Dan DeCarlo is perhaps best known for his work on
the Archie comic book titles, most notably being his
creation of Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina
The Teenage Witch. While that particular
matter was currently in litigation, it cannot be
disputed that Dan DeCarlo was a landmark figure in
Before his work in comics, Dan was drafted into the
Army during World War II. Stationed mostly in
England, he, like Will Eisner, spent much of the war
doing art work for the United States Military.
Dan DeCarlo passed away in December of 2001 after a
prolonged illness which he touches upon at the end of
this interview. He was a good friend to Slush,
and we'll miss him greately. Read on to discover
a wonderful man and his immense contributions.
(This interview was conducted in May of 2001 and originally appeared on SilverBulletComicBooks).
Well, sir, I was wondering where you were Pearl
Harbor was attacked.
Do I. I was playing craps on a street corner. Every
Sunday we used to have a crap shoot, you know, nickel
and dime. And somebody came over and said, “Have
fun. The Japanese have just attacked Pearl Harbor.”
Didn’t mean a thing, really. I figured I’d have a
couple of years before they draft me. Even though I
had a number. But didn’t work like that cause three
months later I was in the Army [laughs].
That was a couple of days before your birthday,
wasn’t it? December 12th.
Do you remember where you were when you received
your draft notice? What your reaction was?
Well, I’d already had a number. I remember I had
a draft number early. And a friend of mine was also
got a number at the same time. Actually a very close
friend. But he said, the hell with it, he didn’t
want to wait it out and he joined the Navy, and later
became a Seabee. A month or two later he tried to talk
me into joining the Navy. “What do you want to go in
the Army for?,” you know. You can lose an arm, a
leg, become a cripple. With the Navy you either live
or you die. So I said, ok, let’s go. And he took me
to the recruiting officer and the guy started to take
down the information. And he said, “Do you have a
draft card?” I said yes. He said, “Buddy, you’re
in the Army” [laughs]. He practically chased me out.
I couldn’t enlist for the Navy because I was already
slated for the Army.
Where did the Army ship you?
The first stop was Fort Dix or Camp Upton, I
don’t know which one of them. But then they sent us
to Fort McClellan, Alabama. That’s where we got our
six weeks basic training. Then they moved us to a few
weeks in Georgia and then a couple months in
Charleston, South Carolina. And then from there we
went to Fort Dix and spent a couple weeks there, and
then we were in England.
And basically you did what? You were an artist
for the Army, weren't you?
I was in art school and I had three years under my
belt when they started the war. One of my friends, who
was also in the Army and home on leave, he was in
Kentucky at Fort Knox, in the tanks. And I said I’d
like to get into that. He said just tell them you want
to be a truck driver and they’ll ship you to
Kentucky. So they asked me what part of the service
I’d like to be working at and I said I’d like to
be a truck driver. And they made me a truck driver. I
didn’t even get to Kentucky [laughs].
So when we got to England I was a truck driver in a
motor pool, driving mostly officers to the fighter
bases. They took me off that after a few months when
they saw my resume and they stuck me in a drafting
department. Confidential thing; a lot of security
involved when I was a draftsman. I was an assistant
draftsman in reality. What I used to do is draw
Christmas cards and all kinds of graphics for the
officers, either legitimate or personal. And if it was
personal they paid me a big two dollars. And that’s
where I stayed until the end of the war.
How did you get into drafting? I’m guessing
they came to you?
Well, like I said they just looked at the resume
and they saw I had three years of art school and said,
“Well, this guy’s qualified.” They obviously
needed an assistant. They had an old guy as a head
draftsman and he was a tech sergeant. And I was his
assistant. He was about 38 years old and he was
offered the opportunity to go home, because of his
age. And he refused it. He stayed the whole war. He
When exactly did you start doing the nose art
Well, when I was a draftsman. He [the head
draftsman] got swamped. He’d tell me to do the
backgrounds. Draw all the telephone lines etcetera.
All this technical stuff. And when it was slow I’d
do anything I could do, by commissions. Guys wanted
their field jackets designed and stuff, I would do it
for a few bucks. All birthday greetings to their loved
ones back home. The cards. So they came in one day;
they were planning a big party in the Officers Club.
We were stationed at a real luxurious hotel owned by
the Whitney’s of United States fame, you know. So
they were planning this big party for all of the
officers. Some of the fighter bases that didn’t have
insignias on their planes, they wanted them displayed.
