Thursday, December 30, 2010

Romance Under the Covers - Love Stories #149 (March/April 1973)

I hope you all had an enjoyable holiday! I know I did, but at the same time, I was anxious to get back to reading comics! Today I have for you the third issue in DC's brief series, Love Stories (March/April 1973). This issue has a very groovy and provocative cover -- though it is one of those covers that is a tad misleading. Let's just say that what appears to be going on in the cover image does not happen in the corresponding interior story, "Man Shy." While the activities of the cover image would have made for an interesting romance story -- the "Marriage and Sex" clause of the Comics Code of 1971 probably would have frowned on anything more seductive than the innocent cover scene!*

The art on this first story looks to me a bit like the art from a story I blogged last month, "Too Tall to Love." It was discussed in the comments of that post that Jack Katz was likely responsible for the pencils, and Mike Esposito for the inks. "Man Shy" looks to me to be the work of a similar (if not the same) creative team. In it, miniskirt-donning Holly warns other girls to avoid her mistake of being terrified of love.

In a desperate bid to change her spinster fate, Holly attends an "Encounter Group" session -- a type of group psychotherapy popular during the '60s and '70s. There she meets an equally shy guy named Jeff, who instantly puts her at ease. As they continue to go on dates with each other, Holly begins to feel herself changing and truly coming out of her shell. Jeff, however; remains timid and unable to convey his admiration for her without chickening out.

When Jeff finally declares his love for her and proposes marriage, Holly declines. She cites her new lease on life, "...I've changed. I'm not what I was when we met." But her sentiments aren't enough to stop Jeff from pursuing her.

While Jeff continues to try to ask Holly out, she becomes quite extroverted and popular -- opening up many avenues and opportunities for fantastic dates with interesting young men. Though she is having a blast playing the field, it appears she secretly pines for Jeff. One night, at a dance, Jeff meekly tries to make a move on Holly and she snaps at him for being so continually apprehensive. Apparently, Jeff received the message and stops pursuing Holly, much to her dismay. In an effort to rebuild their relationship, Holly returns to where it all started and is received with open palms by Jeff.

I found the next story, "His Other Wife!" (with pencils that look to be by Mike Sekowsky) enjoyable primarily because it is a sort of throwback to the old Western Romances that were so briefly popular in the late '40s and early '50s. Carol, a very cosmopolitan young woman accustomed to her urban lifestyle in New York City loves Jason. Jason is handsome and successful, but there are two problems Carol sees in marrying him. For one, he wants to move her out of the city and onto a ranch he has purchased.

The other thing standing in the way of marital bliss is the memory of Jason's recently departed wife, Susan.

Carol had always felt some jealousy towards Susan and after her death it was no different. Even as Jason and Carol grew close, Carol always felt that Jason would never love her as much as he had loved Susan.

Despite her anxieties and fears of measuring up, Carol married Jason -- in one of the sassiest wedding gowns I have ever seen and Go-go boots, no less!

After the wedding, Jason sweeps Carol off of her feet and carries her over the threshold of their new home on their new country ranch. However, the euphoric state of newlywed-hood is short-lived as Jason works harder on running the ranch than on their marriage.

Jason's days consist primarily of sleeping, tending to the cattle, working on the ranch's finances, and ordering Carol around. Resentment creeps in. Carol realizes that not only does Jason treat her like a workhorse, but he treats her far differently than the pampered Susan.

Efforts on Carol's behalf to discuss her feelings are consistently shot down and she sees no other choice than to leave Jason and head back to New York City. Carol's plan to run off is terminated when she notices it is snowing. The realization that the entire herd on the ranch is in great peril is enough to convince her to return.

All through the night and what eventually turned into three days, Carol helps Jason and the hired-hands in bringing the cattle out of the snow drifts to ensure their survival. Once the heard is safe and the snow ends, Carol and Jason have the awkward task of confronting each other about why Carol was leaving him. She asks him why he doesn't love her as much as he loved Susan, and he explains that he loves her in a different way. He declares his admiration for her strength and courage. Needing no more words, the two embrace against the snowy backdrop of the ranch.

