Sunday, November 16

An Exclusive Interview with the Late Dan DeCarlo - Part 2 (Conducted Fourteen Years Ago)

Thanks for your patience, here is the second and final part of my interview with Dan DeCarlo…

Me: How long do you think you will continue to draw for ARCHIE?
Dan DeCarlo: As long as I can. I really like to draw. It all depends on how my health holds out. Right now I have a clean bill, but you never know. God might tap me on the shoulder one day, and everything would change.

Me: There is a new generation of writers and artists at Archie Comics; do you see them making the same mistakes that you did when you began in the business?

DD: Dan Parent and I work a lot together. I rough the art out, and he finishes them. Then I send it to my inker (Alison Flood) to finish it. Dan, and the other younger artists at ARCHIE will succeed in this business, if they continue to be motivated. If they are motivated enough they certainly can make it easily.

Me: Stan Goldberg, among others have worked at ARCHIE for about the same length of time as you, do you have a friendly relationship with them?

DD: Yes. Stan and I are good friends. As a matter of fact, we’re going out tomorrow. Stan, Henry Scarpelli and I are all great friends.
Me: Many artists enjoy drawing for certain writers, because they know that they are going to be dealing with quality work. Do you have any favorite writers?

DD: I like Frank Doyle. When I first started to work on Archie, I got his stories. I think he’s the best. He has a way of writing that I’m able to illustrate humorously. He’s got a nice pacing that’s never boring. He’s an old pro, and knows how to handle the situations.

Me: There are many famous settings in the comics, such as Pop’s Chock’lil Shoppe, Riverdale High, Archie’s living room, the Lodge mansion, Riverdale beach, etc. Which is your favorite?

DD: (laughs) I enjoy the beach stories. Everything flows easy, and there’s very little perspective. The summer stories are my absolute favorite, even dressing the kids is a lot of fun. As for the other settings, I like the soda shop. We change them constantly. If you follow the books, you’ll notice that the Ice Cream shop is never the same twice. I think it’s important, because it’s inclined to get boring otherwise. Years ago, they wanted us to have the same living room with the same furniture in the same place, but they dropped it. It gets too dull. Now, if you look at the furniture in one story, and if they are in the living room for a few panels, you’ll start to see that the furniture moves. (laughs)

Me: You are well known for your work on the Betty and Veronica books, and commonly referred to as the cover artist at ARCHIE. Is it gratifying for you to view your work on the cover of a comic even though you have done so many of them?

DD: Oh yes. There are some covers that I really like. I sell most of the original art, but there are a few that I hang on to. I like covers, because in one piece of art it sums up a story. I spend much more time working on the cover art. In the grocery store, when my granddaughter sees any of my artwork she yells, “my Poppy did that!”

Me: I’m sure everyone knows that Betty is your favorite character, but why?

DD: Many people say that they can see it in my artwork. I really like Betty more than Veronica. I can relate to Betty – middle class, etc. I don’t know any girls as rich as Veronica. It takes me much longer to draw Veronica. That just proves that Betty can flow off my pencil easily. (laughs)

Me: As well as having teenagers in Riverdale, there are many adults too. Who are your favorite adult characters?
DD: I like to draw Weatherbee, Grundy and I guess Pop too. I get a big kick out of Mr. Lodge, but only when Archie’s driving him nuts.

Me: What do you remember that you can share with us, about The Archies when they reached the top of the Billboard charts with their hit “Sugar, Sugar?”

DD: Oh wow. There were all kinds of excitement around that time. Things were just sizzling for the characters at that time. The heads of the company were considering many ways to market the characters. Books were selling like crazy. They also tried to do a couple of themed restaurants around that time.
Me: How do you research the clothes our beloved gang wears, do you go through magazines, visit high schools…?

DD: I subscribe to all the teen magazines. It’s hard to use a lot of it, because it’s too stylish. The best thing to do is observe. Look at what the teenagers are wearing, and go with that. If don’t see them wearing what’s in the magazines don’t bother drawing it.

Me: Do you get a lot of fan mail?

DD: Quite a bit. I see ten to twelve letters a week. I try to respond to as many as I can. I really need a secretary. (laughs) I get a lot of mail for autographs, and requests for specific sketches of the characters.

