accurate reading of what the U.S. is collectively thinking and feeling. Take that reading and lay it over whatever national and global events are taking place at the time, and I think you'd get some pretty interesting discussion points.

Oh, and as an avid chess player of some skill, I'd just like to suggest that the only reason E.A. Poe preferred checkers is that he wasn't mentally stable enough to learn a game that uses more than one kind of piece.

One last thing... at first I was extremely disappointed to learn that Archie -- in this what-if story -- chose Veronica and her inherited millions. But after sober reflection, I'm glad he did, because it still gives me a shot at the hottest, sweetest blonde since -- or before -- Marilyn Monroe. Hubba hubba!

Dating said...

Your "Groundhog Day" remark takes on a rather special meaning in that context.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I love this article! SO hilariously cynical! You make Archie Comics sound like sound like The Bonfire Of The Vanities!