Friday, February 26, 2010

Part II: Black + White = Heartbreak!

Welcome back for a second installment on the fate of lovers Margo and Chuck! We left off with a cliff hanger of a story. Margo and Chuck. Lovers from different racial backgrounds, united in their deep and undying love for one another. Friends since childhood, these two lovers had to make a choice -- stay around their friends and families who demand they part ways, or stay together and leave everything and everyone they have ever known behind.

At the end of the sequential story in Girls' Love Stories #163 (November 1971), readers were ask to send in their version of the fate of Margo and Chuck for cash prizes. The above solicitation appeared in Girls' Love Stories #165 in January of 1972, letting readers know they could still enter into the contest.

As I mentioned in the first part of the Margo-Chuck saga, I don't have the issues that contain the readers' entries, issues #166 (February 1972) and #167 (March 1972). Lucky for us though, the ever so kind Gene Kehoe -- editor of It's A Fanzine, has #167 and was so very gracious to send me a scan of the contest page. As we move on to the second wave of fan endings, lets give a mighty round of applause for Gene!!! Hooray!!!

How do you feel about how it ended? Though I probably would have gone for a more thrilling and dramatic ending, I think DC did a nice job of acting as a catalyst for cultural change; even if it was just in the form of something so seemingly "frivolous" as a romance comic book!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fashion Files - Beauty on a Budget: Woollies

Winter isn't over yet, folks! Perhaps some chic and toasty winter fashions by Elizabeth will warm you up?!

"Beauty on a Budget"
by Elizabeth
Young Love #124 (March 1977)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Failed at Love!

The Kiss -- an essential element of any romance. The Kiss is the moment when lovers embrace and shut out the rest of the world, lips press together and hearts beat in unison. The Kiss in romance comics often signifies resolution; so when a romance story that ends well is missing The Kiss, one takes notice.

Such is the case with "I Failed at Love!" from Our Love Story #18 (August 1972), written by Anne Spencer (nom de plume of Steve Englehart), penciled by Syd Shores and inked by Jack Abel. As you will see, it is a touching love story -- but the element of the kiss remains AWOL.

Our leading lady, Sandy works incredibly hard to provide for both herself and her younger brother, Carey. Not only does she take care of Carey (which could be a full-time job in itself), but she works and goes to night school. Love isn't on the docket for Sandy -- not with her schedule and ambition. That doesn't stop her though from wanting the excitement and comfort that romance brings. When she meets Jack, her tightly routinized world all but falls apart.

Lured in by his good looks and confident personality, Sandy goes on a date with Jack and has a blast dancing the night away. As we all know though, a night on the town sometimes comes with a price. The next morning Sandy oversleeps, is late for work, and is unprepared for class.

How can she break it to him though? It is all becoming too much to handle -- the James Brown concerts, the homework, the dishes! And oh yeah, that pesky little brother that keeps needing to be fed!

A superwoman Sandy is not. It all comes crashing down when after an all-night cram session she flunks the midterm. After receiving the devastating news she bumps into Jack and tells him she never wants to see him again.

How can she ever not see him again, though? She loves him for crying out loud! Luckily, Jack chases her back to her home and overhears her reveal the incredible pressure she has been under since starting to date him. Don't fret -- the ending is a happy one, just as so many romance comic book stories tend to be. Jack pops the question, and as stars twinkle in the background they -- HUG?!

This would have been an opportune moment for a kiss! He just asked her to marry him -- so why no kiss? One could argue that perhaps it is because Sandy's little brother bears witness, or maybe because she just put on some lip gloss. Or -- could it be because editorial wouldn't allow it?

This is not anything that I have conclusive proof of, but perhaps there was some contention with non-White characters kissing. I (and others -- Nick Caputo, KB of Out of This World) have come across numerous romance stories where African-American characters are depicted hugging rather than kissing, while their White counterparts smooch away. This is not to say that all stories involving African-American characters as protagonists are sans The Kiss, but enough to notice a pattern. Any theories on this? I seem to remember romance comic guru Michelle Nolan telling me once that romance comics sold incredibly well in Southern states. Perhaps that has something to do with it? Though "I Failed at Love!" is a well written and beautifully illustrated story, without The Kiss it is still sort of like ending a soaring sonata without a coda to designate the conclusion.

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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reminder - Comic ChatCast Tonight!

Hey folks! Don't forget! Tonight at 7pm (central standard time) I will be doing a live chat about romance comics over at Comic ChatCast.

I would love to see you and chat about all things romance comics! You will also have a chance to win an issue of Love and Romance! Hooray! Be sure to stop by!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Today is the day! Valentine's Day! Since everyday is pretty much Valentine's Day here at Sequential Crush, I thought I would do something a little different than usual.

