Friday, May 13, 2016

She Won't Be Any Man's Shadow! Young Romance's 1973 Tale of Relevancy - "I Am a Woman!"

Last time we gathered I gave you a sneak peak of today's story, "I Am a Woman!" I had wanted to share it during Women's History Month, but alas! I ran out of time. No harm there though because this story from Young Romance #190 (January 1973) with Tony DeZuniga pencils is the epitome of timeless. So what makes it such a compelling story some 40 years after its original publication? Read on to find out!

Toni and David are happily engaged and facing the tough situation of their impending long distance relationship. Though neither of them desires to be apart, they know it will put them in a better spot for their future.

Upon coming home from her date with David, Toni is greeted by a less than enthusiastic father. Angry his daughter's been out so late, Tom starts to squabble with Toni and her mother, Mary. As any supportive mother would, Mary tries to stand up for her daughter and her future bridegroom. Ultimately, Mary defers to her husband's lead, upsetting Toni greatly. As a modern young woman, Toni can't understand her mother's willingness to be treated as less than her husband's equal. Toni believes that David shares her beliefs of equality and things will be different in their marriage.

Their wedding day seems happy enough but it comes as no surprise based on David's assertion that he knows "...just how to handle Toni," that soon after the honeymoon David turns into a brute. It all starts when David goes ahead and buys their house without Toni's input. Their house! Yeah. I can't believe it either. David continues to dial up the jerk-o-meter by telling Toni she's a nag when she asks him to pick up his things, changing plans on her, and even dismissing her opinions in front of his friends.

"Slowly I began to realize that just loving a man isn't enough..."

The big blowout comes when Toni announces that she needs to have another purpose in life besides catering to David's needs. She wants to work outside the home. David puts his foot down, however, and declares that there'll be no job for Toni. The next day, Toni packs her things and lets her husband know what's what.

Notice the post-nuptial separate beds!

Toni goes to her mother and father's house but quickly discovers that as they say, you really never can go home again.

After leaving her childhood home in search for a place to stay in the city, Toni is greeted by David at the train station. He knew she'd be there after Toni's mother called him and told him about Toni's visit. After the initial shock of her mother defying her father wears off, Toni and David head back to their mutual home.

Once at the house, David begins to explain his change of heart to Toni. He finally gets it. The newlyweds embrace and what appears to be a tear (and hopefully not just a printing smudge), rolls onto David's cheek.

In this story, the essence of womanhood is depicted as being connected to a sense of purpose. Not unlike reality, for some romance characters that meant rearing children and taking care of a household. For others, a sense of purpose was found in having a career outside the home. When David denied Toni her purpose, he was met with her wrath! It would've been one thing if Toni wanted to stay home, but the fact that she adamantly wanted to work outside the home makes David seem out of touch, even by 1970s standards!

As time goes on and the current social climate and economy deem dual incomes as the goal for many families (whether out of choice or necessity), I believe the question of whether to marry and have a family or advance ones career will continue to be an issue for many young women. Just when I see some wacky Charlton comic extolling the virtues of discotheques, I am reminded by the DC romance stories just how relevant romance comics continue to be in many ways.

Speaking of relevance -- how would you like to read a book about the dating advice from romance comics and how much of it is still applicable? If that sounds up your alley, then you are in luck! If things go as planned, I'll be launching my Kickstarter campaign next month! I've been hard at work pulling together the logistics and I can't wait to share with y'all the fun stuff I've been cooking up!

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Is Marriage Right for You? Take Young Romance's Marriage Preparedness Quiz!

Nowadays, girls have more choices than they ever did before...
In fact, the Women's Liberation Movement has given a whole new
status to women as people -- not as housewives and mothers.
The question arises: Is marriage right for every girl??

Marriage is pretty much par for the course in romance comics. Engagements, weddings, and all the other events and emotions that revolve around the institution were prevalent in the pages of the love comics. Influenced by second wave feminism, quizzes like the one below from Young Romance #190 (January 1973) began to pop up, along with sequential stories that incorporated the increasing visibility of the Women's Movement. This particular quiz with questions about careers, education, politics, and domesticity, planted the seed that maybe, just maybe, marriage (especially young marriage) wasn't for everyone.

Click to enlarge and take the quiz!

How did you score? I got a 44. In my twenties, I probably would have gotten a result indicating that I was less about marriage and more about career. But as I enter the second year of my thirties, the prospect of having a family of my own is becoming increasingly important. Since the majority of romance comic readers were on the younger side, I have a feeling that many who took the quiz were on the extreme ends of the spectrum rather than in-between like myself. 

