Sunday, August 30, 2009

Meet Marc!

Most every romance comic book published had some incarnation of an advice column. Usually they were written from the viewpoint of a female character, with each title having a signature columnist. Some memorable ones from the '60s and '70s include "To You...from Carol Andrews" (Falling in Love), "Suzan Says" (Our Love Story and My Love), and Page Peterson's "Do's and Dont's of Dating" (Young Romance). Most tried to give honest and kind advice, saving harsh words and criticism for only those letters that truly required it. Not Marc though. Oh no, not Marc.

"Marc - On the Man's Side" debuted in Young Love #90 (December 1971) and ran in the romance title for quite some time. Marc, though anything but kind -- was honest. Brutally honest. Read the introductory column below to get a feel for Marc's acid-tongued style of love advice!

Marc's debut makes me wonder if these letters were in fact real, or if they were created by DC to get a jump start on the column. I tend to think that this first batch was planted in order to generate reader response. However it started, this column was obviously a way to get readers riled up and create dialogue between them and the comic book. It certainly work, as in subsequent columns Marc went farther and farther to insult almost every reader that wrote in to him. That in turn generated more letters and even attempts to get rid of Marc through polls! Though we may cringe today, it was a pretty smart marketing tactic in order to create a return audience.

The thing I find most interesting is that DC chose to use a picture of a real person to portray the character Marc (and later - his counterpart, but we will save that for another post). Most other advice column characters are represented by an illustration of the advice giver, making the case of Marc a bit unusual. Who is this Mike Nesmith looking character? Was it a stock photo or a photo of an employee at DC? Where is "Marc" now? If I ever find out the answers to these questions, I will be sure to share!!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Link Time!

When I was in San Diego last month, I met a ton of really great people who were fans of romance comics. One of those people was Michael D. Hamersky of the Comic Book Collectors Blog, a blog chock-full of reviews, news and other fun stuff. Michael picked up a copy of my booklet, and did a nice review of it. Read it here!

I am at a four day long work conference right now, but when I return I have an important introduction to make. His name is Marc. You may already be acquainted with his "advice," if you are a fan of DC's Young Love. That's all I will say for now, so stay tuned!!!

Have a wonderful rest of the week everyone, and if you have some time you should try your hand at Pat Curley's grab bag quiz at his blog -- Silver Age Comics. Make me proud, romance fans! :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jack Kirby's Many Hats

For a delightful post displaying the many hats drawn by Jack Kirby (and he sure drew a lot) check out Tuesday's post on Bully Says: Comic Oughta Be Fun! It is positively hilarious! I thought I would take a look through the romance comics I have with Kirby art, and what I found was a multitude of men's and women's hats. Kirby sure was generous when it came to depictions of hats in romance stories, but I found this one to be particularly intriguing!

Hat #5,002

This festive hat modeled by Anne in Love Romances #103 (January 1963), is sure to be the hit of the party with its capabilities of being used as a chip and salsa dispenser -- or bundt cake pan! That's right Anne, it will be over in a few minutes, as fellow party goers will be unable to resist your snack hat!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Romance Under the Covers - Patsy Walker #122 (August 1965)

I don't read many new comic books, but while at the comic book store last week I decided to pick a few up. I ended up buying the first and second issues of Marvel Divas, mostly to check out what all the commotion has been about the past couple of months. I was pleasantly surprised with the first two issues... they were rather amusing and with Patsy Walker as one of the main characters, I am intrigued enough to pick up the third issue when it comes out.

Marvel Divas version of Patsy Walker

Patsy has changed quite a bit through the years, going from a feature in the romance magazine, Miss America to teen-humor comic star to Hellcat in Avengers and now Divas. One thing that hasn't changed is her status as a stunning redhead!

Miss Walker has been the star of various titles, most of which are considered teen-humor. Her solo title which ran from 1945 to 1965 changed throughout the course of its run, with the later issues resembling romance comics. Some may not consider Patsy Walker a romance comic, but it seems to have all the necessary requirements -- fashion, romance, and tears! With the later issues (like the one I am reviewing here) I tend to err on the side of romance.

