A Tribute to the of

Many of you already know we lost one of the good guys on August 31st when Stan Goldberg left this world. I’m willing to wager Stan didn’t have an enemy in this world. He was well-liked, respected and had a steady gig in the industry for his entire adult working career. All you had to do was speak with him once to get an inkling of why all this was true, beyond his obvious and formidable talent. He was just the nicest guy.

I contacted him in January of 2008 because he was one of Jerry Robinson’s former students, and I wanted to get some inputs from as many of them as possible for my interview with Jerry, but in addition to making some very nice comments about his former instructor and friend, he went other directions during the conversation as well and I decided later it was easily good enough to be a standalone interview by itself. When I sent him the transcript for his approval he took what he felt was longer than necessary and when he mailed it back he apologized (!) for taking so long and included a nice little sketch of his signature character, Archie.

I’m telling you, you’d have to go a long, long way to find a nicer guy, and while I didn’t stay in touch with him like I should have, I’ll always be grateful for the interactions we had. Each was a true pleasure, simply because he was a true gentleman, one whose like we won’t see for a long time.

So, to honor Stan I’m doing something pretty different here at the good ol’ Silver Lantern. After 345 editions of this feature, each and every one a product of DC Comics, (although I suppose the Supes/Spidey & Batman/Captain America crossover doesn’t quite fit that definition) I’m reviewing a unique crossover that is a nice showcase of Stan’s work along with some other superb talents.

From two decades ago with a publication date of August 1994 I bring you issue #1 of the Archie/Marvel tale entitled “Archie Meets the Punisher.” Cover art is by Stan and Henry Scarpelli with interiors by Stan, John Buscema and Tom Palmer. Editing is provided by Don Daley, Victor Gorelick, Justin F. Gabrie and Tom DeFalco. The script comes courtesy of Batton Lash, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Denver Comic Con earlier this year along with his lovely bride, Jackie Estrada.

Something this unusual deserved a little explaining, and there are two pages of copy before the story starts, one from Victor Gorelick and one from Tom DeFalco, describing the genesis of the project, followed by a brief bio page of both Frank Castle, aka The Punisher and Archie Andrews of Riverdale. Then, we jump right into a prelude where a trench-coated figure is being pursued through the city streets by another shadowy character, similarly attired. A few rounds of gunfire are exchanged when the pursued makes his way to Union Station and hurriedly buys a one-way ticket to Riverdale.

We finally glimpse his features, which can perhaps best be described as a buck-toothed and sinister doppelganger for America’s favorite teenager.

On the next page, that very teen is shown in the crosshairs right before being drenched by a watergun wielding tyke who happens to be Veronica Lodge’s cousin. Retaliating with a garden hose, the hapless Archie hits Ronnie and scuttles his chances to take her to the 50s themed sock-hop. As he walks off, a car begins to follow him.

Elsewhere, Frank Castle is shaking down a citizen for some information regarding the whereabouts of “…Mel Jay…aka Montana Bob aka Freckles…currently known as “Red” Fever.” (By the way, if you don’t get the reference to “Montana Bob,” read up a little on your Archie history and the great Bob Montana.) Soon The Punisher and his associate, Micro Chip are off to Riverdale to find Red.

Another segue to the Lodge mansion and “Melvin Jay” (An allusion to MLJ, which was the original publisher name before it was changed to Archie Comics.) is being introduced to Veronica by her father. The Archie lookalike and person of interest for Frank Castle is presented as an entrepreneur who is looking to expand into Riverdale. Soon he’s invited to escort Ronnie to the sock hop.

Meanwhile, Frank Castle and Micro Chip have arrived in Riverdale and are doing a little reconnaissance. It’s learned that he’s actually there on assignment with the Feds to bring in “Red” Fever, who’s a known drug lord amongst other shady dealings.

Inside the malt shop, Archie and Jughead are drowning their sorrows when a pair of men in suits and fedoras approach “Red” to take him for questioning. Frank and Micro observe and decide to follow.

Shifting gears again, “Mel” and Veronica arrive at the sock hop and Reggie and Betty are on hand to witness the odd pairing.

Flashing back to the car with the two hoods transporting Archie and Jughead, they soon discover they’re being followed. A burst of machine gunfire is another hint that The Punisher is in the ‘hood and ultimately the car is run off the road.

A dazed Archie looks up into the eyes and gun barrel of The Punisher, but it’s soon apparent to Castle that he’s got the wrong guy.

The right guy, at the sock hop, is doing a full court press to get Veronica to leave the dance with him to go somewhere more befitting her station. Betty Cooper is trying to figure out what became of Archie and Scooter, replete with Brit accent, is making a clandestine call to alert someone about the presence of Red. All this happens with the backdrop of Josie and the Pussycats playing for the dance.

Now that Archie has met up with The Punisher and lived to tell the tale, he and Jughead beat feet to the local police department while Frank and Micro pursue the hitmen.

Castle and Chip have set up surveillance and are getting vital intel about what is going on behind the scenes, including the scheme by the hitmen to let Frank take the fall for their mission to rub out Red Fever.

Archie’s visit to the PD doesn’t go quite as planned and they simply drop him off at the dance, but after conferring with Reggie and Betty, things begin to fall into place and the redhead realizes that his lookalike is the crux of the problems of the day.

