Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!!

In honor of the holiday, this morning I decided to read my first Gothic romance comic. I bought a couple over the summer, and have been saving reading them for the perfect time. I started with Charlton's Haunted Love #1 (April 1973) simply because the cover by Tom Sutton is really gorgeous.

The two sequential interior stories were alright, one called "Eternal Teacher," and the other, "A Kiss to Save Him from the Grave." The former had an O. Henry ending and the latter was very confusing overall -- in fact, I am not sure it completely made sense!

The genre of Gothic romance comics didn't last long. The first two appeared from DC in 1971, Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love and Sinister House of Secret Love. Both ran for four issues each, before undergoing title changes to assimilate more with mainstream horror comics of the '70s. Haunted Love lasted slightly longer, from 1973 to 1975, with eleven issues. For a more in depth discussion on these Gothic tales, check out Irene Vartanoff's blog entry on them. In the meantime, have a happy and safe Halloween!!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Artist Spotlight - Elizabeth Berube

Elizabeth Berube
Secret Hearts #142 (March 1970)

If you read a lot of '70s DC romance comics, you will undoubtedly come across the work of Elizabeth Berube. Simply signed "Elizabeth," Berube's work stands out amongst other romance artists of the time for its quiet beauty and unique sense of movement.

In The Great Women Cartoonists by Trina Robbins (Watson-Guptill, 2001), Berube is cited as being the "last woman to illustrate a romance comic" -- working on the DC romances until 1974. Elizabeth's contribution to the romance comics included fashion featurettes, horoscope pages, tables of contents and other various intricate and ornamental pieces.

"Beauty on a Budget"
Falling in Love #119 (November 1970)

"Think Thin"
Young Romance #166 (June/July 1970)

I personally am a fan of Elizabeth's artwork -- I think that something about its softness and femininity speaks to me. She did so many featurettes in the romance comics of the 1970s, so I have many examples to share in the future. Until then, I hope you have enjoyed this little taste of her whimsical style!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Changing Logos of Time for Love

In my opinion, Charlton's Time for Love series has one of the more iconic logo sets. Take a look and see what I mean!

This first logo was used for the October 1966 stand alone issue, #53,
as well as issue #1 (October 1967) through issue #22 (May 1971)

The groovy second logo was used for issue #23 (July 1971)
through issue #44 (October 1975)

The last logo for Time for Love was only used for
issue #45 (December 1975) through issue #47 (May 1976)

I am having a hard time choosing which Time for Love logo I like best. All three really appeal to me, but for different reasons. The first seems so classic, feminine, and well, romantic. The second is totally boss with its literal interpretation of the title, and the third just seems so '70s -- and I love it for that reason alone. I can't choose, so I won't even try! Do you prefer one over the others?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Poll Results Are In!

I hope you all enjoyed the interview with Irene Vartanoff! Her responses really got me thinking -- about romance, feminism, comics, etc. I hope it got your wheels churning as well!!!

As the title of this post suggests, the results of the last poll are in! The favorite decade amongst readers for romance comics was (by one vote) the 1960s! Next up with seven votes out of the total 21 was, the 1970s! The '50s didn't come in so far behind with five votes, but it seems the 1940s got left in the dust with only one vote! Better luck next time World War II era romance!

I have posted a new short poll, which will be up for two weeks. Help this lady blogger out by voicing your opinion as to which sorts of topics/features you would like to see more of here on Sequential Crush!

No worries -- it's multiple choice!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Interview with Irene Vartanoff!

Good evening! I promised last night in my post something special for tonight -- and here it is!!! I can't think of anything more special to share with the readers of Sequential Crush than this interview I conducted over email last week with writer and editor, Irene Vartanoff. You will probably recognize her name if you are a fan of Silver Age DC comics. She was one of the beloved letter writers featured in their letter columns during the 1960s! Even if you aren't familiar with her, take a second and read the fascinating tidbits she shared with me concerning her experiences in the comic book industry, her thoughts on romance comics and what she is up to today. I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it!


