|Born||Robert William Montana
October 23, 1920
|Died||January 4, 1975
Meredith, New Hampshire
Robert William "Bob" Montana (October 23, 1920 – January 4, 1975) was an American comic strip artist who created the central characters published by Archie Comics and in the newspaper strip Archie.
Born in Stockton, California, he was the son of former Ziegfeld Follies girl Roberta Pandolfini Montana and Ray Montana, a top banjo player on the Keith vaudeville circuit. Montana knew he wanted to be a cartoonist from the age of seven. By the age of nine, he had traveled to vaudeville houses in 48 states. He received his childhood schooling backstage in theater dressing rooms, where he also learned about comedy and humor writing. He spent his school summers in Meredith, New Hampshire, where his father raised vegetables and operated a restaurant. Montana practiced his cartooning by drawing caricatures of the restaurant's customers. When Montana was 13, his father died of a heart attack, and his mother remarried.
Montana's stepfather had managed a theatrical costume shop in Bradford, Massachusetts. In 1936, when Montana was 16 years old, the family moved to Haverhill, Massachusetts. For the next two years, he kept diaries of local events and news stories, illustrating the diary pages with his cartoons. The students and faculty of Haverhill High later inspired the leading characters in the Archie cast, as revealed in a 1970s Boston Globe article by film critic Gerald Peary.
Montana spent time in Boston, where his mother and stepfather ran a restaurant. On weekends he worked in Boston, drawing and painting Red Cross and WWII posters. In his senior year of high school, Montana moved to Manchester, New Hampshire. He attended Haverhill High School until 1939, and graduated from Manchester High School Central in 1940.
MLJ (Archie) Comics
Moving to New York, he attended the Art Students League and the Phoenix Art Institute. While freelancing at True and Fox Comics, Montana created an adventure strip about four teenage boys and tried to sell it without success. Then he started working for MLJ comics where later he was asked to work up a high school style comic strip story. At the age of 21, he created Archie, drawn from his own high school experiences. Harry Shorten, the editor of MLJ helped by teaching him how to write good comic dialogue. The success of the character in MLJ's Pep Comics (December, 1941) led MLJ to assign Montana to draw the first issue of Archie (November, 1942).
Living at the apartment on 24th street in NYC with his mother and sister Ruth, Montana was soon drawing the Archie comic strip, doing both the daily and Sunday strip which over the next 35 years was running in over 750 newspapers.
During World War II, Montana spent four years in the Army Signal Corps, drawing coded maps and working on training films with William Saroyan and cartoonists Sam Cobean and Charles Addams. In 1944, he was stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, where he met a 19-year-old Army secretary, Helen (Peggy) Wherett, who was raised in Asbury Park, New Jersey. In 1946, the couple married and moved to Manhattan, then again to Meredith in 1948, where they bought an old New England-style farmhouse. In New Hampshire, they raised four children, organic vegetables, assorted chickens, horses and sheep. The entire family sometimes lived for extended periods in England, Rome and Mexico.
From 1999 to 2003, his daughter, Lynn Montana, of Meredith, along with her sister, Paige Kuether, managed a website, Archie Prints, to market prints of their father's artwork. The site featured pages from the diary-sketchbook kept by Montana about life in Haverhill High during the late 1930s. The Bob Montana Papers are in the Special Collections at Syracuse University.
After hours at the drawing table, Montana relaxed by sailing his Friendship sloop, the White Eagle, on Lake Winnipesaukee, and taking cross country ski jaunts through the back country near his home. He died of a heart attack on January 4, 1975, while cross-country skiing in Meredith.
- "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JKXM-MMQ : accessed 02 Mar 2013), Robert Montana, January 1975.
- "Markstein, Don. Toonopedia". Toonopedia.com. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
- "Gerald Peary". Gerald Peary. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
- "Dan DeCarlo, Archie Artist and Creator Of Josie and the Pussycats, Is Dead at 82". New York Times. December 23, 2001.