Friday, July 31, 2009

Forgotten Romance: Artists of a Bygone Genre

While in San Diego, I participated in the Comic Arts Conference which is the academic branch of the Comic-Con, and what aids in keeping the convention a non-profit, educational entity. One of the sessions I participated in was the "Poster Session" in which a dozen or so people (such as myself) set up a display concerning comics scholarship. I gave a digital and oral presentation, as well as handed out a little booklet -- which you can download here on Gumroad as a pay as you wish pdf.

As with anything in life, I wish I had had more time to work on it. I continue to learn new things about romance comic books and comic books in general every day, and I realize it is nowhere near perfect! It is simply a little piece that serves to introduce romance comics into the scholarly sphere of comic studies, and show how the art of romance books tends to get pushed to the sidelines in favor of superheroes in academic circles.

So with that, enjoy! I welcome your comments and thoughts!

Have a great weekend!!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back from Comic-Con International!

Good evening! I have returned from San Diego! I got back home late last night, and jetted off to work early this morning. This is the first chance I have had to do a recap of the convention and to sit down and really think about all the exciting things that I did and saw! I wish I had taken more pictures, but my camera batteries kept dying and frankly I am not that good of a photographer, so it's probably just as well!

The trip out there was easy as could be! We were supposed to make three transfers, but our first flight was canceled and we were put on a more direct route -- which put us in San Diego earlier than we were originally going to be. The airline serendipitously put us in first class for the "inconvenience."

After getting settled at our hotel, we made our way to the con. I always think that walking up to the convention center for the first day of a show is super exciting. The anticipation was no less in San Diego.

View from the Trolley platform on the first day of the show

Between staying at our table in the Small Press area, going to panels and walking the floor to do some shopping, I saw a ton of familiar faces and met some really amazing new people. Everyone was really receptive to Sequential Crush and to my presentation on romance artists which I gave at the Comics Arts Conference (CAC). Presenting next to me at the CAC was the very knowledgeable Jarett Kobek who also shares an interest in later era of romance comics. He was super cool and really had some interesting takes on the more psychedelic Charlton romance books, especially those containing the character Jonnie L♥ve. I wish I had had more time to talk with him and his equally cool friend Elly -- as it was truly bizarre to meet someone else with such close interests to my own. Hopefully I will see them again at a convention in the future! If his schedule allows, Jarett might be doing a guest blog here at Sequential Crush in the near future, which would be really great!

Cover of the booklet I handed out during my presentation

In addition to the little presentation I gave, I also was on a panel concerning the effects of a college education on comic book careers. The consensus from most of the artists (and myself) was that college (and/or art school) is not necessary for pursuing a career in the industry. As the only non-artist on the panel, I recommended getting a formal education for the life experience and the mentoring opportunities it opens up -- but ultimately talent, drive, passion and professionalism are the factors that will seal the deal. I think someone may have filmed it. I will post the panel video if that was the case.

It seems that every year the dealer's section of the San Diego show gets smaller and smaller. There really weren't too many romance comics to be found. I am almost positive that I bought the majority of the moderately priced romance books from the '60s and '70s that were in good condition! Many of the dealer's romance books were either way overpriced or in terrible shape. I did score a nice lot of Charlton's from Motor City Comics who were kind enough to give me a really great deal. I highly recommend them for all your romance comic needs! In total I bought 33 romance comics including a Patsy Walker, a Modeling With Millie, two gothic/horror romance comics, lots of DC romance books and an Adventure Comics "Special All-Romance Issue" starring Supergirl!

Back at the hotel, looking over my loot from Preview Night

Some of the other highlights of the convention included: attending a panel by Trina Robbins on her new book The Brinkley Girls and speaking with her afterwards about romance comics; visiting with Michelle Nolan -- author of Love on the Racks and romance comic book aficionado while digging through long boxes; and talking with Shelly Moldoff and Paul Norris's son on the way to my presentation. I was a little too exhausted from flying and the time change to party too much in the evenings, but spending some time in the Gaslamp Quarter was a refreshing change from the too-quiet town I live in now. With much excitement I descended on the Urban Outfitters...and look what I found!

