On my recent in-store event at Wonder Comics & More in Trenton, Ohio, shop owner Jeff Hensley gifted me with a recent Jughead digest that I hadn’t yet seen in print. It was part of the ‘Archie Milestones’ series, #18, March 2023, and this issue’s theme was “Jughead Guide to Life.”
It’s a good collection from various creators. Eight of my stories (one new; the rest, reprints from the past decades) are among them, all drawn by my regular Jughead collaborator, Rex Lindsey. A few of those stories have abiding personal meaning for me. so I thought I’d write some words about them.
I was recently reminded that October 14 was the birthday of the late Samm Schwartz, so let me jump ahead to the story in this digest that I wrote as a tribute to Samm.
SAMM WAS HERE (Originally published in Archie’s Pal Jughead Comics #103, April 1998)
Much in the way Carl Barks was considered “the good duck artist” for his enviable work in the Donald Duck comics, I and many others considered Samm Schwartz to be “the good Jughead artist.” His art brought a particular spirit to the character regardless of who wrote the script. Samm’s work stood out for me when I read those stories as a kid. And when I re-read them as a comics professional, they inspired me to want to be part of that operation, to join in that fun.
One sad day in November of 1997, my Archie editor Victor Gorelick called to let me know that Samm had passed away. I couldn’t claim to have been a close friend of Samm – – In fact I’d never met him, and had only ever had one phone chat with him. But since I was entrenched as the current regular writer on Jughead (Samm had mostly retired a few years before), I and my collaborators owed much to Samm for the trail he had blazed with the character.
Those days I was writing a story a week for Archie Comics in addition to the daily and Sunday Archie newspaper strip. That particular day happened to be my day to start a new Jughead story. Victor didn’t request it, but I was in the unique position to do a tribute to “the good Jughead artist.” So of course I did.
Samm had planted the seeds for his own homage over the years. In the early days when creator credits weren’t common, Samm beat the system by occasionally slipping his likeness into stories he illustrated. Usually it would appear on flyers on the walls of Riverdale High School, with copy that read, “Vote For Samm.”
Below: A few examples of Samm’s image as part of the set decoration.
I still needed a plot, though.
I vaguely recalled an earlier Jughead story (from Jughead #293, October 1979, probably written by Frank Doyle) in which the subject of Samm, if not the person himself, took center stage. As a reader, I surmised that the story was the disguised acknowledgment of a real-world life event. Namely, Samm’s relocation to Florida in anticipation of his retirement. I also recalled it had the oddly on-the-nose title, “Samm Has Moved To Miami.” In it, the Archie gang witnessed Jughead trying to adjust to the new reality that his good friend Samm (who had never before been mentioned by any of the cast) has left town. Samm himself didn’t appear; the vacuum created by his absence was the point of the story.
Below: From Jughead #293, October 1979
My tribute would be a follow-up of sorts to the Samm in Miami story. I had a surprisingly easy time concocting this one. I believe I started and completed the entire thing in a single setting. Called “Samm Was Here,” Jughead’s old friend has returned to Riverdale for a final visit. Everyone has seen him except for Jughead. And though Samm and Jug try to connect up, they keep missing one another.
Below: My storyboard/script page for the above Page One with finished art by Rex Lindsey. My note to editor Victor Gorelick at the top of the page shows that I was flying by the seat of my pants in regards to the story to which this served as a sequel.
Reports come through of Samm visiting the old familiar haunts of Riverdale in search of his friend, but still, they never quite connect. Finally, it’s time for Samm to leave, not even being sure that Jughead knew he had come to town. But circumstances play out to deliver a message to Samm that his friend had turned out to wish him farewell.
Victor Gorelick was a good ‘hands-off’ editor. I rarely heard from him after I turned a story in, but this time he left a phone message to say he thought the story was nice.
In fact, I heard from him an unprecedented second time. Victor sent an advance copy of the story with Samm’s daughter and grandson, and he shared their e-mail responses with me. I’m glad to say that they liked it. A gratifying return for my efforts.
Here’s the cover of Archie’s Pal Jughead Comics #103, where the story originally appeared:
In Part 2: “THE JUGHEAD LIST”
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