Josie and the Pussycats. Josie is the one on the left. Artist: Dan DeCarlo.


Original Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Archie Comics
First Appeared: 1963
Creator: Dan DeCarlo
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Archie and his spin-offs aren't the only Archie-style comics the Archie Comics Group has published. They've also done Wilber, Seymour, Suzie, and …

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… any number of other attempts to duplicate that early success. In 1963, artist Dan DeCarlo, who had been drawing the Betty & Veronica series since 1957, developed an Archie-type scenario titled She's Josie (named after his wife) as a proposed newspaper strip. His employers at Archie talked him into doing it as a comic book for them, instead. While never achieving Archie's level of stardom, the Josie series was nonetheless the most successful of those in-house knock-offs.

The series got along for several years as just another comic book about the hilarious antics of a group of high school students. In 1970, Hanna-Barbera did an animated version for CBS that tweaked the concept a little — Josie and her friends formed a rock'n'roll band and went on tour, having adventures and solving mysteries wherever they stopped. The comic book followed suit, changing its title to match the TV show — Josie & the Pussycats, which debuted on CBS Sept. 12 of that year.

If the concept sounds a bit like Scooby-Doo, there's a good reason. Hanna-Barbera was riding high on the recent success of that show, and was simply trying to duplicate its own hit. Once again, Josie was treated as an in-house knock-off. To drive the point home, Don Messick, who did Scooby's voice, was also the voice of the group's cat, Sebastian. The other big-name voice talent on the show was Cheryl Ladd as Melody's singing voice — the character's speaking voice was provided by Jackie Joseph (several voices on Scooby-Doo). Josie herself was Janet Waldo (Penelope Pitstop, Morticia Addams).

One major difference between the cartoon and the comic book was the character of Alexandra, sister of band manager Alexander and Josie's rival for roadie Alan's affection. On TV, she was just a standard source of nasty antagonism; but in comics, she was, like Sabrina, an actual witch.

Josie & the Pussycats ran two seasons on CBS, then was tweaked again. Josie & the Pussycats in Outer Space was basically the same show, but with a slight change of venue. The altered setting seems not to have caught on with viewers (and was not duplicated in the comic book), and the revised show was gone a year later.

In comic books, however, Josie & the Pussycats continued on its bimonthly schedule until 1982, and has appeared in occasional specials ever since.

It was a dispute over ownership of the "Josie" set of characters that led Archie Comics to fire Dan DeCarlo in May, 2000. They were being adapted into a live-action feature film with Rachel Leigh Cook in the title role (it was released April 11, 2001, and subsequently forgotten), and the 80-year-old cartoonist demanded his financial due as Josie's creator. The company claimed his page rate was all the "financial due" he was entitled to. A lawsuit followed, and DeCarlo (who, by the way, in addition to having created Josie et al., also created the current version of the company's house style) found himself suddenly out in the cold, after 43 years — and subsequently deluged with job offers from all over the comics industry.

DeCarlo also became an "un-person" at Archie Comics, not just fired from all the work he was doing for the company, but never so much as alluded to as part of the its history, despite his enormous contributions. Which proves even characters that aren't superstars can have profound, unexpected effects on their creators' lives, decades after their heyday.

The lawsuit went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the status quo. The day after the ruling was issued, DeCarlo died.


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Text ©2000-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Archie Comics.