Monday, August 30, 2010

Mad Mad Modes for Moderns Mondays - Mini Dresses

Adorable mini dresses as depicted by Tony Abruzzo!

"Mad Mad Modes for Moderns"
Falling in Love #93
(August 1967)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Happy Women's Equality Day!

Happy Women's Equality Day, everyone! Ninety years ago today (August 26th, 1920), women were granted the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. Celebrate with me this turning point in history, as well as the continuing efforts of the Women's Movement throughout the 1970s with "The Movement or My Heart!" from Marvel's Our Love Story #18 (August 1972).

Dig this cover with pencils by Gene Colan and inks by Romita!
Story written by Joy Jackson, penciled by Jim Mooney

and inked by Frank McLaughlin!

"The Movement or My Heart!" opens with our protagonist -- Brandy, internally criticizing her co-worker, Laurie for being a traitor to the cause of female equality.

After confronting Laurie about her flirtatious and attention grabbing ways, Brandy receives the old, "What's the matter...jealous?" Brandy quickly retorts that she is waiting it out for a "real man...not a male chauvinist pig!" Once on the streets of the city, Brandy grapples with her decision to be disciplined and committed to the cause of equality.

Brandy's beliefs in female equality are again challenged when her pilot brother brings home a friend with intentions of going on a double date. Brandy's initial interest in Rafe is quickly extinguished when her brother directs her to change out of her pants suit into something more "feminine." Rafe makes a swift exit, claiming he actually already had a date for the evening and Brandy's brother retaliates by declaring she is going to wind up old and alone.

The next day, Brandy meets with Congressman Bill Bertleson -- a self-proclaimed supporter of women's lib. Doubtful of his stance at first, Brandy quickly sees that Bill is a true friend of the movement.

Brandy and Bill become fast friends and soon she is accompanying him on trips to meet with constituents and volunteering for his campaign. Over a month's time, it is clear that she has developed romantic feelings for Bill. When a kiss does not ensue, Brandy is devastated and in her disappointment, she comes to the conclusion that Bill was only using her as a free laborer.

Brandy refuses Bill's calls and letters for weeks, forcing him to drop by her home. At the threshold of the door, Bill declares that he can't live without her anymore. Outwardly, Brandy accuses him of just wanting her for her secretarial skills, but internally she realizes that he may care for her back. Bill comes clean and divulges his reason for taking things slow -- he didn't want to offend her and her "women's lib attitude..." Letting go of preconceived notions, the two embrace and a marriage proposal is delivered -- and accepted.

One can only hope that if this story were have to extended beyond its seven pages, Brandy would have continued her fight for female equality -- with her new husband rallying at her side. I am quite confident it would have, and would not have ended up like the brutish My Love yarn "No Man is My Master" from one year earlier. A strongly written story in my opinion, with a protagonist that doesn't abandon her ideals for love, but instead finds a love compatible and respectful of those ideals.

How to Make His Parents Like You!

Since romance comic books were centered on the romantic plights of teens and young women, parents frequently played an integral part in the outcome of the stories. So, it is no surprise that articles such as the following, "How to Make His Parents Like You!" appeared in Falling in Love #116 (July 1970) to dispense advice to lovelorn readers.

Just in case you are meeting your date's parents in just a few --
here are some highlights from the article. You too
can make the parental units swoon!

♥ "Don't expect to be taken places that force him to ask his parents for additional allowance."

♥ "Guard against perspiration."

♥ "Avoid looking cheap."

♥ "Always stand up when an older person first enters the room."

♥ "Keep your voice moderately low."

♥ "Don't gossip. It's cheap and in bad taste."

♥ "Avoid slang and hippy expressions."

Despite some of the obvious and funny tips (wear deodorant) and the rather old-fashioned and clinical sounding, "Planning your wedding, dreaming of your future home, improving your homemaking skills and thinking of ways to please your future husband are some of the joys you will be experiencing." -- the advice isn't half bad for any situation you may find yourself in!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Romance under the Covers - Love Stories #148 (January 1973)

Let's get the week started off right -- with DC's Love Stories #148 (January 1973)! Jam-packed with what the cover advertises as "burning romance revelations," this issue has a little something for everyone!

First on the docket is a story of mistaken identity, "Wrong Face!" The not-so-confident Ginny starts a pen pal relationship with dashing Craig Anderson. Instead of sending a picture of herself along with the letters though, she sends him a head shot of her brunette sister, Alice. So when Craig shows up for a surprise visit, Ginny has no choice but to convince Alice to go with the flow and pretend that she is Ginny.

