Thursday, March 15, 2012

My interview with Josie DeCarlo P1

I hate waking up to sad news. Saw a mention on Twitter yesterday and Mark Evanier confirmed it - Josie DeCarlo, the basis for her husband Dan's fictional comic-book rock band "Josie & The Pussycats", has gone to be with the Lord

My interaction with Josie was borne out of my desire to include her in my first book, I Have To Live With This Guy!, published by Twomorrows in August 2002.

I was interested in lining up a diverse list of spouses, from all eras and walks of life, and wanted to feature Dan and Josie mainly because Dan's work was outside the superhero genre. In fact, you could make the argument that Dan's work had been seen by more people than any artist connected to the book.

Dan, of course, was the star Archie Comics artist for decades until 2000 when he decided he deserved a cut of all the money Archie Comics was making off his work (a live-action movie of Josie & The Pussycats was released in 2001 - some projects deserve to fail miserably) and went to war with the corporation.

After coming up with the concept for my book at the 2001 San Diego Comicon, I was able to close the deal with Josie and Dan at a November 2001 convention in New York City. You may not have guessed it from looking at her skinny frame, but that was one strong woman, filled with French passion and conviction...and a strong determination to support and further her husband's career and legacy.

How strong was she? A month after we all met in NYC, Dan passed away far too early, the added stress of a long, draining legal fight not helping. I still remember mulling over that next call to Josie about her participation in the book. Was I being insensitive even suggesting we continue? But, as I said, this was one strong lady and, when we spoke, she absolutely insisted continuing, again focused on continuing her husband's legacy.

And this strong lady had stories to tell! Not just about Dan, or her and Dan, but about an amazing life lived prior to their meeting that no doubt built that strong foundation that Dan so relied on throughout his life and career. Josie came out to the San Diego Comicon in 2002 and was on my panel for the book (a couple of months before publication) with Ann Eisner, Deni Loubert, and Jackie Estrada and Josie stole the show with her harrowing tales of growing up and her fabulous love story with Dan.

(Here's a pic for the ages: Dan on the left, flanked by Jeff Smith of Bone fame, someone unknown over Josie, then Sergio Aragones and Will Eisner on your far right at the San Diego Comicon 2001. Click to enlarge.)

It's terribly sad to reflect on how many of these I am writing, having posted the Adrienne Colan chapter when she passed away last year. We've also lost Muriel Kubert in 2008, as well as husbands Will Eisner in 2005 and Ric Estrada in 2009. Praise God for those who remain in good health and we wish them long lives.

So let's celebrate Josie DeCarlo's life a little differently. Her story is so impressive, and I have 18000+ words (34 pages of single-space text!) from our conversations together, so I am going to publish the whole interview, versus the chapter in the book. Generally, I've preferred to go with a revised version of the chapter, because I added in a lot of context, but I so love Josie's story that we'll let her tell it, in three parts starting tonight. Lots of talk about Archie, of course, but also around Dan's time working with Stan Lee, and for Martin Goodman's Humorama magazine. Click on the "Read more" to view the entire text.  RIP Josie...

Josie DeCarlo 
taped March 17th, 2002, by phone from New York for 
“I Have To Live With This Guy!”

Blake Bell - I’m speaking to Josie DeCarlo on Sunday March 17th from her home. Josie, I was first interested in talking a little bit about your family background, where you grew up and what it was like to grow up in Belgium, if that’s exactly where you grew up?

Josie DeCarlo - Actually I grew up in France. I lived in France with my grand parents. At the time that my mother and father were married, he went to do his military service in Germany after World War I.
Since my mother was an only child, my grand parents decided we’d stay here until he came back from his service. When my father did come back, my grandparents just wanted to keep me with them because they didn’t want to be left with no one there. With my mother, their daughter, leaving them to go live with her husband and me too, losing me too. I grew up with them until I was twelve.
My father is Belgian, so they went to live in Belgium. When my grand father died, that’s when I went to live with my mother and father in Belgium, including my grandmother. We wanted to be together then.
From when I was twelve, until World War II started, it was pretty much growing up with a simple life. Also, from the time, I remember my school days. They’re not that important of memories from that point on until I was sixteen. I was sixteen when the war started.