And they gave me the sketches, the rough ideas of what
they wanted. I think there were about a dozen, about
14 x 17. And I painted them. I did them all. After
they were displayed in the hotel they sent them to the
fighter bases they had a local talent and put them on
How long did it take to do an airplane’s art?
The roughest one would be about three hours. And I
had to work under pressure because they wanted them
done for the party.
Are they the ones that came up with the names
for the planes?
Yeah. They did everything in the sketches. If there
was any lettering I had to do it and I hate that
because I think I’m the world’s worst letterer. I
really am. There’s a convention in Philadelphia
soon, in two or three weeks, and they wanted some work
to promote the convention. And I did these two big
pieces but no lettering. And I wrote a letter. I said,
“You guys are gonna have to look for a letterer
cause I can’t letter.”
Did they ever send you out onto the front lines?
No, but the only action, or danger, that we were in
was the air raids, and there were a lot of them. We
got there in ’42. That was the height of the
bombardments. Actually, we were 17 miles from London.
You could see the red glow of the fires.
During the Blitz.
Yeah. And a couple of times…there was a big
U-shaped building, it looked very military from the
air. But it was a bunch of girls doing some kind of
buttons or something for the war effort. And they were
trying to hit that place for the two or three years of
the war [laughs]. And they never hit it. They hit the
fields all around it. They were quite close to us.
Where did you go during the bombing raids? Did
you have a shelter?
In the beginning, yeah. All the camps had shelters.
We just had to run to the shelters when the local
sirens went off. But after awhile we just stayed in
our bunks or wherever we were.
When you were in the Army did you ever read Will
Eisner’s Army Motors magazine?
No, I knew of it. Did he have The Spirit going
Yes, he did.
I knew of The Spirit. Actually, this is just
my opinion. Are you familiar with Bill Mauldin and his
Willie & Joe. Well, I got the shock of my
life when I saw some of the old ones. The first ones
that started in Stars & Stripes. They were
terrible. And they were just awful. And I said,
Christ, this guy stinks. Then I saw his work again
later and it began to look like Will Eisner’s. And I
think he was greatly influenced by Will Eisner’s
work. This is just me talking, not some expert, you
know. But I think he was influenced by Eisner. And
later on the stuff got real good.
Right, I remember him.
Bill Mauldin. He had this panel, Willie and Joe.
Very, very popular. And boy, the rights that he had
used to drive the officers crazy. Nobody could give
him orders. He could just do what he wanted to do
cause of this very popular strip.
This I just heard; I don’t know if it’s true.
But he was asked to decorate an officer’s club. And
they had one kind of a bay window in the dining room.
And he painted Willie and Joe and two of the other
G.I.’s with their tongues hanging out from the
outside looking in at the lifestyles of the officers.
Just envying their position.
Are there any distinct experiences that stand
out in your mind there?
As to what? Being in danger?
Well, I’ll tell ya. I had a good time. It was in
England, I really, really had a good time. The girls
were plentiful and they were pretty. It was just fun.
And then we’d go on trips, this was when I was in
the motor pool, to Liverpool, to get equipment.
Usually radio equipment and another two-and-a-half ton
truck. And we’d come home, stop along the way at the
local pubs, get smashed, and have to spend the night
there. Put a guard on the truck.
It got exciting when we went overseas about six
months after D-Day. Then we were closer to the action.
We used to have radio trucks out, supposedly following
the front and sending out signals as to when the
bombers could drop their bombs. Because they had
killed the general in one of the recent raids. They
thought they were over the enemy target and they
weren’t. The G.I.’s had advanced and a general got
By our own guys?
By our own guys. That’s happened a lot. And so
with the radio trucks they had to be resupplied every
now and then. And also moving constantly with the
front. And yet you were always twenty miles behind the
action. And I used to volunteer a lot for that. As a
matter of fact I found that very exciting. I guess it
was a guilt feeling that I had it so good that I was
looking for danger, you know.
Well thank God you didn’t find it. So towards
the end of the war did you end up drawing anything
Yeah. I had a comic strip, like a Sunday page. I
just called it the 418th Scandal Sheet, after
our company name. We were the 418th Signal Company.
