James “Jim” DeCarlo was born, along with his twin brother Dan DeCarlo, Jr., on January 27, 1948. From the very beginning, the boys served as a spur to their father’s art career – Dan Sr. and wife Josie were living in a single room in Dan’s parents’ house. With Dan Decarlo’s success in comics, the family moved to quiet and suburban Scarsdale, where the boys enjoyed a nearby playground and went to local schools. According to Josie, They also demonstrated youthful artistic talents by drawing on the backs of furniture!
Young Jim distinguished himself as something of a rebel, with an interest in motorcycles that continued throughout his life. Later on, the designs he created and painted on cars and motorcycles were displayed in automotive shows and later at New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center.
From their high school days, both Jim and his brother Dan Jr. suggested fashions for the characters their father drew. Not only did Dan Sr. take their input seriously, he used real-life episodes in the boys’ lives, fads, and fashions as springboards for Archie stories. As early as 1959, Dan Sr. credited the joke In a Millie the Model gag page to his young son James.
By the 1970s, Jim had attended the New York Institute of Technology and in the words of his father, developed into a solid commercial artist.
Jim went to work for Dan Sr., inking his father’s pencil work for Betty and Veronica, covers for numerous Archie titles, and The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man, a joint effort of Archie
and Marvel Comics.
In the 70s, Jimmy’s inking brought a tone more connected with mainstream comics of the time to his father’s trademark style, darker, with shadows and a more realistic illustrative approach, using spots of blackness to make foreground figures stand out and create a sense of depth. The same graphic design skill that went into beautifying motorcycles also turned up in his comics work.
There was a time to work, but then a time for family
Very much a family man, Jim created a workspace in Josie's basement where he inked the pencil drawings Dan created in his upstairs studio. When he married, Jim moved into a place barely a mile from his parents’ house and often visited to collect new art or drop off finished pages.
His oldest daughter, Christie remembers, "There was a time to work, but then a time for family". One of her fondest memories is discovering that her dad had called a local radio station to play the song “Earth Angel,” dedicating it to Christie and then inviting her to dance. He had a prankish side, often creating “capers” for a laugh. As his wife Marquette recalled, “His sense of humor attracted me. We always cracked jokes.”
When Dan Jr. began penciling for Archie, Jim picked up the inking chores on much of his artwork, too. Jim devoted almost twenty years to this family business. Inking both his father’s and his brother’s pencil work, Jim’s polishing and finishing blended all three of their styles together, making him in a way the keeper of the DeCarlo Look.
The 1980s became a sort of golden age for Archie comics, with the introduction of numerous new
titles and characters – a golden age led by the artwork of the DeCarlo family. It seemed as if Dan Sr. had created an art dynasty, or as Archie editor Victor Gorelick put it, a “next generation” for the company and Archie fans.
That dream died painfully as first Dan Jr. and then Jim contracted serious illnesses within a year of one another.
Danny died in October, 1990. Jim passed away in August of 1991, and his wife Marquette some years later. Jim left two daughters, Christie and Jessica.