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Graphic Content Booklist: The Best of Josie and The Pussycats

Listen, I made it a week without a cat pun.  I can say "Me-OW!" now and not feel guilty.Recently we announced that we’ll be co-presenting a screening of Josie and the Pussycats along with Graphic Content at The Metro Cinema at the Garneau Cinema. Every month, Graphic Content curates a book list that thematically ties into and builds on the chosen film, and once again, Matt and Erin have been gracious enough to let us help with the selections.

Our fifth and final pick:

The Best of Josie and The Pussycats (Archie Comics)
By a whole mess of dudes, seriously. Dan DeCarlo and Frank Doyle are there a lot.

Our booklist has come full circle! As we’ve looked at comics with themes and aesthetics that resemble that of the theatrical film Josie and The Pussycats, we now turn towards the Josie comics themselves that inspired the feature length picture. The Best of Josie and The Pussycats collects in its 100 pages not only some of the most charming and amusing comics featuring our favouite feline girl group, but also traces the history and development of the media franchise we’ve come to know and love.

Diversity happened later.Originally created by illustrator Dan DeCarlo to be a comic strip, DeCarlo pitched his teen comedy to Archie after the newspapers turned him down. The initial series, *She’s Josie*, introduces beautiful but dim-witted Melody, brainy but cynical Pepper, wealthy Alexander Cabot III, and, of course good-natured Josie, who was named after and inspired by DeCarlo’s own wife. The book showcases the introductions of Alexander’s scheming twin sister Alexandra, as well as her cat Sebastian who gives her magical powers (seriously), and dreamboat Alan M. Mayberry. It isn’t until 1969, six years after the series’ debut, that the Pussycats are formed, that Valerie is introduced and the comic undergoes a complete rock n’ roll makeover as the girls travel Hollywood to watch their cartoon get made. The comics flourish under this new direction and we are treated to several of the gang’s amusing antics: Melody is perpetually getting the group in to trouble because her feminine wiles are far too powerful, Alan M. upstages Archie Andrews with a motorcycle [Ed Note: This is the best of all possible things.] and Alexandra continuously plots to push Josie out of the pictures and re-launch the band as Alexandra’s Cool Time Cats.

The most interesting characteristic of the series that The Best of Josie and The Pussycats reveals, is not the charismatic collaboration between writer Frank Doyle and DeCarlo (though there is a lot of that too), but how Josie is shaped by and a reaction to the changing media landscape. Transformed strictly for the purposes of launching both a musical act and a Saturday morning cartoon, what started out as a teen humor series about a group of gal pals becomes a salute to pop music and cartoons and in turn, a celebration of girl power far ahead of its time. This trend continues long after the heyday of the cartoon, as the girls are shown embracing the punk scene while in England, shooting music videos and suffering from the world-weariness of constant touring. The Best of Josie and The Pussycats not only delivers the antics that we’ve grown to expect and love, but also establishes a vehicle that is primed for the kind of amusing critique and embrace of late 90s consumerist pop music culture the film dispenses.

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