The three go out for dinner and the real Ginny feels left out as her sister has a great time with Craig, resulting in a romantic embrace as she looks on.

Ginny makes a dash for it, but Craig goes after her. Even though he locked lips with Alice, Craig says he was able to read between the lines and figured out that Alice was an impostor. The simple story ends with Craig kissing the right face.

The second story in the issue, "Make Me Beautiful!" is about another insecure leading lady, Suzan. Though she pines over the school's basketball star, she is immobilized to make a move...

...that is, until her friend Carol brings over a mysterious bottle of "Moonglow Moisturizer," a seven day treatment that promises the appearance of one's dream man. Suzan hops in the shower to get ready for the dance and try out the beauty aid.

You don't even have to read one of the following panels to get the feel for what the outcome of the "Moonglow Moisturizer" was for Suzan. In two words -- not good!

After her new scent being compared to "a tank of embalming fluid," Suzan makes a dash for it -- despite the stormy weather. The heavy downpour works in her favor, however; and the park attendant who goes after her is entranced by of all things, her smell -- that of a fresh summer's rain!

"No More Kisses!" is a little strange, if you ask me. The story starts out innocently enough with a game of spin the bottle. Carol is not unlucky in love like our first two protagonists. Quite the opposite actually! She can't get boys to stop kissing her!

Though Carol seems to see a ton of action, she is sick of not feeling that magical spark when she locks lips with potential suitors. As luck would have it, she is assigned to the kissing booth at the charity carnival, a task which she likens to, "force-feeding a freezing Eskimo ice cream sundaes!"

And so it goes for Carol, with her eyes tightly shut... kiss after kiss after kiss...

...after kiss after kiss! Not expecting to be lifted off her feet with any of the customer's kisses, Carol is shocked when her last kiss at the booth blows her away, but since she had her eyes closed she has no idea what the man who kissed her looks like. A frantic search ensues.

Out of nowhere, Carol is blasted with softball. She goes down for the count, but is swiftly attended to by the pitcher -- whom she instantly recognizes by his touch as the mystery kisser. At last she has found "the one!"

Most every romance book had some sort of filler, whether it be a text article or as seen here in this issue of Love Stories, a quiz! Go ahead, take it yourself -- how sexy are you? I'll wait.

Doing okay so far? Just a few more questions and then on to the results! So, how did you fare? According to the "score analysis" I had 37 points. Hmmmm... reading the results -- it doesn't really answer the question, "How sexy are you?" Probably for the best, considering romance mags were in part, aimed at girls as young as 12 years old!

The final story in this second issue of Love Stories is titled, "The Extra Woman" and deals with the insecurities of a woman married to a widower.

Though Angela loves Alan deeply, she cannot be convinced that he isn't over his deceased wife, Kathleen. Alan's sister -- Susan, is able to talk Angela into just going ahead and marrying Alan. Angela's doubts of Alan's commitment seem to start to fade away.

The newlyweds return after their honeymoon and as Angela begins to settle in her new home, she notices a grand painting of the deceased Kathleen. She tells Alan it doesn't bother her, but as time goes on it becomes obvious that she is haunted by the possible memory of Kathleen. It doesn't help when Angela catches Alan standing in front of the portrait, lost in thought.

After living in the sprawling mansion for some time, Angela eventually comes across a room from which she was kept from entering -- the study of Kathleen. Convinced she hears the rustling of Kathleen's dress, Angela shouts out, "I know you're here, Kathleen! But -- you're not going to get Alan back!"

After witnessing Angela's meltdown and essentially being given an ultimatum, Alan grows distant from Angela, feeling he can't reason with her. Angela in turn packs some belongings, intent on leaving. Angela is stopped by Alan's sister who sets her straight on Kathleen, and how as she lay dying, she made Alan promise he would never marry again.

Finally, Susan gets through to Angela and convinces her to fight for Alan's love. When confronted about the promise he made, Alan fesses up but reminds Angela of their promise of "for better or worse!" All's well that ends well, right?! We can only hope the happy couple wound up donating the portrait to their local Goodwill!

