Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Was a Teenage Skag!

You may recognize the word "skag" as being a slang term for heroin, but in the '60s and '70s, it meant oh-so-much more! It was also a term for an unattractive girl. Harsh, I know -- but roll with me here...

"Skag!" is the title of the following story from Charlton's Secret Romance #29 (October 1974), drawn by Charles Nicholas and inked by Vincent Alascia. The story chronicles young Joanne and her quest for clear skin, which ultimately becomes a lesson in the importance of self-esteem and confidence.

As Joanne explains to her diary, she had plenty of friends until she was 14 years old, and the breakouts and the name-calling started.

After being called "skag," Joanne looses it, and decides to run away to her cousin's apartment. Her older and wiser cousin -- Lynne, sets her straight and lets her know that pimples aren't forever.

Luckily Lynne recognizes that Joanne could use a break, and some help. Besides taking Joanne to a dermatologist, Lynne sets her straight with a no-nonsense talk about her condition.

Low self-esteem

The road to recovery includes some sort of Caladryl-looking medication, and lots of stretching while wearing a turtleneck leotard.

Though arduous, the strict regime set forth by cousin Lynne works. Joanne gets noticed by not only guys who like pizza, but by guys with shocked looks and large bow-ties.

Bow-tie trumps pizza however, and the new and improved Joanne takes her new beau to meet her parents. All's right with the world!

"Skag!" is a romance story meant not to merely entertain, but to inform and perhaps empower as well. Take control over yourself -- pity is not your friend! I concur, Charlton!!!


  1. Sponsored by 'PIMP-AWAY' (apply directly to your forehead) Also removes Bad-Boyfriends who keep try'n to Ho you out~! Jacque, it is sad but true that, I am only familiar with the old-school definition of Skag. Now, I wanna meet a NEW Skag ! If you really suffer from bad acne, STOP consuming all DAIRY products~ for real for REAL. I know many who have done this, and they clear right up. Some people are super-sensitive to all the steroids and hormones they inject into cows. Ugh... don't get me started !

  2. Jacque: this story is an absolute gem. Thanks for sharing. And I know you're a museum curator, but have you ever thought of doing an MSW online and becoming a therapist in your spare (lol!) time? I love your commentary, on this and all your posts!

  3. The typo in the first line reminds me of one of this week's Post Secret submissions:


  4. Josh: Oops! That is what I get for working on posts when I am already ready for bedtime! Thanks for pointing that out -- fixed!

    KB: Why thank you! You can get a MSW online? Don't tempt me! :)

    Lysdexicuss: Ha! Pimp-away! Good one!

  5. Jacque: Yes, Florida State offers an online MSW. In fact I'm currently mentoring for one of the courses (Evaluation of Social Work Practice) in our online program while I'm working on my PhD, and the course has students from all over the country. Here's the info:


  6. Jacque: Charlton – Yes! I have become a Charlton fan only recently (thanks to our very own - Lysdexicuss!) I really think this pair - Nicholas and Alascia - are criminally overlooked in comics history. They were great, and they so suited one another. I know them mostly from their extensive work in war comics, but their work here has the same pretty, finished look. I have to say, I always thought "skag" was a term local to where I grew up. I had no idea it was internationally accepted! Plus - it was an extremely harsh term - very cruel, and also had implications of promiscuity as well! Damn, Charlton! -- Mykal

  7. I love this one! I think the best part is how blunt Joanne's cousin Lynn is when she tells her that YES she is a Skag but doesn't have to been one. Surely she could have softened the blow a little more.

    Sadly I had written this SAME story up last week for a secondary blog I have been trying had to launch (but work keeps getting in the way) for a few months now.

    You have to love Charlton!

    BTW .. I really love your site and added it to my blog list a few weeks back.

  8. Odd how many of these slang words are all very similar: skag, skank, and slag are all terms that refer to a less-than-desirable woman.

  9. KB: Thanks for the info! Yeah, I am always debating on the whole work thing or going back to school thing for a PhD myself. I figure I will work for a while to sort it out! Good for you though for going the distance!

    Mykal: Skag -- internationally accepted! Ha! Is that anything like a Visa? But no, really... Nicholas and Alascia are probably the best of Charlton romance comics as far as the "classic" look goes. This story wasn't signed, but I find their men instantly recognizable.

