The epic "Reach for Happiness!" story-arch made its debut in Secret Hearts #110 (March 1966) with art by the equally epic Gene Colan. Though "Reach for Happiness!" was not the first or last serial for the DC romance titles (the blurb on the cover of this issue is a bit deceiving), it is one of the longest running -- appearing in twenty-nine consecutive issues.
Starring Karen Wilder Summers as the lead protagonist, the series wove together the intricate lives and loves of the inhabitants of Danville Corners in soap operatic fashion. With that quick introduction, I am happy to present to you, the very first episode of DC's roller coaster of an opus "Reach for Happiness!"*
After two years away from home, Karen Wilder Summers returns to Danville Corners. Sick with the thought that no one may even want her back in town, she waits to be picked up by her Godparents, Roger and Lila. But Karen isn't back home just for a visit. It quickly becomes apparent that she is there to stay.
On the ride to Karen's home, they pass by the office of Dr. Greg Marsh. Karen reminisces how she was supposed to become Mrs. Marsh, but was derailed by meeting Frankie Summers who was at the time, a rising Hollywood star. In a flashback, we see Karen and Frankie's whirlwind courtship and subsequent engagement. We are also taken back to the heart-wrenching day when Karen had to tell Greg about her decision to break it off with him.
Upon her arrival to her family home, Karen is greeted (not very warmly, I might add) by her sister, Peggy. Cross with her for leaving home, and marrying a movie star, Peggy blames Karen for their mother's death. But after a few tears and some cold chicken straight out of the fridge, the two sisters seem to come to an understanding.
Once Karen settles in a bit, she goes to visit Greg -- the man whom she so impulsively dropped two years earlier. Surprised to see her, Greg gives his condolences for what happened to Karen's husband.
You are probably wondering -- what did happen to Frankie? Well, one night Frankie and Karen were out on a joyride with Frankie at the wheel. Going faster and faster around the bend, they crashed, and Frankie was thrown out of the vehicle and killed. As readers, we are privy to Karen's horrifying memories (brilliantly illustrated by Colan) but the memories are quickly shut out when Greg asks her to lunch.
So off they go to lunch at their favorite spot. Lunch turns into reminiscing, which quickly turns into slow dancing -- as many of my lunch dates often do!
Karen and Greg's romantic lunch is interrupted by the cruel hands of time, and Greg lets her known he must return to work. Accompanying him back to his office, Karen sits blissfully in the waiting room while he finishes up with his afternoon patients. Her momentary happiness is cut short when in walks red-headed acquaintance, Rita. Thinking Rita is engaged to a man named Ray Silva, Karen starts congratulating her; however, there is a twist in the plot. Rita reveals she is betrothed to none other than Dr. Greg Marsh! Nooooooo!
Intact with a sufficient amount of suspense -- that my friends, is how the first episode ends. In the concluding panel, DC promises readers a surprising second episode and asks them to write in and share their thoughts on the feature. Though it may be too late to tell DC how you feel about the first episode of "Reach for Happiness!", please do not hesitate to share here in the comments your first impressions! Perhaps together we can convince Warner Brothers to make the first feature film based on a romance comic!!! Or perhaps not! It will be fun nonetheless!
Be sure to join me for future posts over the next year to see how the saga of Karen and company unfolds!!!
*I have to sincerely thank Pat Curley of the blog, Silver Age Comics for providing the fine scans of this particular issue. I was hesitant to blog about this serial since I was missing the first couple issues, but thanks to Pat and his generous contribution of scans, I was able to share this episode with you while I continue to build my collection! Be sure to visit Pat's informative blog, and while you're at it, read his take on "Reach for Happiness!"