Sequential Crush: From what I have researched, you got your start in the comic book industry by writing fan letters. How did you make the transition from writing fan letters in superhero titles to working professionally in the comic book industry, and working on romance comics in particular?

Irene: My generation of comic book fans had no comic book stores to go to, so we met each other through letter columns, fanzines, and conventions, which started quite small and thus were great breeding grounds for friendships. My first convention was in 1966, and I made lifelong friendships there. I also corresponded regularly with lots of comics fans, mostly male of course. Many of my comics friends were determined to break into the business, and they lived in the New York metro area. We kept in touch with each other and invited others into our circle. And we made connections with editors, whom we besieged with story ideas and samples while we were still in college. Some of us financed education through writing comics, such as my longtime friend, Mike Friedrich, who wrote Batman.

By the time I was out of college, I had already been a frequent visitor to DC Comics. It was not hard to convince them to give me a try, and in 1971 I worked simultaneously on superhero and romance stories. People at DC were extremely welcoming and I was insufficiently grateful at the time. I was very young, and arrogant enough to dare to go to the big city, but not quite ready for it on several levels. I did not ride out my moments of self-doubt to writing success in comics. I was a sheltered girl from the suburbs who was trying to make it in a strange place as a freelancer, without much support system or money. After a while, I had to take a break and go back home.


Sequential Crush: According to your website, you have worked for both DC and Marvel. Can you elaborate on your time spent with both companies?

Irene: My second try at living in NYC started with a full time job offer from Marvel in 1974 to be Roy Thomas’ assistant. I of course already knew Roy, but the opportunity came via my friend Marv Wolfman, who had married a good friend of mine, Michele Kreps, who was a high school friend of my sister Ellen’s. I had been the female witness at their Long Island wedding; Mark Hanerfeld, a dear, now departed friend, was the male witness. I had kept up with the business even while I was in graduate school. And I made frequent trips to the NYC area, visited the comic book companies, and went to conventions. The job offered stability, so I didn’t have to worry where the rent money was coming from each month. By then I had several sources of social-emotional support, good friends living in the area, and so I took it. I stayed at Marvel for over six years.

I started with various editorial assistant tasks and then moved to being the reprint editor (an assistant editor role) and then into managing reprint production. Then came special projects coordination. I spent most of my career at Marvel in production, supervising a handful of employees and freelancers and teaming with people from other companies to produce joint projects. I did hardcover and paperback books, newspaper inserts, posters, Star Wars reprints, newspaper strips, and more. I also did the infamous cleanup and inventory of the Marvel art warehouse.

I left Marvel in 1980 and went to DC to work for Paul Levitz, whom I had known since he was a young fan. I worked strictly in the business end, doing rights and permissions, writing contracts, and getting involved in licensing opportunities and business development. It was fun, but by then I was eager to work in the romance novel business. So I left in 1982 to freelance for Silhouette Books, and then Berkley and Bantam. I have never been sorry.


Sequential Crush: Romance comic advice columns such as, “Marc – on the Man’s Side” were written from a character’s perspective. Were you instructed to write from the character of Suzan, developing her as a personality, or were you given free rein to answer how you wanted – is Suzan you?

Irene: By the time I was writing Suzan Says, those Marvel comics were strictly reprint. We did it as a trial balloon to see if anybody even cared, and I had editorial input from the other women in the office, especially Michele Wolfman. So the answers were probably a consensus. (After all, what did I know about pre-teenage dating? Nothing.) We got into trouble with management once when somebody sent a joke letter asking if she should have sex with her boyfriend, and we told her to get some birth control. That letter and its answer did not see print. Adults have loosened up in our society considerably since then.


Sequential Crush: Sometimes the letters in the romance columns seem too unbelievable to be true! To what extent were the letters real in the romance columns? Where they primarily answered by men or women?