Overall, Love Stories #148 isn't a terrible issue, but at the same time, not terribly compelling either. Were there any stories that you particularly liked? Though probably not intentional on the editors' behalf (Robert Kanigher, assisted by Deborah Anderson), the issue seemed to be fraught with young women with confidence issues... and hot pink outfits!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mad Mad Modes for Moderns Mondays - Guilty!

"Mad Mad Modes for Moderns"
Girls' Romances #140
(April 1969)

A different sort of "Mad Mad Modes for Moderns" here for you this Monday, demonstrating the possible crimes inherent in makeup application. I think I was guilty of a few of these in middle school -- but hey! I was experimenting! Amazing how au naturel never seems to go out of style!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Page Peterson's Advice on Little Sisters

Taking a date to see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World this weekend? Be sure to read Page Peterson's "Do's & Dont's of Dating" first -- you wouldn't want to make the same mistake as big sis here!

"Do's & Dont's of Dating"
Young Romance #177
December 1971

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Tiny Easter Egg!

"I Love You Again"
Young Love
(March/April 1971)

Is it just me, or does the mailbox on the left look as if it has "Bernard Sachs" written on the nameplate? Easter Egg or random coincidence? The Sekowsky penciled story looks like it could have been inked by Sachs -- very possible he snuck his name in!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mad Mad Modes for Moderns Mondays - Beyond Bell-bottoms!

Bell-bottoms not wide enough for ya? May I suggest some beautiful palazzo pant jumpsuits as featured in Heart Throbs #118 (February/March 1969)?

According to the Couture Allure Vintage Fashion Blog, 1969 was "The Year of the Jumpsuit." Way to go romance comics -- always in fashion!!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Romance Comic Book Ads Starring Wonder Woman and Supergirl!

What I love most about long term research (which I consider Sequential Crush and my pursuit of romance comic knowledge to be) is that over time, various pieces of information come to the fore. As many of you probably remember, last spring I presented at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association's annual conference a piece titled, "The Look of Love - The Romantic Era of DC's Lois Lane, Supergirl and Wonder Woman." One of the sections of my presentation chronicled the ways in which the marketing campaigns of Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane, Adventure Comics starring Supergirl, Supergirl's solo title, and Wonder Woman were designed to be highly attractive to the readers of romance comics. Recently, I came across a few more examples of house ads which illuminate the tactics to win over already established romance fans of the time. Have a look!

The above two-page spread is from Girls' Romance #134 (July 1968). On the left-hand side is an advertisement for Wonder Woman #177 (July/August 1968) -- the issue directly prior to the issue debuting the "new," mod Diana Prince. The ad lifts the cover image of Wonder Woman #177 where Wonder Woman and Supergirl are seen fighting over a potential husband -- Klamos. Now pan to the right-hand side of the spread to the splash page of "Memory of Heartbreak!" The page depicts two Jay Scott Pike charmers "battling" it out over a potential mate -- Bruce. Interestingly enough, the positioning of the characters on the advertisement and the splash page mimic each other; dark-haired vixen to the left and light-haired beauty to the right. Intentional? Coincidence? Either way, it is probably safe to say that DC editors were gearing up to court the romance reader accustomed to female rivalry in their romance titles.

The next example that I recently found in Girls' Love Stories #145 (August 1969) is more clear-cut. Addressed to "Girls!" who "dig romance," there is no doubt that in this ad, DC was trying to sway romance readers to give Wonder Woman a try. With those awesome fonts, wouldn't you have?!

This final ad selling Supergirl #6 (August 1973), appeared in Falling in Love #142 (August/September 1973). Besides the imagery of Supergirl smooching a presumed "Gang Lord," readers are given a sense of the romantic content from the copy of the ad. Implying that Supergirl has to choose between her emotions and making peace amongst the bad guys (part of her superhero job description), this ad posits Supergirl as being one in the same as her romance comic counterparts.

Like I mentioned earlier, one of the exciting parts of learning about a topic in-depth is all the nuanced pieces of information that seem to pop up as time goes on. These ads may not be earth-shattering revelations or long-lost drafts, but they do add nicely to the body of evidence suggesting that DC was attempting to lure fans of romance comics over to the superhero genre. If I find any more such examples, I will be sure to share them! Until then... have a great weekend!!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reach for Happiness! - Episode One

Everyone knows the names Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, but are you familiar with Karen Wilder Summers, Rita Phillips and Greg Marsh? If you aren't now, you will be - after I review all twenty-nine episodes of the DC serial classic, "Reach for Happiness!"

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!"