We’ll have to start off with me, Don Fields (left, circa 1974), the fanboy who has been dragging this money on my back through out most of his life.
I might as well admit my part to the sugar-filled head count of a generation who wasted Saturday mornings of the 70’s glued to the TV watching the usual suspects. You name ‘em and I watched ‘em, and over time, outgrew ‘em, too. However, only one show (outside of The Electric Company) had remained in my head to this very day, Josie & The Pussycats. Why? I guess it must have been some sort of a TV based puppy love phase I
found myself going through during those early media days; Marlo Thomas was the center of my then universe and Mary Tyler Moore followed right behind later on, but the residue
from Josie remained.
Soon after the exposure of the show, I discovered the comics. As before, I outgrew those early impulses and, in due time, I lost interest and/or touch with Josie and went on with what’s left of my life.
It wasn’t until the late 80’s that I began to get familiar with comics in much more depth, thanks to the discovery of more “underground” titles like Love & Rockets, American Splendor, Howard The Duck (way before the movie killed him off) Neat Stuff, the works of R. Crumb and so on. Eventually, this lead to my re-vamped interest in Josie and found other fans in the along the way and began collecting the back issues.
In the early 90’s, I came upon “zines”, the small-self-publishing movement that began to spread out over the country thanks to review publications like Factsheet Five and soon began to make some of my own like Bros. From Bakersfield, NegativFANBOYland (Negativland fanzine) and so on. From this juncture, I was soon making the connection between my comics and zine pursuits and came up with only one conclusion: ‘JosieAPA’.
As I was a member of an APA at the time, I figured I could come up with an APA of my own, with Josie/Archie/DeCarlo as a central theme. However, reality sat in and I ended up reformatting the project as a one shot zine and guessed up a new name with a subtle Russ Meyer reference: The Return To The Valley Of The Pussycats! (cover right)
This reality I just spoke of was both from the serious lack of response and a cease and desist notice from Archie Comics. Yup, after years of hearing about Archie lawyer’s itchy fingers protecting their “property” from the likes of Benn (Ninja High School) Dunn, Larry (Cherry Poptart) Waltz and MAD Magazine, similar to jury duty notification, I finally got fingered.
As you can imagine, novice legal boy here got scared. However, thanks to the advise of a couple of legal-minded friends (one of whom was a lawyer), I wrote them back diplomatically stating that the project was billed as “unauthorized” and it was a fun and respective tribute to their characters and no adult material was not going to be used…and that was the last time I heard from
them…directly, that is.
Learning from this brief speed bump, I decided on a new title and a limited print run of 75 copies, thus once I ran out, I’m out and there was nothing nobody, including Archies, can do about it.
Using a 1990 ‘Josie’ article from Goldmine Magazine by the mysterious D. C. Hampton (who later sent me a cassette copy of the full original Josie LP) and the book ‘Dan DeCarlo’ by the even more mysterious Mary Smith, I began to do the rough and tumble history research of what little information there was out there. I didn’t even know anybody who had connections to DeCarlo.
Fortunately, some of my friends and the sudden reliable network of fans (mind you, this was before the internet!) chipped in with material, artwork and advise (including another mysterious human form known as Mathew Lungsford who provided the brilliant Meyer-inspired cover). Sooner than expected, I had the 60 page digest-sized tomb ready and sent it off to some friends and one to the late and great Factsheet Five for review. Soon after FF5 gave it a great write up (see below), copies flew out the door in an insane pace and heartbreaks for many who can in late for the party!
The response was tremendous! They ranged from “cool” to the more typical “I remember this!” to “Holy Sh*t!” (as in “I didn’t know that?!” and “How the hell did you dig up this information?!”). One zine’er send me copies of her JEM zine! I was grateful for all the responses I got, good and bad, but one was a total stand out!
One of the first Valley contributors, Ed Garcia, had long time been pursuing Archie Comics for freelance work for years. During the San Diego Comic Con, Ed walked up to the Archie table and began to have a nice talk to one of the editors. During the course of their conversation, Ed brought up the title of my Josie zine. Suddenly, the editor asked Ed if he knew “Don Fields”. When Ed said yes, the editor excused himself and conferred with the other editors and management. He came back and notified Ed that he can no longer communicate with him and the company because of his association with me, and described my little zine as a “rag”.
Sometime later, I was told by another Valley contributor/Archie artist wanna-be that my name was well-known and forbidden within the halls of Archie Comics offices. At this point, you couldn’t knock the 16-ton ego off my shoulder with an atomic bomb!