Irene: All I can talk about is what I did. The letters I answered were 100% real. The Marvel romance comic lettercols were reprints until I started writing them, so those letters could have been fake originally and likely would have been answered by men. But there were always a few women around at Marvel, and it may have been that the lettercols were thrown to them to do. You might ask Flo Steinberg. Anyway, I convinced Marvel to do a new romance letter column instead of the reprints; somewhere, I probably have the memo I wrote pleading the case. But I was wrong to think that it would spark more interest in the comics. The audience seemed to be 12-year-old girls, and not many of them. The romance comics were a moribund product.


Sequential Crush: How much interaction, if any, did you have with the artists drawing the romance comics?

Irene: At the time I was writing romance comics for DC Comics (1971), I saw plenty of artists around the offices, but I didn’t deal with them directly. I knew who they were from being a fan. But DC artists worked from full scripts, and all contact was with the editors.


Sequential Crush: In the comments you left on Sequential Crush regarding the Marvel story on the Women’s Movement, you cite the death of the romance comics as stemming from women not being able to relate to the stories – what direction should the romance comics have taken to ensure their survival, or do you think their decline was inevitable?

Irene: At the time, young women were as divided about what their lives should be as young men were, although we at least did not have to worry about being drafted. Some young women were living sexually liberated lives, and others were not. Some were intent on starting careers, and others were hoping to work only long enough to find someone to marry. And many were sticking a toe into both camps. As I said before, it was a confusing time.

DC Comics made a heroic effort to produce modern, relevant romance comics. But they never dared cross the line into the sexual revolution (or even the social revolution) that was the key to reaching the mass of women. All the comic book heroines were still crying over men and living soap opera lives and hanging out at the country club. There were a lot of underwear shots, too--and not of the men, darn it! Visually, the DC romance comics far surpassed most of what Marvel had to offer, not because they were better drawn (you could hardly improve on Johnny Romita), but because DC dared to use foreign artists and go for a genuinely modern vibe. Thematically, they both had issues.

At the time, a lot of young women were wondering how on earth they could manage to have careers and not alienate boyfriends or their families, and what, if anything, they should give up for love (including virginity), and more. These themes either were not addressed in romance comics, or they were given classic solutions: just quit your job, honey, and let the man decide it all; learn to love the status quo, etc. There was zero discussion of premarital sex; it did not exist in romance comics. We knew that was baloney. Not only were these comics out of touch with our reality, but they were propaganda for a prior reality. Yes, men have always pressured women for sex, but the pressure was far more intense on young women in a more sexually free society than it had ever been, because the negative consequences were lessening. The comics ignored this changed dynamic. He-men who were willing to take care of us the old-fashioned way were in noticeably short supply in real life (they were mostly in Viet Nam, getting killed or messed up), even if we wanted them. And some of us did not. So romance comics more and more seemed irrelevant to the mainstream of American young women, the same young women who might have read romance comics as girls a few years before.

My personal opinion is that the explicit sex that opened out the heroine-hero relationship in romance novels in the 1970s was the key element responsible for their boom. Why sex? Because it was an easier sell than social justice. Women had been raised to sacrifice, not to develop as people or reach out for what they wanted. Even women who knew what they wanted weren’t always ready to admit it to themselves and align with feminist goals. (Heck, they weren’t ready to admit they wanted orgasms, either.) Romance novels, though, did address those issues as well. But the come-on was sex. This could not be replicated by romance comics. If they had switched to a core of social issues themes, they might have alienated their still-confused audience, and if they had switched to more relevant sexual issues, the comics companies risked banning or arrests for producing immoral stories and pornography—because comics were considered a children’s product. Romance novels, meant for adults, could open the bedroom doors, and they did.

So the romance comics remained soap operas, which seemed safe enough but ultimately was a dead end. The problem with the soap was that in the early 1970s, confessions magazines (prose soap opera) were extremely sexually explicit themselves. Not safe at all. Romance comics dared not up the ante to match the confessions. Thus romance comics offered no truth and few thrills as compared with their direct competitors, the confessions, or with romance novels, or with the explicit movies of the day.

