Thursday, February 18, 2010

Black + White = Heartbreak!

I was going to wait on posting this very important story, "Black + White = Heartbreak!" from Girls' Love Stories #163 (November 1971) until a later date, but fellow romance comic blogger KB did a post yesterday at Out of This World that has encouraged me to post this story now instead of later.

The story KB covered, "Full Hands Empty Heart!" from Young Romance #194 (July/August 1973) tells the story of the love between a young African-American nurse and a white doctor. At the end of his post, KB posed the question:

Were there any earlier inter-racial kisses, romances, or relationships, especially between an African American and a Caucasian, anywhere in comics before this?

To that I can say a resounding yes! Though I do not know if "Black + White = Heartbreak!" is the first interracial relationship in the entirety of the comics medium, it does predate "Full Hands Empty Heart!"

In this Girls' Love Stories feature, we meet the fathers of our two main characters Chuck and Margo. After working together during World War Two, the two men decide to continue their relationship as civilians by starting an auto dealership together.

Not only are the two men business partners, but friends that share the most joyous of life's occasions.

As their two small children grew up into good looking teenagers, and then into thoughtful young adults, it was only natural for handsome Chuck and beautiful Margo to fall in love. Their life-long friendship blossomed into romance and the only thing that kept them apart was their attendance at different colleges. When reunited during summer vacation however, they make their love known to the world.

But the world wasn't understanding. At first it was merely strangers that would ridicule and shun Chuck and Margo.

Eventually though, friends turned into strangers with cold shoulders and icy glares.

Even the young couple's parents can't accept their love for one another.

Chuck announces their plans for marriage, completely shocking both of their parents -- and Margo! They decide to set out right away to look for a place to live, so that they can get married before the fall semester starts. During their apartment search, they are continually harassed by folks who are opposed to their relationship. They are subject to discrimination by landlords who will not rent them an apartment, and Chuck and Margo eventually have to consider settling on a complete dive.

As the lovebirds go to tell their parents they have found a place and are going to get married right away, they overhear their fathers -- who were once the best of friends -- arguing. Margo and Chuck can't bear the strain they have put on their loved ones and Chuck proposes going away to a place that will accept them and their love.

That is where our story ends though. For this pressing topic, DC decided to let the readers decide the fate of Chuck and Margo by holding a contest for the best story resolution.

I am sorry to inform you all that as of yet, I have been unable to track down the issues with the reader responses! Like I mentioned, I was going to save this one (until I had the issues with the responses) but given KB's timely post, I decided to just go ahead and share it. I am going to look high and low for these issues. It may take me a while to find them, but when I do, I will be sure to share! It will be interesting to see the endings fabricated by readers of the time, especially taking into consideration that interracial marriage had only been legal in all states since the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision that knocked out restrictions on marriage hinged on race.

When we remember what the Civil Rights Movement entailed, I think we often think of the struggles endured by separate groups of people. "Black + White = Heartbreak!" reminds us of the battle fought by those that believed that people of different races could bring their love for one another into fruition, and have it be accepted and welcomed by society.


  1. Quite a story! What year was this published? I am impressed with how the story was developed and how many conflicts occured between their family and friends and the prejudice of the community and outsiders. It set up many questions with no resolution. Was there a follow up story, aside from the reader contest?

    I'm not certain of the writer, but the art is from the largely unheralded Werner Roth (read more about him in my Alter Ego article a few years back) with inks by Vince Colletta.

    While the story was very daring for its time, there appears to be some form of censorship/editorial interference in the last panel of page 4. It looks like the art was altered so that the coulple was not kissing.

    Thanks, Jacque, for a wonderful and educational post.

    Nick C.

  2. i missed your comic-cast due to half-pipe and figure skating events, but have not missed a single post since I joined Blogger, and I have to say this post is one of your best, most eye-opening. Even though we lived through this era, as kids, we couldn't always SEE the complexities of the Adult world around us. Yet, some of these problems are now revealed to be quite universal, no matter what time period we're a'born in !

  3. Jacque: Mmmmmm - brilliant post and a great find! I don't have any Girls' Love Stories from the 160s after 163, only some in the 170s. I'll dig the latter out and see if anything to do with this story is in any of them but I'm guessing that's too far on in the series. I have a complete scan of 168 and there's nothing mentioned in there, if that helps. This story is a really strong statement and is indicative of DC's ability to eclipse Marvel in terms of relevancy. This one's going on my list of 'must haves'.

