Thursday, December 10, 2009

Unlikely Romance - Night Nurse #1

If you have followed Sequential Crush for a while, you may have gathered that one of my favorite comic book romance artists is Winslow Mortimer. Last week, Mykal over at the blog Gold Key Comics featured a Mortimer story from Ripley's Believe It or Not #28 (September 1971). I was super excited to see Mortimer art from a genre other than superhero or romance. I promised Mykal that I would showcase some of Mortimer's romance work, and Night Nurse really is the pinnacle of his work drawing pretty ladies.

I know what you are thinking... Night Nurse isn't romance! I beg to differ however! Though it may not be one of the traditional romance comic book titles, it has the proper elements -- fashion, a group of roommates, a love interest and plenty of drama!

The splash page of Night Nurse #1 (November 1972) (penciled and inked by Mortimer and written by Jean Thomas) introduces us to the beautiful and torn Linda Carter, Student Nurse. Like many romance characters, Linda is conflicted with the decision of career or man.

Agonizing over the decision, Linda harkens back three years prior to when it all began. First came the joyous celebration accompanying the acceptance letter, and then the meeting of roomies - Georgia Jenkins and Christine Palmer. Though from completely different walks of life, they share one common goal -- to become a nurse.

The three young women soon learn that their training is no walk in the park. Their days are filled with grueling classroom lectures, practical laboratory work, and patient interaction. While they all love nursing -- they do not love each other. Having been placed together as roommates by a dorm mother and not by choice, Linda, Christine and Georgia must learn to get along if they want to make it through their intense training at Metro General.

One evening, while bickering in their dorm, the three heroines are called back into the hospital for an emergent situation involving a four-alarm fire. They forget their beefs with each other while shuffling children to the burn ward and unloading ambulances. It isn't until things calm down that the stress catches up with Linda. She is consumed with homesickness. Her tears open the floodgates, which in turn opens the door to friendship between the three roommates.

Time flies for the student nurses as their training continues. Three years go by and page ten of the story takes us to their senior year. It is during that last year that Linda meets Marshall Michaels -- a handsome and pushy prospective donor who happens to be in for an Appendectomy.

As you can see from the gorgeous close up of their romantic kiss, Mr. Michaels and Linda become quite fond of each other and decide to take their relationship farther than nurse and patient.

Linda goes on a dream date with Marshall which involves a ride on his "rowboat" and dinner at a French restaurant. It also involves an ultimatum.

Meanwhile, while Linda mulls over leaving her career to become Mrs. Michaels we get to know Christine and Georgia. Christine, estranged from her rich father also faces a choice. Continue with nursing after graduation or receive anything she wants from daddy.

Though Georgia's life isn't as glamorous as Linda's or Christine's, it is by no means less meaningful. Her day off doesn't mean yacht rides or promises of European vacations -- but a return to her neighborhood. After visiting with her family she attends to a sick neighbor and a young man who is injured in a street fight. Though her time off was rewarding, she is bothered by the fact that her brother Ben won't return home.

The mystery of Ben's whereabouts is soon uncovered when the downtrodden areas of the city are "browned out" and lose electricity due to a heat wave. Unrest becomes apparent, and those affected by the loss of electricity gather at the hospital to show their displeasure. Among those who descend on Metro General is Georgia's brother Ben and his up-to-no-good friend Rocky.

Georgia tries to get to the bottom of why they are headed to the basement of the hospital. Though she is suspicious, Ben sways her into believing that they are doing "work."

While going back to attend to injured patients, Georgia and her roommates overhear that there has been a short and the brown-out has turned into a full scale black-out. Linda is comforted by the fact that the hospital has a large generator until Georgia reveals her encounter with her brother and Rocky. Realizing that they were headed towards the generator, the three heroic nurses spring into action.

Though it is too late for the guard, Georgia and Linda catch Rocky just as he is about to throw down an explosive device. What Ben thought was an attempt to coerce the electric company into restoring power to the city, has turned into a violent fiasco. In an effort to shutdown Rocky, Ben himself is brought to the ground.

Georgia applies pressure to Ben's wounds to control the bleeding and Linda trips Rocky -- sending the bomb flying into her hands. While looking down the barrel of a gun, Linda tries to convince Rocky that he is making a terrible mistake. He isn't having it. Luckily, the police rush to the scene in the nick of time. Obviously shaken from the events, Georgia is surrounded by her two friends who vow to see that justice prevails and Ben gets the medical and legal help he needs.

