JOSIE & THE PUSSYCATS:
-Among the few indicators of who the "True Fans" are in the Archie-fandom is the answer to the question of "which version of Josie is better- She's Josie or Josie & The Pussycats?" Because ALL True Fans know that She's Josie, a creation of Dan DeCarlo using characters of his own invention, is the superior work. And I will fight anyone who says otherwise.
It seems obvious that, during the early years of Josie's run, the focus was more on her as a female counterpart to Archie than anything else. Think about it: the red hair, the "typical teenager" tag, the two potential mates (one a good-natured down-to-earth blonde grease-monkey, the other a vain, spoiled rich snob), the bitter rival for said affections of one of them, and even the early position of Pepper as her best friend; an iconoclastic, sarcastic, Jughead Jones-like figure always there to point out the absurdities of Josie's life.
Alot of early issues revolve around this concept. Rather than a focus on the band "Josie & the Pussycats", it's about Josie's daily life, trying to date a guy named Albert, while Alexander & Alexandra scheme behind her back for various evil purposes. It should be noted that Alexandra, an obvious rip-off of Veronica Lodge, down to the dark hair and rich stereotypes, is far more evil than the basically good Veronica could ever be. Curiously, this whole series initially takes place in Riverdale as well (as shown by a few comics that have a crossover or two with some Archie characters), yet the two groups rarely meet; we NEVER see Josie & the gang in Archie stories, nor in their classes (where usually there is the whole "Archie gang" along with generic background kids), despite the fact that we all know Riverdale has only one high school. What are they, drop-outs? They're obviously only teenagers....
Of course, later they're shown living in "Midvale", which is quite possibly the only name more generic in Americana than "Riverdale"... and eventually they're just assumed to have graduated from High School.
Later on, in the years following the early '60s, the ONLY focus of the series seems to have become the band and their trials and tribulations. With Melody as the dumb, hot one (Curiously, she is one of the only women in Archie mythos actually drawn with a non-Betty & Veronica body type, given the Cheryl Blossom-like Pamela Anderson figure, a sure sign of how she's supposed to be hotter than every other woman), Valerie as the sarcastic, wise one (edging out Pepper), and Josie as the good-natured basically normal one, with Alan M. as a roadie and Alexander as their manager, and the scheming Alexandra trying to get in on the fame of the group. Unlike the Archies, however, the Pussycats are often given a fairly standard, non-shifting fame: They are quite well-known, and constantly shown making music videos and the like, whereas The Archies shift between garage-band, school-band, club-hopping indie band, or MTV-interview-requested national band. This shift save Alex & Alexandra's millionaire father, and friends outside the group. Pepper Potts was basically eliminated from continuity as if she'd never existed, since she was now irrelevant. What was she gonna do? Follow them around on tour? Also gone were poor Albert & his pal "Sock".
The reason for the change? With the massive success of The Archies, Hanna-Barbera came to Archie and asked if they had any OTHER "Hip, Young Musical Properties" around which they could base a show. And so Archie was like "ummm... SURE!" and simply re-wrote Josie into a bandleader.
Funnily enough, Archie Comics has attempted many Josie comebacks, aside from the usual appearances in the Digest magazines. When the movie came out, based off of the nostalgic cartoon series (which, by the way, was total crap. It was basically Scooby Doo with actual musical montages in the chase scenes. Alexander was even voiced by Shaggy's voice actor, and showed it. Everyone was decked out in VERY retro '60s clothing, and there was really nothing good about the series save a "so bad it's good" flavor), Archie wisely tried to capitalize. Josie got her own book back, and the Digest versions of old stories were now prefaced with a big "It's Time For Another... Josie & The Pussycats Story!" much like the Little Archie "remember when we...." moments placed before old collected stories of his book in the Digests.
Unfortunately, the movie bombed. Considered an embarrassment (even earning late-night comedians' jokes about failed movies years after it's release), and a signifier of dying careers (Rachel Leigh Cook has all but vanished since the movie came out, not making another film, and let's not get started on Tara Reid's fall from grace... only Rosario Dawson, a nobody at the time, survived thanks to Alexander and Sin City coming out years afterward, making this an "Old Shame"), the movie failed big-time. And presumably the comics did as well, as I only recall one single issue ever being released, though they probably pushed out a few more. And back Josie goes, to the Digests with her old stories being all we have left.
Personally, I like the non-rock & roll-group adventures of Josie alot more than the other stuff they always pull. Most of their rock star stories either involve wacky hi-jinx while playing for Arab oil barons, shooting videos, or trying to make their gig while Alexandra tries to pass herself off as a Pussycat. The humdrum life of boring-old "Chick Archie" and her pals are a lot more interesting, and create far funnier, more believable moments.