Me: Occasionally, I have seen stories that you had a hand in writing. Do you plan to write more stories in the future?

DD: When I started to work at ARCHIE, I was writing my own stories. Then when I wanted to expand, I dropped the writing. Nowadays, I do some covers when I think I have a good idea. I find writing much harder than drawing.

Me: Have you ever based a story on a major experience in your life?

DD: I try to get some incidents that happened to me which are funny into the stories. In covers, I will try to put in situations.
Me: Do you have any tips for fans that want to become a comic book artist?

DD: If you like to draw, and you have to draw a lot, just go for it. My instructor at arts school said, “draw every time you have an opportunity, even if it’s of a tea cup.” I always drew a lot when I was starting. I would take out a pad and pencil and draw on the train at the end of the day, regardless of being too tired to do so. I really love it.

Me: Do you feel that you are still learning on how to improve your artwork?

DD: Yes. It’s very interesting; a lot of my fans say that I’m getting better and better. Sometimes getting better is really getting worse. You might become inclined to lose the feeling.

Me: What’s your opinions on the infamous love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica?

DD: Bob Montana’s version of it was: Archie loves Veronica, Veronica had him on a string, and Betty loves Archie. Now it seems like there isn’t a triangle anymore. Better is dating Archie, and Veronica feels that she could take Archie away anytime she likes. The real triangle isn’t there anymore. Betty is considered Archie’s girl, and Veronica will date Reggie.

Related Posts:

Who Is Your Dan DeCarlo?

An Exclusive Interview with the Late Dan DeCarlo - Part 1

Friday, October 3

Getting back on the horse

Today I made an effort to follow up on a couple of leads regarding Metro-Burbs. It's been quite hectic during my day gig so I haven't had much time to spend on it. Will keep you posted...

Wednesday, July 2

The Art of the Title

This is Alan checking in for the Finn Factory. A friend of mine sent me a link to a website showcasing the title sequences of various movies, television shows, and anime. These sequences are works of art in themselves. Music, animation, and camera work are blended together to make an important and intense part of any broadcast or film. While many films have yet to be added to the list, there are a still some quality pieces of work linked to the site. Make sure to check out the Introduction to Lemony Snicket, easily one of the best intros showcased.

The Art of the Title

Thursday, June 26

Spy on the Rest of the World

I came across this site recently. It shows off images as they are being posted on flickr within the last minute, either in a flat image of the world, or a 3D version of the globe. It's pretty wild - give it a try.

Sunday, June 22

How To Deal with Procrastination

Remind me, I'll tell you later.

Thursday, June 19

Are You Willing to Fail?

It’s a question I ask myself all the time. Am I willing to go backwards to go forward? Many times giving up a few comforts have propelled me ahead, but not all the time. For some reason, everything that is worth having usually requires you to lay all your chips down.

We have been building Metro-Burbs, our concept for a children’s show, brick by brick. It has been a very exhilarating, yet intricate process. There isn’t financing or backing of any sort to help prop us up, so we are learning by rolling up our sleeves and often times seeking out great talent to get involved purely because they like the concepts. Luckily, it has worked.

Since it isn't our day job, it can get a little difficult to find the time to focus on it. For me, this has been a great aspect of it, albeit at times a less productive one. I never felt that I should work on Metro-Burbs because I had to. So I would leave it alone for months at a time. We are at the point where we are confident that we can roll this thing off the assembly line with great success. We have everything we need to make it happen, and I'm very proud of all our efforts. It also helped my optimism recently to have gone to a few meetings, where the project held up very nicely to outside evaluation (aka not my family).

I do have to say that we have been lucky enough to get a few enormously talented folks involved with our idea; they have done an amazing job in helping to bring Metro-Burbs to life.

We didn’t want to make this program just to get into this area of the business; it is too difficult for that. There is a legitimate hole that we are attempting to fill in children’s television. Many of today’s shows are either geared toward the aggressive young boy, or set up for the cheap laugh, at the expense of our kid’s development. Our kids are absorbing actions on the tube that we would never tolerate in real life. Why would we want them to see someone else doing it?