In the issue, the quiz was followed by a closely connected sequential piece titled, "I Am a Woman!" penciled by Tony DeZuniga. The story tells the plight of Toni, an unhappy newlywed. The reason why Toni is prepared to leave her new groom? Well... you're gonna have to wait 'til next time to find out! Join me then for the rest of "I Am a Woman!"

Thanks so much for reading!
If you haven't already, be sure to sign up
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for more romance comic book goodness! 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Current Kickstarter Campaigns Perfect for Romance Comic Fans!

Over the past couple of month as I've been preparing my own book for an eventual Kickstarter campaign, I've done quite a bit of research on the crowdfunding site. As it turns out, one of the best ways to get a feel for how a campaign runs is to back others' projects. Not only has it been a great learning experience, it's been so inspiring to see all the high-quality projects out there fueled by passion. Without further ado, here are a few current campaigns I personally backed that I think will appeal to you, my fellow romance comic book fans!

Fresh Romance Special Print Edition

Just because American romance comics faded from the mainstream comic book market quite a few years ago doesn't mean that people don't want to read sequential stories about love. While I've tried to fill the historical gap of knowledge of the genre, Rosy Press has helped to wet the public's whistle for contemporary romance comics with the digital anthology Fresh Romance. Now, the small publisher has decided to take the title to print with a deal with Oni Press and a Kickstarter version.

Not only am I a fan of Fresh Romance, I also had an article about the fashion of the 1960s and '70s romance comics published in Fresh Romance #2. I'm hoping that my article will make it into the print version, but either way, I'm excited to see romance comics making a comeback! The campaign has met and surpassed its $39,000 goal, but any additional funds will certainly help the project out.

The Other Side Anthology 

I became aware of The Other Side when one of its editors, Kori Michele, got in touch with me to share news of the campaign. I was immediately sucked in by the cute little ghost in their campaign video. For fans of the short-lived subgenre of Gothic romance comics, this could be quite fun! Like Fresh Romance, the campaign is also fully funded but the stretch goals will help to give extra compensation to the talented creators.

Fashion in Action by John K. Snyder III

Hope Nicholson of Bedside Press is bringing back John K. Snyder III's Eclipse series, Fashion in Action. Not only will the collection reprint the sartorially smart series, it will also feature an article about paper dolls by the one and only Trina Robbins. Now, I know the 1980s are outside the primary time period of interest over here at Sequential Crush, but I just had to share this one because fashion is one of the reasons I'm nuts about the romance genre. This campaign is not yet fully funded, so your pledges are essential to turning this project into a reality!

Whether you decide to back any of these campaigns or spread the word via social media, I hope that you've enjoyed learning a bit about these exciting projects. Best of luck to all those involved! We romance fans are rooting for you!!!

Thanks so much for reading!
If you haven't already, be sure to sign up
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for more romance comic book goodness! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Women of the Romance Comics - Liz Berube's "The Stranger Next Door!"

Happy International Women's Day! To celebrate, I've got a visual knockout of a story illustrated by Sequential Crush fave and one of the few women to work on romance comics during the 1960s and '70s -- Liz Berube. While Berube's fashion featurettes and horoscope pages are plentiful, she only illustrated two full-length romance stories. You can read the other one, "Kiss Me Only in My Dreams" here. While you're at it, check out the interview I did with Berube a few years back for more insight on her career! Now, on to "The Stranger Next Door!" from Girls' Love Stories #148 (January 1970).

As a little girl, Suzie is head over heels for Nickie, the dreamy boy next door. Ahhh, puppy love!

Not only is Nickie kind, he is thoughtful. But Suzie wants more than just friendship. When Nickie gifts her a doll on her tenth birthday, she appreciates the gesture but wishes for a kiss instead!

As the years pass, Nickie continues to stick up for Suzie -- especially when it comes to fending off cruel advances from town bully, Joe Jackson.

While Suzie still appreciates Nickie's friendship and protectiveness over her, she laments that he continues to view her as a "kid." Suzie wants to be acknowledged by her crush as the woman she is becoming.

On her seventeenth birthday, Suzie dons a swingin' floral minidress in hopes of grabbing Nickie's attention and affection. Much to Suzie's shock, Nickie is seeing someone else. As he drives off with his date, Suzie cries "scalding tears." While Suzie is completely heartbroken for being skipped over for another girl, Nickie doesn't even seem to realize that she is wild about him.

Suzie's mother starts to worry about her daughter. Suzie is spending more and more time in her room moping. Suzie overhears her mom talking to Nickie one day about it. Nickie reassures her mom that Suzie is just going through a phase, but he adds salt to the wound by declaring "She's still just a kid, remember?" Though he doesn't see Suzie as the young woman she is, he does see her as a friend that's hurting. He goes up to her room and asks her to go for a bike ride. Clearly, she isn't having it.

