Monday, June 29, 2009

Cindy the Salesgirl - Part Two

The sheer amount of romance comic books that are out there in the world always offer up an opportunity to learn something new. A few posts ago I shared the story of a Cindy (whom I mistakenly called Candy but subsequently changed) the Salesgirl from Secret Hearts #133. When I posted it, I didn't realize that was not the only time Cindy had made an appearance. From what I can tell, she had at least three other little featurettes in the romance books of the late '60s, primarily drawn by Winslow Mortimer.

A few pages from "The Adventures of Cindy the Salesgirl" (A DC Fashion Featurette) out of Falling in Love #98 (April 1968) demonstrate once again that Mortimer was no dummy when it came to drawing beautiful girls.

The writer of the story also seems to have had an uncanny understanding of what the retail world involves. I should know... I did my fair share of working at the mall during high school and college!

How's that for an O. Henry ending? Not too shabby for a romance story!

Well, that's all for this evening! My attention has been a little divided lately. I am working on finishing up my presentation (on romance comics of course!) for the Comic Arts Conference held in conjunction with the San Diego Comic-Con International. I will be posting more details about that soon, but for the next week or so my postings may be sparse. I can't wait to share the presentation with all you readers of Sequential Crush once its all said and done! Be on the lookout!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Selling Romance - The Living Sea-Gem!

Just imagine...

You and your girl have been going steady for a couple of days. You have held hands and looked longingly into each others eyes. Finally, you decide to go in for the kiss. Just as your lips touch, you feel her necklace brush against you. As you finally pull away you are intrigued by the bulbous contraption. At first it looks like some sort of Christmas ornament on a chain, but as you look closer you see something floating in the necklace. Glitter perhaps? As you take a closer look you realize that the floating specks are not of the everyday variety. Then, to your surprise (and horror) you realize that your young lady friend is wearing brine shrimp around her neck!

Yes -- my romance loving friends, you've just crossed over into... The Sea-Monkey Zone!!!

Sexy and stylish, right? I know. Don't despair too much though. You can have your very own modern day Living Sea-Gem! Perfect for those young ladies who have everything!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

I hope all you dads out there are having a relaxing and enjoyable day! In honor of this special day I thought I would share a "crazy" little story from Heart Throbs #130 (February/March 1971).

I present to you for your enjoyment, "Like Father, Like Daughter." This story unfolds a little more slowly than some romance stories -- but the deep, dark secret is worth the wait!

Cindy and her mother move to a new town, after running from their last domicile. As they unload the moving truck, a couple of young men with eyes for the pretty young lady greet them. Cindy's mother ushers her into the new house, reminding her what happened last time when people found out about Cindy's father. Since she is pretty much banned from talking to anyone by her mother, Cindy is perceived as shy and has trouble connecting with dates and with her peers at school.

Soon, the mother and daughter once again become the town's gossip. Everyone is curious where they go on Sundays with bags of books and food. Finally Cindy can't take it anymore and tells the neighbor-folk to mind their own business. She runs off, "blind with tears and anger," but is quickly approached by a kind young man, Ted. After pulling it together, Ted and Cindy go on a multitude of dates. Eventually their time spent together blossoms into love and everyday they grow closer. She gradually begins to let down the wall that she has built around her. Naturally Cindy wants to tell Ted her deep, dark secret -- but she still feels like she can't. Ted insists that she meet his parents, in hopes that their meeting will put her more at ease. Ted's parents seem friendly enough, and Ted's father boasts about his "ability to understand the younger generation." Then comes the moment of dread. Ted's parents ask about Cindy's father.

And so, the secret is revealed! Cindy's father is in a mental facility. Ted, being the tender guy that he is lets Cindy know that everything is cool, and that his parents will understand. Of course they understand... to her face! What Cindy and Ted don't know though is that when Ted's parents retire upstairs for the evening they start talking smack. They hope that the affair between the lovebirds is just temporary puppy love, and that it will wear out. Boy, are they wrong! They continue to get closer and Ted and Cindy become engaged. This of course infuriates Ted's parents.

Ah threats! They work every time! Or do they?

Cindy is intent on marrying Ted, until her mother drops a bomb on her... Cindy can't have children because she risks passing on her father's mental illness. Her mother tells her she will make it up to her with a long trip to Europe.

Instead of mourning the loss of her supportive fiance, Cindy wonders how her mother could even afford a trip to Europe. After some rummaging and detective work, Cindy learns that it was all hush money from Ted's father. He certainly doesn't deserve a new tie for Father's Day, now does he?

Luckily, the love that Ted and Cindy share remains solid and it is the three parental units that are left to wallow in their self-conscious shame.

So, there you have it. My tribute to Father's Day. I like to think that after the last panel, Ted and Cindy went off to visit her father at the mental institution -- and that he was the only one who gave his blessing toward their union.

Blog o' Tears

Over at the blog Easily Mused, John Glenn Taylor has put together a side-splitting spread narrating the various circumstances in which tears are shed in romance comics. I can guarantee that you will start crying from the hilarity of it all! I have one of my own to add...

