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


archiecomicsfan27 said...

Wow I loved your interview, and can't wait for Part 2!!

FinnFactory said...

Thanks, it was a lot of fun to revisit that time.