Josie and the Pussycats (comics)
|Josie and the Pussycats|
Josie and the Pussycats 48 Page Giant #1 (1993). Cover art by Dan DeCarlo.
|Publication date||(vol. 1)
February 1963 – October 1982; 1993
September 2016 - present
|Number of issues||(vol. 1): 106
(vol. 2): 1 (as of September 2016 cover date)
Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio
Josie and the Pussycats (initially published as She's Josie and Josie) is a teen-humor comic book about a fictional rock band, created by Dan DeCarlo and published by Archie Comics. It was published from 1963 until 1982; since then, a number of one-shot issues have appeared without regularity. A second series, set in the New Riverdale universe, launched in September 2016.
The series was adapted into a Saturday morning cartoon by Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1970 and a live-action motion picture by Universal Studios and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 2001. Two albums were recorded under the name Josie and the Pussycats: one as the soundtrack for the cartoon series, the other as the soundtrack for the movie. The band will next be appearing in the drama series Riverdale on The CW.
Cartoonist Dan DeCarlo, who had spent most of the 1950s drawing teen and career-girl humor comics such as Millie the Model for Atlas Comics, that decade's forerunner of Marvel Comics, began freelancing as well for Archie Comics. In 1960, he and Atlas editor-in-chief Stan Lee co-created the short-lived syndicated comic strip Willie Lumpkin, about a suburban mail carrier, for the Chicago, Illinois-based Publishers Syndicate. Casting about for more comic-strip work, DeCarlo created the characters of Josie and her friends at about the same time. The artist's wife, Josie DeCarlo, Josie's namesake, said in an interview quoted in a DeCarlo obituary, "We went on a Caribbean cruise, and I had a [cat] costume for the cruise, and that's the way it started."
DeCarlo first tried to sell the character as a syndicated comic strip called Here's Josie, recalling in 2001:
When Publishers Syndicate in Chicago got interested in Willie Lumpkin ... I was also hustling my own strip and trying to get it published. Before we got to Publishers Syndicate, I went to United Feature in New York with two strips — Barney's Beat and Josie. [United Feature] told me they liked them both, and they'd like to see more samples, because I didn't bring much. I brought maybe six dailies of Barney's Beat and six dailies of Josie. That posed a problem for me. I knew I couldn't handle both strips and still keep up with the comic book work, because a syndicated bit was very risky. So, I decided to shelve Josie, and concentrated on Willie Lumpkin. [When that strip ended after] a year, maybe a year and a half[,] I quickly submitted the Josie strip back to the publishers and Harold Anderson, and he sent it back and said, 'It's not what we're looking for, Dan, but keep up the good work,' or words of that kind. Then is when I decided to take it to Archie to see if they could do it as a comic book. I showed it to Richard Goldwater, and he showed it to his father, and a day or two later I got the OK to do it as a comic book.
Josie was introduced in Archie's Pals 'n' Gals #23 (Winter 1962-1963). The first issue of She's Josie followed, cover-dated February 1963. The series featured levelheaded, sweet-natured redhead Josie, her ditzy blonde bombshell friend Melody, and the brainy, cynical, bespectacled brunette Pepper. These early years also featured the characters of Josie's beatnik boyfriend Albert; Pepper's strong but dull-witted boyfriend Sock (real name Socrates); Albert's rival Alexander Cabot III, who chased after both Josie and Melody; and Alex's obnoxious twin sister Alexandra Cabot. Occasionally Josie and her friends would appear in "crossover" issues with the main Archie characters. She's Josie was renamed Josie with issue #17 (December 1965), and again renamed, to Josie and the Pussycats, with issue #45 (December 1969). Under this title, the series finished its run with issue #106 (October 1982). Josie and her gang also made irregular appearances in Pep Comics and Laugh Comics during the 1960s.
In 1969, Archie Comics made several changes to the Josie comic:
- In Josie #42 (August 1969), Josie met a heavily built blond folk singer named Alan M., who, over time, became Josie's on-again, off-again boyfriend (much to the chagrin of Alexandra, who was also immediately smitten with Alan M. and never missed an opportunity to try and steal him away).
