Dan DeCarlo’s Jetta

Posted by on June 1st, 2010 at 2:00 PM

IDW; 120 pp.; $21.99; Color; Hardcover

Dan DeCarlo, superior limner of curves and cuties, is coming into his own, at last. Craig Yoe gives DeCarlo’s reputation its due with “the first book of our titillating new series, The Good Girl Art Library.”

In the early 1950s, Standard, Jetta’s publisher, was “trying out many concepts to see what might stick” as it strived to enhance its humor lineup. Jetta, the leggy teenybopper in short skirt and calf-length boots, was a teenager of a very futuristic world that was festooned with jet-powered backpacks, rocket ships, and levitating neighborhood malt shoppes, where expressions like “Sizzling comets!” “Glittering galaxies!” “You’re not just blastin’ your jets!” and “Aw, fission fuzz!” were the argot of exuberant youth.

The writer of these manic jejune capers is, as yet, unknown, and perhaps that is just as well. The plots are typical teenage traumas in which Jetta and other young femmes vie for the fickle attentions of Arky, the suspiciously christened Archie of the 21st century. But we don’t delve into this tome for Shakespearean poetry or drama; we’re here for DeCarlo, and he’s here in abundance.

The Standard experiment with Jetta lasted only three issues despite the heroine’s considerable eye appeal; Standard didn’t enjoy the best distribution, Yoe tells us, and the result is that these three comics are among the rarest of the genre. The issues are numbered 5, 6, and 7 (beginning with #5, Yoe says, “to fool newsstand dealers into thinking that it was a solid title with a track record”), cover-dated December 1952, and February and April 1953. Yoe reprints all of them, every story in each, scanning from the original printed comic books — the method I’ve been touting for nearly two decades, now universally adopted by reprint projects everywhere.

Yoe has cannily augmented the excellences of DeCarlo damsels by recruiting pin-ups of Jetta from 38 notable renderers of the curvaceous gender — including Dean Yeagle, Andrew Pepoy, Bill Morrison, Clizia Gussoni, Ben Tan, Justin Ridge, Stephanie Gladden, Dominic Marco and others, plus a smattering of DeCarlo’s own pin-up art, gleaned from Yoe’s personal collection.

A dandy volume, well-packaged and produced. And a must for any DeCarlo devotee.

While Jetta is a delightful girl shape, my own favorite DeCarlo dame was another whose books he began drawing at about the same time. My Friend Irma was a series extolling the dumb blonde hilarities and bountiful curves of Marie Wilson, star of the radio, TV and movie misadventures of Irma, a mature specimen of female human sapiens, who was stacked more ambitiously than any teenager.

My Friend Irma ran for 46 issues, #3-48 (#1 and #2 were entitled Western Life Romance for obscure reasons stemming from archaic postal regulations), beginning in 1949-50, just before DeCarlo began his career establishing the house style at Archie Comics with his first effort in Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica, #6 in 1952. Irma was written by Stan Lee, whose performance as a humor writer was breathtakingly, dumbfoundingly stupendous: he managed to produce a joke in every panel of every page.

Stan and Dan appeared together again in another of their joint efforts, Millie the Model #77, April 1957; but Millie is no match for Irma in dumb blonde dialogue.

Yoe is first to formally recognize DeCarlo’s achievement with a mainstream publication, but others are lining up to do the same. IDW is bringing out the first of what may be several volumes of DeCarlo’s work on the titles for which he established the house style, namely Archie: The Best of Dan DeCarlo, Vol. 1; due soon. In the meantime, though, you can get more than a mere inkling of what DeCarlo damsels are all about in Jetta.

All images by Dan DeCarlo © 2010 Gussoni-Yoe Studios, Inc.

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