|Josie and the Pussycats|
Josie and the Pussycats 48 Page Giant #1 (1993). Cover art by Dan DeCarlo.
|Publication date||February 1963 – October 1982; 1993|
|Number of issues||106|
Josie and the Pussycats (initially published as She's Josie and Josie) is a teen-humor comic book about a fictional rock band, created by Dan DeCarlo and published by Archie Comics. It was published from 1963 until 1982; since then, a number of one-shot issues have appeared without regularity. It was adapted into a Saturday morning cartoon by Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1970 and a live-action motion picture by Universal Studios and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 2001. Two albums were recorded under the name Josie and the Pussycats: one as the soundtrack for the cartoon series, the other as the soundtrack for the movie.
Cartoonist Dan DeCarlo, who had spent most of the 1950s drawing teen and career-girl humor comics such as Millie the Model for Atlas Comics, that decade's forerunner of Marvel Comics, began freelancing as well for Archie Comics. 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. Casting about for more comic-strip work, DeCarlo created the characters of Josie and her friends at about the same time. The artist's wife, Josie's namesake, 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 (Winter 1962-1963). 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.
During the 1968 - 1969 television season, the first Archie-based Saturday morning cartoon, The Archie Show, debuted on CBS. The Archie Show, produced by Filmation Studios, was not only a hit on TV, but spun off a radio hit as well. (The Archies' song "Sugar, Sugar" hit the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in September 1969 and went on to be Billboard's number one "Hot 100 Single" of that year). Competing animation studio Hanna-Barbera Productions contacted Archie Comics about possibly adapting another of its properties into a similar show. Archie Comics offering to redevelop the Josie series into one about a teenage music band, and allowing Hanna-Barbera to adapt it into a music-based Saturday morning show.
In 1969, Archie Comics made several changes to the Josie comic:
The reimagining of the comic resulted in three casualties: Albert, Sock, and Pepper, who were eventually phased out. From 1970 on, most of the stories in the comic book revolved around the Pussycats traveling around the country and the world to perform gigs, with Alan M., Alex, and Alexandra (and sometimes Sebastian) in tow. When the girls weren't off performing, they would be at home dealing with the various trials and tribulations of teenage life, often including Alex's jealousy of Alan M., and Alexandra's jealousy of Josie. The Josie and the Pussycats comic ran until 1982, after which the girls would often be featured in various Archie Giant Series issues and miniseries and one-shot comics of their own. Reprinted Josie stories (including the occasional pre-Pussycats story) appear frequently in the various Archie digest reprint magazines.
Archie & Friends #47-95cover date? continued to include new Josie and the Pussycats stories in the regular house style, until Archie & Friends #96,cover date? where they were transformed into manga style.
Following the manga experiment, which lasted nine issues, reprints of Josie and the Pussycats stories continued to appear in Archie's digest comics through the late 2000s. Josie and the Pussycats appeared in a new two-part story, "Battle of the Bands", in Archie & Friends #130-131.cover date?
In March 2005, Archie Comics announced that a manga version of the title would be published, with art by Tania del Rio, who was also responsible for the manga makeover of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. The first such "Josie and the Pussycasts" story, "Opening Act" ran in in Tales from Riverdale Digest #3.cover date? The band had previously appeared in manga form in issue Sabrina, The Teenage Witch #68.cover date?
In Archie & Friends #96,cover date? the origin of the Pussycats was retconned. In this version, Josie Jones was cut from the school choir for singing in her own style. She met Valerie Smith, and the two formed a rock group called Josie and the Pussycats. In need of a drummer, they recruited Melody. It was Melody’s idea to wear cat-like outfits. The band was not doing well at first, but Alex liked the group, though Alexandra could tell he was more interested in Josie. Alex’s father agreed to let Alex be the manager, as long as Alex did not use his wealth to help make them stars. In Sabrina the Teenage Witch #72,cover date? a stranger named Alan gave them a hand carrying equipment. Josie, who was attracted to Alan already, grew jealous because she thought there was an attraction between Alan and Melody. Alex hired him as their stagehand.