In a couple issues of Young Romance, readers were encouraged to send in their best recipes for the "Get Your Man Contest," and a chance to win a first prize of $5.00! As the DC romance editors saw it, "Standing in a kitchen whipping up a goodie you can both enjoy is one of the best ways in the world to get to know each other." I couldn't agree more! Cooking together has always been something Justin and I enjoy doing, so we thought it would be fun to make one of the recipes!

We decided on "First-Love Fudge" from Young Romance #188 (November 1972), which tied for first place.

First, we assembled all the ingredients -- milk, sugar, brown sugar, butter, marshmallow creme, and peanut butter. Don't worry, we kept the comic book out of the mixture!

Close up shot: all these things are great on their own (and in moderation), but will they be tasty mixed together? Two whole pounds of brown sugar is a lot!

As indicated by romance comic book fan Helen Chambers of Scarborough, Maine, we mixed the first four ingredients together.

My arm was getting tired stirring. I thought the mixture would never blend together.

Eventually it did though, and we added in the marshmallow creme and peanut butter and I continued to stir. We then put it in a pan and let it cool overnight in the fridge, so it would firm up into a fudge consistency.

Tah-dah! The finished "First-Love Fudge!"
It even looks like it came from the '70s!

The Outcome:

We had high hopes for this recipe. It won first place in a DC comic book, after all! So, I am sad to say that after one bite we both set the fudge down politely before having to say, "YUCK" and vowing never to eat sugar again. I am guessing that the editorial staff at DC never even tried the recipes before picking a winner!!! Sorry, Helen -- your "First-Love Fudge" just didn't do it for our modern palates! Our dog Sgt. Furry seemed pretty interested in it, however!

Oh well. We tried! If you are going to attempt anything from the "Get Your Man Contest," I suggest the "Kiss-and-Tell Dessert" -- that seems pretty safe and unlikely to require a trip to the dentist after consuming it!

Valentine's Day just wouldn't be complete without a little romance story, would it?! Surprisingly, there aren't a whole lot of stories in the romance comics that have to do with Valentine's Day. A little too obvious, I suppose!

Here is one of the few, "Remember Your Valentine" from Young Love #112 (November 1974) with art by the very romantic Winslow Mortimer.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

'Twas the Night Before Valentine's Day...

Its almost here folks! The official day of love and romance!!! Any big plans? Be sure to check in here at Sequential Crush tomorrow for a delectable Valentine's Day post. I have something pretty special planned!

On Tuesday the 16th (once you have recovered from eating tasty chocolates and conversation hearts) be sure to stop by Comic ChatCast at 7pm (central standard time) for a live, hour long chat with yours truly about romance comics! It should be a great time, and signing up to chat is super easy. You basically type in your name and just send your message!

Another reason to drop by the event is because the folks at Comic ChatCast are super generous and will be giving away a copy of Charlton's Love and Romance #18 (September 1974). How cool is that? Hope to see you there!!!

*Aaron Bias from Silver Age Gold will also being hosting a chat session at Comic ChatCast -- on Monday the 15th. If you are into the Silver Age, be sure to check it out!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

100th Post Special - The Kiss Test!

Friends! It has taken me a little while to put it together, but I present to you -- The 100th post here on Sequential Crush!!! I can hardly believe it! I have had so much fun posting and interacting with all of you for the past ten months. I can officially say that I am addicted to blogging about romance comics, and the comic book blogging community in general!

I really have to thank all you readers out there who have joined me here week after week, and who have made keeping this blog so fun. I definitely feel like I have met a bunch of kindred spirits... who would have thought there were so many people who dug romance comics?!

And finally, I have to say a super huge thank you to Pat Curley of the blog Silver Age Comics. I don't think Sequential Crush would be where it is without him. He welcomed me into this whole blogging thing immediately, and consistently cheered me on and plugged me many, many times on his site. For that and his continuing support I am eternally grateful! So, be sure to show some love over at Silver Age Comics and if you are a Batman fan, his newest blog Nothing But Batman is equally as phenomenal.

Okay, enough! Enough! I sound like I am at an awards show, sheesh! On with the very special 100th post -- The Kiss Test!!!

The Kiss Test is based on a suggestion by Mykal (Gold Key Comics!, Star-Studded War Comics, The Big Blog of Kid's Comics!) that was made recently in the comments section of the How We Met post. He thought it would be cool to get people's opinions on which romance artist drew the best kiss. So, here we have 20 amazing kisses by 20 different artists.

Which is your favorite?

Ric Estrada

Jay Scott Pike

Creig Flessel

Charles Nicholas

Alex Toth

Win Mortimer

Gene Colan

Frank Langford

John Buscema

Jim Steranko


Tom Sutton

Alex Niño

Art Cappello

Tony Dezuniga

Tony Abruzzo

Vince Colletta

Art Saaf

Enrique Nieto

John Romita

Now that you have seen the contestants, who in your opinion deserves to win The Kiss Test? Top five? Least favorite?