By then the fame of my Josie zine finally reached epic portions and the demand for more Josie was leaning on top of me like a ton of bricks. Now this was going to be difficult as I strongly believed that I milked as much ‘Josie’ as I can get with the limited resources and I was now dependent on others for material and wasn’t in the mood to be tortured by waiting for content.
However, after I gave into pressure and announced another Jozine, the “waiting” matter became moot as I was
avalanched with contributions, both in text and art (one of which featured me being kissed by Josie! see below
right). I also focused more on DeCarlo than the last issue and used some of his great pin-up art from his
Humorama Magazine work and Millie The Model comics with Stan Lee.
It was also here that I gave the whole “unofficial” project its official name ‘JOZINE!’
With the great 70’s revival of
the 90’s at it’s boiling point in 1996, ‘Jozine: The Last
Temptation Of The Josie &
The Pussycats Fandom’ was
released and was greeted as
well as the first.
It was soon after this release
that, through Mike Curtis of
Shanda The Panda fame, Dan
DeCarlo himself caught wind
and received copies of the
issues himself and liked what he saw.
From there, I let the whole thing drift off into its own direction without me and, I, with my own. I still bought the issues and kept my ear into the ground, some of which was the consistent rumors of a Josie movie.
Remembering the poisonous dimension called Hollywood Development Hell and after what they done with Howard The Duck, I didn’t give this much thought.
It wasn’t until 2000 that things began to ‘perk’ on the Josie front, mainly that movie rumor was slowly but surely coming true (I once speculated in #1 about a Josie movie done by John Water and Quentin Tarritino). When the movie production was official announced, I was pressured into doing Jozine #3.
Sure, what the hell, I said to myself. This should be reasonably easy, thanks to the now-wealth of new and
corrected information on the comic from DeCarlo, Curtis and the movie from, of course, the now-bountiful
internet. Little did I know how ‘interesting’ things would get…
Soon after the movies announcement and just before I started to work on the history piece, the snowball started to roll downhill and pretty fast! First, it was revealed that DeCarlo wasn't involved and would not receive any payment from the movie, he then complained by filing some legal papers on this matter, then, in return, got the pink slip and a countersuit from Archie chairmen Michael Silberkleit. DeCarlo taking his case to the court and the press while the studio and Silberkleit looked the other way with some behind the scenes bullying, etc., etc.,
I had my hands full as updates were coming at me from all directions almost everyday. In the midst of this hectic background, Mike Curtis interviewed DeCarlo for a large cover piece for Comics Journal, which made some of my research much easier (CJ cover to the right).
Near the end of the project, I was fortune enough to meet the man himself and his wife who inspired this whole deal, the original Josie DeCarlo. It was at the San Diego Comic Con and Dan was there, selling a couple of prints of his new pin-ups at Dan Fogel's table.
As you might guess, I was a bit nervous meeting Dan and Josie (who was handling the paper work while Dan shook hands and signed autographs). Dan and I had a nice, but sadly, short talk (the line behind me was getting longer). Dan looked tired as he just got back from another convention from the previous weekend, but, still, he was happy to see me and thanked me for the "write ups". Our brief chat was done and I exited the line, figuring I'll meet Dan later that weekend. Sadly, again, it was the last time I saw him as he left half way through the convention due to exhaustion.
Once the movie bombed and rolled off into its grave, the dust began to settle and I managed to wrap up 99 % of the project.....only I had forgotten about the cover. Since I couldn't find an artist in time to do a cover (much less a good idea of one), I ripped a satirical logo from the found-sound group Negativland and plastered Josies face in the center of it, thus my own satirical tribute to Archies preoccupation with their sacred pure version of Americana that, more or less, started this mess in the first place. (cover below left).
In June 2001, 64-page "Jozine 3!: The Final Sequel" was released. It did well, but not as well as previous issues, thanks largely my incapability to get the word out like I used to. Another reason was that Factsheet Five, the magazine that provided the good press that got the ball rolling in the past, had folded and I didn't have easy access to the internet.
Then in December of that year, just a few days after his birthday, Dan died from a heart attack.
....and aside from the memorial ad placed in the Comics Buyers Guide (one week after the issue announced the sad news and the tributes that flooded its letter page) and a small copy of it in their web site, Archies remained just as silent and stubborn as ever, hoping, I assume, the whole controversy will blow over and everybody will forget and, in their view, forgive them.
Well, that's what this site is originally about, not forgetting Dan's place in comic art and pop culture history and to keep an eye on Archie.
Well, Mr. Silberkleit, one might argue that all of this business is old news, but Dan gave us too much to be forgotten so soon.