Tuesday, November 24, 2009

DC's Pity Party

Influenced by the struggles of other groups fighting for Civil Rights, the Disability Rights Movement gathered steam and momentum in the late 1960s and early '70s. During this time, DC made efforts to be socially "with it" and began to feature stories of the Women's and Student Movements as well as African-American characters. It was also during this time that DC published numerous stories with wheelchair-bound characters.

DIAGNOSIS: Paralysis from car accident

"Don't Pity Me -- Love Me!"
Falling in Love #108 (July 1969)
Cover pencils by Ric Estrada, inks by Vince Colletta

DIAGNOSIS: Broken leg due to falling of porch

"Love, Love Go Away... Come Again Another Day"
Falling in Love #120 (January 1971)
Cover pencils and inks by Nick Cardy

DIAGNOSIS: Knee injury as a result of a football accident
(yes, even guys can be pitied)

"Too Much Loving... Too Many Tears!"
Girls' Romances #150 (July 1970)
Cover pencils by Nick Cardy, inks by Vince Colletta

DIAGNOSIS: Hit by a car while trying to catch up with two-timing Paul

"Pity Her -- But Love Me!"
Love Stories #147 (November 1972)

The word "pity" seems to be the signifier of a character in a wheelchair. In the world of DC romance, pity and wheelchairs go hand-in-hand. In these stories, none of the characters are permanently disabled or in a wheelchair due to congenital disorders or childhood illnesses. All are results of recent accidents, are temporary, and are overcome within the course of the story.

I have yet to come across any wheelchair-bound characters in the Marvel or Charlton romance comics, but I am sure they are out there somewhere!


  1. Took a stab at re-reading some late-era PATSY WALKER's last week, and Buzz has been wounded. Not sure if he's "in a wheelchair" or just being pushed around in one while he's in the hospital. I dimly recall this as being the beginning of major trouble for Patsy and Buzz's relationship.


  2. There is no way that those are Vince Colletta inks on the Falling In Love # 108 cover. Especially the hair, Colletta had a way of drawing realistic looking hair-see your other example-Girls Romances #150.

  3. Actually, in a way, Marvel were "Pity Party Pioneers". If you read early issues of Thor and Daredevil, they both feature romance subplots wherein the heroes feel limited by their disabled alter-egos, "Lame Doctor Donald Blake" and "Blind Attorney Matthew Murdock". Neither one of these chumps can believe that the woman he loves could love a handsome, wealthy, doctor or lawyer who is blind or walks with a cane.

  4. Admirable recognition of and observations on this DC trend! A great example of how comic books reflect societal goings on, and what an awesome assemblage of covers!

    I can't think of any Marvel examples either, but along the same lines as Aaron's point, there's the Puppet Master's daughter, Alicia (Fantastic Four 8), who is blind and becomes the Thing's girlfriend (because of her disability she can't see how 'ugly' he is , but on the other hand 'sees' the person within the body without being blinded by the exterior).

  5. Jacque: I loved the Nick Cardy cover on Falling in Love No. 120. That's a real beauty. I also love the body posture of all three wheelchair bound people on the first three covers. No, no, never pity them, says DC, but the rendering of all three subjects demand exactly that emotion and no other. Also, all three subjects are drop dead beautiful regardless of blankets covering shapely legs on the women. Socially conscience? Sure, you bet. But DC never lost sight of whose stories were important to tell. No "unattractive" Muscular Sclerosis suffers need apply.

    I don't see this as a comic company reflecting social concerns so much (although an increased level of understanding for disabilities of all sorts was certainly in the air). I see it as a comic company mining a scenario rich with drama first and foremost, peripherally tapping topics of social concern (and don't we love them for it).

    Man, that Cardy cover is something to behold! -- Mykal

  6. What a coincidence! I just read a post over at Gorilla Daze about a 1961 Charlton comic where the leading lady's foot was bitten off by a shark.


    For once, Charlton was ahead of the curve, both on the handicapped and on shark attacks!

  7. I pity the fool that doesn't dig this post !

    For an antithesis type of story, Michael Kaluta did a wonderful tale for DC in the early 1980's~ 'Doorway to Nightmare', I think~ about two 'fugly' people who fall in love despite their natural handicaps. Oh~ and there was also witchcraft and deals with Satan, methinks !

  8. Marshall: Yes, I think not only the physical, but the emotional strain of the war took its toll on Buzz and Patsy's relationship. I need more of those later ones, they are pretty good!

    liquidwater: I am basing my guess of Vince Colletta inks over Estrada pencils for the cover of Falling in Love #108 based on the story "Love Song in Blue" from Secret Hearts #148 which was done by the duo and is signed. That story also has the crazy banana hair. Perhaps it was just the two of them together, or maybe Colletta didn't ink Girls' Romances #150?

  9. Aaron: I wasn't even thinking about the superhero books, but good examples!

    KB: When I read Aaron's comment, I immediately thought of Alicia and the Thing as well. Aren't these covers great? I am always on the lookout for ones with characters in wheelchairs.

    Mykal: So true. These women portrayed are beautiful, and not disfigured horribly in any way. There is definitely something romantic about the injured damsel in distress which makes for good stories -- even if not entirely socially relevant.

    Pat: WOW! Thanks for bringing that to my attention! I am not sure if DC had any shark attacks in their romance books. I am gonna be keeping an eye out now though!

    Lysdexicuss: I will have to read that sometime! Do you know which issue?

  10. It was actually a one-shot from 1981 entitled 'Madame Xanadu', a character who used to host 'Doorway to Nightmares'. And the story I recalled is actually illustrated in ridiculous detail by Marshall Rogers, with a sweet cover by Mike Kaluta !


  11. Jacque - here's a couple of other early 70s DC covers along those lines:

    Flash #201 - Nov 1970("Million Dollar Dream") http://www.comics.org/issue/23814/cover/4/?style=default

    Action #397 - Feb. 1971 ("Secret of the Wheelchair Superman") http://www.comics.org/issue/24014/cover/4/?style=default

  12. I love that print blouse on FL 120 so much. Too bad it's only on the cover.