Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Romance Under the Covers - Love Stories #147 (November 1972)

When DC's Heart Throbs called it quits in October of 1972 with issue #146, the short lived series Love Stories swooped in and picked up where it left off. Starting with issue #147 (November 1972) Love Stories followed the formula of most other romance comics of the time -- a few sequential stories, a contest or two, a primarily text-based featurette, and an advice column.

The first story, "I Loved a Drop-Out" (illustrated by Tony DeZuniga) is equal parts romance story and medical drama. Madly in love, Christopher and Sybil must face the wrath of parents with high expectations. Chris is "hair-brained" and "idealistic" according to his doctor father, from whom he is supposed to take over a successful practice. Chris has other plans, and above all -- wants to do something meaningful with his life. Sybil is completely supportive of her fiance's decision, but her parents? Well, they are none too pleased.

Sybil starts to have doubts about Christopher's search for meaning when he is unable to find work. The lovers' parents don't help the situation any, but the couple stands by one another, as so beautifully demonstrated in the following panel.

One morning, Chris surprises Sybil with the news that he has taken a volunteer job as an orderly at the Neighborhood Free Clinic. Though a tad worried about their future, Sybil enjoys watching how elated Chris becomes when interacting with patients.

His talents not unrecognized to him, Chris hatches a plan to infiltrate his father's pricey practice with patients from the free clinic. In exchange for his father's pro bono work, Chris promises to go back to school, so that he really can make a difference.

"I Loved a Drop-Out is one of the more interesting stories in the issue. The title itself promises a certain degree of subversiveness, but the story turns out to be quite compliant with social norms and expectations. The story is also notable for the fact that Sybil hardly has a role in it, other than acting as Chris's support system. The story would have turned out mostly the same had she not been in it at all, but then it hardly would be a romance story -- now would it?!

Many of the romance comic contests are neat, but this one may take the cake. The "Make Me a Star" contest promised to turn one lucky reader's real life love story into a sequential piece fit for Love Stories. How cool would that have been, to have you and your special someone's likeness in a romance comic? Pretty cool, if you ask me!

The second story in Love Stories #147, "Pity Her but Love Me" (penciled by John Rosenberger) is a classic in DC's "pity" sub-genre involving beautifully angelic girls in wheelchairs, and the dark haired hussies who try to steal their men.

The story opens with Paul boldly smooching his mistress -- Wendy, while waiting for his betrothed, Robin. While rushing over to the car to meet them, Robin is struck by another car.

Paralyzed from the waist down, Robin maintains a cheery disposition; all the while oblivious to Paul and Wendy's terrible secret. Paul promises they can tell Robin when she is on the mend. Wendy feels jilted because despite Paul's claims that he will break it off with Robin, he continues to say things to Wendy like, "We've just got to be patient for a few more days," and "It's just a matter of time, honey!"

Months go by, and still Robin is paralyzed -- as is Paul's ability to choose to commit. When Robin tells Paul that she doesn't want the fact that she is a "cripple" to tie him down, a spark of hope is ignited in Wendy.

Wendy's small sliver of hope is quickly destroyed when Paul tells her that he can learn to love Robin again. The betrayed mistress demands that Paul tell Robin the truth, and the readers are left with a cliff-hanger! But not just any cliff-hanger... a contest for the best ending, worth five bucks! Fond of contests such as these, DC knew reader participation would surely ensure repeat customers and brand loyalty.

A reprieve from sequential stories is taken with the text featurette, "Ten Things You Should Know About Boys." The most important thing I learned from this is that, boys are "human beings, after all." Phew! Good to know!

The last story of Love Stories #147, "No Wedding for Me!" is about practical Ivy, and her wealth-driven boyfriend, Larry. Not satisfied working an average 9 to 5 with average wages, Larry gets wrapped up in one get rich quick scheme after another.

None of Larry's exploits seem to work out and they all require him to leave town and Ivy for months on end. Ivy is warned/wooed by her handsome friend Edwin of Larry's flightiness, but she just doesn't want to listen.

Larry's real estate deal in the Bahamas goes sour, and he winds up working in a shoe store. He quits that steady job however, when he is promised he will strike it rich selling uranium shares. Once again, he quits his job and leaves Ivy behind. Once again, the deal falls through. He comes back home and gets another job at a used car lot, which is quickly supplanted by a yearning to work at a boat factory. Ivy can't take any more and sets him free to chart his course.