- In Josie #43 (September 1969), Alexandra discovers that her cat Sebastian is actually a reincarnation of an ancestor of the Cabot family, who was executed for consorting with witches. Whenever Alexandra holds Sebastian in her arms, she can cast powerful magic spells. This ability would seem to give Alexandra an edge in her competition with Josie for Alan M., but the spells she casts usually backfire in some way. Moreover, her spells would wear off whenever someone nearby snapped their fingers (which happened often). Alexandra and Sebastian's witchcraft powers were not used in Hanna-Barbera's TV show, and were soon discontinued in the comic as well.
- In Josie and the Pussycats #45 (December 1969), the first issue to bear that new title, Josie and Melody decide to start a band called the Pussycats, and ask Alexandra to be their bassist. Alexandra accepts, but only if the girls change the name of the group to "Alexandra's Cool Time Cats". Expecting Josie and Melody to yield to her demands, Alexandra is flustered when she finds that her brother Alex has appointed himself manager of the Pussycats and found a replacement bassist in Valerie Smith, a new girl in school. The Pussycats make their leopard print band uniforms (complete with cat-ear headbands and long tails) and perform at their first gig, a school dance, as a seething Alexandra tries unsuccessfully to use her witchcraft to get back at the Pussycats and Alex.
The reimagining of the comic resulted in three casualties: Albert, Sock, and Pepper, who were phased out altogether. From 1970 on, most of the stories in the comic book revolved around the Pussycats traveling around the country and the world to perform gigs, with Alan M., Alex, and Alexandra (and sometimes Sebastian) in tow. When the girls weren't off performing, they would be at home dealing with the various trials and tribulations of teenage life, often including Alex's jealousy of Alan M., and Alexandra's jealousy of Josie. The Josie and the Pussycats comic ran until 1982, after which the girls would often be featured in various Archie Giant Series issues and miniseries and one-shot comics of their own. Reprinted Josie stories (including the occasional pre-Pussycats story) appear frequently in the various Archie Library digests. Archie & Friends #47-95 (June 2001-November 2005) continued to include new Josie and the Pussycats stories in the regular house style after the 2001 movie recreated interest of the series. They later appeared in a new two-part story, "Battle of the Bands", in Archie & Friends #130-131 (June–July 2009).
In March 2005, Archie Comics announced that a manga version of the title would be published, with art by Tania del Rio, who was also responsible for the manga makeover of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. The first such "Josie and the Pussycasts" story, "Opening Act" ran in Tales from Riverdale Digest #3 (August 2005) The band had previously appeared in manga form in issue Sabrina, The Teenage Witch #67 (August 2005).
In Archie & Friends #96 (January 2006) the origin of the Pussycats was retconned. The manga version implies that none of the characters previously knew each other. Josie Jones was cut from the school choir, but met Valerie Smith and the two founded the band. They recruited Melody, whose idea it was to wear cat outfits. The band was not doing well at first, but Alex liked the group, though Alexandra could tell he was more interested in Josie. Alex’s father let him be the manager as long as he did not use his wealth to help make them stars. In Sabrina the Teenage Witch #72 (February 2006), a stranger named Alan helped carry their equipment. Josie, already attracted to Alan, jealously thought there was an attraction between Alan and Melody. Alex hired him as their stagehand.
The manga focused on the group's attempt to reach fame rather than on their career after they have already achieved it. It featured characters not seen in other comics, including Alan's younger sister Alison and the rival group the Vixens. The manga version was not popular among readers, who preferred the traditional style. Its final appearance was in Archie & Friends #104 (December 2006). A Katy Keene revival replaced it (both featured alongside each other in the latter part of the manga's run), though it, too, did not last.
On June 8, 2016 a reboot of the series was announced in the same style of the Archie, Jughead, and Betty & Veronica reboots as part of the New Riverdale imprint. The series will be co-written by Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio with the art by Audrey Mok. The reboot will start featuring Josie uniting the band to take their big shot at musical stardom, only to contend with the machinations of Alexandra Cabot, the ever-Machiavellian daughter of the Pussycats’ manager. The first issue will be released on September 28, 2016.
A short-haired redhead, Josie is the leader and co-founder of the Pussycats. She is the lead vocalist and plays guitar. Portrayed as a sweet, attractive, and level-headed teenage girl, Josie is usually the stable center in the middle of the chaos surrounding her band and her friends.