A strong line of female-oriented Gothic romances might have worked a few years earlier to transition the romance comic audience, but the Gothic comics eventually produced were mostly male-oriented weird mystery tales. And they were all started too late, after the subgenre had peaked, and after the romance comic audience had wandered away. I’ve covered this in detail in the blog at, “Why Gothic Romance Comics Stumbled.” Basically, the Gothic trend peaked around 1965, and comics finally noticed Gothics only years later. This would be like doing vampire love stories à la Twilight (but from a male point of view) five years from now. Too late. Also, when DC Comics did romance comics in the old days, and into the 1970s, they had female editors. Coming out with Gothic comics with male editors and male writers, years after the bloom was off the genre, compounded the error.

The decline of romance comics was not inevitable, but it would have taken a visionary with nerves of steel to turn them in a profitable direction. Our whole society was in flux; no one knew what would happen next. It’s not surprising that no one could steer romance comics to a new day.


Sequential Crush: How did you feel about men writing romance stories–were they legitimate authors of stories for young women?

Irene: A truly excellent writer ought to be able to write from the perspective of either gender, any age, and any personality, race, national origin, or whatever. And most men do not live alone; they live with women. The men writing romance comics in the 1960s, for instance, were mostly married men living in the suburbs. They could always check out point of view with their wives, or observe their daughters. But always, they would be filtering it through their own perspective. So that’s one strike against men writing romances for women.

The second strike is that most writers are not excellent, and therefore are not flexible enough to write beyond their instinctive biases. So in general I don’t think much of men writing women’s fantasies, or women writing men’s. I have no longing to see how various currently famous male comic book writers would write new romance comics for women. I’m interested in the authentic female experience. I think it is part of feminism that we should not have our fantasies dictated to us or even related to us by men. It is important for women to learn what their fantasies are, rather than be told what they should be, or worse, what they should accept as a happy ending.


Sequential Crush: What is your opinion when it comes to romance comics being relegated to the sidelines, and considered less “important” or “respectable” than superhero comics of the same period?

Irene: Everything women do or like is considered less important than what men do or like. To me a telling example of male literary bias is the way P.G. Wodehouse’s perfectly pleasant comedic novels were elevated to the status of literature with a capital L when they’re just entertainments. And were written as such. But they are entertainments for men, and thus, have stature. Oh, boo hoo.

Truth is, I can’t get riled up about this anymore. It still bothers romance writers, I know, even though they earn far more money than most writers in other genres because romances are so popular and widely reprinted throughout the world. But when simply reading comics of any kind meant that you were reading tainted literature that could rot your morals—according to Wertham—the fact that romance comics were mostly ignored was hardly important to me. At least they were beautifully drawn, and much of the allure of comics for me was visual.

As a business decision, ignoring more than 50% of your potential customers (that would be females) might seem stupid. But if you have no clue how to attract those customers, it’s smart. It costs less to launch a comic and aim it at 25 year-old men if you know that market well because you are a 25-year-old man or think and act like one. If you try to please both men and women in a shallow, careless, or know-it-all manner, then you end up with rom-com movies that please no one. Very bad ones, or is that understood?

On the other hand, if sales of your male-oriented products are tanking, then maybe you should reach out to the female audience. Japanese and Korean manga publishers don’t seem to have any problem selling plenty of imports to American girls and women, just as, years ago, Harlequin sold British Commonwealth imports to Americans. But American comics publishers today haven’t figured it out. The stories must have the genuine American female romantic sensibility, and even women working in American comics today often do not have it. After all, you don’t usually succeed in a male-oriented business by espousing a female point of view. This country is long overdue for genuine women’s comics, but they are not likely to be produced by current comic book insiders.


Sequential Crush: You now blog about romance novels. Do you see an intersection between the romance comics of the 1960s and ’70s and romance novels?

