By Christina Ramírez
El Paso Times
John Caldwell, an eighth-grader at St. Clement's Episcopal Parish School, didn't believe his art teacher when she told them they were going to get art lessons from an El Pasoan who drew the "Archie" comics.
"I didn't believe someone like that lived here," said John, 13.
He and 27 classmates who are studying cartoon drawing in their art course received a treat Thursday when Tom Moore stopped by to give pointers and draw a few "Archie" characters.
Moore, 72, was the talent behind the popular "Archie" comics from 1953 until his retirement in 1988.
Today, a team of artists and writers is responsible for producing the comic series, but back then Moore did it the old-fashioned way - all by himself.
Students and teachers "ooohed" and "aaahed" as Archie, Reggie, Jughead and Betty came to life in their classroom.
"He makes it look so easy," said Caldwell, who had attempted his own drawing of "Archie" in his sketchbook. "I think Archie is the easiest to draw, and Jughead is the hardest."
With flawless ease Moore turned an average letter - C - into the not-so-average comic book character - Archie.
"It's important to create characters that can adapt to anything, but whose personalities are consistent," Moore said. "Establish that, and don't deviate. Betty doesn't act like Veronica, and Charlie Brown doesn't act like Lucy."
Elizabeth Ibarra, 13, said she and her classmates were excited at the chance to meet a celebrity.
"I think he's made us better artists," said Elizabeth, an eighth-grader. "I probably won't be a professional cartoonist, but it's a fun hobby."
Lately, Moore has been teaching computer-generated art part time at El Paso Community College.
A 1946 graduate of Austin High School, he became a cartoonist while serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, when he was called in after drawing a caricature of his captain and reassigned as the staff cartoonist.
He served his time, used the GI Bill to attend art school and signed up with what is today called Archie Comic Publications in New York.
In 1961, he and his family left Long Island to return to El Paso, where he continued to do the comic book until his retirement in 1988.
Moore was also an illustrator for "Snuffy Smith," "Underdog" and "Mighty Mouse."