And I used to get two episodes of funny things that
happened to certain individuals and exaggerate them
and fill up the page. And when the wives came in it
even got funnier, got more romantic. And they were all
in color. And after I had made about twenty of them,
the first sergeant and I went to London to try to make
a book out of it. And the guy said, “Oh, this is
gonna be expensive, this stuff’s in color. Just draw
them over in black and white. We could turn out a nice
book.” And I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t
want to draw them all over again. So we never
published that book.
When was this?
This was before D-Day.
But first let me tell you something. While I was in
Belgium, I met my wife there.
You met Josie in Belgium?
Yeah, and then we went on to Germany. I was in
Belgium about six months and then shipped to Germany
temporarily, and then Czechoslovakia. We came back
around ’45 and then got married there.
How did you meet her?
Actually it was a blind date. A sergeant, a friend
of mine, who was going with one girl. He wanted to
double-date; he thought it’d be more fun. He asked
her to bring a friend. So we’re waiting on a corner
and we see this rather tall girl and this short girl.
And I’m short, so I said, “I don’t know which
one is yours, Eddie, but the little one’s mine”
[laughs]. And that was Josie. We were good friends
throughout the war. Then he was shipped to Germany and
I stayed in Belgium and then moved to England.
Actually I was in England when the war was over. And
that was a celebration. You can’t imagine…well, I
guess you can imagine it.
I’ve seen pictures.
Aww, the streets were mobbed. Every pub was loaded.
And guys would order drinks from the back end of the
bar and they had to pass the drink maybe over ten guys
to get it to them. If they paid for it the barkeep was
lucky. And lovemaking all over the place. If you
weren’t careful where you stepped you’d step on
somebody’s butt, ya know.
And then, after that, when the war was over, went
back to Germany again. I wasn’t married then, and
got a pass and got into an automobile accident. And
actually, it almost killed me. Killed one guy, one of
the drivers. And when I recovered from that I
couldn’t work. My right hand was in a cast. I asked
to get back to Belgium. I had enough points to go
home. It was all over. And they were agreeable. They
put me up in headquarters building, not far from where
I was stationed before.
So we got married, and then I was shipped to
Normandy, and shipped home from there. And they told
me it’d be about anywhere from four to six months
before we can process everything with your wife before
she gets home. She got home in about four weeks
[laughs]. And I didn’t have an apartment. It was
rough, ya know. Ten of us were living in my mother’s
house. It got so rough, a lot of friction I guess.
About a year later she had twins. And she found it too
difficult. And we still didn’t have an apartment.
She sounds very nice.
Yes. She’s a sweetheart. And she was beautiful.
Oh, she was so beautiful as a young lady. So she went
home to Belgium. She wanted to stay there until I
found a job in the art field to start with. I was
working in nurseries, hanging storm windows and stuff
like that. And try to find an apartment.
In about six months I got a job at Timely Comics,
which is Marvel today. And I sent her the stubs of the
checks, you know, to show her that I wasn’t lying
[laughs]. So she made arrangements to come back home.
If I didn’t get that job she’d probably still be
So you had a full Belgian wedding?
Yeah. Actually it was a four-day thing. The hall we
had was so small that we couldn’t invite everybody.
So we divided it into close friends, the wedding party
mostly, the first night, the second night the close
friends, the third night the relatives, and the fourth
night to say goodbye. It was some binge.
Are Belgian weddings different from American
No, the same. Walk down the aisle. Walk out
[laughs]. Take pictures on the steps.
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
That was funny. At the same time we were planning
to get married they were having a competition in the
E.T.O. All artists. All about the horrors of venereal
disease. I won first prize and honorable mentions. So
that got me 14 days of anyplace I wanted to go. Any friendly
county, any allied country, as a first prize.
And I also had ten days because anyone who’s getting
married gets ten days. So I got married and I got ten
days and I forgot about the 14. And I could’ve gone
to Italy, and I could’ve gone someplace else that
was more exciting. We just went to Brussels for our
That’s a beautiful city.
Aw, it is, yeah.
So after the war you got back and worked for
worked for companies such as Timely. What did
you do for Ziff-Davis?
I was doing G.I. Joe. They had a book, G.I.
Joe, and they had a filler in it called The
Oddbirds. Real comedy, a funny thing. A take-off
of G.I. Joe. And then it got so successful that
they made a comic of it. But the book didn’t last
long. Maybe four of five issues. And I did some
commercial comic books. Like I did Big Boy, the
restaurant chain, for a long time.
