Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Cool Comics: Dan DeCarlo’s Jetta

Our PopCult Gift Guide pick today is a graphic novel collection of some rare, but classic stories from 1952…and the 21st Century!

“Dan DeCarlo’s Jetta” is the first entry in the “Good Girl Art Library,” a new series of classic comic book collections edited and designed by Craig Yoe. DeCarlo was a master cartoonist who designed Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina the Teenage Witch for Archie Comics, and also turned out a lot of memorable stories for Timely Comics (now Marvel) and illustrations for men’s magazines in the 1950s. He was noted for his imaginative storytelling and his ability to draw very, very cute women.

Jetta is a series he drew for Standard Comics, one of the lesser comic book publishers, in 1952. Jetta is a space-age “Teen-age Sweetheart of The 21st Century” and the comic, which only lasted three issues, has a major cult following due to terrific flying cars and rockets vision of the future, and the very lovely women folk who inhabit it.

Jetta is confused as her boyfriend, Arky, walks off with Biff

The book begins with a brief but very informative history of DeCarlo and Jetta, written by Craig Yoe, who is turning out indispensible comic book history collections at an amazing rate. After we get the background, we get into the meat of the book–all three issues of Jetta, supplemented with really cool pin-up drawings of Jetta by some of today’s hippest cartoonists.

This book is a lot of fun. The stories are not Earth-shattering, ground-breaking work. They are goofy little teenage stories, set in a really cool retro-view of the future. I’m a sucker for the whole flying-car vision of the future that came out of the post-WWII era. I would almost call these stories “Archie in the future,” except that they have a manic energy that you don’t often see in Archie comics. The stories fly by at a frantic pace and the resolutions are quick and not always logical.

Which is sort of the point. Jetta works because the artist had fun drawing cute girls and rockets. The plot wasn’t as important as the subject matter. It’s really cool to see Jetta because it shows DeCarlo at the top of his game. While DeCarlo was a major influence on Jaime Hernandez, of “Love and Rockets” fame, it’s really cool to see the master himself drawing stories about love and rockets.

Another point of interest is that, while DeCarlo pencilled every story, he did have a variety of inkers (the guys who go over the art in ink so that it can be copied for publishing). You can see how drastically an inker can affect a penciller’s work. Some of the inking jobs are spectacular, bringing out detail and enhancing the beauty of DeCarlo’s work. Others, not so much. Dan DeCarlo’s work shines through no matter who inked him.

Craig McCracken's vision of Jetta

Because there were only three issues of Jetta, editor Yoe had to beef up the page count in order to justify the collection. He did this by commissioning over thirty pin-up drawings of Jetta by a diverse collection of really cool artists. We get to see Jetta re-imagined by superstar artists like Craig McCracken (the creator of “The Powerpuff Girls” and Foster’s “Home For Imaginary Friends”) and old pros like Leslie Cabarga, Jay Stephens and Yoe himself. There’s also a good assortment of up-and-coming cartoonists like Katie Rice and Kali Fontecchio. Heck, I even have a handful of Facebook Friends with pin-ups in this book.

“Dan DeCarlos’s Jetta” is a great collection with across-the-board appeal. Comics historians will salivate at the thought of having these stories in one volume. Fans of “Good Girl Art” will eat up DeCarlo’s work. Longtime fans of Archie Comics, where DeCarlo worked for decades, will get a kick out of these stories too.One other little fact that Yoe points out in his introduction: Jetta pre-dates Judy Jetson by ten years.  So there’s even something for the conspiracy theorists on your gift list.

“Jetta” is a fun trip to a future we may never see. And it’s a great first entry in the “Good Girl Art” library series. I hope future volumes bring us more work by Dan DeCarlo, and perhaps some goodies by Wally Wood and Matt Baker.

“Dan DeCarlo’s Jetta” can be ordered from Amazon, or locally from Taylor Books. ISBN: 978-1-600010-646-0

2 Comments

  1. craig yoe

    rudy–this is awesome–thanks! i know your readers will love jetta!

  2. thatguy

    does the decarlo family receive a percentage of sales?

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