BB: Did you dabble in arts at all when you were in high school or beforehand?

JD: No, I don’t remember much. The only things that I remember are very sad. One experience was when my grand father died. He was killed by a train on Christmas Eve and that changed my life in a way. I was so very spoiled by them that when I went back to Belgium to live with my family, I was not accustomed of having to have discipline and a disciplinarian father.
So it wasn’t easy for me to make the adjustment. However, my grandmother was still there with us, so she was the strong one who wanted to make sure that she wasn’t going to let me go. I managed to, at the end of the school week, still go and spend my weekends with her. So it was a very, very close relationship with my grandparents.

BB: What’s it like when you’re a teenager and you have to move back in with your parents? That’s a rather unique relationship?

JD: With the War, I feel now that I was cheated out of my teenage years. At sixteen, that’s when you think that you are going to have a good time and it was not like that at all. So when we were invaded, I was like everybody else who had that same idea, running, trying to get to the south of France because everyone wanted to evacuate due to the fear of having to live under German occupation.

BB: Do you remember those first moments when all the sudden everything is changing because you were being invaded? Do you have memories from that?

JD: That I remember very clearly. Those four years of war, I don’t think I’ve forgotten one incident because the bombs were dropped in my own town. The minute they were dropped it was contagious - the people panicked.
Those who had a car were fortunate. No, we didn’t have a car - we had bicycles. We left our home on bicycles. It was difficult to reach the point that we wanted to reach because we were constantly mixed with column of soldiers and there were detours all the time. It took about ten days to arrive at the point where we were bombarded again so badly that we were buried in a house.
The English forces came to dig us out and then, from that point on, my father realized that there was no point in going any further. Every time we went a few kilometres, the Germans were doing the same thing. He said we’re just going to have to stay here and it was in the north of France. He decided there’s nothing we could do anymore. We came to close to death at that point to go on any further.
He realized also that it was almost impossible, so when the German came in, my father said, “you have to hide because I’m going to see what they do and how they behave and then maybe you’ll come out from the hiding.” There were all the terrible stories that we had heard in school from when we studied what had happened during the First World War. It was implanted in our minds, all the atrocities of that time. So we just said we’d see what happens that day.
There were the columns of the Elite soldiers. They look strong - they look very good. They didn’t seem to bother anyone, so my father said, “I think they are anxious to win this war so they not going to bother to do the same things they did during the First World War.”
Sure enough after all the Elite went by they left behind all the elderly men who just occupied the town. They were nicer. They didn’t want the war anymore than we did.
Finally we waited there for about a week until we were told we could go back home and that’s what we did. When we arrived back home, we realized that the few bombs that were dropped in our own town, and were dropped before we left and there was nothing else that had happened from that time until we came home.
From that point on, for the first two years, because of propaganda reasons, the Germans seemed to be sort of friendly. Still we were always on our guard. Then the last two years were horrible. It was a question of we could not do anything anymore. We were always threatened if we didn’t obey their rules there would be reprisals. They would come to a movie sometimes and if somebody did something to aggravate them they would say, “you, you, you and they would take you away and nobody ever saw those people again.” So it was frightening.
It was also difficult as far as putting food on the table. You had to try to go to the farms and buy the food on the black market, trying to mix that with the things that we would get with the stamps and just try to survive.

BB: Did you have any idea what was going with regards to the Holocaust?

JD: Not at all. No. We weren't even aware that there were so many people who were in contact with the BBC and tied to the underground to really fight the war in a different way. It was a different war, something that nobody was prepared for. The French had the Imaginary Line and they thought that it would never be crossed, but the Germans went around it!

BB: Do you remember liberation?

JD: That was very exciting.

BB: Tell me the story of that day when it happened.

JD: When the Americans came in, first of all, everyone was so excited. Everyone was on the street, singing and drinking and getting the American a good bottle of wine that maybe had been hidden from before the war. The Americans had arrived and from that point on We felt so sure that we were safe. It was not exactly so because there was the Battle of the Bulge. It was in December. Everything again, at the time, made us think we’re still not as safe as we think.

BB: When the Americans came in that day, did you have any sense that they were coming?