The final story in this issue is an Art Saaf drawn tale titled, "Pretty Chick!" Marcia works at a car hop. One evening while on duty, she is surprised by the presence of the very famous actor, Sean Saunders.

Sean says he is passing through and she caught his eye. He apparently wants some company for the evening, but doesn't want his reputation sullied by "making it with some unknown smalltown chick." He has his friend Mike pretend that he is the one on a date with Marcia.

Marcia is troubled not only by the fact that Sean doesn't want to be seen with her, but that he is so rude and bossy towards Mike. As it turns out, Sean and Mike aren't friends at all. Mike was an out of work actor and now works for Sean as a "Beard."

When Sean asks Mike to fetch him another woman, Mike tells him to buzz off. In the end, it is Mike who Marcia falls for -- not the self-absorbed famous actor!

To wrap things up, here is another installment of "Like It Is!" with advice columnist, Donna Fayne!

Well, friends -- that is all from me for 2010! I hope you enjoyed this issue of Love Stories! I will be back in 2011 (aka Monday, January 3rd) with a brand new year of romance comic book goodness! I have some really great things planned for January, including a giveaway and a new monthly feature, so I hope that you will join me!!!

Happy New Year!!!

♥ ♥ ♥

* Whether the Code was abided by at this time or not, technically, under the "Marriage and Sex" section of the 1971 rewrite of the original Comics Code, the following points were expected to be adhered to:

1. Divorce shall not be treated humorously or represented as desirable.
2. Illicit sex relations are not to be portrayed and sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
3. All situations dealing with the family unit should have as their ultimate goal the protection of the children and family life. In no way shall the breaking of the moral code be depicted as rewarding.
4. Rape shall never be shown or suggested. Seduction may not be shown.
5. Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Page Peterson's Advice on Setting Him Free

I'm not gonna lie -- I just can't enough when it comes to the advice of a certain Ms. Peterson!!! She has all the answers and even in this unusually gentle story, she is not one to mince words!

"Do's & Dont's of Dating"
Young Romance #179
(February 1972)

Monday, December 20, 2010

The House Ads of the Charlton Romance Comics!

Crazy fonts! Bright colors! Inventive one-liners! The house ads of the Charlton Romance Group had everything going for them to attract readers to the company's wide range of titles. Here is just a smattering of the very cool house ads that Charlton featured in their romance comics from 1967 through 1973. Notice the number of titles quickly expand from eight in 1967 to nine in 1968 and to eleven in 1970. Not only did the number of titles increase, but the names of titles changed over time as well -- for example, in the summer of 1971, Hollywood Romances was replaced by the For Lovers Only.

Teen Confessions #43
(March 1967)

Career Girl Romances #47
(October 1968)

Romantic Story #99
(March 1969)

Hollywood Romances #52
(April 1970)

Love Diary #67
(July 1970)

Sweethearts #114
(January 1971)

Just Married #80
(November 1971)

Romantic Story #116
(December 1971)

Teen-Age Love #82
(March 1972)

Teen-Age Love #94
(August 1973)

There were so many of these groovy beauties to choose from, so don't be surprised if this post has an eventual sequel!!! What do you think? Do you have a favorite ad out of the ones shown here?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reach for Happiness! - Episode Two

Back in August I featured the inaugural episode of the long running DC romance comic serial "Reach for Happiness!" that appeared in Secret Hearts. I am happy to share with you today, episode two from Secret Hearts #111 (April 1966) illustrated by Gene Colan!

Thus far in the storyline, our leading lady, Karen has returned from Hollywood after the sudden death of her movie star husband only to be greeted by a resentful sister and a competitive redhead named Rita. If you didn't catch the first post, however; do not fear! Read that post here or catch up with the following handy, "What Came Before" page!

After Rita's confrontation with Karen, Rita herself is accosted by the man caught in the cross-hairs -- Dr. Greg Marsh. Greg lets Rita know that the way in which she broke the news to Karen about their relationship was harsh and insensitive. Rita turns the tables a bit and asks why he hasn't taken her out on the town -- could it be that he is ashamed of her? Greg denies the notion and requests that Rita call up Karen and apologize for her behavior. When Rita refuses, Greg threatens to apologize on her behalf. In turn, Rita threatens Greg with a break up, which is quickly warded off by a passionate kiss.

