One of the many assignments that passed through Dan door was a script from Archie, then known as MLJ Comics. It was for the just launched ‘Archie’s Gals Betty & Veronica’ title…but he wasn’t interested. Dan usually avoided until the last possible minute to do their scripts as they paid one of the cheapest rates in the industry. While publishers offered around $50 per page and better scripts, Archie only offered $20. However, Lipick persuaded DeCarlo to gave their script a shot. Thus, DeCarlo’s Archie Comics debuted in
‘Betty & Veronica’ #4.
When Timely collapsed, DeCarlo and Lee ventured into the world of syndicated comic strips with ‘Willie Lumpkin’ and ‘Life With Lizzie’. One day, while trying to develop a strip of his own, Dan noticed his wife’s brand-new bouffant hair-do with a little black ribbon on top. He then made a slightly exaggerated sketch based on her hair and, from that, he started to develop a teenage comic strip named ‘Josie’ after his inspiration. United Features liked what they saw and offered to pick it up. Dan realized that he couldn’t do two strips and his massive freelance book schedule at the same time, so he shelved ‘Josie’.
Gradually, Dan did more work for Archie than for his other clients. He soon went full-time with them after ‘Lumpkin’ folded and some of the other comic book publishers were going out of business. Dan showed the Josie strips to Richard Goldwater, the son of Archie publisher, John Goldwater, and tried to sell the strips off for a full book title. Instead, Richard pasted a ‘Dick & Dan’ credit on top and showed them to King Features Syndicate. After King turned it down, Richard took it back to Archie and turned into a comic, though thefirst issue didn’t launch until two years later.
ABOVE: The first issue!
Finally, ‘She’s Josie’ #1 appeared in February 1963. The first issue started off with Josie and her friend, Melody, getting ready for a walk. Josie complains that men are getting “flabby” due to the lack of exercise because they only exercise when they chase after Melody. The two go their separate ways, and Josie bumps into Albert.
Actually, Albert almost falls on her while falling from a
tree (?). After their little exchange, Alex shows up in his sports car and offers Josie a personal tour of his private gym. Josie accepts, and they leave poor Albert, literally, in the dust.
Along the way, Josie spots Pepper, tells Alex to pull over and offers her a ride...as protection against Alex; “I know your exercise,” warns Josie, “No wrestling today!” When they arrive at the gym, the girls challenge Alex to a game of ‘Follow the Leader’. Even though he’s out of breath by the time they get to the rings, Alex ends up wining by ordering his butler to take his place. Disappointed, the girls leave.
From here, we are shown three vignettes with exercise as a plot thread. The first round, ‘Neat Workers’, finds the girls with nothing better to do, so they offer to clean Josie’s father’s garage as part of their new exercise plan. After discovering the garage is filled to the rafters, Pepper goes out to find Sock and Albert. She offers all-muscles-no-brain Sock an “opportunity to tone” his physique, to which he replies, “Who do you want me to fracture, Pepper?” However, when the girls get back, they discover the guys took everything out, cleaned it and put it back in its’ original disorderly state.
The second round has the whole gang at the local pizza joint. In keeping with the competitive spirit so far, Albert challenges Alex to dance contest. Things get out of hand when this almost-friendly game turns into a arm wrestling match. One broken table later, the gang is kicked out. The third and final round, again, finds the girls by themselves, this time at the local school running track and ends
with Melody being chased around the track by the now-active football and track teams. A typical Melody ending closing out the first issue.
As with any long-running series, the origins are vastly different from today. Josie’s haircut is a little larger and more flamboyant with bigger curls going out instead of in. Pepper is the active cynic of the cast; the horn-rim glasses and a smirk are the notable giveaways and Melody is.....well, Melody; blonde, naive, oblivious, sincere and, to top it all off, gorgeous. She will prove to be the most
stable character out of the entire cast, Josie included.
In a career-spanning interview in The Comics Journal with Mike Curtis (#229/Dec. 2000), DeCarlo describes Josie and the girls: “Josie was a contemporary character, much more so than Archie. An intelligent kid, she had goals, and wanted to succeed in life. She had a mother and father, but was very mature. (Pepper) was a very bright girl. She was the original “Save The World” environmentalist and protester. (Melody) was the knockout, the one the boys fought over and fell over each other trying to get to. And she never had a clue that she was causing it.”
ABOVE: the original trio
ABOVE: Josie's & Alexandra's original haircuts.
Next up in the cast was Alexandra Cabot, Alex’s snobby yet cool and smooth sister. She would be the pain-in-the-neck for Alex (sibling rivalry) and for Josie (over Albert). However, as the issues progressed, she became more aggressive, more involved and, therefore, short-tempered, blowing her cool like an atomic bomb.
Soon enough, the relationships and story lines were set. These would be the main trio of Josie, Pepper and Melody; Josie’s frustrations with Albert and (later) his folk music; Albert and Alex fighting over Josie and their competing manhood; everybody chasing Melody; Pepper trying to set everybody and everything straight
AND Alexandra pushing Josie out of the picture for Albert and her growing ego. Sound familiar?