JD: Yes we did always get some news but we were never sure if the news was accurate. So we never felt that safe anymore.

BB: Even when the war was over, did you still have that sense of not feeling safe, like something could go wrong at anytime? It must have been like they talk about September 11th here. There was that age of innocence before hand and now everyone’s kind of looking over their shoulder. Was that the sense that was going on at that time?

JD: No, not really. When the Battle of the Bulge ended, they surrendered. So we knew at that time, they were finished. We felt safe. Then the good times came in. We rejoiced in that we finally felt free. We were able to go out and that’s when I met Dan.
He arrived in Belgium at the end of January and he was with the Air Force and he was stationed in London all those previous years, for three years actually. When they arrived, everyone was trying their best to communicate with them.
They were at the street corner and my cousin, Georgette, passed by and they were trying with a French dictionary to find a place that they wanted to see and they called her. They say, “Mademoiselle, come here.” She helped them in finding the place they wanted to go.
She, just like many other people, invited them to come for coffee. She said, “I have a cousin, I will ask her to come and my mother and I would like to have you visit.” People did that. They invited the American soldiers for a home cooked meal or just to show our appreciation. To show our excitement we would always do something for them to make them feel that we appreciated all they had done. So they did.
My cousin came to ask my father if I can go there and he said, “Well, my daughter didn’t go out with Germans, she will not go out with Americans. They have men passing by and I don’t believe that she should be going.” But she insisted, “it’s for my mother’s sake. It’s only for a nice chat” So he let me go.
Dan and Eddie, his friend, for dinner invited us. My father sort of calmed down a little bit and let us go. This was also the time that Dan and I began to know that we were meant for each other.

BB: I was reading an interview that Dan did for The Comics Journal and he describes it as a blind date. The two of you, you and Georgette, walked up to Eddie and Dan and you said, “I’m going with the small one.”

JD: Yes, “I wanted the little one.”

BB: Is that a true story?

JD: Yes that’s a true story.

BB: You liked him right off the bat?

JD: He said, “she’s mine. The little one is mine.” And I was his for 56 years.

BB: What were your first impressions of him?

JD: Well, he was already funny although we could not communicate very much. He was already managing to make me laugh at certain things that I thought were what he said. He learned French very quickly. From the beginning, he was drawing cartoons to make me understand what he was trying to say to me, which was fun.

BB: How much English did you speak at that time?

JD: Oh, very little.

BB: So he would draw cartoons to bridge that language barrier.

JD: To communicate, yes, with the dictionary and the cartoons.

BB: So you guys met and you hit it off instantly? You knew you liked each other right away?

JD: Yes and also it was wonderful because everyone in the family felt the same way. They loved Dan. He was at our home all the time. My father had accepted him, so there was no problem anymore. We knew that we could date, we could have fun. It was just great, after going through what we had gone through for four years.

BB: Was he a shy guy?

JD: He was. He was. Yes.

BB: Were you more out going than he was?

JD: I think I was, yes.

BB: So he stayed there, didn’t he, an extra six months in Belgium, just to marry you?

JD: Because he asked me if I would come to the United States because he had enough points to be discharged but I didn’t like that. I just didn’t feel comfortable coming to a family I didn’t know and leaving my family. It was a big thing, being far away. So I told him it would be a better then if he came back and thought about it, and I would do the same. But he decided to re-enlist and to give us time to marry in Belgium.

BB: What was the name of the time you were living in?

JD: Charleroi.

BB: What would you guys do on a date? What would you guys do in that town? What was available to you?

JD: We would go to the movie; we went to the opera; we went to the pubs and had some drinks; we went to dinner sometimes and also from time to time we would go to the Officers’ Club for learning the Jitterbug.

BB: What kind of movies were you guys seeing? Were the American movies or were the French movies?

JD: They were French movies, yes.

BB: So he would have to go there and, they wouldn’t have been subtitled?

JD: No, I think the best way to learn is through the movies. I felt the same way when I came to this country. When I start to learn English from going to the movies.

BB: Do you remember any specific movies, from when you first got there, American movies, that were you favorites, or any movies stars that stood out?

