‘Josie’ may have been in a lull, but DeCarlo wasn’t. In 1982, he was
asked to create “another girl that who was more villainous than
Veronica - snobby, richer, more troublesome.” Thus, Dan’s second
redhead creation, Cheryl Blossom! Cheryl was one babe that every
guy in Riverdale (including Archie himself) wanted and she knew it.
She also knew Archie had a tug-of-war relationship with Betty and
Veronica and she played this love triangle to her advantage. About a
decade later, this set-up lead to a rarity in Archie Comics ranks....an
ACTUAL 3-part mini-series, called ‘Love Showdown’. After the series
made its mark (sorry, the triangle remained intact), Cheryl got her own
During this time, Dan’s sons were graduating from collage, they all
decided to follow in their old man’s footsteps and took up the family
pen. After Dan trained his boys by helping him with his output, they
became successful comic artists in their own right. When Bob
Montana died in 1975, Dan was the obvious choice to take up the daily
Archie strip as his style had replaced Montana’s years ago.
Even though Dan was fulltime with Archie (work for hire fulltime,
actually), old habits died hard as he continued to do freelance work for
other companies. He penciled Marvel’s Star comic The Smurfs and
had a reunion of sorts when he drew some of his old characters from
his Timely days like Irma for a back up story for Marvel Valentine
Special #1. However, Archie took offense to a couple of these
assignments. One small incident between Dan and Archie was a
innocent pin-up Dan did for Harris Comics for one of their Vampirella
The ‘vamp’ incident was a mere drizzle compared to the
thunderstorm of trouble that developed when Dan was
approached by Penthouse Magazine for their adult anthology
comic series. Penthouse editors offered an idea of a strip
about a trio of female musicians, much like the Pussycats,
called ‘Pets’. Dan liked this proposal but he began to have
serious doubts when he received the script, “it was too wild”,
as he later described it, and told Penthouse he couldn’t do it.
The editors offered to a rewrite and Dan agreed to do the
model sheets. Unfortunately, the re-writes didn’t change
matters much and Dan turned them down again. By this
time, however, Penthouse had already advertised the strip
with DeCarlo’s name on it! Penthouse made a deal that Dan
would be listed only as an “consultant” and hired another
artist - a former Archie artist, John Workman. When the
magazine was printed, DeCarlo’s name was on the cover
and featured prominently over the strip.
When this issue hit the stands, the (you-know-what) hit
Archies’ fans and gave Dan a hard time over it. According to
rumors, Archie demanded that Dan get their approval before
accepting any freelance job in the future. This issue is rare,
out-of-print and considered a highly collectible item.
What ‘Josie’ needed now was a ‘spark’ to save her from her rut and it came in as a combination of nostalgia and cable TV. In
1991, Ted Turner’s pioneering and maverick cable empire (which included CNN, TNT, TMC and more) continued to expand its
reach when he created The Cartoon Network, a 24 hour animation/cartoon channel. Using the early Warner Bros./MGM cartoon
library that Turner already owned and his close association with Hanna-Barbara, he had more than enough to fill the schedule.
Soon afterwards, Turner bought H-B outright and began to dig deep into their vaults. One of the finds was the ‘Josie’ shows.
This rebroadcast of ‘Josie’ started off with a marathon and a regular prime late afternoon slot. Thanks to continuous airings
and consistent time slots (usually shown along side other H-B shows of the same era), ‘Josie’ was reintroduced and finally
recognized in the limelight of animation and cultural consciousness.
In 1995, ‘Wild Kartoon Kingdom’ (an imprint of ‘Film Threat’) welcomed her back by posing such burning questions as, “Why
(does) Josie...always sing a song while running away from their enemies?”, “Are Josie and the Pussycats all maternal twins
with different haircuts?”, and, possibly, the biggest question of all, “Is it wrong to fantasize about cartoon characters?” For what it’
s worth, this seemed like a positive review, even the editors rated the show a 9 in watchability and a 10 on ‘sex quotient’. ‘Q’, the
British music magazine, named ‘Josie’ as one of the top sexiest in animation, describing the Pussycats as “eponymous, be-
leopardskinned, Russ Meyer-esque...”