  4. Nick: This one was published in 1971. From what I know, there was no "official" ending -- just the reader responses. I would like to know how the writer would have ended it, though! Roth, eh? What issue of Alter Ego is your article in, I will check it out for sure! I am glad you noticed the non-kiss in this book. I am trying to find a pattern and give some dates on it -- many (but not all) of the African-American romance stories I have found do not have the characters kissing, but rather engaged in rather platonic embraces. Once I look into this more, I will be sure to post on it. Thanks for reading!!!

    Lysdexicuss: Thanks! This is an important romance story, definitely worth sharing and though it was published a number of years now -- it is just as relevant as it was then.

    KB: Ok, good to know. The last mention of the story should be in #167 from what I can tell. Can't wait to find out for sure!!! I hope you can find a copy. It is definitely one of the highlights of romance comics.

  5. Nick: I see what you mean about the holding back on the inter-racial kissing. I got the same impression as I was reading Young Romance 194. I think the kiss rate in same race romances in comics is usually much higher. It would be worth doing a few counts to put an actual statistic to this. If I get time...

  6. This comic came out 40 years ago and yet little has changed in the world of comics. Where are the interracial relationships in today's comics?

  7. Jacque: Are you planning to feature either or both of Girls' Love Stories 159 or Young Love 87? I ask because I do not want to inadvertently post about a comic that's already on your list of stories you are planning to write about. These two show racial integration but not inter-racial relationships - I know you have Young Love 87 but I wasn't sure if you had GLS 159. Anyway, since there's no shortage of material to write about it is no problem for me to choose something else. If you're going to feature these issues I'd rather read what you write about them than write about them myself.

  8. KB: I believe I've seen another instance of this occuring in a 1970s Marvel romance comic (Our Love Story or My Love)although if I remember correctly, it was an African-American couple that was embracing and not kissing. This also looked like it was altered after it was pencilled by the artist (in this instance Gene Colan). I will track it down when I get a moment.

    Nick C.

  9. Jacque,

    That was Alter Ego # 42 from a few years back, where I wrote articles on Werner Roth, Paul Reinman and Don Heck. I was very pleased to have tracked down Werner's son, Gavin, who wrote about his father. Sadly, he passed away recently.

    BTW, the Yancy Street Gang (Barry Pearl, Michael Vassallo, and brother John Caputo)got together this weekend at Doc V's house. They all give a big "HI!" to Jacque, our honorary member!

    Nick C.

  10. Nick: thank you - I would definitely like to see that.

  11. Will: Are there any current interracial love stories going on in comics today? I am stuck under my 1960s/'70s rock, so I really have no clue! Examples, anyone?

    KB: Thanks for asking! I was going to eventually do GLS 159. Not sure when, but eventually. The other one is your area of expertise -- nurses! Go for it! :)

    Nick: I am trying to think of the Colan story you are talking about. I can't, so be sure to let me know when you find out. About Alter Ego 42 -- great! I have that issue, so I will take a look at it. A big hello to the Yancy Street Gang from me!!! Someday, oh someday, I will get to New York again!

  12. Luke Cage (the African-American hero formerly known as Power Man, currently a member of the New Avengers) and his (white) ex-superhero-turned-private detective wife Jessica Jones (whose mature audiences Marvel MAX comic lasted about thirty issues a few years ago) were just included in the site's "Top Ten Marvel Power Couples" ( I think they were couple number 8 or 9. Judging by some of the rather idiosyncratic choices involved, this list could more accurately be titled "The Ten Most Buzzworthy Marvel Couples." The only reason I can see for omitting teen heroes Wiccan and Hulkling, who have been boyfriends practically since the moment they first appeared in Young Avengers several years ago, while including Rictor and Shatterstar of X-Factor, who only just became a couple, is the latter pair's much-blogged-about big gay kiss a few months ago. (As far as I've heard, the private life of the long-speculated-about mutant buddies-turned-love interests has pretty much gone unmentioned on-panel since.) Luke and Jessica themselves may owe their inclusion in the Top Ten list, as well as their involvement with the New Avengers, to the fact that they are both favorite characters of big-name Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis, who created Jessica Jones.

    The Top Ten Couples write-up of Luke and Jessica's relationship is somewhat uninformative--I don't think it even mentions that they have a baby--not to mention a bit rose-coloredly-misleading. The two started out as just friends, then became friends with benefits (at first while Luke was still officially with another [black] woman) in the R-rated "Alias" title before eventually falling in love, having a baby girl, and then getting married (in that order).

    Luke and Jessica are still the only married black/white interracial couple I can think of at either Marvel or DC. Longtime modern-day Flash Wally West, who's white, has been married for quite a while to Korean-American TV reporter-turned-medical student Linda Park, and they had twin children, Jai and Iris, together, before the whole family was written out of current DC continuity as part of the recent "Flash: Rebirth" miniseries re-introducing previous Flash Barry Allen to the DC universe. DC also has a lesbian interracial couple, Anissa Pierce/Thunder and Grace (she doesn't use any other codename) in the team book "The Outsiders." (Thunder is black and Grace is Chinese-American.)