JD: I only remember the opera. We went to see Carmen. I knew that at the end of the opera, when everybody was clapping, Dan and Eddie were clapping, it was “Carmen est mort!” I knew they meant Carmen died! But the movies, I don’t recall.

BB: How long from when you first met him before he asked you to marry him? How long was the courtship?

JD: We met in January 1945 and we were married in February of 1946.

BB: So you’re over here and he stayed specifically behind to marry you? How difficult then was it for him to then leave and go home?

JD: Well, he knew that I was going to follow. He came home actually, three or four months before me. It was fun because at least he was in New York, waiting for me at the port.

BB: Did you guys write letters back and forth?

JD: Oh, yes.

BB: And you were you able to communicate better then by the time you got married?

JD: A little more but not perfectly. I still don’t think that I speak English perfectly.

BB: That must have been scary to think, once he had gone, that in three or four months you’re going to be moving to an entirely different country, a new society, a new continent, a new way of life, and a new language. Do you remember feelings of apprehension or were you just, “I want to get back to Dan because I love him so much?”

JD: That was my first interest was to come back to Dan because we were so anxious to be together. That also was there, that it was frightening a little bit. At the time when I left my family there was no airplane yet, so they thought, “my god, there she is leaving. When are we going to see each other again?”
It was a mixture of excitement and happiness. I’d married the man of my dream and also coming to a family that I had a feeling would accept me and were happy about Dan bringing back home a war bride. However, it was a little frightening at the beginning. It took me three years to feel comfortable. In three years time, I began to meet all Dan’s friends, the people that he grew up with. When I made friends, life began to change for me.

BB: You came over by boat obviously. You came into Manhattan, is that correct?

JD: Yes. It was a shock because every time we showed the Americans something that was quite beautiful, in architecture or something, they would say, “but we have that much bigger in the United States.”
     We would say, “my goodness. Everything they have is much bigger than what we have.” We sometime thought they were exaggerating. Then when we came here, we said, “oh my god, it’s true.”

BB: It was just you on the boat, coming over by yourself?

JD: No. We were on a boat with five hundred war brides.

BB: Wow, 500? That’s interesting.

JD: Fortunately, I had a friend from home - a very close friend - we met at the train station without knowing we would be going to the same town. We would be living in the same town. So that was also very nice.

BB: What were your first impressions of seeing New York City from the edge of the boat, or your first day in New York City? What were your impressions?

JD: We didn’t really stay in the city. He just came to pick me up. All I could see was all those big buildings. Everything was just so big. I wasn’t in New York very long, but the minute I knew enough about New York, I was very, very drawn by going to this big city and seeing New York. I was fascinated with New York. And I still am.

BB: What was one thing that fascinated you? Do you remember one place you liked to go to in Manhattan over all the others? Was it the Statue of Liberty? Was it Battery Park?

JD: The Statue of Liberty was the most, since it was a gift from France. We saw her coming in, from a distance. The first of five years of our marriage was sort of difficult because I gave birth to twin boys. Dan, at that time, was trying to make a brake in the art field, so it was rough. The five first years were very rough.
I decided that the best thing for us would be for me to get back home with my two children, my two babies, and let him work on his portfolio and to this day I feel that it was the best thing. It seems cruel at the time that I was leaving him so soon, but I think it was the best thing I ever did for Dan. It was giving him a chance to work and concentrate on his work because he had a dream.
He wanted to be an illustrator first. That’s what he thought. Then he went into the comics. And I could tell that there would be no way he could try to be concerned about his family and also work every night, all night to build up a portfolio. That was exactly what I thought at the time and I still feel today that it was the best thing I did.
I stayed with my family for something about six months and then one day I received a letter saying, “please come back! I got a job!”

BB: How long after you had the children did you go back to your family?

JD: They were a year old. Actually, they were not quite a year old. That's why Dan decided maybe my idea was good to go because I would not have to pay for the babies to travel because they were not yet a year old yet. I would only have to pay a half fare each when I came back because we had no money. We had no money. He gave me the little bit of money he had. He gave it to me to go on the trip.
I was so thrilled and so thankful that he understood the need that I had to go back home and tell all this to my family. I would correspond with them but I just wanted them to see my babies.