After going their separate ways, Ivy begins to date her friend Edwin seriously, and eventually they become engaged. Ivy however, cannot forget her love for Larry. She seeks him out at the used car lot where he happens to work again. Despite her attempts to get him out of her mind, she succumbs to a marriage proposal and admits in the end that she is merely a fool for love.

As we saw a few posts back, a romance comic would not be complete without an advice column. Love Stories not only took over the numbering of Heart Throbs, but it also inherited Heart Throbs columnist, Donna Fayne to help readers solve their romantic woes.

All in all, not a bad issue. Not terribly memorable either, but important for the fact it was the first issue of the new title. The awesome cover doesn't hurt either, when ranking this issue's greatness factor. Throughout the summer I will post on the five remaining issues.

That's all from me for now! I am going to be gone for a bit on vacation -- road trip style. Perhaps I will find a few romance comics scattered throughout the rust belt? We can only hope! Have a wonderful Fourth of July, everybody!!! See you soon!

House Ad + Poll Results

Ad for Love Stories from
Young Love #101 (November 1972)

Here on Sequential Crush, I have covered almost all of the DC romance titles of the '60s and '70s. Almost. The only one that I haven't delved into is Love Stories, a title that grew out of and continued where Heart Throbs left off. Join me Wednesday evening as I review the first issue in a Romance Under the Covers post. The remaining five issues (the title only ran for six) will be highlighted in future posts.

The results of the latest poll are in! For the most part, the 20 readers who voted seem to enjoy the romance comics produced by Charlton! By the numbers...

2 voters felt that Charlton romance comics were superior to DC and Marvel
1 voter felt that Charlton romances were atrocious
The majority of voters (9) felt that Charltons were low quality, but fun nonetheless
8 felt that the romance comics Charlton produced were pretty darn good!

Thanks for voting everyone! Stay tuned for another poll in the future, or until I think of another question -- whichever comes first!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mad Mad Modes for Moderns Mondays - Crazy Hats!

There once was a time when head wear was common, and most women wore a hat of some sort on a regular basis.

Since that is no longer the case,
we must live vicariously through romance comics!

Headgear for the ages by Tony Abruzzo
"Mad Mad Modes for Moderns"
Heart Throbs #110 (October/November 1967)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book Review - Love on the Racks: A History of American Romance Comics

One year ago, I reviewed Michelle Nolan's Love on the Racks: A History of American Romance Comics (McFarland) for the Journal of Popular Culture, the official journal of the Popular Culture Association (Blackwell Publishing). Due to contractual obligations I was unable to publish that review on Sequential Crush... until now!

Love on the Racks: A History of American Romance Comics. Michelle Nolan. Jefferson: McFarland, 2008.

Though not forgotten, the memory of American romance comics has been largely left to collectors. Michelle Nolan’s encyclopedic Love on the Racks: A History of American Romance Comics makes these unique pieces of American culture accessible to all who desire to delve into the dramatic trials and tribulations of fictional femme fatales and their girl-next-door counterparts. Nolan chronicles the rise of American romance comics from love pulps in the early twentieth century to the decline of the romance genre in the early 1980s.This book provides a treasure trove of details, facts, anecdotes and supporting numbers that attest to romance comics’ popularity in the United States.

The majority of Love on the Racks concerns romance comics prior to the implementation of the Comics Code Authority, an industry wide self-regulation system which sought to clean up the comics in the mid-1950s. Most readers will be familiar with the teen humor books popular in the 1940s such as Archie and competing titles featuring red-headed Patsy Walker. Various sub-genres were explored in the romance books, producing some unlikely combinations such as western romances, crime romances and war romances. A small section of the book is devoted to the 1960s and 1970s, when the romance books evolved with society, discussing such issues as drugs, sex and women’s lib.

Nolan focuses not only on what the better known publishers (Marvel, DC and Charlton) were doing to lure female readers, but on the lesser known companies as well (Prize/Crestwood, Avon, ACG, Hillman). Each publisher is given ample attention and Nolan’s quirky sampling of stories from their romance comics could very well make a reader want to start a collection of his own. Unfortunately for the female teenage fans who were the main consumers of romance books, they declined in the 1970s and disappeared by the early 1980s. Forces such as the rise of television, the growing popularity of superheroes and changes in distribution to specialty comic shops all contributed to death of the romance genre.

