Although Archie, up until the late 70s/early 80’s, never gave credit to their writers and artists in the pages, readers began to recognize, and buy Dan’s unique and different style. Editors noticed the trend and ended up proclaiming “Dan’s work sells! Everything he does sells!’ Archie had weekly instruction classes to have DeCarlo train new artists to learn his style. Archie’s would later videotape these sessions and sent copies to out-of-state artists. Recently, after receiving many complaints from fussy readers, current editor Victor Gorelick sent a memo to all pencillers (other than Dan) warning them that they “better shape up... Dan DeCarlo won’t be around forever!”
Meanwhile, things in Archie’s side of town were jumping. Pop music behind-the-scene legend Don Kirshner was looking for another TV/music media band as he had just been fired by his last creation, The Monkees. What Don found in The Archies was strong youth appeal, built-in recognition and, most important to him, fictional...which meant these members couldn’t talk back.
Plans were made between Kirshner, Archie’s and the animation studio Filmation for a major crossover deal that would combined comics, TV and records. This package would find Archie and his gang forming a garage rock band of their own. Kirshner recruited Ron Dante and Andy Kim for the musical chores of writing, producing and performing with the band (2)., first under Calendar Records, then under Kirshner Records.
After a non-appearance on ABC-TV’s ‘The Music Scene’, the second single, ‘Sugar, Sugar’, turned out to be a smash, hitting number one in the Billboard Top 40 survey. It was the 4th largest single of 1969 (just a notch above ‘Honky Talk Woman’ by The Rolling Stones) and end up being a oldies/bubble-gum classic.
With the success of ‘The Archies’, the publishers were looking for properties to continue the streak and picked Josie. They asked DeCarlo to develop a package to present Josie to interested parties. “Mr.” Goldwater later added a muscle-bound character named ‘Alan M.’ as a big favor to a friend of his he wanted to repay. No explanation was given for what the “M” stood for (3). Dan added, among other things, a new character named Valerie Smith, Archie’s first black character, and developed the “Pussycats” concept and its costume based on a Halloween outfit HIS Josie wore to a Halloween party many years ago.
While ‘The Archies’ may have had Filmation, Josie ended up getting the full treatment from the leader of television animation, Hanna-Barbara! The H-B studios were on a powerhouse roll with classic hits like ‘Johnny Quest’, ‘Magilla Gorilla’, ‘The Banana Splits’ and ‘Scooby Doo, Where Are You?’ This time, the changes were meant for good.
Number 42 (August ‘69) saw the official disappearance of Clyde and Pepper and the appearance of Alan M.; a clean-cut, blonde,
muscle-bound...folk singer. (It would seem that Albert went off on a fitness sabbatical with Arnold Schwartzeneggar.) He even had
his own three-piece combo called ‘Alan & The Jesters’. However, the slaughter would continue since the combo would be gone in the next issue.
Number 43 (Sept. ‘69) finds the Cabot siblings reading from an old family ancestry album. According to the album, they have an uncle named ‘Sebastian’ who was prosecuted for “consorting with witches” three hundred years ago. Alexandra scoffs at this while holding her new cat, ‘Sebastian’. Despite her reaction, Alex
is determined to get to the bottom of this recent discovery.
In another room, they find a portrait of the old man himself, with a few surprises. First there’s a white streak running down the middle of his hair, very similar to the one on Alexandra and the cat. Second, sharing the painting with the great uncle and sitting on a crystal ball, is a cat who has a striking resemblance to the one in Alexandra’s arms. The inscription on the ball says, “... stroke of light through darkness black, stroke my fur.... I arch my back, warlock, witch or bottle genie, call me up EENIE MEANIE!”
ABOVE: The first and last appearance of Alan & The Jetsters.
Alex puts the pieces together and proclaims that his dear sister is a witch. Despite this bold claim, Alexandra just laughs and walks off, cat in arms. Soon after, she playfully scratches Sebastian and casts a joke ‘Eenie Meanie’ spell, and a pie is flung from out of nowhere and hits Alex in the face. Alex then claims that the cat is the reincarnation of Uncle Sebastian. Now, both are convinced
For the rest of the issue and the series, both would test Alexandra’s and Sebastian’s combined powers for their own benefit to: 1) cast a spell on Josie to fall in love with Alex, 2) ditto on Alan M. with Alexandra and 3) if Alex should make her upset, Alexandra can zap him. The only weakness to Alexandra’s magic (outside of her destructive ego) is the sound of snapping fingers, mainly produced by rhythm-happy Melody. This super-natural ingredient added more to the mayhem. It’s a wonder that nobody got killed.
The changes continued in #45 (Dec. ‘69) with the introduction of the band and a new member. In the first story, ‘Decisions, Decisions’. Alexandra tries to cut into Josie’s and Melody’s plans to start a band. Expecting them to say yes, Alexandra says she’ll only join if she is made the leader and the band named after her. Of course, Josie and Melody don’t buy this at all and turn her down, even though they seriously do need a third member to make this plan work. Alex over hears this exchange and seizes the opportunity to “get in good” with Josie by searching for that third wheel himself.
He comes back to introduce the girls to Valerie Smith, and with the rocking lyrics, “We are the Pussycats, With A Brand New Sound, It Will Make You Ears Perk, And Your Head Spin Around!”, she joined for good.
As mentioned before, Alexandra’s powers weren’t as dangerous as her temper and jealousy. Now that Valerie took over “her” spot, she began to take it out on her “dear brother”. Now the siblings had to contend with: 1. Alexandra trying to take over the band and 2. Alex trying
to manage the band with almost everyone caught in the middle.
With Melody obviously on her own wavelength and with Josie up front, Valerie was left with the role of the-only-sane-fool-in-the-asylum, a role vacated by Pepper. This set-up was in place for the duration of the comic book and the TV series. With all the ingredients for constant and potential disaster, this tour would pre-date Spinal Tap by almost 15 years. What wasn’t really pointed out at the time was that Valerie would end up being not only the first African American character in Archie Comics, but the first in animated television, too.
Number 50 (Sept. 1970) officially got the whole deal off the ground with the cast paying a visit to the old Hanna-Barbara Studios with Mr. Hanna and Barbara as their hosts. The cast was shown around to demonstrate
how animation works and how the show is made, much to the annoyance of Alexandra The Great Perfectionist.
From here, the comic and the series went their separate ways. While the comic stayed in its basic ‘Archie’ mind set with a little adventure mixed in, the series took the successful ‘Scooby Doo’ path, with some globe-trotting and espionage on the side. This separate world theory
should keep some of you elseworld freaks happy, so I’ll leave it right here.