BB: What were your impressions of comic books before you met Dan? Did you grow up with comic books?

JD: Oh yes. We have wonderful artists in Europe, or so they are cartoonists. Tintin - the French Comics.

BB: Herge?

JD: Oh yes, we grew up with comics also.

BB: So the notion that he got into comics was not even an issue then?

JD: No. The only thing, I think that in Europe, they gave more respect to more the comics. Here, the books are in soft cover. In Europe, they are in hard cover. So the children take care of them. They keep them. They hold onto them.

BB: It’s not considered disposable as much as it is here. Now, when you came over for the first time was he already working for Timely Comics?

JD: No, he was actually for Humourama at the time. He was spending most of the day, one page...

BB: Gag strips?

JD: Yes. At the time it was drawing very sexy woman. And then after Humourama, he went to Timely Comics.

BB: How does he go to work for Timely Comics?

JD: Well, his sister saw an ad in the paper, told him about it. He went and they hired him immediately. They loved his work. He worked for Timely for quite awhile - Millie the Model, My Friend Irma -

BB: He was hired as a staff artist, wasn’t he? He was on the payroll, as opposed to freelance.

JD: Yes.

BB: Did you ever go up into the Timely bullpen up in the Empire State Building?

JD: Oh, yes.

BB: What do you remember about that and those offices? It would have been a big room with a lot of people working in those offices up there and I guess Stan Lee would have a...

JD: Everyone was friendly. I always find very easy to adjust to live in America because there is not as much protocol as there is in France, in Europe in general. The Americans feel at ease, no matter where they are and I felt that so it was very easy for me at the time. Even though I didn’t completely communicate well yet, I know that they understood.

BB: Do you remember Stan Lee? Did you meet him right off the bat?

JD: Oh, yes and we became very, very close friends with Joan, his wife, and Stan Lee.

BB: What do you remember about the two? Do you have any funny stories about Stan and Dan and Joan?

JD: They made a good pair, Stan Lee and Dan. Stan had a great sense of humor and Dan also but one was funnier then the other one would put it down on paper. In other words, I would say, Dan understood Stan Lee’s humour.

BB: What about Joan? Tell me about Joan and what she’s like.

JD: Joan made her guests very comfortable. She was very vivacious woman and she had loads of pets. Every time we were invited to there home for dinner, she would always say to me, “you are going to take one of my poodles home.” I would say, “Oh I would love to,” because the poodle took a liking to me. The minute I arrived she was on my lap until I left.
Every time we would leave she would say, “well next time you have to take one home one with you.” Then finally one day she came with the velvet coat, the rhinestone collar and she gave me Josie. She had two - she had Josephine and Napoleon, one white one and one black one. She gave me Josie. And isn’t that a coincidence? The dog was called Josie and I am Josie.

BB: That’s hilarious. That’s funny because I interviewed her for the book, as well.

JD: She was a marvelous hostess.

BB: She’s can tell stories. You can see the actress in her. Now, do you remember anybody else from that Timely Bullpen that you would have socialized with?

JD: There was Mel Lazarus. He was always a sometime part of the group.

BB: What was he like? We always try to get an idea of what these people are like because some of them are not with us obviously.

JD: Mel always had a great sense of humor. They all get along very well. They all had fun together.

BB: Do you remember meeting Al Jaffe?

JD: All Jaffe I remember, yes.

BB: Other than Joan and Stan, would you socialize with the other cartoonists in those days?

JD: Yes. We stayed pretty much with the group.

BB: So who else would have been somebody you would have socialized with in that group?

JD: Then at one point, it was at the time that Stan and Dan had the Willy Lumpkin strip, we joined the NCS. Then that opened the door, again, for me a little wider because it was now a different feeling. Dan was already making a name for himself. It was fun to be amongst so many other cartoonists, all those big name cartoonists.

BB: So who do you remember from that group?

JD: I remember one of the ladies that I adore was March Divine. She was the secretary up there and at the time... oh gosh. It’s hard to go back so far back.

BB: That’s why I say, in the future, if you remember anything you can feel free to write it down.

JD: Yes, I could also look in my book to see what the time was. I know there were so many big names that I was having fun going around with my book, asking for their autographs.