Happy couples with melanin issues

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blink and You'll Miss It!

If you are looking for a good romance story with a thrilling and sophisticated plot to read on a rainy day, "Cindy the Salesgirl" from DC's Secret Hearts #133 (January 1969) is definitely not for you! It is one of the shortest, most anti-climactic romance stories I have ever read --but, it has great art by one of my favorites, Winslow Mortimer! I have posted the entire story below, all three pages of it!

Before I realized how short the story was, I thought that maybe the woman was trying to play matchmaker for her son and was scouting out potentials at the local department store.

I thought that perhaps on the next page the plump woman's ulterior motive would become clearer...

Nope! It was just my imagination running away with me! Even Cindy looks shocked in that last panel that the story is over so quickly!

Though not the strongest piece of writing in history of romance comics, this little three-pager has a truly great layout. The vertical panels really help to break up the book and give Mortimer's figure work a chance to shine. I also really dig the coloring on the story. The changing background colors and contrasting text panels serve to highlight Cindy, and her splendid outfits.

There is a fair amount of information out there about Mortimer and his work on Superman and other various superhero covers, but I have found very little about his romance work and other work outside of comic books. He obviously had a natural affinity for drawing beautiful woman wearing fashionable clothing, and it really makes me wonder if he had prior experience in fashion illustration or something of that nature. As of yet, I haven't been able to find enough detailed information on him to make a solid statement about his inspirations, but with more digging perhaps I can get closer to that. One of my long-term goals is to do more research on Mortimer and make sure he gets the credit he deserves for his non-superhero work.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fashion Files - Wedding Fever

I currently live in a crazy little tourist town in Indiana called New Harmony. It is scenic and really quite lovely, and it is a very popular spot for weddings. People from all over Indiana come to this town on the banks of the Wabash River to say, "I do." Last weekend there were five in town. That's a whole lot of wedding action for a town with a population of only 800!

'Tis the season for weddings and to continue with the Wedding Fever I thought I would share a couple wedding themed romance covers!

Falling in Love # 107 (May 1969)
I'm thinking its Cardy inked by Colletta, but not positive about that.

This apprehensive beauty comes from Girls' Love Stories #162 (October 1971)
Cover by Jay Scott Pike

Heart Throbs #142 (June 1972), Cover by Art Saaf
I feel exceptionally bad for those bridesmaides!

As you can see, long sleeves with high collars were all the rage in the late '60s and early '70s for wedding dress apparel. Obviously the artists drawing the romance books were with pretty with it when it came to fashion as evidenced by this Simplicity sewing pattern #9608 from 1971.

Extremely different from today's wedding fashions!

Dozens of romance comic books had wedding themes, so look forward to further installments exposing Wedding Fever!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Get with it, Girl!

Romance comics weren’t just all fun and games and polyester pant-suits. In issue #11 of Marvel’s Our Love Story (June 1971), Suzan of the “Suzan Says” advice column offers a stern lecture about the merits of doing well in school.

Heaven forbid anyone spend their summer break in summer school! Now I finally realize why I didn't have a steady during undergrad... I was in class during the summer semester!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Unlikely Romance - Lady Cop

Romance comics were often times fraught with young women looking merely for a husband or temporary companion. Lady Cop, the fourth installment of DC’s 1st Issue Special (story by Robert Kanigher, art by John Rosenberger and Vince Colletta) portrayed a different side of the romance coin. Liza Warner – Lady Cop, was looking not for a husband, but for a killer.

A somewhat naïve Liza witnesses the murder of her roommates. Immobilized, she hides under the bed. Though in shock, she has a photographic memory and can tell t
he police exactly what the murderer’s boots looked like – white cowboy boots with skull and crossbones decorations. A police woman who comes to the site tells her she has the “camera eye” of a police officer and laments, “wish we had more women like you applying for the police academy! The city would be a safer place to live in!”

Thinking and dreaming constantly about the tragic incident, Liza enrolls in the police academy in an effort to find the killer. Liza proves her dedication to the force and her courageous nature by intercepting a live grenade hurled by a disgruntled ex-student of the police academy during the graduation ceremony. All this is just an introduction though to the meat of the story, which is titled “Poisoned Love!” It even has a romance ring to it!

We see Liza start her career by coming to the aid of a young woman on a rooftop being assaulted by a brute and his dopey sidekick.

After putting the Neanderthals in their place with some action-packed martial arts moves, Liza arrests the duo. Unfortunately, the young woman who was being assaulted leaves the scene and Liza is unable to question her. In her quest to find the victim, Liza proves she not only can put bad guys behind bars, but is passionate about watching out for the community as well.

While patrolling the streets, Liza finds the victim and overhears her telephone conversation.

In her desperate attempt to catch the still unnamed girl, Liza gets pulled away by another crime scene. The grocer has been stabbed and she must go after the man holding the knife. As the bad guy attempts to slice her, he simultaneously gives her a lecture that she should have stayed home to practice the “female” arts of washing dishes and mending socks. She quickly puts him in his place, knocks him out cold and heroically saves the grocer with a quick thinking dose of CPR.