A romance comics t-shirt!
If it hadn't been for the goofy striped arms I would have bought it!

Overall I had a lot of fun, even though the time there just flew by! It wasn't the best convention for purchasing romance comics, but all the amazing people I met and spoke with made up for that! I hope to make it back next year!

Promoting Super Human Resources in the Small Press area and
enjoying romance comics at the same time!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chao! Off to San Diego!

I am off to San Diego in a few hours, and boy am I excited! Since moving to rural Indiana last winter I haven't had the chance to get out and go anywhere that didn't involve seeing cows or cornfields. I am so happy to be going to a place with a downtown and with big buildings! I am also excited of course to dig through boxes of comic books at the convention!

If you are going and have a chance to stop by to say hi, I will be spending most of my time in the Small Press area at booth P15. Friday at 11:30am I will be part of a panel in room 30AB discussing the implications of college education on careers in the comic book industry. I will also be presenting on Saturday as part of the Comic Arts Conference at 2:30pm to 3:30pm in room 30AB again. So, if you are in San Diego drop by! I will try to do a mid-convention posting if I am able to, but if not, I will be back later next week!

Isn't this a nice little DC House Ad from 1973 by the way? I will be sure to follow its advice and buy DC love magazines... and Marvel, and Charlton and whatever else I can find!

I also just want to take a sec to say thanks again to everyone for making the first three months of Sequential Crush so fun and rewarding. I am really enjoying blogging about the romance comics, and I hope you are enjoying reading about them! See you soon!!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Romance Under the Covers - Review of Our Love Story #10 (April 1971)

Our Love Story #10 (April 1971) has one of my favorite covers of the Marvel romance books from this time period. I think its the bold colors that get me, as well as the composition of this cover with pencils by John Romita.

The first story, "How Near to Heaven" written by Stan Lee and drawn by Gene Colan is short and to the point. Angela absolutely adores her job as an air hostess and doesn't want any man to stand in the way. She simply wants to date and have fun, with no real strings attached. That is until she meets Ted Harmon, a charming passenger of hers on a flight to San Francisco. As they get hot and heavy, Angela keeps reminding Ted (and herself) that she belongs in the sky and that she can't get too serious. You see, as reflected here in the panel below with a fellow stewardess -- Angela can't get married, otherwise she will have to give up flying.

The other flight attendant's warning about staying single is not in this story just for dramatic effect. That was reality for mid-century flight attendants. They were not allowed to marry, and once they decided to, they would have to leave their career behind. For many, being a flight attendant was a way to see the world before settling down, though for those that took it as a serious career and enjoyed it were out of luck for a number of years until the rules changed in the early seventies.

For Angela though, the decision seems to be an easy one. She wants Ted and he basically gives her an ultimatum. I wonder how many young ladies gave up flying not because they necessarily wanted to, but because they also wanted to be with the one they loved. A tough choice, no doubt!

The next story in this issue is a two-parter reprint originally from Teen-Age Romance #80 (March 1961) drawn and inked by Vince Colletta according to the Grand Comics Database. I know, I know. Everybody seems to hate his work, but I actually like the art in this story quite a bit. So, either I like Colletta or someone else drew this! Anyway, "My Love Wears a Leather Jacket!" is the tale of a spoiled, snotty girl from the suburbs who falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who happens to look somewhat like Elvis.

The rather unpleasant, sheltered Anne is from the suburbs and has to move to a "slum" when her father gets ill and has to quit his job. She has only known perfect lawns and pool parties with friends who are in her words, "swell" and "decent" and "fun loving." She knows nothing of this world of "rough" looking teenagers who smoke cigarettes and are forced to take public transportation.

While taking a walk in her new neighborhood, Anne is harassed by a group of rough looking guys, which doesn't help with her negative feelings towards the move. Luckily, a mysterious boy named Rick comes to her aid.