In some ways Love on the Racks is more interesting as a study in the culture of comic book collectors than of the comic books themselves. Novices to comic books learn what issues are considered valuable to collectors and which artists’ works are most coveted. As a bonus, readers are treated to a comprehensive catalog in the appendix which lists romance comics published between 1947 and 1983. Love on the Racks also provides a hearty sampling of pages and covers (some in color) from the romance books.

Nolan gives so many details throughout the book, it is sometimes hard to wrap one’s head around all of the information. The statistics and numbers can be overwhelming even for an experienced comic book fan. Their inclusion though functions well for those with penchant for numbers, or simply to show the vast number of romance comics published in America during their heyday. Although this book is primarily a history of romance comic books themselves, more cultural contextualization of the material would have been helpful in understanding what ultimately made the romance books appealing to consumers.

Prior to this very little had been written about this often beautiful, sometimes cheesy, and always dramatic genre of American comics. Michelle Nolan’s contribution serves as a much needed addition to the body of literature concerning popular culture history and comic book history alike. Love on the Racks explores a vast number of romance comic books and takes delight in dissecting them one by one and celebrating them all.

Jacque Nodell
University of Missouri

Nodell, Jacque Review of Love on the Racks: A History of American Romance Comics, by Michelle Nolan. The Journal of Popular Culture volume 42, issue 3 (June 2009): 576-578.

♥ The definitive version of this review is available at
the website of Wiley InterScience

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mad Mad Modes for Moderns Monday - Summer Style

Happy first day of Summer!!! "Mad Mad Modes for Moderns" from Girls' Romances #138 (January 1969) is here to help celebrate the changing of the season!

My favorite outfit is the orange romper --
a piece which has made quite a comeback lately.

Stay Cool!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Advice Columnists of the Romance Comics

No romance comic book of the 1960s or '70s would be complete without an advice column. The columns and their respective columnists not only beefed up the comics, but helped to add a human touch. For your education and enjoyment, here is a rundown of many of the columnists from the romance comics of DC, Marvel, and Charlton.

Carol Andrews was the resident columnist of Falling in Love since the inception of the title in 1955. Her brand of advice was serious and to the point.

Carol Andrews
"To You... from Carol Andrews"
(circa 1965)

By 1967, Carol had ditched the typewriter and realized that blondes do have more fun. Her advice however, remained practical and mature.

Julia Roberts was another columnist who was in it for the long haul. Girls' Romances featured her almost right from the beginning of the series in 1950. With advice similar to Carol Andrews, Julia Roberts was like the all-knowing, stylish aunt everyone wished they had.

Julia Roberts
"Julia Roberts, Romance Counselor"
(circa 1964)

Like Carol, Julia's looks were updated
for a more modern crowd

Girls' Romances parallel title, Girls' Love Stories had "From Barbara Miles, With Love." Ms. Miles also occasionally dispensed advice in Heart Throbs.

Nothing fancy for Babs -- a simple banner will do,
thank you very much! (1964)

Eh, never mind -- give her the works! (1966)

Happy to help with any love problem, "Ann Martin, Counselor-At-Love" of Secret Hearts took her job with utmost responsibility, and usually ended her letters with a polite, "Sincerely yours."

Sincere indeed (1968)

As you can see, Jane Ford of "As Jane Ford Sees It..." from early issues of DC's Young Love truly believed in the virtues of brevity.

Jane Ford (circa 1964)

Her 1969 counterpart however?
Not so much -- and that's how I see it.

Every once in a while, there would be a columnist that appeared in more than one DC book. Jill Taylor of "You Can Be Beautiful!" was one such lady. Starting every column with her trademark, "Hi, pussycats!", Jill helped girls of the late '60s attain their full beauty potential in Falling in Love, Girls' Love Stories and Heart Throbs.

Ah, Laura Penn. Where do we begin? How about in the early days of DC's version of the title that started it all, Young Romance?