Josie's surname has been inconsistent. It was alternately "Jones" or "James" for much of the comic's run. McCoy was her surname for the 2001 movie. Archie Comics later sometimes acknowledged the surnames from the movie as canonical, though not consistently. In a few stories reprinted in the 2000s decade, Archie Comics changed her surname to McCoy. However, the manga version used "Jones", which was her first surname to actually appear in the comics.
During the early years of her comic (1963–1969), Josie dated a guitarist named Albert. During and after the Josie and the Pussycats revamp, she dated Alan M. Mayberry. Alexander Cabot is regularly attracted to her in the comics. Though she is known to date him, she really loves Alan M.
In the cartoon series, Josie's speaking voice was performed by Janet Waldo (the voice of Judy Jetson and Penelope Pitstop) and her singing voice was performed by Cathy Dougher. She was played by Rachael Leigh Cook in the 2001 live-action Josie and the Pussycats movie. She will appear in The CW series Riverdale with Ashleigh Murray portraying her as an African American and lead singer of the band.
The co-founder and drummer for the Pussycats (she also sang occasional lead vocals for the TV series), Melody is a cute blonde and usually speaks in a sing-song voice, denoted by the musical notes in her cartoon word balloons. She is an absent-minded, bubbly sort of character often taken to using silly, nonsense language, and provides much of the comic relief of the series.
Melody is almost never given a surname in a comic story. Occasionally, she is called "Melody Jones". At these times, the name "James" is used for Josie to avoid confusion. However, the manga, having settled on the name "Josie Jones", essentially nullifies this. The 2001 movie establishes her surname as Valentine, a name that Archie Comics has accepted.
Many comic stories use Melody's sex appeal as a plot device. When male characters see her, they uncontrollably fall for her and lose all sense of anything else, frequently leading to chaos; although, she is usually oblvious to this. Despite any trouble that occurs for her or her friends, Melody maintains a cheerful, optimistic attitude.
In the cartoon series, whenever the group is in a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation, Melody's ears would wiggle. In the cartoon, she frequently gets brainwashed, but is already very dim-witted. Later, in the Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space series, she adopts a cute little alien named Bleep.
Melody's speaking voice is performed by Jackie Joseph, and her singing voice is performed by Cheryl Ladd (credited as Cherie Moor). She was played by Tara Reid in the live-action movie. Bleep's voice was done by Don Messick (also the voice of Scooby-Doo, Astro, Dr. Benton Quest, Boo Boo, and more).
Valerie performs back-up vocals (in the comics, cartoons, and the movie) and occasionally sings lead (nearly always in the TV series) for the Pussycats. In the comics and the movie, she plays the bass; in the cartoons, she plays tambourine. She is also the group's main songwriter, and is occasionally seen playing different instruments. In the comic book, she replaced Pepper, a sharp-minded spectacled brunette.
Valerie's surname may be the most definite of the three. Archie Comics have occasionally used the name "Brown" from the movie on their website and in promotional material, but in the comics, she is always called Valerie Smith.
In the comics, Valerie is more tomboyish than her two bandmates. Besides being good at science and a skilled auto mechanic, she occasionally shows a quick temper as well as being physically stronger than she might appear. She is also less concerned about her appearance or her love life than Josie, Melody or Alexandra, and had rarely been seen in a romantic relationship, though in the cartoons she seems attracted to Alexander. In 2010, she began an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Archie Andrews, although her band's touring schedule often keeps her out of Riverdale and away from Archie (much to the relief of Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper, Archie's other girlfriends).
In the animated series, she is somewhat similar to Velma Dinkley from Scooby-Doo and they met in a 1973 episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, The Haunted Showboat. She is the character who saves the day the most often, thanks to her street smarts and her mechanical and scientific genius. In the comics, this is downplayed, although she is still the most intelligent of the group. Valerie is the first African-American female cartoon character on a regular animated television series.
Valerie's speaking voice is performed by Barbara Pariot, and her singing voice is performed by Patrice Holloway, sister of Motown recording artist Brenda Holloway. She was played by Rosario Dawson in the live-action movie.