We have the ability to bring a show with a fresh vibe, lots of enthusiasm and with educational value. There is no question that kids are going to watch more than one hour of TV a day, so why not stimulate their noggin during that time? We can let them discover elements about themselves that can be utilized when they are not sitting in front of the television. I’m not saying that all TV for kids has a negative consequence, just enough for us to do something about it.

I’d like to acknowledge a few of those artists that joined in to elevate Metro-Burbs to another level. They are all very passionate, creative, funny and bright individuals. I see them as the ideal people to make up what I want Finn Factory to be in the future. Take a bow guys ---- Alan Camuto, Bianca Siercke, Sal Denaro and Ted Nunes.

It continues to be exciting for me to pitch the show, and to get great feedback. It's not a matter of IF it will happen, but when. So to answer my own question, I am ready to fail in the short term, knowing that it will make everything I do in the long run even better. All the efforts thus far have paid off in spades. I look forward to walking everyone through Metro-Burbs one day....soon.

Wednesday, June 18

An Exclusive Interview with the Late Dan DeCarlo - Part 1 (Conducted Fourteen Years Ago )

I’ll start at the beginning...

When I was in High School, I contributed to an Archie Comics Fanzine called Riverdale Ramblings. One of my goals was to meet some of my favorite artists, writers and creators. I went to the top of the mountain right off the bat...I decided to seek out a man that is considered to be the most respected talent to ever work for Archie Comics, Dan DeCarlo. I thought I could accomplish two things by doing so:

1. Create content for the fanzine

2. Hang out with Dan, The Man

I recently wrote about Dan, and it peeked my curiosity to re-read the Q&A I did on him in early 1994. I did some searching, and came across a copy of the issue in my parent’s very hot attic.

While reading it, a flood of memories came back to me. I had placed a cold call to the DeCarlo residence (yep, the number was listed) and his wife picked up the phone. Her name is Josie, a lovely woman. (Side note: Josie was the inspiration for Josie from Josie and the Pussycats). I waited patiently, yet nervously, for Dan to pick up. I could hear his wife yell up the stairs to him, and finally the sounds of him scrambling to pick up the receiver in his home art studio. He was probably hard at work getting the latest comic strip done. I’ll never forget his raspy voice or his distinct laugh. A laugh that would show up time and time again when he felt that the attention on him was a bit embarrassing. I think I awkwardly blurted out something about talking with him for a fan magazine. He seemed to understand my murmurs and immediately said yes. We had a date set for the following weekend.

I just happened to live in White Plains, NY at the time, and Dan resided in Scarsdale, the next town over. Wow, this is easy stuff. My subject lives fifteen minutes away, and he invited me over to his house. Now, the tough part -- I had never conducted an interview before, was very, very nervous and wasn’t a journalism major. Actually I didn’t have a major anything – I was in High School!

I went out and dropped a pretty decent amount of coin on a Dictaphone, and recall wondering why the device had such a weird name. When I was transcribing the interview, I had to go back and listen to his answers many, many times because of his low voice.

When I arrived at his house, Josie and Dan both welcomed me warmly. Dan was the definition of a gentleman. He served me lunch, we had tea and I felt like the luckiest kid around. After that afternoon, I feel like our conversations changed from a fan admiring an artist, to a guy talking to his friend.

I hope you enjoy Part 1 of my interview with Dan, and I look forward to hearing your comments!

Daniel DeCarlo was born on December 12, 1919 in New Rochelle, New York. He attended New Rochelle High School, and Art Students’ League in New York City.

Me: When did you start working at Archie Comics, and why there?

Dan DeCarlo: It was difficult to get a job after the war. I did all sorts of odd jobs to make ends meet. One day I answered an ad by Timely Comics (Later changed to Marvel) looking for cartoonists. I ended up drawing Millie the Model, My Friend Irma, and various other teenage titles while there. After about two years, the company let go most of the staff. They kept only the men that had books that were selling, and then only as freelancers. After I realized the type of business I was in, I decided to try to expand by seeking work from other companies too. It was at that point that I got some work with Archie. I was also working on a comic strip called Willie Lumpkin with Stan Lee. Often times, I would think that this was going to be it for me. I better do the work, because I might not get it tomorrow. I don’t feel that way now, but then I did. I was paranoid about the whole thing, and worked like crazy. I hired an inker. I really wanted to expand more, but couldn’t get any cooperation from the inkers.