Yeah, like seven, eight years.
I wasn't aware Big Boy had a comic book.
Yeah, they used to give it away to anyone who came
into the restaurants. For the children. And I also did
the Kool-Aid Man. You remember that?
I did that for three or four years.
Did you create the characters?
The restaurant kid was created but I did all the
story, created all the characters, and his girlfriend
and his dog, and so on. They were all my creation. And
then the Kool-Aid Man, first he used to run around
with a big pitcher of Kool-Aid in one hand. And they
changed that and made it a giant cube with his head
sticking up, and he looked a little different.
That’s how they used to present him. He was a
mascot, like at football games and so on. But then
they dropped that off. And they blamed me. They blamed
me because my price was too expensive. So I said,
“Well, why didn’t you negotiate?” And he says,
“You named your figure and we gave it to you, but we
weren’t happy about it.” So well screw you
[laughs]. And it was the highest paying job that
I’ve ever had in comics. But that wasn’t the
reason. That’s just a pittance for the expenses that
they had on that book.
Did the characters in your Archie books ever
deal with social issues? For example, when Vietnam was
going on. Were those sentiments ever integrated
into the book?
No. That was their policy then and that’s their
policy now. Never offend anybody. When I started
working for Archie everything was mildly sexy. Like if
girls were falling down you would see their panties.
Their panties came down to their knees though most of
the time [laughs]. But that was as risky as they got.
When Harry Shorten, he was a great guy, when he
left they really became very conservative. They
wouldn’t offend anybody or any race or any religion.
So you never had Veronica out protesting the
No. We had that in my Josie comic strip. I
had a girl called Ginger who was a protestor. She’d
protest anything. She was an environmentalist really.
Save the world, save the whales, etc. But they said,
“No, we can’t have a girl like that in Riverdale.
Riverdale is a real upright, church-going
community.” So they dropped her and brought in this
black girl. So it was Josie, and Melody, and Valerie,
the black girl. And they brought her in, in my way of
thinking, because at that time the Civil Rights
movement was getting strength, it was getting big. And
they just wanted some black representation in the
strip. And that’s the strip I’m suing over. You
know I’m suing Archie, right?
It’s unfortunate what’s going on with that.
Oh, it’s terrible. And all because… My lawyer
told me, he says, “We’re really going to have a
tough time. We have a really unfriendly judge. And we
were in the Federal Courts. And in the Federal Courts
their judges are notorious.
It’s because most of them were appointed
Yeah. Pro-corporation. And he dismissed it. And he
also dismissed Archie’s lawsuit against me.
That just happened a couple weeks ago, didn’t
Are you planning on appealing?
That’s where it is now. A couple weeks ago is
when we had the hearing for the appeal and that takes
anywhere from three to six months for them to come up
with a conclusion. And then it’s over. Win or lose.
And they have all the money to keep continuing
it and fighting it.
Yeah, yeah. Fortunately I’m on contingency, so
I’m not springing for much money.
Is the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund helping
No, they never even spoke to me. But I understand
they’re planning on doing something if I get hit
with some stiff, like if they let a lawsuit go through
from Archie. They’re gonna hit me with 50,000 to
75,000. Then they would do something, you know.
Usually, they way they do something is they ask for
artists to contribute some pieces of artwork that they
auction off. And that goes to the defense.
I didn’t even see your name credited on the Josie
At the end it was there. I guess you were so bored
you didn’t wait for the credits at the end [laughs].
You know, I told my lawyer, “Hey, Josie’s
coming into town.” They were advertising on cabs - Josie
and the Pussycats. He says, “It looks like we
have a hit on our hands.” I says, “You going?”
And he said, “You bet your ass I’m going. We want
them to make money. Cause then we stand a better
chance of a big settlement.” I says, “Well, I
wasn’t going.” He says, “Nope. You’d better go
and get your wife to go, and her friends to go.”
So you all went to the movie?
Yeah, on a Sunday and there were five people in
there besides us.
It didn’t do so well.
Oh, it did terrible. It dropped off The Times
list in the third week.
What did you think of the movie?
Terrible. No personality. If you blindfolded
yourself you couldn’t know who was saying what, who
was doing what. None of them had a distinct
It didn’t really have any of the emotion that
you put into it.
