Chapter Eight
VERY TOP: The cinema version of the 'Cats.
TOP the former DeJour, note Seth Green in his
pre-Robot Chicken mode
Part Two
Life Of Josie home
Since the mid-90’s, there had been consistent rumors of a ‘Josie’ movie with the black diva group EnVogue covering
the lead roles, but no info beyond that.  Archie had just begun to license their “properties” to production companies.
One such Archie-authorized project was the ‘Return To Riverdale’ TV-movie. The plot was centered around a
reunion of all the major (and now-grown-up) characters many years after high school graduation, with Archie and
his girl friends having survived ruined relationships, including divorce.

By this time, a live-action ‘Sabrina The Teenage Witch’ premiered on the ABC-TV Friday night schedule.  Featuring
Melissa Joan Hart in the lead role, it became a sizable hit. However, the two people who created her, DeCarlo and
Gladir, knew little about this recent project until the last minute and only got ONE check out of it (though they weren’
t told what it was for). This was the norm for DeCarlo and other principal artists with Archie’s rather strange
management technique. In fact, DeCarlo was informed about the original ‘Josie’ TV show ONE day BEFORE it
premiered and was only occasionally credited as the creator. This creator credit confusion is supported by the
many versions of this credit on many of the original TV show film prints; some prints claimed either DeCarlo,
DeCarlo & Goldwater, Jr. or Goldwater Sr. & Jr.  When the ‘Sabrina’ show was announced, Gladir’s lawyer looked
into this matter for both artists. Little did they know what they would find.…
It was also during this time, movie studios have been releasing
many films based on old nostalgic TV shows aplenty; ‘The Brady
Bunch’ movies, ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’, ‘The Flintstones’,  
‘Mission Impossible’, ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and almost any Jay Ward
cartoon are clear examples of this trend. Universal Studios was
no different, but they weren’t having much luck as their own
offerings, ‘The Flintstones’ sequel, ‘Rocky & Bullwinkle’ and
‘Dudley Do-Right’ went nowhere (though they did get lucky with
‘The Grinch’, grossing $300 million dollars). The studio was
looking for another animated property to exploit (outside of the
Jay Ward curse) and they found ‘Josie’. The studio made a deal
with Archie for the movie rights and began the $25 million
production in earnest in the Hollywood of the North - Vancouver,
Canada.

Immediately assigned to write and direct were Harry Elfont and
Deborah Kaplan, the writing team behind ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’, the
‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘The Flintstone’ sequels with Kenneth
“Babyface” Edmonds to handle the music. Originally, both Elfont
and Kaplan turned down the project three times since they felt
burnt out from a string of TV-to-movie projects (according to
Kaplan, both had just pitched a ‘Gilligans Island’ movie so bizarre
that the executives though they “were on crack”). Info was soon
leaked to various film/fandom publications and web sites that
their approach to ‘Josie’ would be a satirical look at the recording
industry. The other leaks were of sub-plots dealing with a all-boy
band (DuJour) and a record label executive who wants to take
over the world by using Josie’s music to do the dirty deed.... and
we finally learned Alan M.’s real name.

For casting, Rachel Leigh Cook (Josie), Tara Reid (Melody) and
Rosario Dawson (Valerie) as the Pussycats, Missi Pyle
(Alexandra) and Gabriel Mann (Alan M.) rounded out the main
cast. There was a minor controversy when it was discovered that
the movie version didn’t have the ‘Cats wearing the trademark
outfits, but, as the publicity photos later revealed, the ears and
the tails remained intact. Rachel even dyed her hair slightly
“punkish” red for the roll. Although the lead actresses spent
three weeks in “music camp” to learn their instruments, Kay
Hanley from the band Letters To Cleo was hired to sing Rachel
/Josie’s parts.  This maintained some of the old traditions from
the TV series. However, Alexander, the group’s old manager,
was replaced by the sneaky Wyatt Frame (played by Alan
Cummings), who promptly kills off DuJour during the film’s
opening credits!
Also leaked out to the internet was the script... and didn’t look good, at least according to Smilin’ Jack Ruby from
Fandom.com. His first complaint was the long list of proposed product placements that were scattered through its
pages. “Yeah, a lot of brands typically show up in spots in films,” noted Ruby, “but it is rather rare that they’re written
into the script to punch home that, yes, this is going to be a satire about big music companies using subliminal
messages to get kids to buy products.” He also complained about the haphazard mix of bad jokes and influences
from other current films like ‘Bring It On’, ‘Austin Powers’ and ‘American Pie’. Who was at fault?, Ruby wondered as
he pointed to Kaplan and Elfont and to their movie resumes as evidence.

Ruby’s attacks on the script and filmmakers may have been sharp, but, in a cover story on ‘Josie’ in Entertainment
Weekly, it was nothing more than an obvious point. “Normally, when the product placement department gets
involved, filmmakers are like, ‘You’re corrupting my movie!’” laughs Elfont, “We were like Bring...It…On!!” Maybe Ms.
Cook unintentionally drew the bottom line on the matter between the comic and the movie, “I was a fan of the comics.
I don’t know about the movie. People are either going to love it or hate it.”

It was also about this time that Archie made a deal to produce a new version of the old ‘Josie’ animated series. The
show would be a co-production between DIC Animation, Riverdale Production (Archie film and television arm) and
MultiModal Media Group with the distribution and merchandising handed by DIC.

While the studio, cast, crew and fans were looking forward to the movie and its April 6th release (later pushed to
April 11th), things weren’t rosy for the creator. Soon after the ‘Sabrina’ TV shows aired, DeCarlo began to have
concerns over ‘Josie’ and what Archie management would do to her. He didn’t have to wait long for an answer. He
began to hear rumors and, later, official news about the ‘Josie’ movie, not from Archie, but from the internet.