Me: How does it make you feel to know that many fans continue to buy Archie Comics because of your art work?

DD: I am really flattered, and honestly a bit surprised. I get letters from readers that will really take me back. I can’t believe that they are that interested. It’s an awkward feeling. It never went to my head, if that’s what you mean (laughs). I don’t think that I’m that good, where people have to adore me. It’s really something.

Me: Do you notice any significant differences in the story lines from the time you started working on the comics compared to the ones that are on stands today?

DD: Yes. Earlier on, stories were sexier, and with a lot more slapstick humor, the school scenes especially. The teachers were all toothless, or had one tooth in the front. (laughs) Now the stories are more relevant.

Me: There is a distinct difference with the slang, clothing and look of the “Gang” in each decade. Which is your favorite time period, and why?

DD: I loved the 60s. The Revolution was happening. The kids were all looking for change. They weren’t sure what kind of change, but they were going against authority and their clothes went with it. I thought that it was the best years for clothing in the books. All the psychedelic stuff was a lot of fun. Now, it seems like the kids are going back in that direction with the fashion.

Thanks for checking out the first part of my Dan DeCarlo interview. Keep an eye out for Part two!! We will hear Dan's thoughts on: writing, adult characters in Riverdale and the time period when Sugar, Sugar hit the Billboard charts as a popular song by The Archies.

Related Posts:

Who Is Your Dan DeCarlo?

An Exclusive Interview with the Late Dan DeCarlo - Part 2

Monday, June 16

Subway from HELL

I take the New York Subway every day to work, sometimes it's fine...most times it SUCKS. This makes me feel better...

Sunday, June 15

How Sex and Violence Made Jim Henson a Star

Jim Henson grew up, like many teenagers in America, as an outcast. He suffered from bad acne, which later in life led him to grow a beard to conceal the scars. The “facial hair mask” also worked for two other famous nerds, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Like Mickey Mouse’s white gloves and red pants, the beard became part of Henson’s trademark look.

In 1969, Joan Ganz Cooney of Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) began working on a new television project that seemed tailor made for Jim’s talents. She wanted to explore the use of his talents with puppetry as a key element to the show. At first, this could look like an ideal situation. Not from Jim’s perspective. He wasn’t thrilled, to say the least.

Cooney’s project was to be called SESAME STREET, and it was meant to revolve around a strict curriculum in each episode. Jim spent years developing his career and talents, to show that puppetry wasn’t just for the young to enjoy. He felt that if he teamed up with CTW he would forever be associated with children’s programming. After much deliberation, he did decide to join her on the project. It later turned out, he was right to be concerned.

In the mid 1970’s, he felt it was time to pursue his dream of creating a variety show with puppets. Jim was met with a lot of resistance from network television. He had created some of the most beloved characters on the small screen through his work with Sesame Street, but it didn’t make it any easier for him to get backing for his new project. As soon as he pitched the show as a prime time program for adults and kids, the cynical look from the Executives across the table followed.

He decided to create a pilot (one of two) that aired as a television special. It was called “The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence.” If that didn’t get attention, what would? Well, even with the scandalous title it didn’t get enough notice. There was almost a deal completed with CBS TV but the restrictions on the contract weren’t going to work for Jim.

Jim’s saving grace was from a heavy set, cigar chomping gentleman named Lew Grade. Grade was the head of a British television station, and came to the table with money and studio space in England. Jim signed on, and The Muppet Show was born. The episodes were sold to various stations in the UK, around the world and via syndication in the US.

Obviously, it became a huge hit and I’m sure some suits at the networks wish they realized that Sex and Violence from Jim Henson sounded like a pretty good deal.

Related Posts:

Jim Henson Memorial Service (Video)

Tribute to Jim Henson (Video)

How Muppets Are Brought To Life...

RIPPLES - short film by Jim Henson (Video)

Jim Henson - Original Video Pitch for THE MUPPET SHOW