Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

There is no doubt that this gorgeously drawn one-page story, "Uptight" from Young Romance #166 (June/July 1970) by Black Cat artist Lee Elias, is a great example of the diversity of artists featured in the romance comics. Unfortunately, it is also a good example of the kind of story that helps propel today's notion that romance comics are filled with worthless drivel deserving of a few laughs and nothing more.

On one hand, this story serves as a handy historical document and a reminder of how far our notions of women in the workforce have come. The same year this story was published in Young Romance, a very important stride concerning equal pay for male and female workers was made with the case of Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co. Though legally this cased helped to solidify the Equal Pay Act of 1963, it is obvious from this story that not all facets of society had embraced the concept of the career-driven woman.

On the other hand though, I myself as a woman who is actively pursuing a career, can sympathize with the obvious internal conflict felt by our protagonist, Carol Loring. Balancing a career, and the ever-present cultural and biological pressures to "have it all" are something I think that many young women still feel today.


  1. Jacque: What a beauty! Boy, could Elias draw. The panel with the mother holding the baby is no cinch to do, and Elias nails it perfectly. Well done as well is that last panel. "To many, a career bring many a tear." Nice line that touches on a basic truth. Still today, "Having it all" implies something much larger and more difficult for women than it does for men.

    There is some vestige of tradition that quietly insists women must excel both at home (mother/principal keeper of the home and nest) and at work (today, financial circumstances bring women into the workforce both by choice and necessity), whereas men simply are expected to forge a career. The line about tears is as true today as it ever was, I think. Great post! – Mykal

  2. Yes indeed, Elias is awesome... by the 70's his distinct style was less obvious than his golden age work, but still incredibly top notch. He's one of my favorites.

    This is a really nice blog Jacque, glad to have found you! Adding you to the THOIA links list.

  3. Jacque - forgot to mention - added you to my blogroll on both Big Blog of Kids Comics! and Gold Key Comics! -- Mykal

  4. Thank you Mykal and Karswell. I have added you both to my blogroll as well! So many good blogs out there!!! I had never really encountered Elias prior to this, but I can now be counted as an adoring fan. It looks like he did quite a bit of romance, so hopefully I have more in my collection to share! Thanks for reading!!! :)

  5. “This story was obviously written by a man. I mean, look at how piggish it is. It gives me so much fuel for my cause. Can you believe the nerve of these old romance stories? These stories were written to keep us bare foot and in the kitchen! We need to laugh at these stories so that we can all express our distaste for these messages! Oh, how this makes me vengeful toward men!” These are the words of that modern anthem of grrl power. It rallies not for ‘feminist equality’, but for an appreciation of women at the cost of culture—also an argument for those that feel they need appreciating in this way. This argument I have heard tirelessly.

    The archetype of the 70’s romance comic is the paranoid and self-doubting girl. It is true that they do not preach the anthem of grrl power which is embodied in Catwoman, Storm, or Laura Croft—but isn’t that theme getting old already? Aren’t the themes of anxiety and fear the qualities that make these romance comics so timeless—that make the characters all so real to us? The problem the girl faces in this story is the problem that comes along with an ascetic life. I have nothing but empathy for the character. Any ideal comes at a cost, and it is always our ‘free will’ that appears to us as the fee. Conviction is the true ‘moral of the story’ behind the facade of that modern chauvinistic interpretation.

    Instead of speculating on the author—instead of hating an oppressor, we should embrace the character! I wish we were at a point where we had overcome this lash against romance comics—so that we could embrace the art.

    I love Sequential Crush for its appreciation of romance comics—not as something laughable, so that we can be all so secure with our insecurities—but because they are a greatest representation of the medium of comic books.

    - Justin (Jacque’s Boyfriend ;) )

  6. Thank you for weighing in on this, Justin! As you said, living a life of conviction is often a very tough and sometimes agonizing affair. One of the beautiful things about the romance comics is that they so often touched on the confusing nature of being a modern woman -- a theme I think young women who are trying to balance families, careers, etc. can still identify with.