The manga focuses on the group's attempt to reach fame, rather than on their career after they have already achieved it. In the manga, Alan has a younger sister, Alison, who has not been seen in other comics. Also in the manga, Alexandra tried to manage a rival rock trio, the Vixens. However, though glamorous, the three girls she chose for the group had no talent.
The manga version was not popular among readers, who preferred the traditional style. It was removed from Archie & Friends after nine issues, with the final manga story in #104.cover date? A Katy Keene revival replaced it (both were featured alongside each other in the latter part of the manga's run), though it, too, did not last.
A short-haired redhead, Josie is the leader and co-founder of the Pussycats. She is the lead vocalist and plays guitar. Portrayed as a sweet, attractive, and level-headed teenage girl, Josie is usually the stable center in the middle of the chaos surrounding her band and her friends.
Josie's last name was originally given as either "James" or "Jones" for much of the comic book's run. The "McCoy" surname was assigned to the character in the early 2000s, at about the time the Josie feature film went into production. Comic books reprinted in the late 2000s sometimes change the last names to the girls' names from the movie.
During the early years of her comic (1963 - 1969), Josie dated a folk singer named Albert, while her sharp-minded friend Pepper usually dated a jock named Sock. Both boys embraced the hippie culture that was forming at the time. During and after the Josie and the Pussycats revamp, she dated Alan M. Mayberry.
In the cartoon series, Josie's speaking voice was performed by Janet Waldo (the voices of Judy Jetson and Penelope Pitstop) and her singing voice was performed by Cathy Dougher. She was played by Rachael Leigh Cook in the 2001 live-action Josie and the Pussycats movie.
The co-founder and drummer for the Pussycats (she also sang occasional lead vocals for the TV series), Melody is a cute blonde and speaks in a sing-song voice, denoted by the musical notes in her cartoon word balloons. She is an absent-minded, bubbly sort of character often taken to using silly, nonsense language. Many of the Josie stories use Melody's sex appeal as a plot device: gags with the male characters running into trees and telephone poles or driving off the road as Melody walks by in a miniskirt were frequent in the comic stories.
In the comics, her last name is sometimes given as Jones, but at other times, Josie's last name is Jones. The manga has given the name Jones to Josie, and has yet to refer to Melody by more than a single name. This confusion ended when the movie established her last name as Valentine. It may be that Josie or Melody is related to Jughead Jones, but this has yet to be revealed.
In the cartoon series, whenever the group is in a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation, Melody's ears would wiggle. In the cartoon, she frequently gets brainwashed, but is already very dim-witted. Later, in the Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space series, she adopts a cute little alien named Bleep.
In the cartoon series, Melody's speaking voice is performed by Jackie Joseph, and her singing voice is performed by Cherie Moor (later better known as Cheryl Ladd). She was played by Tara Reid in the live-action Josie and the Pussycats movie. Bleep's voice was done by Don Messick, the voice of Scooby-Doo, Astro, Dr. Benton Quest, Boo Boo, and more.
A headstrong young lady, Valerie performs back-up vocals (in the comics, cartoons, and the movie) and occasionally sings lead (nearly always in the TV series) for the Pussycats. In the comics and the movie, she plays the bass; in the cartoons, she plays tambourine. She is also the group's main songwriter, and is occasionally seen playing different instruments. She is the character who saves the day the most often, thanks to her street smarts and her mechanical and scientific genius. Valerie is notable as the first African-American cartoon character on a regular animated television series.
In the comic book, she replaced Pepper, a sharp-minded spectacled brunette. Valerie is more tomboyish than her two bandmates. Her last name in the comics was originally given as "Smith". The last names McCoy, Valentine and Brown were assigned to the characters for the 2001 Josie feature film. However, Archie Comics would later acknowledge these names as canonical.
In the cartoon series, she's a genius, similar to Velma from Scooby Doo. Valerie's speaking voice is performed by Barbara Pariot, and her singing voice is performed, until her death on October 2006, by Patrice Holloway, sister of Motown recording artist Brenda Holloway. She was played by Rosario Dawson in the live-action Josie and the Pussycats movie.