Alexander Cabot III
Rich, temperamental, and cowardly, Alexander is the Pussycats' shifty and not-too-dependable manager. He often gets the group in hot water because of his crazy promotional schemes. Alexander wears sunglasses often and likes to flaunt his wealth, typically dressing in flamboyant and expensive clothing.
In the comics, Alexander is reminiscent of Reggie Mantle. He has a crush on Josie and often tries to divert her attention from her boyfriend, Alan M. He is blunt and critical towards Alan M., regarding him as all brawn and no brains. Occasionally, Alexander will take an interest in Melody, particularly when Josie is unavailable. The interest seems genuine, since, unlike other boys, who fall helplessly in love with Melody at first sight, Alexander tends to remain composed around her.
Alexander's personality is markedly different in the animated series; he is much friendlier, though no more dependable and far more cowardly than his comic strip alter ego. In this context, he most often serves as a comedic foil for Alexandra's constant scheming. The animated version of Alexander also exhibits no romantic feelings towards Josie, tends to gravitate towards Melody or Valerie, depending on interpretation, and is very similar to Shaggy Rogers from Scooby-Doo.
The animated depiction of Alexander was voiced by Casey Kasem, who also voiced Shaggy. In a 1973 Josie-guested episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Alexander and Shaggy both appear on-screen together for quite some time. Alexander was played by Paulo Costanzo in the 2001 live-action motion picture.
Alexandra Cabot and Sebastian
Alexandra is technically a supporting character, but often overshadows the rest of the cast in both the comics and the cartoons. Whether she is older or younger than Alexander is debatable, she's called him her "baby brother" and he's called her his "baby sister".
Alexandra has black hair with a white lightning-bolt shaped stripe running through the middle of it, giving her ponytail a slight impression of a skunk's tail. In contrast to the good-natured girls in the Pussycats, Alexandra is cynical, hateful, mean, offensive, rude, envious, scheming and self-centered. She is insanely jealous of the Pussycats, especially Josie, about whom she never has a kind word. Despite having no vocal or musical talent at all, Alexandra desperately wants to be a star; her conditions for joining the Pussycats were that she be made the lead and that the band be renamed Alexandra's Cool Time Cats. Her absence of musical talent is on display at the end of the episode Swap Plot Flop, when she gets the chance to front her own act; Alexander is particularly distressed by the performance.
Alexandra has an enormous crush on Alan M., and often tries to steal him away from Josie. In the comics, although she is not particularly fond of her brother, Alexandra often joins forces with him to separate Alan M. and Josie, which would benefit both siblings, since Alexander is interested in Josie. Alexandra's personality in the cartoon is largely unchanged.
Sebastian is a Tuxedo cat, and Alexandra's sidekick. In the comics, Sebastian is the reincarnation of Sebastian Cabot, a witchcraft-practicing ancestor of the Cabot family. Alexandra finds that, by holding Sebastian in her arms, she can cast powerful magic spells (Alexandra and Sebastian's bond is represented in that they both have a matching white stripe in their middle of their hair/fur). However, this plot device was seldom used and was eventually dropped. Alexandra was later shown to be able to cast spells on her own. In the cartoon, Alexandra and Sebastian do not have magic powers.
Alexandra's voice in the cartoons is provided by former Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni, while Don Messick supplies the meows, screams, and Muttley-esque snickers for Sebastian. Alexandra was played by Missi Pyle in the live-action Josie and the Pussycats movie, while Sebastian does not appear in the live-action film.
Alan M. Mayberry
Alan M. Mayberry (known as "Alan M." in the comics, and as simply "Alan" in the cartoon series) is a tall, blond, muscular folk singer who serves as the Pussycats' roadie. He is also Josie's on-off boyfriend, but Alexandra is constantly trying to win a date with him.
In the comics, he replaced Josie's former boyfriend and Alex's former rival Albert. In his first comic book appearance, the creators tried to give him and Alex their own band, The Jesters, but it did not last beyond one issue, and the comic took a different direction. Though Alex looks down on Alan M. and insults his intelligence, Alan M. has more common sense than Alex does. Despite being one of the six main characters, he appeared less often in the comics in the 1980s onward.
In the cartoon series, he plays the role of the self-appointed group leader, similar to that of Fred Jones from Scooby-Doo (and perhaps not coincidentally does bear some resemblance to him as well). His and Alex's characters were changed in an attempt to recapture Scooby-Doo's success.