No. And I think they made a mistake by not using
the cat costume, you know. But they says most of the
kids that are going to go to the movie today weren’t
even born when Josie originally came out with
the cat costume. They couldn’t see using the cat
costume. All they used was the ears. They were walking
around with the little ears sticking out on top of
Well, they were wrong because it didn’t do
Yeah, I think they were. I mean, why the hell do
you have to be so contemporary in that case when you
have something that’s very distinct and very funny.
I mean you get a lot of humor out of the cat costume.
And then they’re putting it out on TV again,
Yeah, they’re putting a new show on TV. And I’m
sure they’re gonna be in a cat costume. Because when
they’re in the street costume, the street clothing
of today, they just blend in with everybody. There’s
no distinction. If the Cats were walking down the
street, everybody would look at them. But walking down
the street with jeans and a top, they look like
From what I understand, I don’t know if this is
the way it worked, but I understand they were paid up
front for the rights to Josie. Anyway, the one
that did it bought it from Archie. Paid them, I
don’t know, but I heard all kinds of fantastic
figures. And they could do anything they wanted, so
Archie had no control over the storyline.
So they signed it away?
They signed it away. And I understand they did the
same thing to the cartoon show that’s coming up.
They’d rather have the money than sweat out the
success of the show where they would have some
Well, you’re still working in comics.
Oh yeah. I work a lot for The Simpsons.
That’s my biggest contact. I do work for DC. I do
the back-up stories. I just did a story for Marvel, an
eight-pager which I understand they loved. Even the
editor of Scooby-Doo called me up to tell me
that. She saw them and said, “The work is beautiful.
I wish I had thought of that idea. Oh, it looks so
What was the new DC for?
It was Batman, but animated type. And it was
humorous. It featured Poison Ivy, and they were also
going to feature Harley Quinn but for some reason they
just couldn’t fit her into the script.
What new projects are you working on now that
will be coming out?
The Simpsons, and Scooby-Doo, the Batman
thing. And I’m also doing I Dream of Genie.
I’m doing a small-size comic book for that. Not the
standard size. So far I’ve done ten pages.
Who’s putting that out?
It looks like a very private company. I have the
book on it. It’s very different than the comic books
that are being turned out. It’s in black and white.
I’m a little disappointed because it’s a little
like the big heads and the smaller body. I would’ve
liked it like Betty and Veronica. I would’ve zinged
‘em, I think. But it’s cute. And the size…I
don’t know. Where the hell are they gonna sell this?
I can’t see any prices.
Is this about the size of an Archie comic?
No, it’s smaller.
Smaller? Maybe they’re planning on giving it
away at a store.
Yeah, could be.
You worked under the Comics Code. Marvel just
announced that they’re pulling out of the Code.
I was wondering if you had any comments on that.
On whether we need the Code or whatnot.
No, I don’t think we need the Code. And I think
that they’re gonna still get more violent because
that’s the way all the TV shows are going. Like The
Sopranos, you see that show?
All the time.
That’s shaking up comic books. They want the same
rights to be violent and show rapes as is, you know.
We’ve lost a generation of comic readers. Kids
aren’t reading as much. Do you have any thoughts on
Sometimes I think we’re doomed and sometimes I
think it’ll come back. A new generation, after not
seeing books around at all for years, are suddenly
gonna say, “Hey, what’s this?” And start the
Well, hopefully you’re right.
Yeah, I hope so, too. Not for my sake because
I’ll be retired or gone.
Well, I like to call myself semi-retired because
I’m not really looking for work.
But you always find it.
Yeah. I always have enough, with the Social
Security and the savings and all that stuff to have no
problem getting by.
So how’s your health? Good?
Well, that’s another story. Actually, I have
colon cancer. I’ve had it for seven years. They’d
told me I’d beat it, but one doctor told me, “Nah,
you’ll never beat that thing.” He says he’s seen
it come back after ten years. So you got a little
Well, you’re a strong individual.
At least a couple more years, that would be nice.
Or twenty, or thirty.
[laughs] That’s so true. When you get to a
couple, you say, “Ah, a couple more.” But I do
have to worry about that. But then again, there’s no
certainty in life. You can go for almost no reason at
all, you’re not here tomorrow.
Well, I know you’ll be with us for a long time
to come so we won’t have to worry about that.
And I hope you have a long healthy life.
Well, thank you, sir.
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