Unable to find the missing girl by the end of her shift, Liza takes some well deserved
time off by going to the beach with her boyfriend. He doesn’t seem to be taking her choice of profession as well as she is. It is on this page that you can really see the influence of the romance genre in both the art and the dialogue, even though our protagonist has different things on her mind than just getting married or keeping her man like in many of the traditional romance stories.

Liza eventually finds the runaway girl, who stares despondently into the water at the edge of a pier and councils her on seeking help for the possible VD. In what sounds like a PSA, Liza lets her know that a family doctor and/or Board of Health VD stations can test her and give her antibiotics if needed. The girl is hesitant due to what she thinks her father’s reaction will be. Her father meets her at the dock and Liza sticks around to make sure everything goes smoothly. The father doesn’t take the news well, berates his daughter and punches Liza in the face. Incredibly calm and resilient, Liza reasons with the father and urges him to take his daughter to the doctor.

The story comes to an abrupt end when Liza is confronted by a friend of the perps she sent to jail for attacking the girl with the VD. Liza and the attacker wind up in the river where it is revealed that the “tough guy” can’t even swim. Liza dutifully saves him. We are left with an image of Liza pondering if she will ever find the man who killed her roommates. Unfortunately, that is the end of Lady Cop and no one finds out who the killer is.

As you can see, in many respects Lady Cop can be considered a romance story – though maybe not a traditional one. Since it was late in the game for romance (1975), perhaps it was a way to test the waters and see if the genre was still viable if packaged differently. I personally really like the story, and I wish Liza Warner the Lady Cop had been given another chance, but alas, it was not meant to be. I would have liked to see a continuation of her personal love life with Hal and how she balanced that with the search for the elusive killer in cowboy boots. The internal struggle is alluded to, but never quite capitalized on. I think Lady Cop would have made for a good serial romance/crime title, but obviously it didn’t catch on.

What do you think? Would you have liked to see more adventures of Liza Warner – Lady Cop?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tips to Allure - Footnotes to Beauty

Trying to get your feet in shape for those fashionable summer sandals? Need some tips? Look no further than Falling in Love #122 (April 1971) for advice!

DC romance comics often resembled teen magazines in that they featured sections with beauty and diet suggestions. The commentary was usually pretty standard common-knowledge type stuff accentuated by “hip” language and minimal illustrations.

Besides creating a multi-layered experience for readers, these sections most likely were used to fulfill postal regulations that required one to two text pages in order to constitute a periodical.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Love Fool

This weekend I realized that I need to start making my travel plans for Wizard World Chicago. As I was thinking about booking a hotel room, I thought back to last year. I bought a ton of romance books during the show and one evening I was going over my purchases while relaxing in the hotel, as I usually do. I started reading one of the romance books I had bought, and I was totally sucked in to the story right away. I was able to get to about the third page when some friends came by to go to dinner. I put the book away, not thinking to somehow denote where I left off. That particular book got lost in the shuffle and mixed in with the rest of my purchases.

Thinking about booking a hotel the other day jogged my memory about reading this particular story partway last summer, so I decid
ed to look for it. I couldn’t remember what the cover looked like, but thankfully, I found it last night! Behold… the awesome power of “A Million Laughs in Every Kiss.”

This story comes from Young Romance #167 (August/September 1970), and it is one of my favorites for its sheer goofiness and because the accompanying art is really exquisite. I am not positive who drew it (the story is unsigned), but I think it looks to be the work of Tony DeZuniga of Jonah Hex fame.

“A Million Laughs in Every Kiss” introduces us to Nan, an attractive young woman dating Tom, who constantly clowns around. After planting a tack on a park bench for her to sit on, he fools her into thinking that the police are after them. The voice of the police turns out to be a tape recorded message in his car. After each prank he plays on her, a fight erupts. The (almost) final straw comes when he embarrasses her at a Halloween party.

Several weeks go by and Nan refuses to talk to Tom, but one cold winter night she sees him standing outside her house. Nan invites him in, and makes him promise to never play another trick on her again.

As time goes by, Nan thinks that Tom has overcome his playful nature. Out of the corner of a panel on the eighth page emerges the… drum roll please… engagement ring! But, as one might suspect, Tom’s impulses are stronger than his word. Out of the ring box jumps a jack-in-the-box type clown figure.

Nan is livid and as “an ice cold fury” comes over her, she tells Tom she never wants to see him again. Never is a short time in romance comics though
(approximately a week), and after finding herself consumed by questions of what made him break his promise, she goes to his apartment. The landlord lets Nan in (I think that is illegal nowadays!) and as she goes to wake Tom up, she notices the real engagement ring on a table.

Now you can see why I had to finish reading this story! I was dying to find out Tom’s reason for being such a goofball. I would have just chalked it up to a personality quirk, but obviously Nan wouldn’t have gone for that. They embrace, with happy and relieved looks on their faces and once again, all is well in the land of Young Romance.

I think it’s a pretty good lighthearted story and the art is killer, especially that splash page. I also really like the coloring scheme of the warm purples enhanced by the cold blues. I was ecstatic that I was able to find it rather quickly so that I could share it with all of you!