Issue #122 is the third to last issue in the series. Although the storyline was nearing a close at this point, I still had no trouble delving in and becoming familiar with the characters. Truth be told, I primarily picked it up because I love the cover!

The issue has one 18 page story, "No Greater Love!" with art and story by Al Hartley. In it, Patsy's boyfriend Buzz is back stateside in the hospital after being wounded in Vietnam. Patsy is torn up because she didn't know he was fighting in the war. Instead, she figured he had run off with another girl and hadn't bothered to contact her. As it turns out though, his letters were just delayed.

Thing is, Patsy never wrote him since she didn't even know he had left the country. She feels guilty about this and the fact that she dated other guys while Buzz was away (since she thought he was two-timing her), makes her feel even more guilty. When she visits Buzz at the hospital it seems as if he has been changed by the war. Not only does he bear outward scars, but the scars on his psyche are evident as well. Patsy is determined to figure out why Buzz is acting so strangely, while Hedy (Patsy's roommate) tries to explain that it is probably just from "battle fatigue."

The girls decide to have Buzz over for dinner at their place. He explains to Patsy, Hedy and Nan (Buzz's nurse and their girlfriend) that he is being sent back to Vietnam for another year. Hedy and Nan go off, leaving the young couple to discuss their future. It turns out not to be such a bright one for Patsy -- as Buzz reveals that he is no longer in love with her.

As Buzz leaves, Hedy confronts him wanting to know what was up with his "cock-and-bull story" about not loving Patsy anymore. He replies tersely, as he only wants to protect Patsy in the end -- in case something terrible happens to him in Vietnam.

Although a bit slow in the beginning, the story picks up towards the middle and is quite enjoyable. I definitely was on the edge of my seat when I finished, and I am anxious to read how the whole thing pans out with Buzz.

It is obvious from reading just this one issue that fashion is one of the predominant underlying themes of Patsy Walker. Readers were encouraged to send in their fashion designs, making for a colorful array of changing outfits for the characters. As someone who was constantly designing and drawing outfits when I was little girl -- I can see how Marvel's approach would have really invested the reader and encouraged them to pick up the book time after time.

I do find it interesting that the fashions in this issue lean more towards the fashions of the early 1960s (fitted top, cinched waist and full or A-line skirt) rather than transitioning into the more "mod" style of the mid-sixties. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the readers designing the outfits were going off of what was around them (mothers, classmates, etc.), and not necessary the British youthquake movement or haute couture styles.

Though maybe not my most favorite art, I did like the story of this issue. Though not a typical romance comic, it does fit rather nicely into the genre. Besides the story and a letters page, it was also was packed with fun fashion extras such as the above pin-up page and a couple pages of "heavenly hairdos," also designed by readers. In the future I will definitely be looking for more Patsy Walker!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In the Year 1970

House Ad from Time for Love #15 (March 1970)
Nope, that blue blob isn't an outline of an upper Midwest state --
it's a locket chain!

During the first year of the 1970s, Charlton did indeed lead the "love parade" with eleven romance titles, compared with DC's eight titles (this includes a Super DC Giant) during the same year and Marvel's two. Below is a breakdown of all of the titles that were published in 1970 from comic book companies across the board.

  1. Career Girl Romances
  2. Hollywood Romances
  3. I Love You
  4. Just Married
  5. Love Diary
  6. Romantic Story
  7. Secret Romance
  8. Sweethearts
  9. Teen-Age Love
  10. Teen Confessions
  11. Time for Love

  1. Falling in Love
  2. Girls' Love Stories
  3. Girls' Romances
  4. Heart Throbs
  5. Secret Hearts
  6. Young Love
  7. Young Romance
  8. DC Super Giant (#S-17)

  1. My Love
  2. Our Love Story

It's pretty crazy to think that in the year 1970 only three companies were publishing romance comics, when just ten years earlier there had been eight companies publishing comics in the genre!