Figuring that he’d be left out again (as with the original animated series), DeCarlo hired a lawyer and, through him,
began to talk to Archie. Dan’s lawyer notified Archie’s publishers and management of Dan’s status as the creator,
his desire to be involved with the movie and “income” from this big project (“After all, I’m not getting any younger,”
Dan said in the Comics Journal interview. “Freelance cartoonists don’t get pensions or retirement.”)

Unfortunately, these talks didn’t go well and DeCarlo ended up filing suit against Archie for breach of contract on
royalties due to him through sources outside the comic books. The angle this suit was taking, according to Dan’s
lawyer, was that, while he signed two agreements for the comic book right to Josie, he didn’t sign any merchandise
rights (i.e., dolls, records, television and movie). Since “Josie’ wasn’t created especially for Archie, DeCarlo and his
lawyer claimed that Dan had full ownership of these characters and that he only gave permission for Archie to use
Josie in comic books. Furthermore, they argued that Archie was in breach of contract by using Josie’s image other
than comic books and in a breach of the earlier oral agreement to pay DeCarlo a 5% profit from all ‘Josie’ comic
books.

In return, DeCarlo wanted recognition as creator and sole owner of ‘Josie’, ownership of exclusive licensing rights for
media outside of comic books and accounting of 30 years’ worth of comic book royalties, as well as back-fees
licensing owed to him. If he should win the case, DeCarlo would profit from the movie and the related merchandising.

Archie tried to settle the matter with an offer of $50,000 and 4% of marketing from the movie. DeCarlo commented
that this was 1/5th of the figure that he and his lawyer had outlined in the official complaint. Of course, Archie was
NOT pleased with this development; while Dan was “sneaking” in the offices to get his usual work assignments, he
bumped into Michael Silberkleit, Archie Chairman and Co-Publisher, who handed Dan his walking papers. After 40
years of service, DeCarlo was not only fired, but Archie filed a countersuit against him for $6.5 million.

Suddenly, news of Dan’s pink slip hit the comic industry, mainstream newspapers like the New York Times,
Washington Post and the industry’s weekly Comic Buyers Guide. Industry professional Paul Dini, producer of
Batman, Superman and Tiny Toons animated series, remarked to Comic Book Resources about Dan’s influence on
pop culture as well as his rights. “Not every child embraces superhero comics...but every kid has read an Archie
comic at some point. …he (Dan DeCarlo) and (Disney comic artist) Carl Barks are the most widely seen comics
artists.” On Dan’s situation, Dini adds, “Over the years, it’s been ‘shut-up and do your work’, and now it’s ‘shut-up
and get out’. A man doesn’t need to hear that when he’s 80 years old and has created two of the franchises that
kept them (Archie) alive.”

One of Comic Buyers Guide columnists, comic writer veteran Peter David, weighed in quite heavily. In the piece
called ‘What Do The Writers Get’ in CBG #1386 (June 9, 2000), David concluded, “(Publishers) don’t respond to
what’s right or what’s wrong, what’s fair or what’s just. They respond to two things, and two things only: convenience  
- and shame”. He then compares this fight with another by the neglected creators of Superman (Jerry Siegel & Joe
Shuster) and the current owners (Warner Bros.)

Archie finally (though belatedly) responded two issues later. In part: “The central issue in (this) lawsuit...is what
transpired in the early ‘60’s, when the original Josie property was created. Archie Comics has always acknowledged
that the original Josie property -including Josie herself - was created jointly by DeCarlo and Richard Goldwater in the
early ‘60’s, when Goldwater, acting on behalf of Archie Comics, commissioned DeCarlo to work with him on the
creation of a new set of teen-age characters on a work-for-hire basis.”

About the lawsuit itself: Archie states, “When DeCarlo brought his unfounded lawsuit asserting sole ownership of
Josie and seeking complete unwarranted monetary relief, the owners of Archie Comics, a small, family-owned
business, ultimately found that they and their employees could not stomach having Dan, in his words ‘sneaking’
around Archie Comics offices. Accordingly, Archie Comics owners informed DeCarlo that they could no longer make
use of his services.” The response continued by inserting that DeCarlo was “handsomely compensated” for his
involvement in Josie and added that he has been the most “highly compensated” individual at Archie. They ended
with a claim that they treated DeCarlo and his family fairly and that the lawsuit was “a undeserved slap in the face”.

Peter David shot back in the next CBG issue with a thorough breakdown of Archie’ statement, pointing out the
hypocrisies inbeded within the statement and the company’s history. Near the end, his emphasis got heavier,
“Ultimately, as far as Archie is concerned, Dan DeCarlo isn’t a partner in imagination, a co-creator of some of the
most popular and lucrative characters around. Nope, he’s simply a field hand, laboring in the fields. But wait, what’s
this? Dan wants more than just being the best paid laborer? He not only wants money that’s commensurate with his
contribution, but he wants to be thought of as (gasp!) something special? Well, look how quickly the esteem in which
he’s held goes south. Archie is trying to say that it’s just about money. But it’s not. It’s about Dan DeCarlo
overstepping his bounds, becoming a metaphorical uppity nigger and being slapped down quick and slapped down
hard because he dared to be dissatisfied.” David then tackles the “stomach” statement and its logic, “After all, Archie
employees ‘couldn’t stomach’ having Dan around. So it’s equally logical for retailers and fans who can’t ‘stomach’
supporting Archie to treat the company with much consideration as Archie treated DeCarlo.”