Rich, snobbish, temperamental, and cowardly, Alexander, the twin brother of Alexandra, is the Pussycats' shifty and not-too-dependable manager. He often gets the group in hot water because of his crazy promotional schemes. Alexander wears sunglasses often and likes to flaunt his wealth, typically dressing in flamboyant and expensive clothing. In the comics, he has a crush on Josie and is often trying to find ways to divert her attention from her boyfriend, Alan M., though he has also shown interest in Melody when Josie is unavailable (particularly in the original She's Josie comics). His personality is markedly different in the animated series; he is much friendlier (though no more dependable and far more cowardly than the comics version), and most often serves as a comedic foil for Alexandra's constant scheming. The animated version of Alexander also exhibits no romantic feelings towards Josie, but instead sometimes seems to have a thing for Melody!
The comic book version of Alexander is reminiscent of Archie Andrews's rival Reggie Mantle, while the cartoon version of him is very similar to Scooby-Doo's pal Shaggy. In fact, the animated depiction of Alexander is voiced by Casey Kasem, who also voiced Shaggy. In a 1973 Josie-guested episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Alexander and Shaggy both appear on-screen together for quite some time. Alexander was played by Paulo Costanzo in the 2001 live-action motion picture.
Alexandra is technically a supporting character, but often overshadows the rest of the cast in both the comics and the cartoons. She is the twin sister of Alexander Cabot III.
Alexandra has black hair with a white lightning-bolt shaped stripe running through the middle of it (her ponytail gives a slight impression of a skunk's tail because of this stripe). In contrast to the good-natured girls in the Pussycats, Alexandra is cynical, hateful, mean, offensive, rude, scheming and self-centered. She is insanely jealous of the Pussycats (especially Josie, about whom she never has a kind word). Although Alexandra desperately wants to be the star of the band (and to rename it as "Alexandra's Cool Time Cats"), she is talentless and can't sing or play well at all.
Alexandra has a serious crush on Alan M., and often tries to steal him away from Josie. Although she is not particularly fond of her cowardly brother, Alexandra often joins forces with him to separate Alan M. and Josie (so that Alex can go for Josie and Alexandra can go for Alan M). Her personality in the cartoon is largely unchanged, and while Alexander tends to irritate her with his cowardice and his other personality quirks, she has defended him on occasion, too. The animated version of Alexander doesn't participate in his sister's schemes to break up Josie and Alan.
Alexandra also has a Tuxedo cat named Sebastian. In the comics, Sebastian is the reincarnation of a witchcraft-practicing ancestor of the Cabot family, Sebastian Cabot. Alexandra finds that, by holding her cat in her arms, she can cast powerful magic spells (Alexandra and Sebastian's bond is represented in that they both have a matching white stripe in their middle of their hair/fur). However, this plot device is used very rarely, and Alexandra has also been shown to be able to cast spells without Sebastian being around. In the cartoons, Alexandra and Sebastian do not have magic powers.
Alexandra's voice in the cartoons is provided by former Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni, while Don Messick supplies the meows, screams, and Muttley-esque snickers for Sebastian. Alexandra was played by Missi Pyle in the live-action Josie and the Pussycats movie, while Sebastian does not appear in the live-action film.
Alan M. Mayberry (known as "Alan M." in the comics, and as simply "Alan" in the cartoon series) is a tall, blond, muscular folk singer who serves as the Pussycats' roadie. He is also Josie's boyfriend, but Alexandra is constantly trying to win a date with him. In the comics, he replaced the fun-loving but sensitive guitarist Albert, Josie's former boyfriend and Alex's former rival. In his first appearance, the creators tried to give him and Alex their own band, but it did not last beyond one issue, and the comic took a different direction.
In the cartoon series, he plays the role of the self-appointed group leader, similar to that of Fred from Scooby-Doo (and perhaps not coincidentally does bear some resemblance to him as well). His and Alex's characters were somewhat changed for the cartoon to make them more like the male characters from Scooby Doo in an attempt to recapture its success. His animated persona is voiced by Jerry Dexter. He was played by Gabriel Mann in the live-action film.