Monday, August 17, 2009

It Happened at Woodstock!

Forty years ago today, the last bands played the Woodstock festival and the people who made the pilgrimage out to Bethel, New York began to head home. The event was not quickly forgotten however, and was immortalized in a documentary film, comic books, and yes -- cheap costume jewelry.

This advertisement from 1971 appeared in several romance comic books. Notice how it capitalizes on the slogan from the documentary film released in '70 -- "No one who was there will ever be the same" and uses the dove-on-guitar imagery from the poster.

1971 was evidentally a big year for Woodstock memorabilia. The same year as the jewelry ad made its rounds, Marvel released a story called "It Happened at Woodstock!" which appeared in My Love #14 (November 1971).

Marvel's story by Gary Friedrich with art by Gray Morrow (which will make you jump out of your seat and say WOW, by the way) is a more sophisticated tale than its DC counterpart. Read the whole story at The Golden Age of Comic Book Stories blog (thanks so much to fellow romance blogger Jarett Kobek for the heads up) (UPDATE: this story can now be read at the blog, Shades of Gray), and be prepared to be blow away by Morrow's gorgeous depiction of the festival. I personally think it is a really interesting story, if you can forgive the fact that the splash page says the event happened during the summer of 1968. Other than that error, the story serves as a pretty darn good historical piece. It documents not only the artists that performed at Woodstock, but the social mores surrounding the expectations for young women at the time to "settle down" and begin domestic life. It is definitely one of my favorite romance stories with some of the best art that came out of the genre. Be sure to check it out!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I Found My Love at the Woodstock Festival!

As promised last month, I am here to bring you the story, "I Found My Love at the Woodstock Festival!" from Falling in Love #118 (October 1970). On this date forty years ago, the world of popular music was literally rocked by the start of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. The comic book industry took notice and published a few romance stories with Woodstock as the setting.

Fourteen months after the event, DC published this story (with art by Murphy Anderson) about two college students, Sally and Robin and their experiences at the festival.

Robin is an outspoken young man. After leading a student demonstration he finds himself suspended, and his girlfriend Sally is not happy about the situation. When they talk about predicament he is in, Robin tells Sally that she is too uptight -- just like the university that reprimanded him. Robin says that he has to think and figure things out, basically he needs some space. He says that he will call her when he has figured things out.

A few weeks later, Robin calls Sally and asks her to meet him at Woodstock. She agrees, and on the next page we witness her stuck in the infamous traffic jam while on her way. Luckily she meets "practicing hippie," Zack Barton who whisks her away on his motorcycle.

After Zack and Sally scope out the scene, Sally frantically breaks off and looks for Robin. As she passes by people's campfires, couples kissing in cars, and a few guys she thought were Robin, Sally slows down and realizes she might not find him. Zack appears with a broken umbrella and hippie kisses for the tearful young lady.

Sally breaks away from Zack's embrace and runs through the torrential downpour and finally stumbles upon Robin, who is less than happy to see her -- and has a girl in his arms. Crushed, she runs back to Zack.

Sally begins to cry and as Zack takes her in his arms, she realizes that she has to do her own thing and not worry about Robin. Just as she is starting to let go and enjoy the festival, it comes to a close. Zack packs up his tent, hops on his bike and gives her his parting speech:

"I'll give you a lift back to your wheels, but then it's Splitsville! We
touched, now this scene's melted! Lots more groovy ones to make!"

And just as quickly as Woodstock started, it ends and Sally is yet again alone. As she walks by some other people leaving and discussing the festival, she realizes she too has changed and will never be the uptight girl that she once was.

The somber tone of the story is quickly interrupted by a surprise O. Henry style ending. A helicopter descends and Robin pulls Sally in. He explains the presence of the girl that was in his arms. As they fly away, they both recount how they were changed by Woodstock.