Here is "Laura Penn... Your Romance Reporter"
as she looked in Young Romance #127 (December/January 1964)

Two short years later, Laura became inundated with letters from the broken hearted and was forced to dye her hair a shade of Wonder Woman.

She must have had to check her P.O. box
a few times a day with all that mail! (1966)

Reading all those letters was difficult on Laura's eyes.
By 1970, she was wearing spectacles.

Laura Penn's popularity was not lost on editors at DC, and by the early '70s she was integrated into sequential stories, such as "No Wedding Ring for Me!" The sequential stories featuring Laura would end without a firm resolution -- creating a perfect opportunity for Ms. Penn to answer the question of the story in her column.

"No Wedding Ring for Me!"
Young Romance
#169 (December/January 1971)

Another popular DC sage was Page Peterson -- best known for her sequential advice "Do's and Dont's of Dating" from Young Romance. Page also dispensed advisement in other titles such as Secret Hearts with headlines like, "Where to Meet Boys" and "How to Hold Your Man."

Page was one proactive lady!

DC had the most variety when it came to advice columnists. Marvel only had one columnist for both My Love and Our Love Story -- Suzan of "Suzan Says." What Marvel lacked in quantity, they made up for in quality and "Suzan Says" came off as friendly, hip and wise. In case you missed my earlier posts of interviews with the women behind Suzan, check them out here (Suzan Loeb) and here (Irene Vartanoff)!

Charlton had two primary female columnists, one being Jennifer White of "Jennifer's Corner," which ran in both Teen Confessions and Secret Romance. As you can see from the first paragraph of the column, Charlton took time to establish the columnist's persona and how they could relate to those who wrote in.

The other lady-columnist of Charlton was Jeanette Copeland. Jeanette was willing to provide readers with the answers to their problems -- but only if they wrote legibly and in pen. With all of the titles that Jeanette advised (Hollywood Romances, Romantic Story, Secret Romance, Teen-Age Love, Sweethearts, Just Married, and Love and Romance), she had no time to decipher chicken scratch.

DC's Marc and Paul weren't the only guys to give readers their opinions on matters of the heart. Charlton brought the male perspective to the table with advice from the clinical Dr. Harold Gluck, and the hipper Buck Mason.

Marc and Paul
Two sides of one coin.

Dr. Gluck started out with a column in the '60s called "Canteen Corner" which appeared in Time for Love.

By the early '70s, Dr. Gluck's column was changed to "Teenage Troubles" and appeared not only in Time for Love but in Career Girl Romances, I Love You, Love Diary, Sweethearts, and Teen-Age Love.

Dr. Gluck's hipper counterpart, Buck Mason wrangled up answers during the mid to late '70s in his column "Buck's Bag" which ran in Time for Love and Teen Confessions.

(circa 1975)

Let us take one more swing past DC for a series of advice columns that I personally find to be the most interesting of all -- Lynn Farrell and Donna Fayne. Lynn Farrell of "Telling It the Way It Lynn Farrell" had been busy answering letters from readers of Heart Throbs since issue #119 (April/May 1969). In Heart Throbs #137 (January 1972), she made a very important announcement.

Wow, that sure was a big announcement! Marriage! Babies! A replacement! Oh my! Lynn was replaced by her sister, Donna Fayne and her column, "Like It Is!" This column of Donna's also ran in Love Stories, a DC title which will be covered in a future post here at Sequential Crush. Donna's column was also sometimes titled, "Donna Fayne Answers," and according to the announcement was originally intended to be called, "Where It's At."

I hope you have enjoyed this exploration of the various titles and advice columnists of the romance comics of the '60s and '70s. Whether real people or characters devised by editors; these columnists added a dynamic dimension to the romance books, and live on today as valuable resources for information on mid-century social mores.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

House Ad - Advice Columnists

I love this colorful house ad from Young Romance #195 (September/October 1973) that proclaims, "Daring breakthroughs are on their way in!" The ad highlights the advice columnists of the romance comics; represented by DC not just as columnists, but as a "counseling team."

By this time, you most likely know Marc and Paul, but the other names probably aren't as familiar. Well, that is all going to change! Check back here Thursday night, for an illuminating post introducing the columnists from not only the DC romance comics, but Marvel and Charlton as well. Don't miss it -- if you do, I will be forced to subject you to the wrath of Marc!!!