    Danny Rand/Iron Fist, Luke Cage's (white) former superhero partner and co-star in the now-cancelled title "Power Man/Iron Fist," was actually dating Misty Knight, a black female private detective with a bionic arm, for years before Jessica Jones was even officially added to the Marvel universe, much less retconned in as an old friend of Luke's. But I haven't noticed any mention of Misty and Danny's much more conventionally romantic relationship in more recent stories featuring either Danny (who was also briefly involved with the New Avengers) or Misty (who, with P.I. partner Colleen Wing, was one of the central characters in the fifteen- or sixteen-issue team title "Heroes for Hire" a year or so ago). I'm not sure if Misty and Danny are still supposed to be dating off-panel, broke up in some story somewhere that I missed, or are just having their romantic status left ambiguous for the moment until some writer comes along who wants to go into it.

  13. Marfisa: Thank you so much for the illuminating run-down on the current state of interracial romances in the two major universes. When it comes to new comics, I have a hard time following everything -- so I am glad we had you here to fill us in! Thanks again, and if anything new pops up, be sure to let us know!

  14. Re. current black/white romances, Xavin (a Skrull who in human form is dark-skinned) and Karolina Dean (white-skinned alien) of the Runaways come to mind.

    I suspect that Danny and Misty broke up - as most comics couples seem to do these days. There's actually quite a bit in the same vein (here I'll assume we're talking about interracial with one of the partners being black) since the 1980s, such as
    Storm (African-American) and Forge (Cheyenne)
    (not to forget the lesbian undertones to Storm's friendship with Yukio)
    Archangel (white American) and Charlotte Jones (African-American)
    Lucy Lane (Lois's sister) dated, married and had a son by the Daily Planet's Ron Troupe (African-American), but currently they are no longer a couple. But for a time Superman had a black brother-in-law...
    During "Civil War" there was a bit of chemistry between Bishop (African-American, part Australian Aborigine) and Val Cooper (white US superpowers bureaucrat, who also has a black ex-husband). In the reality of X-Men: The End, Bishop romanced white-skinned alien Deathbird (they had a daughter).
    In the 1980s Randy Robertson (son of the Daily Bugle editor Joe Robertson) was married to Amanda (white American) which was also a religiously mixed marriage (Amanda was Jewish), however they were divorced in the 1990s to keep Randy young.
    Luke Cage also has a number of ex-lovers, including the Black Cat (white American, off-panel) and, IIRC, Colleen Wing (American of half-Chinese, half-Japanese ancestry - IIRC they dated in the 1970s). Shouldn't be surprised if he and She-Hulk also shared a bed at one time.
    There are a few characters who are the result of (off-panel) interracial romance, notably
    Sunspot (Brazilian, father black, mother white)
    XS (of the LSH, father black, mother white). She's the granddaughter of Barry and the cousin of Bart Allen; perhaps the most well-known black blood relative of prominent white characters.

    Re. Shatterstar/Rictor: Well, those two have been the subject of much fan speculation since before Hulkling was a twinkling in his creators' eyes, so it may actually be that more fans were involved with them than Hulkling/Wiccan.

  15. Menshevik: Another informative batch of info on current interracial relationships in comics. Thank you!!! Now, if someone would just write a book on this topic... :)

  16. When are you planning to write about some of the 50's romance books? Those were the real "Colletta girls" who could knock your socks off, before he started doing less-inspired stuff.

  17. Hiya there, liquidwater. I try to stick to the '60s and '70s, but who knows. Maybe someday! Keep on eye on the blog Out of This World, which tends to do '50s romance stories.

  18. Is the Lucy Lane/Ron Troupe marriage still supposed to be in continuity? There was zero mention of it, or anything else in Lucy's past beyond her sibling rivalry with Lois and her adoration of her father, the scheming, Kryptonian-hating General Lane, in her recent appearance in the "Who Is Superwoman?" arc in the Superman titles. Ron was so pointedly not mentioned that I more or less assumed that their relationship had been retconned out of existence as a result of DC's recent "Infinite Crisis" event.

    I'm told that the writer and/or editor of Legion of Super-Heroes during the period when XS was introduced said online somewhere that XS's father was actually of Arab descent. (Apparently this was true of most people on the thirtieth-century Earth colony he was from.) As far as I can tell, this information was never actually mentioned in any of the comics where XS appeared. However, my friend Dave and several other African-American posters at the now-defunct AOL Warriors of Color comics discussion folder maintained that this meant that XS and her father were not black, despite their looks.