    Spectergirl: Welcome to the world of blogging about romance comics! I look forward to seeing your future posts!

    Pat: After a little research I found that slag is the term for the stuff removed off the top of molten metal during the smelting process -- essentially the parts that are impure. All those words are derivatives, I would guess.

  10. Actually I wish I'd known about this story when I was teaching middle school - it would have been assigned reading! And Kathy ends up being one of the beautiful people after all - a real caterpillar to butterfly transformation! But then we'd get into body images promoted by the media, whose conception of beauty, etc. This stuff can also be a minefield.

  11. Boys can be so cruel...but not as cruel as Moms! Right away our girl has to apologize to Mom for being unhappy about her acne-ravaged face!
    "Stop picking at it! What a worthless daughter you are, no fun to be around with all that sobbing and picking!"
    "Sorry, mom! Sorry if my oozing pores make the floor slick!"
    Thanks for being so supportive, Ma!

    I realize they are trying to help girls with self-esteem issues, but the writer's are telling you one thing, how all you need is confidence, while SUBLIMINALLY (or maybe not so)the ultimate moral and what they are REALLY programming into young girls minds is that, even if you look like crap (or are a skag), you can find happiness when you finally land that man by: working out (leg stretches, as you pointed out, ARE good for acne...ok, just kidding), applying loads of time consuming lotions and make-up,i.e.if you try hard enough you will one day be attractive enough to win that most precious of gifts, a guy with raging hormones to maul you on a date.
    Cue happily ever after.

    Fun comic, Jacque. Thanks!

  12. Hi Jacque,

    ok, excuse the ignorance, but what's with the pink patches on her face? Is it some kind of medication? She looks like a Steve Ditko character in those scenes!

    I suspect this story may have been written by the prolific Charlton workhorse Joe Gill.

    Nick C.

  13. KB and Apocolyte: I think both of your comments basically speak to the same topic -- the reinforcement of what is "good" and what makes one worthy by various media sources. Hardly new to comics though, the Victorian era seemed to be the beginning of this phenomena. These beauty/hygiene ads are nice examples of the change from 1800 to today:


    Nick: Why, those pink patches are medication! Joe Gill, eh?

  14. Jacque, slag is also a term for an annoying, pestering woman.

  15. Well in the UK I think 'slag' may be being replaced with 'slapper', at least in certain areas. I don't hear my nieces from Cardiff using the term 'slag' much but 'slapper' is applied quite freely. Slapper is also popular in the Midlands. Probably elsewhere. I has the same connotation as slag but stronger - promiscuity to the nth degree, naturally and automatically promiscuous as if it were the norm, etc. I can just see a modern romance comic with the title "I Was a Teenage Slapper"!

  16. Never heard that one, KB! Back in my day we kept it simple -- 'slut' usually did the trick!

  17. Slapper! I am loving this post! See what you started, Jacque? And KB, you may have single handedly imported some new slang across the pond! I will await its common acceptance. It will be an interesting study: Where will it appear first in public use in the States? How long will it take to reach acceptance in my somewhat long and swampy state, Florida? -- Mykal

  18. ...or the far reaches of rural Indiana, Mykal? When the farmers down here start saying slapper, we will know we are in trouble!

  19. Mykal: if you're in Florida, not long. My kids and nieces have already passed its usage on to some of their friends here in north central Florida. It's only a matter of time... :)

  20. running late on blog reading. in my area back in 1974, skag was not a word to use in polite company.
    and while Charles Nicholas penciled this, the inks arent scratchy enough to be Alascia.

  21. Glad you could join us, Steven! I can see that -- not being Alascia. Some characters do have those little marks for their cheekbones that he would use, but overall it is pretty smooth.

  22. Huh. When I was in high school in my crowd skag meant a nasty sluttish woman. It was the nastiest insult along that line to mean the worst of the worst. It meant being ultra easy combined with being a nasty untrustworthy user person. Much worse than bottle ho or pipe ho. Skag was the penultimate.

    Now I'm grown and see beyond and all that, but it wasn't really a sexually prejudiced term, rather it felt more like calling someone a prick/creep/jerk/ahole/bastard. Somebody who used sex to be mean and manipulative.