While at Ben's side with Georgia and Christine, Linda is notified of a caller -- Mr. Michaels. She rushes into his arms, anxious to relay the events of the day. He brushes her off and asks if she has made a decision concerning her career and their relationship.

Lucky for us, Linda chooses nursing. Her friends comfort her, but she insists they not make a big deal over it. After all, they have tomorrow to think about.

Most romance stories involving a tough decision such as Linda's don't have this ending. They usually end with the girl giving up her career for her man. It is this spin that sets Night Nurse #1 apart from other romance tales and sets the stage for the rest of the dynamic series. Though the ending is somewhat of an aberration from other romance stories, it has many of the other elements of classic romance stories. In my opinion, it is one of the best comic book romance stories out there! This isn't even taking into consideration Mortimer's art which so expertly depicts the three very different student nurses, and effortlessly moves the story along. If you liked this first issue, be sure to tune in soon for the second installment of Marvel's Night Nurse!


  1. Even though the title NIGHT NURSE is borrowed from a 1931 film, I dig how Marvel recycled the character's name from their earlier mag LINDA CARTER, STUDENT NURSE, and the premise is uncomfortably similar to the "socially relevant" skin flicks that Roger Corman's New World Pictures was cranking out around that time (THE STUDENT NURSES, PRIVATE DUTY NURSES, NIGHT CALL NURSES and on and on...) Minus the skin, of course.

    I do so love Marvel's brief experiment with the quasi-feminist comics of 1972, SHANNA and THE CAT of course being the other two biggies. I hear there's talk of an Omnibus!


  2. I think I'm in love~! and~ (cough cough) coming down with something... better get to the Hospital...

  3. Jacque: My goodness what a great comic! I'm really enjoying this blog for the introduction it's given me to a genre of which, I must admit, my ignorance is profound. And Mortimer! I think I might like his work here even a bit more than the story I highlighted over at my place. He handles action so well, as well as intimate, quiet moments, like the panels with Linda and Marshall. Great Post and thanks! -- Mykal

  4. I just realized that Mortimer is also responsible for that Marvel "crybaby" cover that got swiped by Charlton. The pose in the NIGHT NURSE splash panel is almost identical. Those fists! You may have already mentioned this back when I originally commented on the swipe, but I can't seem to locate that now. Heck, maybe it wasn't a swipe; perhaps Mortimer was just working for Charlton and that pose happens to be his shtick.


  5. Marshall: An Omnibus! Get out of here! That would be amazing! The biggest tip off to a Mortimer romance piece, I have learned, are the little clenched fists that appear throughout. That and the eyes on his girls have a certain youthful innocence to them. I do remember when you mentioned that Charlton swipe -- Love Diary #85. It was done by Art Cappello, along with another cover, Just Married #114 that is very Mortimerish as well.

    Lysdexicuss: Aww, I hope you are near to Metro General! Hehe. Actually, if I were a nurse I would insist on wearing an outfit just like our heroines here. Plus that awesome cape Georgia wears.

    Mykal: I am so glad you enjoyed it! It is hard not to enjoy the art of Win Mortimer though! I will be sure to post some more of his romance stuff (besides Night Nurse) in the near future!

  6. At least she found happiness when she gave up nursing to play Wonder Woman.

  7. What a concept for Marvel this series was (and they are still getting mileage out of it in the recent Marvel Divas mini series which I believe featured an incarnation of Night Nurse)! This appears to have been the last nurse-based romance series of any American comic publisher, with the exception of Soap-Opera Romances by Charlton from the 80s, which doesn't quite count as it contains only reprints of Charlton's early 60s series Nurse Betsy Crane.

    The original Linda Carter Student Nurse series (ran for 9 issues) is far lighter that Night Nurse, and is similar to its early 60s contemporary, Patsy Walker, in terms of the way it expresses the romance genre. There's even a hard-to-find crossover with Linda Carter appearing in Patsy Walker (surely at the top of most people's wants lists - it is on mine anyway!).

    Night Nurse #1 boasts some African American characters, with Mr. Toby highlighting institutional racism embedded in the structural inequality in society, using the irony of the terms "brown outs" and "in the dark" to emphasize that African Americans are disproportionately represented in those lower socioeconomic communities that lack the favor of the powers that be. Also a sign of the times, Rocky is an embittered activist given a negative image in the story as he resorts to violence - reflecting disillusionment with the Civil Rights Movement which, by this time, was being seen more for what it hadn't achieved than what it had accomplished. This was the mood that help to usher in blaxploitation, visible in African American movies at the time, and in Luke Cage Hero For Hire in Marvel Comics.

  8. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Night Nurse too, and the art is indeed super.