BB: So when you first moved over you were living in Dan’s mother’s house?

JD: Yes.

BB: There were like ten people in six rooms. What’s it like to be someone who can’t necessarily communicate as well and to be living with so many people in such a tight space?

JD: It was crowded. We were crowded. Fortunately, because they were Italian, I was able to communicate a little bit with my mother in law. They were so many words similar.
It wasn’t easy, because all the soldiers coming back from the war were all looking for an apartment. We couldn’t find an apartment. After I came back from my trip to Europe with the babies, Dan had the job, then we were lucky and we found an apartment and we moved out. We then began to have a normal life.

BB: Just so I can get this clear, when you came over he wasn’t working for Timely and then when you went back to stay with your family and the twins are almost a year old, that’s when he started working for Timely?

JD: No that was prior. I went back with the children prior to...

BB: Prior to working for Timely?

JD: Oh yes. That’s when he wrote the letter to me and said, “come back; I’ve got a job.”

BB: I read The Comics Journal interview that almost makes it sound like he had found the job at Timely, then you came over for the first time. So, I’m glad that’s cleared up.
He had four sisters. Did that have an influence on the direction of his artwork, in terms of the humorous aspect? Where did he develop that knack for humor?

JD: He does have that knack, yes. They had jobs so...

BB: Did he pick it up from his mother, father, what are the origins of -

JD: His wit?

BB: Yeah, his wit - his sense of humor.

JD: Well, his father was artistic. His father made many statues because he was landscaping. He was very good. I think I would say his father.

BB: His father was a funnyman?

JD: Yes he was.

BB: So that’s where he picked it up - his ability to communicate humor into visuals?

JD: It was very hard for me to understand a sense of humor. It’s looking back and trying to remember what made everybody laugh. At the time I didn’t always understood.

BB: When you do come back with the twins and he has the job working at Timely drawing all those strips we talked about like Millie the Model and my Friend Irma, what is a typical work day like in the household? Is he an early riser?

JD: Yes, he was always an early riser. But never left the studio until he thought that everything he had to do for the day was finished and also that he was pleased with it, satisfied with what he’d drawn. He would get up sometimes in the middle of the night just to take a look again on what he draw to see if it was exactly what it had to be.

BB: Would he work from nine to five and still work in the evenings?

JD: He was a workaholic. But when Dan put the pencil down, he was all ours. And he was able to entertain all the time, play with the children. I never had problems putting my children to bed because they would run to bed because dad was going to come and tell them a story.

BB: Did he live with these characters that he would draw? Could he maintain some separation from his work? When you guys would go on vacation would he bring his work?

JD: No. No, he didn’t take his work on vacation, no. He would leave it at home. Also, he loved to play golf and that was his relaxation. He would sometimes work all night because he had played a game of golf.

BB: Was he a workaholic because he had to draw so much to take care of the family or did he just love the work itself?

JD: Maybe a mixture but mostly because he was a workaholic because he loved his work. His work was his passion. I think it’s the same with all the artists. They must work to earn a living but the main thing is their passion.

BB: I think the best ones have that passion. I think a lot of people especially back then, considered it a job. They didn't really consider it an art form. But someone like Dan who had a natural talent, he was able to develop that passion. I think you can see that in the work. Now, do you have funny stories back then about your communication problems? You told me one about the postman and about the drawings to communicate and help you along those lines?

JD: When we were together here, there was not anymore problems communicating except sometimes I would need his help to still explain things to me.

BB: But you picked up English pretty quickly once you’d hit the States?

JD: I did.

BB: Do you remember the whole Comics Code Authority and Frederic Wertham? Dan’s not doing superhero work but did that still impose on your life?

JD: Oh, yes.

BB: What do you remember about that time?

JD: I always thought that it was wonderful that there were so many different types of art. There was a different type of art and I was not accustomed to seeing that. So I was very impressed with all this diverse work from other artists.

BB: Did you ever worry about comics because the industry came under quite the attack?

JD: Yes and at the time it was scary.