Other recurring characters
- Pepper: Josie’s best friend in the original comics, and, until the 1969 renovation, one of the main five characters (along with Josie, Melody, Albert and Alex). She had short-cropped black hair, conservative spectacles, wore clothes that were less formfitting than her friends, and was noted for her sharp wit and cynical nature. She dated Sock, but to his frustration, she preferred to remain emotionally reserved when it came to boys. The original comic focused on three girls (redhead, brunette and blonde) who were frequently seen together, but Pepper was dropped from the comics and replaced by Valerie. This change has no explanation, as Albert and Pepper’s roles are similar to their replacements’. Oddly, however, Pepper made a small cameo appearance in Part 3 of 2007’s “Civil Chore” in Tales From Riverdale (Alan M. was notably absent).
- Albert: Sometimes seen as a mischievous goofball, but at other times quite sensitive, he was Josie’s boyfriend in the original comics and one of the original male leads. He was also Alex’s rival. However, while the Pussycats-era Alex was similar to Reggie Mantle, Albert and Alex were more like a male Betty and Veronica: good friends until it came to the girl they competed for. Alexandra tried unsuccessfully to get him to date her. Albert was fond of playing the guitar and singing, and also liked to ride his motor scooter. Often portrayed as member of the 1960s counterculture, he went from being a beatnik to a folk singer to a mod and finally to a hippie (depending on the year of the issue) before he was finally dropped from the comics. Alan M. would fill his old role. Since then, he, Pepper and a few other characters would only appear in stories reprinted in digests.
- Sock: His real name was Socrates, and he was a jock who dated Pepper and was a good friend of Albert's. Like a stereotypical jock, he was not very intelligent, but this was not exaggerated as it is with Moose Mason. Despite lasting up to and including Alan M’s first story, he, like Alexandra, remained a supporting character. Unlike Albert and Pepper, he was removed from the comics with no actual replacement character.
- Alexander Cabot II: Alex and Alexandra’s very rich father. He is slightly heavyset, his hair is turning white, and he is often frustrated with the ideas of his children. He insists that the band his son manages earn their own fame without the help of his millions.
- Josie’s Father: He is a slim, middle-aged man who has dark hair with a wisp of gray. His name, depending on the source, is Mr. McCoy, Mr. Jones or Mr. James. He is totally supportive of his daughter's music career.
- Cricket O'Dell: The familiar Archie character made a few appearances in the original Josie comics.
- Sheldon: A short, fat glutton from a few stories in the late 1960s who occasionally dated Melody. Despite his lack of importance, his final appearance was after the Pussycats makeover.
- Clyde Didit: Best known as the star of Archie's Mad House, Clyde appeared for a few issues in Josie in the late 1960s.
- Mr. Tuttle: The principal of Midvale High School where Josie and her friends attend. He made a number appearances in the pre-Pussycats comics.
- Archie's Gang: The main characters often crossover with Josie and the Pussycats (and vice versa), sometimes in stories involving the Archies.
- The Vixens: A rival rock trio that Alexandra manages. Although they are glamorous, they have no musical talent (a fact that Alexandra somehow overlooked). Exclusive to the manga version.
During the 1968 - 1969 television season, the first Archie-based Saturday morning cartoon, The Archie Show, debuted on CBS. The Archie Show, produced by Filmation Studios, was not only a hit on TV, but spun off a radio hit as well. (The Archies' song "Sugar, Sugar" hit the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in September 1969 and went on to be Billboard's number one "Hot 100 Single" of that year). Competing animation studio Hanna-Barbera Productions contacted Archie Comics about possibly adapting another of its properties into a similar show. Archie Comics offering to redevelop the Josie series into one about a teenage music band, and allowing Hanna-Barbera to adapt it into a music-based Saturday morning show. The show aired sixteen episodes during the 1970-71 television season. In 1972, the show was re-conceptualized as Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space and aired another sixteen episodes. After the show's cancellation, Josie and The Pussycats made a final appearance in a guest shot on the September 22, 1973 episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, "The Haunted Showboat".
- Josie and the Pussycats (the Hanna-Barbera cartoon show)
- Josie and the Pussycats (the music group put together in conjunction with the show)
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