Forty years ago today, the iconic festival ran until the wee hours of the morning closing with Joan Baez singing "We Shall Overcome." Woodstock's impact on American popular culture was huge, resulting in a documentary film, two albums, an upcoming movie based on the events and even a clothing line currently available at Target stores. Luckily for fans of romance comics, it also resulted in a few stories that captured the aura of love that prevailed that August weekend.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Electric Romance

Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar passed away today at the age of 94. Also known as the "Wizard of Waukesha" (the town where I also grew up), his invention inspired thousands to make beautiful music -- both in real life and in romance comics.

Young Love #112 (October/November 1974)

Young Love #125 (May 1977)

I Love You #130

Rest in Peace, Les!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chicago Comic-Con 2009

I am back from Chicago Comic-Con 2009 folks! I had a blast! Saw some old friends, made some new ones and bought a ton of romance comics -- about sixty! Like I mentioned in my previous post, Chicago is a great convention for picking up romance books. There were a ton of dealers, and with the show's new image and branding campaign there seemed to be more dealers with back-issues than ever.

I liked the feel of the show overall. It had such a warm, intimate feel to it, but perhaps that is just because San Diego (the exact opposite of intimate) was just the other week and was still fresh on my mind. Things were really hopping in Artist Alley, with lots of friendly people coming by to say hello at the Urban Sequence table, where I was helping to promote Super Human Resources. We sold out of books by early Sunday morning, leaving Justin and I free to walk around the convention. While I was looking for books, Justin was in the market for original art. He found a piece from our favorite artist...

Justin scored this beautiful Winslow Mortimer page from
Young Romance #198 (March/April 1974)

He sure found a great piece, and it was at a really decent price. Funny thing though was that the dealer had it marked as an Estrada piece, but it is definitely a Mortimer inked by Mortimer. The same dealer, Anthony's Collectibles had an entire portfolio of original art from romance books, which was great fun to flip through. Justin is going to have it framed and hang it up on the wall in our reading room, so luckily I will get to enjoy it too!

I did something at this show that I have never done before. I bought romance comics from the 1950s! I thought it would be a good idea to have a few, if only for comparison's sake. They are pretty beat up, but should be fun to read anyway.

Overall, it was a really nice con. It almost felt like it did years ago before it was a Wizard show, just on the larger side. Anyone else go to Chicago? What did you think of the rebranding of the convention? Did you buy any romance comics?!

By the way... be sure to vote in the new poll! :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Missing in Action - AKA Chicago Comic-Con!

Hey everyone! Sorry I've disappeared for a few days! I drove up to Chicago on Thursday and have been at the convention ever since! I am having a great time at the show formerly known as Wizard World Chicago, and finding a TON of romance comics! Over the past couple of years I have found that this convention is amazing for scooping up romance books at great prices, and this year is no exception. So far I have found about 45. We will see what tomorrow brings!

One other thing... the results of the poll are in!!! Twenty readers voted and out of the choices of Jay Scott Pike, Matt Baker (from the wrong time period, but that's ok!), Winslow Mortimer, Ric Estrada, and Don Heck our winner is... drum roll please... Wait! It was a tie between Pike and Baker -- both with six votes each. Following close behind was Estrada with five votes. Thanks for voting if you got the chance! If not, don't worry because I'll have another poll up soon!

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend! I will be back Tuesday with a full convention report!!! :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Survey Time - The Man I Want

We have to thank the young lady who didn't rip this survey page out from her issue of Young Romance #172 (June/July 1971) and send it in!

I can imagine a number of girls would have sent this in. DC was smart to involve their audience and make them feel like they had a stake in what they purchased and read. I would love to have seen the results!

I myself would have written in a contender based on the illustration -- the orange tie wearing type!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fashion Files - The Shorty Nightgown

Sweet dreams!!!

Gorgeous fashion spread with ingenious layout
Young Love #79 (March/April 1970)