BB: Because that threatens your very lively hood so you remember that pretty well. Some people don’t. Some of the wives said it never really affected them. But others would remember the children going to school and not wanting to admit their dads drew superhero or horror comics because comics were looked upon in a bad light in the early fifties.

JD: I think, that’s when Dan began to change his style a little bit also. He didn’t draw...I guess he could not anyway with the Code. He begins to draw, when he made the move to Archie, just before that. And they were not quite as small voluptuous, but still sexy.

BB: So what are some of your favorite strips from the fifties when he was working at Timely? Like Millie the Model or My Friend Erma, the Genie strips? Did you look at a lot of his work in those days?

JD: Always. Dan had a flare for fashion and he liked my opinion.

BB: So you would help him in terms of giving him input into his work?

JD: Yes. Not as far as the drawing but as far as the fashion, yes.

BB: Obviously Dan being a man, you might be a little more hip to the fashions and the trends of the day. So were you a big help to him in keeping up to date?

JD: I think I was, yes. I would do research for him sometimes.

BB: What kind of research - in terms of the clothing styles?

JD: Yes, in terms of the clothing styles and sometimes he would take a sketchbook and would go to the high school and wait for the kids to come out to see what they were wearing. He was always really up to date with the fashion.

BB: So during that time in the fifties, he worked from home all the time?

JD: No, he had a studio at one time.

BB: How long did he have the studio for?

JD: He had a studio because he had someone who inked. He was doing the penciling but he wanted the man who was actually inking for him right there. He didn't want any change in his line. I'm so happy about that because so many people have said to me about Dan, about the clean line. I'm so happy that he made sure that it was kept that way.

BB: So what of those strips do you remember of the Millie the Model? Do you remember having favorite ones back then that he would do?

JD: Millie was good. My Friend Erma was very good too.

BB: What one was your favorite?

JD: I never really have any favorites. I liked them all.

BB: My Friend Erma was based on a radio show. Do you remember meeting any of the cast members or having any oversights from the company?

JD: No.

BB: Dan was allowed free hand to-?

JD: At that point raising two kids, the twins, was enough for me. I didn't always meet all these people.

BB: Do you remember the first time he came home with artwork and it was Archie related?

JD: I thought that was good for Dan because, again, it was a change in what he had done up to that point. It was involving teenagers which was, at the time, very important because everyone was beginning to understand that the times was changing. They were beginning to be concerned about the environment and all.

BB: But the rates at Archie were pretty low, the page rates?

JD: Yes.

BB: Did Dan have to work that much harder?

JD: Yes. He had to do more pages. Dan is probably one of the men who draw the most pages. After we'd moved into an apartment and he had an intention to buy a house so he drew, drew, and drew.

BB: How much stress does that put on a marriage? It's not like a nine to five person who leaves and comes home. Did you feel left out in some respects because he's got to spend so much time drawing to keep up?

JD: Well, not really because when he put the pencil down he was entirely to us and then his time was with us. He never changed that. He kept doing that all his life. “Don't bother me when the studio door was closed.” I could understand that. If the pencil sharpener was going a lot, non-stop, then he was really busy. But at night time, at dinner time particularly, when we were all together at the table there was always so many laughs and he always made up for not putting his complete day into his work.

BB: He did a lot of album covers as well for the Archies. Did those pay a lot better? Do you remember?

JD: They paid better but still not enough. be continued


  1. I only knew Dan by talking with him on the phone a few times. I had grown up reading Archie comics in the 60's and loved them. I got the opportunity to purchase one of Dan's pc of art from him online in the yr 2000. It was painting of Josie in her kitty costume with 3 kittens playing guitars in front of her. I was purchasing it for my wife for a Christmas present. When I sent the payment in, I wrote Dan a long letter telling him how much I had enjoyed his renderings of Betty and Veronica when I was kid. He called me up on the phone when he received it and we had a nice long conversation. After that day, I spoke to him several times and bought other pc of his art. I also had the pleasure of getting to talk with Josie once. I was greatly saddened the day when I heard about Dan's passing and now again with Josie. Thanks for posting this interview Blake. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it.

  2. I'm so excited to read all of this. I only just learned of Josie De Carlo when I read about her death, but she seems like such a cool lady. Thanks for sharing her with us.