Things are beginning to head toward another collision course as Frank Castle, posing as a Physical Education teacher and chaperone arrives at the sock hop.

Red has all but kidnapped Veronica and the hitmen have infiltrated the caterers at the dance when Castle unloads on them. A few rounds are exchanged and one by one The Punisher takes down the bad guys, but Red has slipped away with Miss Lodge.

Pandemonium is the order of the day at the Riverdale police department as the locals are in a panic over the recent surge of criminal activity. Mr. Lodge, however, is expressing interest in hiring Frank Castle to retrieve his daughter from Red’s clutches.

Over at the Chocklit Shoppe, Arch and Jug are biding their time with Frank and Micro in a nearby booth when The Punisher listens to a taped ransom demand including Veronica’s voice explaining how he “…rained on her parade and is not full of hot air!

It’s a clue to her whereabouts and at that isolated locale, she has just slipped away from her captor in the warehouse where the hot air balloons for the parade are set up (to include Spidey, Sonic the Hedgehog and the Shield.) Next thing we know, The Punisher has arrived along with Archie and the gang to confront Red Fever.

After a short fracas involving each and every one, Fever finds himself entangled with the Shield balloon, floating off into oblivion. As things are mopped up, Frank Castle, sporting a Riverdale High sweater, gets into the van with Micro to head off to Gotham City and things in Riverdale get back to normal.

Part of the connective tissue in this issue is the inking of Tom Palmer, who took a few moments to describe this assignment:

The Punisher-Archie crossover was an odd working arrangement, I received pages from John Buscema and did my part and sent them back to Marvel and then Stan did his part, I never saw the completed pages he worked on. There were a number of pages that were just John Buscema without Stan's input though but I have no clue how many. It was a different assignment!

Batton Lash, our writer, also graciously offered some behind-the-scenes recollections about this one of a kind story:

Archie meets The Punisher was an once-in-a-lifetime project. And I fell into strictly by chance.

I knew Archie editor-in chief Victor Gorelick for years; while he was production manager at Archie Comics, he lettered my series Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre (now known as Supernatural Law) in the early 80’s when it ran as a comic strip in The National Law Journal. Victor liked my writing and would occasionally nudge me to submit some story ideas for Archie comics (for one reason or another I never got around to pitching story ideas to Victor). Once Victor was promoted to managing editor, the duties of that job prevented him from lettering Wolff & Byrd. But we always kept in touch. In mid-1993, Victor was in San Diego for a business meeting and we met for lunch (I recall Dave Scroggy, then with San Diego’s Comic Book Expo, was there as well). There was industry shoptalk, of course, and the conversation drifted over to intercompany cross overs that was quite the rage at the time. Victor mentioned that he was discussing that very topic with Marvel’s editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco (who started his career at Archie). Victor said they were tossing a few ideas around and started laughing when The Punisher was mentioned. I said that’s a great idea! Victor kind of cocked an eyebrow and asked how could it possibly work? I used the Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein principle: let the characters stay true to themselves and the humor comes from that. The Punisher is motivated to protect innocents and who could possibly be more innocent in this jaded world than Archie and his pals and gals?

Victor asked for me to write an outline to show Tom DeFalco (Victor had to nudge me, but I eventually wrote it!) Once Tom got the outline, he showed it to Mark Gruenwald who liked it. They gave it the green light. Victor called me to say get cracking on the script!

I think Victor and Tom came up with the idea of splitting the art chores by having a Marvel artist, the legendary John Buscema draw Frank Castle and the mobsters while Archie assigned the great Stan Goldberg to handle the Riverdale gang. Tom Palmer would unite the diverse styles with his extraordinary inks. I would not only write the script, I would be providing layouts for each artist to follow (+ cover sketch). It was quite a thrill to be working with three of the all time greats in comics!

Don Daley was the Punisher editor and was the one I reported to. I found Don to be a bright, upbeat guy. He was very non-intrusive; Don gave me my space. His suggestions and critiques, I thought, made for a better script.

It was fun to drop in “Easter Eggs,” such as Kathy Keene chatting with Millie the Model (by Stan Goldberg, no less!), allusions to the many Archie-imitators in comics, and even a cameo by a Howling Commando!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Barry Grossman’s coloring and Jack Morelli’s lettering that added so much to the proceedings.

Now, twenty years later, fans still approach me to sign their copies and incredulous readers who weren’t born then would come up to me at conventions and ask, “Someone said there was a comic called Archie Meets The Punisher and you wrote it. Was that a real comic??” I tell them it was indeed a real comic, an once-in-a-lifetime project . . . and sometimes, I can’t believe it myself!

So what do you get with this 48-page crossover? A whale of a fun read. There aren’t even any ads save one each from the publishers on the inside covers so you can order your favorites. I can recommend this one for some great reading enjoyment with some familiar characters in unlikely settings. By all means get your hands on a copy and see for yourself.

My appreciation goes out to Tom Palmer and Batton Lash for their generosity in sharing their remembrances of this book and of course we remember the great Stan Goldberg with fondness and respect. Godspeed, Stan!

To see Batton Lash’s latest projects and appearances and Jackie Estrada’s as well, be sure to pay a visit to the Supernatural Law Facebook page.

Please swing back by on the 1st of October for the next installation of this ongoing feature and remember to drop me a line with suggestions or comments: professor_the@hotmail.com.

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Long live the Silver Age!

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