Irene: There’s too much to say about their similarities and differences. I’ve covered some of it in the blog in the past. Generally, the romance comics of the 1960s and what few were produced in the 1970s did not parallel romance novels; they paralleled soap operas. Sure, there were the standard secretary-in-love-with-her boss stories that also appeared in romance novels, but novels usually had some kind of suspense element as the main plot driver. In fact, most American-written contemporary romances in the 1960s had romantic suspense plots. Only Harlequin was content to let the entirety of their plots revolve around the romantic relationship; but those were not stories by or about American women. By contrast, Gothic novels often were American in origin (the late great Phyllis A. Whitney being a major example of an American Gothic romance writer) and had strong themes about trust and about how men were not supporting (emotionally or intellectually) the women they claimed to love. I’m pretty sure I’ve done a blog essay on how the heroes would keep dismissing the heroine as hallucinating the many attempts to kill her, for instance. One of the graphic novellas I wrote for (as Nazalie Austin), “The Beaufort Ghost,” is a straight Gothic; the hero does not believe that bad things are happening to the heroine, which causes her to have a crisis of faith in him. He’s quite the selfish so-and-so. Romantic suspense novels generally hinged on the same question: could the heroine trust this man with her life? The men usually turned out to be undercover FBI agents.

Romance comics at the time were not like that. During a period when romantic suspense (the genre to which Gothics belong) reigned supreme, there was none in romance comics. They seemed to be stuck in dating games; the heroines mostly lived at home and did not do anything but socialize and yearn. There of course were some classic wish-fulfillment tales like the aforementioned secretary in love with her boss who feels inferior to the glossy society girl he dates. It was sheer soap opera stuff. It’s true that the glamorous “other woman” did show up routinely both in romance comics and in romance novels until the 1980s. There is always a place for a bitch character in a world in which women compete against each other for men. But that dynamic no longer exists in contemporary romance novels, because women now see that they have other options in life besides marrying a man with a steady income.


Sequential Crush: What other projects are you currently working on?

Irene: I use blogs to explore many topics that interest me, at essay length. The romance blog is part of the site, so technically it’s not mine. The personal finance blog, Lose Your Money Blues, is strictly mine. And, yes, on it I talk personal finance and simplifying your life, and more. When I’m not blogging, I’m writing novels, as yet unpublished. So far I’ve got one that’s a light superhero fantasy novel melded with a gentle roman à clef plot about the comic book business, and two novels that are what are called women’s fiction—about several women of different ages with various intertwined issues to resolve. And I’m still in the midst of writing a historical novel (not a romance) about a girl observer at Henry VIII’s court during the rise of Anne Boleyn. I’m also working on a sexy time-travel romance involving the Tudor century. And soon I’ll be starting something new, probably romantic suspense, as it happens. I’ve set an ambitious writing schedule for myself for the immediate future, and it is very gratifying to see that I am managing to stick to it.

I’d love to write more romance comics, but no one seems to be doing anything new in that arena lately. If I could draw, I would publish web romance comics myself. I adore comics and always will. I am at peace with the lack of a major supply of American comics for women, although I do wish it was otherwise. But I worry that the age of illustrators has passed, and with it, the top-notch artists who could draw glossy, sexy women and men, plus fashionable, attractive clothing and settings, thus, suitable objects for romantic fantasy. I look at my old Lois Lane comics done by the wonderful Kurt Schaffenberger and wish there was anyone today who could come close to matching him. Or anyone who even cared to. Leonard Starr and a few others are still alive and working. But where are the romance comic stories for them to draw?


A huge thank you to Irene for answering all of my questions in such depth, and with such enthusiasm and vigor! I don't know about you, but her words have definitely given me a lot to think about and certainly add to my knowledge of the industry! Be sure to check out Irene's website to stay up to date on her current projects!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Romance Quiz Ad

Well friends, it looks like I may have started to succumb to whatever cold thing is going around -- so I am gonna try to nip it in the bud, and head to bed early. I did want to share this groovy house ad though, from Girls' Romances #131 (March 1968).

If you answered "No" to all of these questions, then well,
Young Love #66 just isn't for you!

Be sure to tune back in tomorrow night. I have a very exciting little something lined up, that I think you will enjoy immensely! Until then...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rest in Peace, George Tuska (1916-2009)

I was offline most of the day today and so, I just heard about George Tuska's passing. He lived to be 93, attending conventions up until the end I hear.

