|Born||Daniel S. DeCarlo
December 12, 1919
New Rochelle, New York
|Died||December 19, 2001 (aged 82)|
|Notable works||Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
Josie and the Pussycats
|Awards||National Cartoonists Society Award, 2000|
Daniel S. DeCarlo (December 12, 1919 - December 19, 2001) was an American cartoonist best known as the artist who developed the look of Archie Comics in the late 1950s and early 1960s, modernizing the characters to their contemporary appearance and establishing the publisher's house style. As well, he is the generally recognized creator of the characters Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Josie and the Pussycats (with the lead character named for his wife), and Cheryl Blossom.
Dan DeCarlo was born in New Rochelle, New York, the son of a gardener. He attended New Rochelle High School in his hometown, followed by Manhattan's Art Students League from 1938 to 1941, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Stationed in Great Britain, he worked in the motor pool and as a draftsman, and painted company mascots on the noses of airplanes. He also drew a weekly military comic strip, 418th Scandal Sheet. He met his wife, Josie Dumont, a French citizen, in Belgium shortly after the Battle of the Bulge.
DeCarlo was married, with a pregnant wife, and a laborer working for his father when he began to pursue a professional art career  Circa 1947, answering an ad, he broke into the comic book industry at Timely Comics, the 1940s iteration of Marvel Comics. Under editor-in-chief Stan Lee, his first assignment was the teen-humor series Jeanie. DeCarlo went uncredited, as was typical for most comic-book writers and artists of the era, and he recalled in 2001, "I went on with her maybe ten books. They used to call me 'The Jeanie Machine' because that was all Stan used to give me, was Jeanie.... Then he took me off Jeannie and he gave me Millie the Model. That was a big break for me. It wasn't doing too well and somehow when I got on it became quite successful."
He went on to an atypically long, 10-year run on that humor series, from issues #18-93 (June 1949 - Nov. 1959), most of them published by Marvel's 1950s predecessor, Atlas Comics. For a decade, DeCarlo wrote and drew the slapsticky adventures of Millie Collins, her redheaded friendly nemesis Chili Storm and the rest of the cast. He also contributed the short-lived Sherry the Showgirl and Showgirls for Atlas. In 1960, he and Atlas editor-in-chief Stan Lee co-created the short-lived syndicated comic strip Willie Lumpkin, about a suburban mail carrier, for the Chicago, Illinois-based Publishers Syndicate. A version of the character later appeared as a long-running minor supporting character in Lee's later co-creation, the Marvel Comics series Fantastic Four
In addition to his comic-book work, DeCarlo drew freelance pieces for the magazines The Saturday Evening Post and Argosy, as well as Timely/Atlas publisher Martin Goodman's Humorama line of pin-up girl cartoon digests.
DeCarlo first freelanced for Archie Comics, the company with which he would become most closely associated, in the late 1950s while still freelancing for Atlas. He said in 2001,
"I was looking for extra work. I went down to see Harry Shortman [at Archie] and he gave me a job. The pay wasn't too good, but I did it and he liked it — but I didn't go back right away. Finally after two or three weeks go, he called me up and wanted to know what happened, why I wasn't around. I said, 'Well, you know I'm very busy.' ... I had Millie the Model, I had My Friend Irma, Big Boy. ... I told him, 'The people that I'm working for now let me do my own thing. But when I do work for you, it's "Draw like Bob Montana." And it's hard to look at your reference, and then back at your own page. It's very slow, and very tedious and I didn't like it too much.' He said, 'Come on in, and you can draw any way you like.' That made me go back with him."
DeCarlo in the late 1950s and early 1960s modernized the looks of Archie Comics' teen-humor characters to their contemporary appearance, and established the house style. As well, he is the generally recognized creator of the teen-humor characters Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Josie and the Pussycats, and Cheryl Blossom.
DeCarlo said he created Josie on his own in the late 1950s; his wife, named Josie, said in an interview quoted in a DeCarlo obituary, "We went on a Caribbean cruise, and I had a [cat] costume for the cruise, and that's the way it started." DeCarlo first tried to sell the character as a syndicated comic strip called Here's Josie, recalling in 2001:
"When Publishers Syndicate in Chicago got interested in Willie Lumpkin ... I was also hustling my own strip and trying to get it published. Before we got to Publishers Syndicate, I went to United Feature in New York with two strips — Barney's Beat and Josie. [United Feature] told me they liked them both, and they'd like to see more samples, because I didn't bring much. I brought maybe six dailies of Barney's Beat and six dailies of Josie. That posed a problem for me. I knew I couldn't handle both strips and still keep up with the comic book work, because a syndicated bit was very risky. So, I decided to shelve Josie, and concentrated on Willie Lumpkin. [When that strip ended after] a year, maybe a year and a half[,] I quickly submitted the Josie strip back to the publishers and Harold Anderson, and he sent it back and said, 'It's not what we're looking for, Dan, but keep up the good work,' or words of that kind. Then is when I decided to take it to Archie to see if they could do it as a comic book. I showed it to Richard Goldwater, and he showed it to his father, and a day or two later I got the OK to do it as a comic book."
Josie was introduced in Archie's Pals 'n' Gals #23. The first issue of She's Josie followed, cover-dated February 1963. The series featured levelheaded, sweet-natured Josie (whose last name was given as either Jones or James), her blond bombshell friend Melody, and bookwormish brunette Pepper. These early years also featured the characters of Josie and Pepper's boyfriends Albert and Sock (real name Socrates); Albert's rival Alexander Cabot III; and Alex's twin sister Alexandra. Occasionally Josie and her friends would appear in "crossover" issues with the main Archie characters. She's Josie was renamed Josie with issue #17 (Dec. 1965), and again renamed, to Josie and the Pussycats, with issue #45 (Dec. 1969). Under this title, the series finished its run with issue #106 (Oct. 1982). Josie and her gang also made irregular appearances in Pep Comics and Laugh Comics during the 1960s.
The exact circumstances of Josie's creation became the subject of a lawsuit involving DeCarlo and Archie Comics shortly before the cartoon was made into the feature film Josie and the Pussycats, released in 2001 by Universal Pictures. In the midst of the dispute, the publisher terminated its 43-year relationship with him. A federal district court ruled in 2001 that Archie Comics owned the copyright to the Josie characters; this decision was affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. On December 11, 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by DeCarlo's attorney. Whitney Seymour Jr., who had argued that the issue was a matter of state property law and not federal copyright law.
DeCarlo was listed as a creator in the end credits of Josie and the Pussycats, which did poorly at the box office. He did receive a bonus and credit as co-creator of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, which became a live-action television show.
Comics creator Paul Dini said upon DeCarlo's death, "It was tragic that when he was at an age when many cartoonists are revered as treasures by more beneficent publishers, Dan felt spurned and slighted by the owners of properties that prospered greatly from his contributions. Still, he was esteemed by fans and professionals the world over, and he often told me he was very grateful for the support he received from them over the past few years."
His twin sons, Dan Jr. and James "Jim" DeCarlo (January 27, 1948 - ?) were also prolific "Archie" artists, pencilling and inking respectively. The two predeceased their father.
DeCarlo is cited, along with fellow Archie artist Harry Lucey and others as being a strong artistic influence on alternative comics creators Jaime Hernandez and Gilberto Hernandez, two of the three sibling co-creators of the long-running series Love and Rockets.