DeCarlo, Dan 1919-2001

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DeCarlo, Dan 1919-2001


Born December 12, 1919, in New Rochelle, NY; died of pneumonia, December 18, 2001, in New Rochelle, NY; married Josette Dumont, 1945; children: Dan (deceased), Jim (deceased). Education: Attended Art Students League, New York, NY.


Cartoonist and creator of comic book characters, including Josie and the Pussycats, Sabrina the teenage witch, and Cheryl Blossom. Staff writer/illustrator for Timely Comics, ca. 1946-55, staff writer/artist for Archie Comics, c. 1957-75, chief artist, 1975-2000, staff artist for Bongo Entertainment, 2000-01. Military service: United States Air Force, artist and draftsman, 1942-46, served in Europe, principally drawing cartoon mascots on fighter planes.


(Contributor) John L. Goldwater, The Best of Archie, Putnam (New York, NY), 1980.

(Contributor) Charles Phillips, Archie: His First 50 Years, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Contributor and illustrator of hundreds of individual comic books, including series such as Millie the Model, Sherry the Showgirl, My Friend Irma, Jetta of the 21st Century, My Girl Pearl, Archie, Betty and Veronica, Josie and the Pussycats, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and The Simpsons.


Josie and the Pussycats was adapted for a cartoon television series and a feature film; Sabrina the Teenage Witch was adapted as a live-action television series.


Much of Dan DeCarlo's work was nearly anonymous, but in the years prior to his death—and since—he has come to be appreciated as a driving force behind one of America's most enduring comic series, Archie. DeCarlo began drawing for the Archie series in the 1950s and continued for nearly a half century, and most critics agree that he was the artist who modernized the look of the characters, especially Betty and Veronica, by drawing them in the latest fashions and with trendy hairstyles and up-to-date accessories, not to mention story lines. DeCarlo also created two popular comic series, Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, both of which were produced through the Archie Company. In an essay for Bud Plant Comic Art, Michelle Nolan wrote: "Dan DeCarlo may have produced more finely crafted comic book stories yet received less proportionate recognition than perhaps any other comic book artist. He became a comic convention fan favorite late in life, often marveling that collectors still remembered and admired his prolific comic book work of the 1950s and 60s."

Born in New Rochelle, New York, DeCarlo grew up admiring popular artist Norman Rockwell. Deciding to be an artist himself, DeCarlo spent three years at the Art Students League in New York City before being drafted into the service during World War II. He served with the United States Air Force in Europe, drawing shapely cartoon women on fighter jets, and it was in Belgium in 1945 that he met his wife, Josie, who would later inspire Josie and the Pussycats.

After the war DeCarlo went to work with Timely Comics, a predecessor to Marvel. It was quickly apparent that his talent lay in drawing beautiful female figures, so he was contracted to series such as Millie the Model and Sherry the Showgirl. He also created a futuristic heroine, Jetta of the 21st Century who appeared in three comic books between 1952 and 1953. The late 1950s found DeCarlo freelancing to various companies, and one of them was Archie Comics.

In his first years as a contractor for Archie Comics, DeCarlo was expected to draw the characters very closely to the way their creator, Bob Montana, drew them. He chafed at this limited use of his creativity and almost quit working for the series. Instead, in 1957 he was hired as a full-time staff member, and he began to exert his own influence on Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. One of DeCarlo's innovations was to update the characters' hairstyles and clothing as popular styles changed among the American public. "I used to carry a pad of paper in the car, just to make quick sketches of how women stand and how they rest," he recalled in Bud Plant Comic Art. In DeCarlo's hands, Betty and Veronica became sexier and trendier, and it was his suggestion that the two girls both vie for Archie's romantic attentions. Where once the staff artists had been instructed to draw like Bob Montana, they were now encouraged to draw like DeCarlo—and the Archie series became one of the most successful and longest-running of all American cartoon series.

DeCarlo's wife inspired the Josie and the Pussycats series by donning a skin-tight cat costume during a cruise. The series made its debut in 1963. As it evolved, DeCarlo turned his creations—Josie, Pepper, Melody, and Valerie—into singers and crime fighters. Another DeCarlo co-creation, Sabrina, first appeared in the Archie series and then went on to books of her own. Both Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina the Teenage Witch were adapted as television shows, and a Josie and the Pussycats film was produced in 2000.

Ironically, it was these lucrative adaptations—and the spin-off toy products—that sparked a rift between DeCarlo and Archie Comics in the late 1990s. DeCarlo sued Archie Comics for a share of the profits from the adaptations, contending that he deserved consideration as the creator of Josie and Sabrina. Archie Comics countered that DeCarlo had created the characters while under contract to the company, and the company owned the rights. The lawsuits proceeded with great rancor, and Archie Comics fired DeCarlo in 2000. DeCarlo later lost his lawsuit over the Josie material because the judge deemed that the artist had waited too long to make his claim. In the last years of his life DeCarlo worked for Bongo Entertainment, the comic company owned by Simpsons creator Matt Groening. DeCarlo died in his hometown of New Rochelle, New York, of complications from pneumonia at the age of eighty-two.

In DeCarlo's New York Times obituary, his wife, Josie, said that, despite his differences with the executives at Archie Comics, DeCarlo loved the Archie characters dearly. "Those characters that he drew for Archie were always the subject for our conversation at the dinner table," Mrs. DeCarlo said. "We always wanted to know, what are they going to do tomorrow, what are you drawing, how are they going to dress? … They were like part of our family."



New York Times, February 19, 2001, Leslie Eaton, "Legal Claws Bared over a Pussycat," p. B6.


Bud Plant Comic Art, (August 6, 2003), Michelle Nolan, "Dan DeCarlo."



Los Angeles Times, December 25, 2001, Myrna Oliver, "Dan DeCarlo, 82: Cartoonist Drew Archie, Josie and the Pussycat Comics," p. B13.

New York Times, December 23, 2001, Eric Nash, "Dan DeCarlo, Archie Artist and Creator of Josie and the Pussycats, Is Dead at 82."