Besides his freelance work for Marvel -- working on such titles as Iron Man, Luke Cage, and Planet of the Apes, Tuska penciled a hefty amount of romance comics for DC, penciling both interior and cover art. Though his work on romance comics may not be as stylized as some, Tuska's ladies were always beautiful and filled with a sense of motion, as exemplified by one of my favorite Tuska covers, Heart Throbs #128 (October/November 1970).

"Which Love is Mine?"
Girls' Love Stories # 146 (October 1969)

"Too Young For Love"
Young Romance #172 (June/July 1971)

Tuska's work on the romance books have stood the test of time, and his diverse contribution to comic books will no doubt have an impact on artists and fans for years to come.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Selling Romance - Vel-X Gum

You would be hard pressed today to pick up a women's or fashion magazine that didn't mention weight loss to some degree. Romance comics of the 1960s and '70s were not immune to the advertisement of products to help readers achieve just the right look. This ad for Vel-X gum appeared in Charlton's Time for Love #15 (March 1970).

"Don't miss dating and good times because you're FAT!"

I am guessing there was either a stimulant in the gum, or that the plan entailed chewing excessive amounts to reduce cravings. How ever it worked, the placement of this advertisement would have been seen by even the youngest members of the romance comic book audience -- 12 year olds.

We may sometimes think of the whole diet phenomena as a relatively modern thing, but as evidenced from this ad for Vel-X Gum and the following TAB commercial from the early '70s -- it is anything but new.

At least in the romance comics there were also ads to help the skinny ladies put ON weight. I doubt you will find that today!

Cold Fish!

I don't often post stories in their entirety, but I felt that this one had to be an exception. This five-page beauty comes from Young Love #100 (October 1972). The art is by Alex Niño. I had previously thought it was probably by Tony DeZuniga, but a few wise friends and commentators corrected me!

Read here -- the tale of a girl they called "Cold Fish!"

Gotta dig the bleeding flower on the exclamation point!

I was so excited to find this story. The plot isn't half bad and the art is just out of this world. The coloring is also superb, in my opinion. Another great example of the many gems to be found under the covers of romance comics!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Quiet Before the Storm

Marc's fifth appearance in Young Love #94 (April 1972) is just as... well, "lovely" as usual!

Perhaps someday I will turn this into a button!

While the last letter written by a student at Russell Sage College seems real enough, the first letter, not so much. Who knows though?

Look for the next installment of "Marc-On the Man's Side," when the girls strike back! It's a good one, I promise!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Changing Logos of Young Romance

Part of what makes romance comics so dynamic and fun to collect are the colorful logos that grace their covers. Throughout the run of any given series, the logos usually changed in design, color, and size -- giving each comic a distinct look. Young Romance was no exception, and its logo changed throughout its run at DC.*

Logo One
Issue #125 (August/September 1963) through
issue #130 (June/July 1964)

Logo Two
Issue #131 (August/September 1964) through
issue #153 (April/May 1968)

Though technically not a different logo, the iconic checkerboard
that appeared on so many DC titles during this time period,
made its way onto the romance books as well.
Issue #141 (April/May 1966) through issue #148 (June/July 1967)

Logo Three
Issue #154 (June/July 1968) through
issue #167 (August/September 1970)

Logo Four
Issue #168 (October/November 1970) through
issue #195 (September/October 1973)

Logo Five
Issue #196 (November/December 1973) through the last issue,
#208 (November/December 1975)

Within these five major logo designs, there were slight variations in size, coloring, and positioning. I myself prefer logo three as it seems the most iconic. I also like the way the letters seem to wrap around one another.

What do you think? Which Young Romance logo is your favorite?

*Young Romance, known as the first romance comic book, was originally created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for Crestwood's Prize imprint. While at Prize, the series ran for 124 issues from September/October 1947 to June/July 1963. The logos of the series while published by Prize, more or less stayed the same throughout the run -- changing little in its first six years.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Link-o-saurus Rex!

