Dan DeCarlo defined the look of the prototypical American teenagers Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and their friends at Riverdale High after taking over as chief artist at the comic book company in 1975, when the characters' creator, Bob Montana, died. The Archie cast was a combination of real people Mr. Montana remembered from his high school years in Haverhill, Mass., and the idealized small-town America of the Andy Hardy movies. Mr. DeCarlo brought his own distinctive, clean-lined cartoon style, which was soon adopted as the house style for the characters, especially the leggy females with wide eyes and snub noses.
Mr. DeCarlo was renowned for his curvaceous depiction of the female form, so-called "good girl" art, which had its origins in the pinup style of World War II. "He was always interested in drawing shapely girls," wife, Josie said.
In 1946 he worked for Timely Comics (later Marvel Comics) on cheesecake titles like "Millie the Model" and "My Friend Irma," and free- lanced for The Saturday Evening Post, Argosy and Humorama.
"It was the time of Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, so he was drawing that voluptuous type of woman," Mrs. DeCarlo said. "When he went to Archie, he was drawing teenagers, so he changed his style a bit," she said. "But he always had curve."
Mr. DeCarlo gave the blond Betty Cooper her distinctive ponytail and kept up with what teenagers were wearing, from miniskirts and Nehru jackets in the 1960's to baby T-shirts and cargo pants in the 90's.
Mr. DeCarlo was born in New Rochelle and attended New Rochelle High School and the Art Students League for three years before he was drafted into the Army in 1941; he worked as a draftsman and had a sideline, painting company mascots on the noses of airplanes.
He met his wife, Josie Dumont, a French citizen, in Belgium shortly after the Battle of the Bulge. His French was minimal. "We communicated with drawing," Mrs. DeCarlo said. "He would draw things for me to make me understand what he had in mind. He was really so amusing. Instead of just using words he would use cartoons to express himself. Right away we knew that we were meant for each other."
The ever-stylish Josie DeCarlo was the inspiration for the leader of the Pussycats. "We went on a Caribbean cruise, and I had a costume for the cruise, and that's the way it started," Mrs. DeCarlo said about her cat suit, immortalized by the animated cartoon's bubble-gum theme song, "Josie and the Pussycats/ Long tails and ears for hats."
"The hairdo came after," Mrs. DeCarlo said. "One day I came in with a new hairdo with a little bow in my hair, and he said, `That's it!' "
The exact circumstances of Josie's creation became the subject of a lawsuit involving Mr. DeCarlo and Archie Comics shortly before the cartoon was made into a feature film this year. Mr. DeCarlo said that he created the character on his own in the late 1950's and tried to sell it as a syndicated comic strip called "Here's Josie." At least one syndicate turned him down, he said. "You know, I threw that letter away," he once said. "If I still had that letter, there wouldn't have been any case. I would have been a shoo-in."
The position of Archie Comics was that Mr. DeCarlo created the character for them as "work for hire," so the rights belonged to the company. The fallout was rancorous even by the standards of such suits over intellectual property rights: Archie fired Mr. DeCarlo in May 2000 after 43 years of work.
"They could have worked it out," Mrs. DeCarlo said. "My husband was not asking for millions of dollars. They paid him well, but Dan felt that it was not enough. He was looking for them to realize that he was getting on in years and that he deserved to get something back."
He 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 popular live-action television show.
The couple's twin sons, Dan Jr. and Jim, both deceased, also worked on their father's comics as inkers.
Despite his falling out with the company, he loved Archie and his pals. "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? Everybody would voice his opinion. They were like part of our family."
Date of Birth:
December 12, 1919
New Rochelle, New York
Date of death:
December 19, 2001 Favorite Creators:
Dan DeCarlo is a favorite creator of 5 usersAwards:
- 1995 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - Nominee - Hall of Fame
- 1999 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - Nominee - Hall of Fame
- 2000 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - Nominee - Hall of Fame
- 2001 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - Nominee - Hall of Fame
- 2002 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - Winner - Hall of Fame: (Voter's choice)