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Little Archie, Copyright  2005 Archie Comic Publications, Inc. Used with permission.
Copyright © 2005 Archie Comic Publications, Inc.
Used with permission.

A Little Triumph

Little Archie Celebrates its 50th Anniversary at Comic-Con

Expanded article from
Update #3, 2005

Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor were the two key names behind the hugely popular Little Archie series, which has been hailed as one of the finest series since Carl Barks's Uncle Scrooge and John Stanley's Little Lulu. This series took the well-known Archie franchise into exciting new territory, pitting the young hero against mad scientists, rotten pirates, and everyday life. Yet through the decades the series ran, neither Bolling nor Taylor had ever attended a comics convention . . . until now. The 2005 Comic-Con International eagerly welcomed them both, and alongside journalist Gary Brown and Archie Comics editor-in- chief, Victor Gorelick, the duo discussed working on the world's youngest adventurer.

GARY BROWN: How did you become interested in cartooning?

Dexter Taylor

Bob Bolling
BOB BOLLING: When I was a kid I read comic books. We all traded and swapped, and I was pretty good at art and thought maybe someday I'd like to be a cartoonist. In high school I did a strip in the newspaper and just realized that was all I ever wanted to do.

DEXTER TAYLOR: Same here. I loved to draw and of course as you draw you get better and better. I did cartoons for the newspaper, for my homework, and like Bob I've always loved cartooning and that's how it evolved. I went to the same art school that Bob went to, and after being drafted into the Marines [during the Korean war] I tried various jobs in New York City and ran into Bob White who worked at Archie Comics. He told me about an opening so I walked into editor Harry Shorten's [office], and I didn't know if I had the job, but Bob White went in and really talked me up and I got the job at Archie. And I loved it.

BOB: I got the GI Bill [for serving in the Navy] so I went to art school in Boston, I graduated with honors and got a job right away as a cab driver. I have the badge to prove it, too. I finally landed in the art department of the Boston Record American, and that allowed me to meet George Shedd, who was doing a strip called Marlin Keel. It was a sea adventure strip, and he was looking for an assistant because the strip wasn't doing too well. I took my samples over and he was desperate and hired me. When Marlin Keel folded, Bob White suggested I come to New York. That's when I met Dexter, and Dexter put me up in his apartment.

GARY: Do you remember your first jobs at Archie?

BOB: It was half-page gags, just jokes with the characters. It wasn't easy [to move] from adventure into humor and you really had to learn the house style.

DEXTER: I got a job doing anything nobody else wanted to do, [but] the other artists at Archie were wonderful. They helped me with artwork, because school didn't really help me with cartooning and I really started learning once I got the job. The first story I ever did, Harry Shorten was the editor, and about a week later Harry said, "Did you copy that story?" And I said, "No, no." And he said, "That was a very good story." And he might as well have handed me $500. That was the greatest compliment I ever had.

GARY: How did Little Archie come to be?

BOB: The idea of Archie being a little boy was knocked about by both writers and artists, and they thought maybe someday we would do it. I didn't think it would be me so I didn't give it a second thought. One day Harry Shorten called me into the office and said, "I want you to do a book on Archie as a little boy. But before you do, John Goldwater [Archie's publisher] wants to see some sketches and he wants them right away." I did the sketches, he approved it, and that's how it started.

GARY: I understand it sold over a million copies.

BOB: So I hear, yes. It was a success and they started being very nice to me.

GARY: By the third issue it became a 25-cent book, which was 80 pages. Do you know why?

DEXTER: It was money. They were making very good money on those first and second issues.

GARY: Dexter, when did you become involved?

DEXTER: The book needed more material and I was never really that good at drawing big Archie so I got the chance to do Little Archie by the editor then, Richard Goldwater. So he really was the person that gave me the opportunity. Bob Bolling helped me with the story to get it better and Bob White inked the stories that I did and corrected the artwork because I wasn't that good yet. Little by little I started getting better because I was always trying.

GARY: Bob, what kind of directions were you given?