In his July 14, 2000 article on bubble-gum music (“Why ‘Greatest Bubble-Gum Hits’ Is Not An Oxymoron”), LA Times famous
(and notorious) music critic Robert Hilburn picked “Every Beat Of My Heart” as one of the best in this gender saying, “This single
is an inviting Phil Spector’s legendary ‘girl group’ sound and the Southern, horn-accented heat of Elvis Presley’s ‘Suspicious
Minds’ period. The big question here is why this record wasn’t a hit?... Maybe it’s too good for the bubblegum market.”
Dan DeCarlo's version of Vampirella
LEFT: just a couple of character designs from the
In the late 90’s, a fan got impatient for a digital reissue and
released all available ‘Josie’ recordings (with a few rarities) on a
collectors bootleg CD. You can sometimes find this at specialty
record stores and, of course, on E-Bay. The only ‘legal’ digital
‘Josie’ available is the ‘Heart’ track on ‘25 All-Time Greatest
Bubblegum Hits’ on the Varese Sarabande label (7) and, if you’re
really lucky, a old laser disc collection of the complete ‘Josie’ TV
series from Japan.
During this same time, MCA Records released ‘Saturday
Morning’, a tribute CD filled with alternative bands covering themes
from the old animated shows. Among the highlights in this set
were ‘Spiderman’ (The Ramones), ‘Scooby-Doo’ (Matthew Sweet),
‘Johnny Quest’ (Rev. Horton Heat) and, of course, ‘Josie’ covered
by Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly. The CD even offered a lyric
Archie brought her back in 1993 with a new issue number one, a
DeCarlo cover and centerfold (Allison Flood inks). For die-hard
fans, this was a treat! However, the biggest surprise was that out of
the 48 pages, only 8 contained new material. The rest of the issue
was reprints of ‘Decisions, Decisions’, ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I?’
and ‘Up, Up & Away’.
Number 2 (early 1994) followed the same pattern. The new story was called ‘Love & War’ and it had the girls go up against a
bunch of Bon-Jovi types who called themselves ‘The Snake Brothers’. The reprints this time were ‘Work Of Art’, ‘To
Grandmother’s House’, ‘Brawn Is Beautiful’, ‘If The Spirit Moves You’ and ‘Maxim Mix-Up’. This issue also contained a long-lost
feature - a letters column. Unfortunately, the sales weren’t up to the publishers expectations, and thus ‘Josie’ was unplugged....
In the April 1994 issue of Tower Records’ ‘Pulse!’ magazine, Josie and the ‘Cats were featured in the ‘Flipside’ section,
entitled ‘Josie & The Pussycats: The Original Riot Grrrls’. Valerie tells Josie about a ‘Riot Grrl’ article in Pulse! (of course), and
that there more ‘Grrl’ groups than ever before. These groups not only play their own instruments but manage their own
bookings, crew work, finances and merchandising. “...and get this,” Val adds, “some bands have even signed deals to appear
in comic books? Now where did they get that idea?”
Two issues later, a letter was printed protesting the Josie/Grrrl comparison. It concluded that the Pulse! comic was
“denigrating to the powerful young women who make up this movement...(Riot Grrl) bands address topics that ‘Josie’ would
never touch.” This letter from Seattle ended by demanding a apology for printing “this ...piece of misleading trash.” Not many
were buying the nostalgia, especially with cultural misunderstanding involved.
This was one of many small bumps on the road to rediscovery for Josie. Although there some merchandising (a refrigerator
magnet and few T-shirts), these were limited and wasn’t much push behind them. Even some hardcore collectors didn’t catch
many of them. Archie, for reasons only known to itself, didn’t really know what to do with her (there was an unconfirmed rumor
that they were planning to sell her off). Alas, nostalgia was not finished with her yet, as there was one ace in the hole....
|ABOVE: The CD bootleg cover from the late 90's