Deciding she's had enough of being cooped up in her room, Suzie goes to the lake with the rest of her friends. While everyone pairs off, she sits alone. Because she is on her own, Suzie is receptive when Joe Jackson approaches her. The fun and games end quickly, however, when Joe tries to get an unwilling Suzie to go off with him to an undisclosed location. All of a sudden, Nickie swoops in and gives Joe a stern warning to back off. Not letting Joe off the hook, Nickie gives Joe a shiner and tells Suzie he is taking her home. Though Nickie clearly had valiant intentions, Suzie is understandably ticked off at Nickie's constant patronization:

"Stop treating me like a kid!
I'm old enough to know what I want!
And what I want isn't you!" 

Suzie refuses to budge and Nickie threatens to carry her home if she won't walk. She struggles against his attempts at taking her home and yells out that she hates him. As Nickie holds Suzie in his arms, she starts to cry. Nickie begs her not to and declares that all he wanted to do was protect her. In that moment, he finally realizes he has feelings for the little "kid" next door.

Youthful, fun, and bright, the art on "The Stranger Next Door!" exemplifies why I absolutely love this era of romance comics. Though the plot is rather simplistic and Nickie's overbearing personality makes him a problematic heartthrob at times, the stylized art makes it all worth it. Ms. Berube's work is a delight and I'm confident her contribution to the romance genre will inspire women to make comics for many years to come!

Thanks so much for reading!
If you haven't already, be sure to sign up
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for more romance comic book goodness! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Runaway Bride Alert - DC's "We Can Never Marry!" (Updated)

The runaway bride is a common theme in many romance stories in mediums ranging from comics to film. But why would a bride choose to make a sudden dash from her intended? Fear of being tied down to one person? A desire to explore herself and/or other options? In DC's "We Can Never Marry!" from Girls' Love Stories #172 (August 1972) with pencils by John Rosenberger,* a young man is nearly left at the altar for a reason you might not expect. Read on to find out why our splash page bride can't go through with it!

Cammy reflects on her younger self and her reluctance to settle into something serious. She reminisces the year her troubles started -- she was sixteen, confused, and missing her father who'd recently moved out of the house and into the city.

Cammy longs to be like her friends, but she just can't make herself fall in love. Young men are charmed by her and she has no problem getting a date, but Cammy has no desire to commit herself to a steady.

Though Cammy worries, her mother reassures her that when the right boy comes along, all will fall into place. Cammy, on the other hand, isn't so sure.

Time passes and Cammy grows into a more confident nineteen-year-old. She meets dreamy Robbie on a blind tennis date. The two are so enthralled with one another, they go out again that evening. Cammy is smitten but wants the approval of her father. When Cammy sees her dad over the weekend, he is pretty lukewarm about the whole situation and implores his only daughter not to make a mistake. Fortunately, Cammy's mom is more supportive of the young couple and their desire to make their relationship a life-long commitment.

And so, wedding plans commence -- a house is found, a dress is bought, and rings are picked out. All seems to be headed in the right direction, that is, until the rehearsal.

As soon as Cammy hears the words "'til death do us part" she panics and makes a break for it.

With more stamina in heels than I ever hope to possess, Cammy wanders around for six hours mulling over her situation. She is humiliated to return after fleeing, but a very concerned Robbie welcomes her back with open arms. After telling Robbie she can't explain what happened, Cammy's estranged parents pipe in. They take responsibility for setting a bad example by splitting up when things got rough.

Two days later, Robbie and Cammy marry. With the reunion of her parents, Cammy sees that love truly conquers all.

In addition to runaway brides, another common theme in romance comics is a fear of marriage due to a parental divorce. As a child of divorce myself, I completely understand Cammy's fear of tying the knot. I hope you enjoyed this sweet and hopeful story to round out the month of February! While the color of the couple's skin may be a rarity in romance comics, their story is one of the most universal of all.

Thanks so much for reading!
If you haven't already, be sure to sign up
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for more romance comic book goodness! 

*I'm quite positive this story is a recolored reprint. I swear I've come across the original, but I can't seem to put my finger on it now. I'll update the post if and when I do come across the original story!


The mystery of the source of the original story has been solved thanks to two fantastic Sequential Crush readers. First, Steven S. got in touch with me to let me know that the original tale was from Girls' Love Stories #121 (August 1966). Unfortunately, that issue is one of the few of that series that I haven't acquired yet. Luckily, Osgood Peabody (a moderator over at the DC Comics Time Capsule -- go check it out!) was able to hook me up with scans of the original story, "A Marriage Without Love." Though the art was changed for the 1970s reprint, the 1966 story has the same exact plot and near identical dialogue. A big round of applause for Steven and Osgood -- thank you guys!

 May love always reign
supreme in your life too!