That would not be the last time Anne would see Rick. He somehow figures out where she live and drops by. She agrees to go on a date with him, even though he wore the "attire of a young hoodlum." When Rick picks her up for their date the following evening, Anne is completely mortified by not only his outfit, but his motorcycle and his choice in cuisine.

Even though Anne thinks Rick is a nice guy, she just can't let go of the fact they are from different economic backgrounds. Her elitist attitude gets in the way of finding true love, and when Rick her asks her to go out again she blows him off with a lame answer.

When Anne goes home and sees her parents the next morning she has a temper tantrum and yells at her father for quitting his job. She just can't handle the fact that she may have feelings for someone whom she feels is "beneath her." Instead of trying to suck it up and make friends, she lets herself slip into a lonely, self-pitying depression. One day while venturing outside she comes across Rick and his friends. Anne flat out walks past him with her nose in the air. That night though, as she tries to fall asleep she is consumed by thoughts of Rick.

Then, one day as Anne is leaving school she is confronted by a seething girl who wants to know why Anne has been avoiding Rick. The mystery girl speaks very highly about Rick and seems very emotionally invested in his happiness.

We later find out that the girl who confronts Anne is, drumroll please! Rick's sister!!! No wonder she is so busted up about the whole thing! As soon as Anne hears this she realizes that she has to go find Rick and tell him how foolish she has been. While looking for him, she stumbles into the middle of a gang fight. All of a sudden Rick appears. Not to fight, but to break up the fight. After the hooligans refuse to break up the fight, Rick does so with his fists.

Though not very "romantic," these three panels are my favorite in the whole book. They are super action-packed!

After stopping the fight, Rick gives the guys a lecture in proper behavior. He has had enough of their antics, and just lets his feelings loose. Unbeknownst to him, his speech pays off and is the final piece of the puzzle that brings the star-crossed lovers together.

Isn't that a great story? It is definitely one of the more complicated and emotionally satisfying stories of the romance comics. The depth of the story was possible because the fact it had two parts, which wasn't uncommon for Marvel romance books. Sometimes it is just hard to fit a whole lot of plot into an eight-pager. Overall, this issue was a pleasant surprise and makes me want to read more Marvel romances!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Deep Thoughts

Just as love is mysterious and sometimes nonsensical, so were romance comic features on occasion...

Though it may not really have a coherent story line, I really dig the art! I wish I knew who drew this brief feature from Young Romance #198 (March/April 1974)! Little one page illustrated poems such as this seem to pervade the 100-Page Super Spectacular romance books that cropped up just towards the end of the reign of romance comics. There are just so many to share! Until next time...

Have a great Friday night! I have some good Marvel romance stories in store for Sunday!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Smashing Hip-Hugger Bellbottom Weight Loss Plan!

Many of the DC romance comics of the '70s had little one or two page features such as diet and beauty plans as well as horoscopes and other things one might find in teen magazines. This diet advice comes from Girls' Love Stories #163 (November 1971) and will help get rid of that "little roll of flab around your middle" in just five days!

It is easy to see why this diet would work - it is very low in calories and fat. I took the liberty of calculating the caloric and fat values for each day of the plan and here is what the two alternating days amount to...

Day One
-1,116 calories
-31 grams of fat
-good level of protein
-low in carbs

Day Two
-1,668 calories
-43 grams of fat
-good carb level
-lots of protein

I suppose it's not the worst diet plan in the world, especially considering it came out of a comic book! The plan for day one is below the recommended minimum caloric intake for most females though. I don't know if I could follow it for all five days, its a little boring and I am not sure if I am down with broiled liver! The lunch for the second day is also, um, a little scant. I would probably throw some nuts in there for more protein and flavor.