Good evening! As I have been catching up on my blog reading from the past few days, I have come across a couple fun discussions on romance comics that you should be aware of!

Over at CBR's Scott's Classic Comics Corner , the column's namesake has put together a really nice post on ACG's recycled romance covers. I haven't had a chance to cover ACG's 1960s romance here yet, but I sure am feeling inspired to buy some after reading Scott's piece!

Check out this clever post featuring early '60s Marvel romance panels set to The J. Geils Band's Love Stinks at the ever entertaining blog, Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun! I wish I could be half as funny!

The last link I have to share is actually from back in August. My fellow romance comic presenter at the CAC in San Diego, Jarett Kobek has made available a link to his presentation from the conference. I neglected to post his slide show directly, which I really should have done right away. Anyway, here is Jarett's incredibly compelling presentation, Introducing the New Teen Swinger: Romance Comics in the Summer of Love.

Be sure to vote on the new poll here at Sequential Crush. There are only 15 days left to let it be known which decade is your favorite era for romance comics!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Betty's Boutique - Part One

You may remember my "Cindy the Salesgirl" posts from back in June. The story below, "Betty's Boutique" is almost exactly the same as the "Cindy the Salesgirl" stories conceptually. In both, a young, fashionable woman is asked to model the newest in clothing styles for her clients -- only to get a surprise explanation when they don't purchase anything.

From what I can tell, "Betty's Boutique" appeared in three separate issues of Girls' Romances. This particular one, drawn by John Rosenberger, comes from issue #142 (July 1969). The Betty stories were all put out after the Cindy stories, so it is obvious which set the standard. Though they are basically the same stories, Betty seems a bit older, and she is the owner of the shop, whereas Cindy seemed to be an employee of a shop.

Hair extensions at no extra cost when you buy a dirndl!
One week only!

I personally am a huge fan of the O. Henry style ending. Having worked in retail though, the reasons for people in real life trying on a bazillion items and not purchasing anything are far less interesting than in these stories, for sure!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

1964 Subscription Form

This house ad with subscription form comes from Girls' Romances #105 (December 1964). If purchased by subscription, readers would get a two cent discount -- not too shabby!

Lucky was the girl who was able to subscribe to all seven titles of DC romance comics for two years. At ten cents a copy (in the United States), with 100 issues -- purchasing them all would have been $10 in 1964 -- just about $70 today.

Considering Seventeen magazine was fifty cents per issue in 1964 (about $3.50 per issue today), DC romance comics were a steal!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Parents Just Don't Understand - Tomorrow is too Late

I am constantly scouring the web, trying to find any and all information about romance comics. From what I have found, some read romance comics and only see the stories that are simplistic tales of girl meets boy, girl waits by the phone for boy to call, girl cries, and so on and so forth. Some only see outdated social mores that are laughable and silly.

I don't. I have read enough romance stories now that I can say that -- yes, there are those stories that are simplistic and frivolous. To say that though and leave it at that, is too much of a generalization. The thing is, every genre has its examples of bad stories, but there are also some really good ones out there that make you feel something. A something that resonates deep down and gets you to think. This four page story, "Tomorrow is too Late" from Young Love #113 (December 1974/January 1975), illustrated by Creig Flessel is one such story.

This short romance tale weaves the reader into the sadness brought on by a young woman's rocky relationship with her mother. It has qualities rather similar to that of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle," which incidentally came out around the same time as this romance story. Hinging on the theme of the passage of time and regret, "Tomorrow is too Late" makes for an unexpected read.

You probably never thought a four page comic book romance story could leave you feeling that depressed, huh? The ending is sad in itself, but I think the abruptness with which the poem-like story ends adds to the tragedy.

Romance comics tend to get dogged on for being only about unrequited, puppy dog love that is kitschy and outdated, but I think this story is to the contrary. The genre can be generalized quite a bit, but it takes finding gems like "Tomorrow is too Late" to realize just how lovable and diverse in subject matter the romance comics from the 1960s and '70s really can be.