As in his days at Timely, DeCarlo would keep himself busy with other in-house assignments. Among them would be almost all of Archie Comics covers, and countless ‘Betty & Veronica’ stories. Dan, along with George Gladir, created ‘Sabrina, The Teenage Witch’ for ‘Archie’s Madhouse’ #22 (Oct. ‘62). She would later have her own title and Filmation-animated series in 1972 and, of course, a live
action series for ABC-TV in 2000.
With all of this in place, the writers and editors didn’t have to worry much about running out of material. Issue #3 has the gang off on a beach trip and ending up with stolen jewels while chaos ensues (Sound familiar? Again?). #6 has the trio in a haunted house (ditto?), in #7, Josie gives Albert a guitar and she finds out how much he LOVES folk music. In #14, Melody gets kidnapped by a band of
gypsies. The cover of this same issue has the cast dancing around Gypsy Melody with Josie scolding, “I can clue you on your future fortune if you don’t cool off this horseplay!” A rare authoritative moment from a laidback Josie!!
One of the funnier issues is #20. In the lead story ‘Rebellion’, Josie throws Albert out for paying more attention to his guitar than her. Still upset, Josie decides to plan a protest against men and the rest of the trio join in as they paint signs like ‘Men Are Not Worthy’, ‘Let’s Get The Girls Out Of The Kitchen’ and ‘Freedom For Women!’. As they start their demonstration in the center of the town, they run into a
group of disappointing older women. That is until the ladies read the girl’s signs and, fiercely agreeing with them, grab them from the girls and take over the rally.
The ladies get so caught up in the message that they get physical with some of the male bystanders. This increasingly motley scene scares the trio off just as the cops arrive. The girls get to Josie’s house only to be visited by a bruised and beaten Alex and Albert announcing that the town was taken over by “wild women” (whom, by this time, included Josie’ mother). This is probably the first Archie title ever to have a social riot within its’ pages.
‘Video Virus’ is the second story and is pretty well self-explanatory. The only TV set in Melody’s house is broken. We and the cast discover Melody’s TV addiction. After laying a trail of devastation in her wake as she searches for TV, Melody gets herself into an accident. She ends up in a hospital bed ... happily in her own private room, complete with a TV set and a ‘No Visitors’ sign on the door.
Number 22 had a couple of interesting cover appearances. The first was the cover gag showing a line of superheroes at an employment agency. Some of them were created by comic legend Jack Kirby for Archie Comics for their own superhero line. The second was the first appearance of the names ‘Dick ‘N Dan’ placed just under the ‘Josie’ banner, standing for Goldwater and DeCarlo. In those days, it was incredibly rare for Archie to give any of their artists and writers ANY credit!
Other subtle changes were also taking place at this time. Josie's hair style was trimmed to the now-familiar short dutch-bob style and her name changed from Josie Jones to Josie McCoy (1) and Alex and Alexandra were getting more on each other (and everybody else's) nerves. However, the most UNsettling change was in wardrobe. Archie Comics tried to play catch-up with their youthful market by having their main characters dress "hip". This meant use of the fluorescent color wheel to decorate the clothing, bell bottom everything, "funky" sunglasses (Alex would be the casualty in this accident), fringe and rhinestones dangling from everywhere, glow in the dark earrings, etc., etc,.... Ouch!
Greater changes were coming about in #36 (Sept. '68), in the form of Clyde Didit (who had comicdom's first blonde afro). Soon after his arrival, Clyde began to hit on Josie, but Pepper smelled a rat (possibly because he doesn't bathe that often, but I digress) and kept him away from her friend. This was a good move because every time Clyde sang a tune from his endless catalog of self-pinned blues songs, he would get clobbered by either a tree, brick or a plane, depending upon what the song was about. With Clyde's unique luck, the rhythm and slapstick was quicker than before.
While one character was added, two were about to be subtracted. First went Pepper. While DeCarlo was starting to make plans to have her carry protest signs and so on, "Mr." John Goldwater took Pepper out because, as quoted by DeCarlo, "You don't have a girl like that in Riverdale. At Riverdale, everybody respects authority, respects everyone." This struck DeCarlo as odd seeing that he didn't even know Josie lived in Riverdale, it was Midvale in the first place. Second to quietly go was Albert as his position of residential folk singer was replaced by Clyde..... but even more was to come.
Despite "Mr." Goldwater's demanding changes on Josie, DeCarlo's distinctive style was already felt throughout Archie's other titles. When DeCarlo started his work for Archie, the house style was strictly patterned after original Archie artist and co-creator, Bob Montana. After awhile, Dan complained to the editor how he couldn't handle Montana's style, so the editor allowed him to take a shot with his own. Slowly but surely, sales of comics with Dan's art (primarily 'Betty & Veronica') began to sell out more than usual and, in the process, replaced Montana as the NEW house style.