But, alas! Next time I bust out my hip-hugger bellbottoms and my snug knit tank top to wear to the county fair, I will be sure to follow this "hurry-up diet" in advance!!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hippie Love

Last night I went to the movies and there was one trailer that really caught my attention. It was for a movie called Taking Woodstock and it will come out this August, just in time for the 40th Anniversary of the festival that defined an era. What does this have to do with romance comics, you may ask? Well... plenty!

Romance comic creators were quick to pick up on events in real life and incorporate them into the pages of their stories. Various romance publishers found inspiration in the Woodstock Festival and other rock festivals and ran with the concept. Some of the romance comics directly referred to Woodstock by name, and others had stories of generic rock festivals. I am going to save the Woodstock stories for mid-August to coincide with the anniversary, but in the meantime I would like to share with you a rock festival story from Charlton's Sweethearts #120 (November 1971) called, "From Another World." I had forgotten about this story until I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie... notice the similarities!

"From Another World" features the art of Leandro Sesarego and tells the story of Amelia, a sheltered, country bumpkin girl of nineteen who has had little contact with the outside world and her peers. One day, with the arrival of a stranger, her life changes forever.

The stranger, Derek explains that he is holding a rock festival nearby.
Amelia is innocent and almost awkward in her ignorance of the youth culture around her.

Derek tries to explain what the festival entails, but decides its best to show Amelia in person.

After Derek takes Amelia home, she cannot wait to tell her grandparents about the festival. They are concerned about it, and consider calling the Sheriff to investigate. Derek comes to the door just in time though and introduces himself to the doubtful grandparents. He invites all three of them to be his guests at the festival. The grandfather doesn't say no, but he doesn't say yes either. Amelia and Derek move out to the porch to have some privacy after the introduction. She tells him about how her grandparents have rejected "today's civilization" and have cut her off from it. Derek reminds Amelia not to let life pass her by and goes in for the kiss. Just as their lips are about to meet, the grandfather opens the door to check on them. Though the mood is broken and they are from different worlds, the young couple seems to have the right chemistry to make it work.

The next day the rock festival begins, and Amelia surprises Derek with a bit of a makeover. Her new style and appreciation of the music of the youth steals Derek's heart, and finally Amelia gets her "first grown-up kiss."

Not too bad of a story, though it does end rather abruptly. I wonder what happened to Amelia and Derek? Did she continue to dress like a hippie or go back to her more simple ways? Too bad there isn't a part two! At first I didn't care for the art and I found it a little too realistic looking for my tastes. But, it grew on me, and although I still don't think the up-close shots of Amelia are that flattering, I really enjoy the wider, detailed scenes of the concert goers.

Stay tuned and get ready for mid-August when I bring you more Woodstock and rock festival themed romance stories! Enjoy the last few hours of the weekend!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Risqué Romance

While reading Girls' Romances #101 (June 1964) today, I came across a part in the last story, "Come Back My Heart!" that had me scratching my head. The story, illustrated by Jay Scott Pike starts out not unlike other romance stories. Laura and Nancy are in love with the same guy, David. Laura is the lucky one who snatches him up, but when she moves to New York to pursue her acting dream, Nancy "befriends" David.

Cover pencils by Jay Scott Pike
Inked by someone with a love for dark, thick lines!

It starts out innocently enough -- trips to the library and the art museum, but quickly turns into smooching sessions in David's convertible. Thing is, David and Laura are still together! Nancy feels in her heart that David is spending time with her to fill the void from Laura's absence. Pretty scandalous, but wait! It gets even more so!

Did you read what I just read?! MAKING LOVE??? I wondered at first if I was reading that right, but yup! That's what it says! It seems a little risqué for 1964, but I am assuming that here it takes on a different meaning from what we understand the phrase to mean today.

According to this Dictionary of Sexual Terms and Expressions, "making love" prior to the 1950s was just another term for courting and flirting. Mid-century it started to take on a connotation of actual intercourse. Hmmm... so according to this interpretation, the romance comics were either behind on their lingo or on the forefront of sexual expression. I tend to think its the former, as this story was only published a decade after the implementation of the Code.