BOB: Generally I did 5-6 pages and [would] bring it in and pencil, and Harry Shorten would read it and say, "Alright, go ahead and ink it." I wanted to be careful, so I kept the stories on the big Archie format. I didn't get reckless or crazy yet. That was coming.

GARY: Once they went to a 25-cent book, did you have a number of stories you had to write each issue?

BOB: No, I just did them. I just sat in the apartment in New York City and I would do stories, maybe 6 pages, maybe 13 pages, and I would bring them down.

GARY: So they were left you to your own devices.

BOB: Right. Most of the time. I was very fortunate. They just let it go and they accepted it.

VICTOR GORELICK: At that time there was a lot of inventory because stories would be brought in and the artist would go ahead and start. Then when the book was due on schedule we'd go into inventory, pick out the stories and put the book together. So Bob might have done a 10-page story but let's say it didn't fit in the book, we'd save it for the next [issue]. Later on, we were starting to coordinate some of the covers along with the stories so if the cover had Little Archie fighting an octopus or something, [we'd] make sure the story was in there.

GARY: After a while you [got] away from a regular Archie format and started doing stories about pirates, beings from outer space, evil scientists. Where did that come from?

BOB: Because I was still a kid. I never forgot what it was like to be a kid and I based my thoughts and my stories on the feeling of fantasy. When you're a kid, going to other planets is no problem.

GARY: Where did Little Ambrose, Archie's picked on pal, come from?

BOB: Well, he's kind of like me. I always wanted to be a part of the big guy gang and I would do things that I thought would have them be attracted to me. Wild stories, or climb the tallest flagpole, or something like that.

GARY: Where did Mad Doctor Doom come from?

BOB: When I created Mad Doctor Doom and Chester, and all the wild things they did, I thought it was a one-shot thing. I wanted to do something different so I thought this would be pretty good: a teenage assistant and a mad doctor bent on conquering the world.

VICTOR: And it turned out to be successful. But he didn't conquer the world. Never could.

BOB: He's still trying out there somewhere. I remember Victor colored that story and he colored Mad Doctor Doom green and I said, "What did you color him green for?" But that was a good idea and really I'm glad that he did.

GARY: Dexter, when you were doing stories were you trying to incorporate some of the things that Bob had done into what you were [writing], too?

DEXTER: Yes, just about all of them. They thought my work was part of Bob Bolling's work. I was on cloud nine. I just tried to be as good as Bob's was. I always thought of myself as a better writer than an artist and that's basically how it evolved.

GARY: Bob, you contributed through issue 38 and then you disappeared for a long time. What happened?

BOB: It wasn't my decision.

DEXTER: Bob was shifted off on other material [because] he was very good at big Archie too, and they needed more work there. Bob told me when he moved to Florida that if I didn't do a good job on Little Archie he was going to come back and kill me.

GARY: At one point you did Wally The Wizard for Marvel.

Little Archie, Copyright 2005 Archie Comic Publications, Inc. Used with permission. BOB: I wasn't working for Archie at the time and Tom DeFalco was an editor at Marvel. He heard about my unemployment and wanted to get together with me to [develop] Wally The Wizard. So I did along with some of my own characters, and then I did several stories from cover to cover. I don't know how many books I did, but I enjoyed doing it.

GARY: Do you have a favorite story that you've written?

BOB: I don't have any one particular story. I like "The Long Walk" because it was the type of story we can relate to. His dog gets lost-boy, you know how it was, you were a kid and your dog is gone, your best friend is out there somewhere-and he has to go to school. There's a conflict there. He should be out looking for his dog. You sympathize with him. That's the kind of story I like, but you have to keep it up and funny at the same time.

DEXTER: There's one story where Jughead got hired to walk around town dressed like a chicken. But of course he walked into Pop Tate's shop and ordered a hamburger, so there's a picture of Jughead eating a hamburger dressed in a chicken outfit. Then he walked out and was hot because of the outfit and started drinking from a hose at the nearest house, and it was Mr. Weatherbee's house, and he thought he had a new find for his bird watching. Really, I've had a lot of fun writing and drawing Little Archie stuff. The characters are marvelous to work on.

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