Imagine, if you will, the Incredible Hulk transforming into his superhero self, but as a colorless shadow. If not for Stan Goldberg, the Long Island artist responsible for the color scheme, inking and the Hulk's signature green tone, it might have been. Goldberg's life and work in comics are on view in "From Archie to Zany: 65 Years of Comic Book Art by Stan Goldberg" at the Suffolk County Historical Society Museum in Riverhead through May 20. It's filled with great stories.
In the original issue, Marvel Comics' The Incredible Hulk was as gray as stone. It was Goldberg who convinced his collaborator, editor and friend — the renowned Stan Lee — to bring the Hulk to life through bold color. "My father said, 'Look the gray just doesn't work, doesn't pop, and that's the thing that people are going to look at and be attracted to,'" explained the artist's son, Steve Goldberg, "So he made the Hulk green, and the rest is history."
That's just one fascinating chapter of the local artist's story being presented by curator, Brad Kolodny, director of the Jewish Historical Society of Long Island. "What we look to do is bring stories of Long Island Jewish history to the forefront," said Kolodny, noting that most of Goldberg's characters came to life in his home studio, first in Jericho and later in Hampton Bays. "People may not know that the man behind Archie and his gang was a Jewish Long Islander. He worked with some of the biggest names in the business and drew some of the most iconic characters that we all still know and love today."
THE STORYBOARD OF HIS LIFE
With texts punctuated by pictures, the show is laid out almost like a storyboard, following Goldberg's start in the industry, through decades of his work, to the accolades and awards that followed. The tale and the visual impact also came together through collaboration. Kolodny fleshed out Goldberg's story and gathered more than 80 works. Then he brought them to Victoria Berger, executive director of the Suffolk County Historical Society.
WHAT "From Archie to Zany: 65 Years of Comic Book Art by Stan Goldberg"
WHEN | WHERE Through May 20, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Suffolk County Historical Society Museum, 300 W. Main St., Riverhead
INFO $5, $3 age 60 and older, $1 age 17 and younger; 631-727-2881, suffolkcountyhistoricalsociety.org
"What we do here is tell the stories of Suffolk County residents," said Berger, adding, "This is a great piece of Jewish history, local history, and pop-culture history, and I loved it." She and her team applied their own artistry, painting the gallery in bright colors and blowing up some of the comic book characters to almost life-size. "There's been an absolutely fantastic response," she said.
Stan Goldberg was born in 1932, and started working for Marvel's predecessor, Timely Comics, in 1949 as just a teenager, later attending the School of Visual Arts. "It was always a passion of my father's to be a cartoonist, ever since he was a little kid," his son explained. While Stan Goldberg was responsible for the Hulk's green tone and Spiderman's red and blue suit, it was Archie and his gang that meant the most to the artist. He drew, inked and lived with the teens from Riverdale for more than four decades. "He loved Archie and Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. They were his other family," his son said.
The exhibition presents dozens of Archie drawings, all the way to 2009, when Archie got married.
Some are shown in black and white, alongside the completed works in full color. Look for original artwork, vintage comic books, a collection of fine art drawings Goldberg made during his travels, and some of his brushes and tools, straight from the artist's drafting table. For budding artists, there's a video master class taught by Stan Goldberg that runs in the gallery. To tempt those who might want to try, the show documents the awards Goldberg won, including the National Cartoonists Society's Gold Key Award, the industry's highest honor, which was presented to him in 2012, two years before his death.
"We all grew up with Archie comics," noted Berger. "I hope everybody walks out of the room with a smile on their face. It's a lot of fun." The exhibition offers the chance to experience the work of an artist from Long Island who may not have been world famous, but whose work most of us have held in our hands and who touched our lives. "He left a legacy," Berger said, "in pen and ink."