I have never come across the phrase in any other romance story I have read, but then again, I stick to the later romance. I think I will have to go on a hunt for some earlier romance issues to see if it creeps up anywhere else! I am going to look further into this and do some more research. Hopefully in the not-so-distant future I will have an update for you!

Monday, July 6, 2009

CAC Presentation Update

Hi everyone! I hope you had a fun and relaxing fourth of July weekend! I know I enjoyed having an extra day off work to continue to prepare my presentation for the Comic Arts Conference (CAC) in San Diego that takes place in a couple of weeks!

I thought I would share a few images that I will be using for the presentation to give you a better idea of what I will be speaking about. Basically, the presentation I will be making continues my mission of preserving the memory of romance comic books and the creative teams that published them throughout the 1960s and 1970s. I will be highlighting Win Mortimer, Don Heck, Gene Colan, Alex Toth and Jim Steranko and the art that they created for the romance genre in the '60s and 1970s. These artists are usually recognized for their superhero work, but often times not mentioned for their contributions to romance comics. In many cases, the romance art these artists did was as good as or
better than their superhero work, and they should certainly be appreciated for that.

Winslow Mortimer known for his Superman
and Batman covers also drew a ton of romance!
Young Romance #206 (July/August 1975)

"My Heart Broke in Hollywood" is the only
romance story Jim Steranko drew.
But my oh my, it is breathtaking!
Our Love Story #5 (June 1970)

Alex Toth's creative genius is evident even in his romance work.
Secret Hearts #143 (April 1970)

If you happen to be at the San Diego convention on Saturday feel free to stop by the CAC and come take a look at my presentation. It will be an informal discussion type thing and I will be there to chat and answer questions. Afterward, I will share the full presentation on here so those who weren't in San Diego can take a look too!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Love Story Graffiti

It is not unusual to occasionally find a comic book that has in some way been drawn on, cut up, or had a character altered by a reader sometime long ago. This is especially true when it comes to romance comics. Sometimes I will buy a book and not have time to look inside and when I finally do, I realize that a character's face has been scribbled on. For some reason, girls also liked to write their names on the covers. For lack of a better description, lets call this phenomenon "love story graffiti."

Last night while working on my presentation for San Diego (which involves a lot of scanning), I came across this spectacular example of "love story graffiti" which I just have to share. In this particular case the pages of the book itself were not altered, but there was an addition made to the book! In between the pages of My Love #3 (January 1969) were these scathing words...

Let me transcribe the first side for you:

Well you don't seem to take it out on Ann very much, it's always me but, like this afternoon Ann said to me 'Go get Susie and her math paper'
So it not always me and Ann for Sally get's it from Ann and I and sometimes you, but maybe you don't notice. How mad are you?
I noticed that you crossed out "I'm not really mad at you deep down." And how long will you stay mad at me if you are.
Write back"

"I know It isn't you all the time it is Ann."

"Dear Deannea,
I believe you because during the Science Test I saw you doing some on your own. Ann probab-
ly told you to put down the..."

Now for the flip side my friends...

"answers on your paper I had. Today in math you worked some on your own but all Ann did was copy. I forgive you

"I do too
Mik (crossed out)

"Ann don't do anything by herself.

I'm doing Math now!"


Wow folks! Ok, I don't know about you, but I am completely confused! Basically what I think is going on here is that Ann is a copycat and Susie doesn't want Mickey to be mad at her.

This letter is in my eyes, a gem. Who knows when it is from?! I like to pretend that when they weren't busy in math class or taking science tests these young ladies read Marvel romance comics and this letter just happened to be thrown between the pages just as the dismissal bell rang.


Just as I was about to call this post quits and press the publish button, I opened up the issue one more time and this came tumbling out...

This is obviously the note that started it all. Shame on you Ann
for leaving your folder at home! If only you had known that you were starting!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Burning Questions with Mr. Mortimer

I believe these are rhetorical...

"Questions" from Young Love #108 (February/March 1974)
Art by Winslow Mortimer