Karen makes her way home from the uncomfortable run-in with Rita and is greeted by sister Peggy, who already knows the scoop about Karen's visit with Greg and the confrontation with Rita.

The two get into it over their mother's death (which Peggy attributes to Karen running off to Hollywood) and Karen explains that she is just trying to forget all of her grief over their mother and the sudden end to her marriage. Peggy then starts to pour her heart out to Karen about her own lost opportunity for love. Just as Karen begins to swell up with sympathetic emotion for her usually cold sister, Peggy pushes her away.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town... Rita goes to visit her father who has an inquiring mind about her relationship with Dr. Marsh.

Rita's father asks whatever became of the seedy nightclub owner named Ray Silva she was previously engaged to, a man with whom Rita holds no apparent resentment towards, but left (leaving only a note) to pursue greener pastures with Dr. Marsh. The conversation quickly takes a turn for the worse and Rita winds up defending herself against her father's critique by playing the old "I was born on the wrong side of the tracks" card. Naturally, her father who raised her alone after her mother died, takes issue with her "woe is me" attitude and implores her to make something of herself. Ultimately, Rita's father is pleased with her decision to attempt to marry a doctor -- in his eyes, it is a step in the right direction. As Rita rides the bus home, she thinks about her father's advice to play her cards right in order to capture the handsome doctor's eternal affections and decides it is a future she can get behind 100%.

As Rita enters her building to retire after the exhausting conversation with her father, she is shocked to see her ex -- Ray Silva waiting for her in her apartment.

Shocking... I know! But you will have to wait for episode three to see what transpires!!! In the meantime, tell me readers -- are you "enjoying this continuing drama of life in Danville Corners!" thus far? I know I am!!! So juicy and scandalous! Everything a perfect serial romance should be!!!

*Scans for this post most graciously provided by Pat Curley of the always informative and entertaining blog, Silver Age Comics!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Tiny Fists of Mortimer or Identifying a Romance Comic Book Artist

"It is not the thrill of the chase. It's not a game. It's your tiny ineffectual fists."
-Derek to Meredith on
Grey's Anatomy Season One

For longtime readers of Sequential Crush, the fact that Win Mortimer is pretty much my most favorite romance artist of all time should come as no surprise. For those of you new to the blog, you should be made aware immediately -- I love Win Mortimer! His men are handsome; his ladies simultaneously sweet and sexy. Once you get the hang of it, Mortimer's work in the romance comics is actually quite easy to identify, which is partially due to the great little fists he depicted his characters as having. Here are a few examples through the years in which Mortimer's tiny fists stole the show!

Win was drawing fists
way back in his Superman days!
Action Comics #193
June 1954

Mortimer's fists
were very expressive --
here we see sheer frustration
from "Cindy the Salesgirl."
"Cindy the Salesgirl"
Girls' Love Stories #136
(July 1968)

A thought bubble is complimented
well by a little Mortimer fist, don't you think?
"No Time for Love!"
Girls' Romances #141
(June 1969)

The October 1969 issue of Secret Hearts
had two Mortimer illustrated stories in it!
Twice the fist -- all for 15 cents!
"Not That Kind of Girl!"
Secret Hearts #139
(October 1969)

"How Can I Tell Him the Truth?"
Secret Hearts #139
(October 1969)

A tiny fist put to a
more practical use -- ironing!
"Too Beautiful to Be Loved"
Girls' Romances #147
(March 1970)

Even guys need to flex
their fist muscles once in a while!
"Substitute Sweetheart"
Heart Throbs #129
(December 1970/January 1971)

A delightful Mortimer cover,
complete with fist!
Falling in Love #132
(May 1972)

Mortimer incorporated a little fist action
into the Marvel classic, Night Nurse!
Night Nurse #1
(November 1972)

Even short two-page stories
deserve the Mortimer fist treatment!
"The Walk"
Young Romance #198
(March/April 1974)

I count three
little fists in this panel!
"Love Expert"
Young Love #111
(August/September 1974)

Even as romance comics were winding down,
Mortimer took the time to draw an emotive fist!
"Love is the Answer!"
Young Love #123
(January 1977)

Though small and perhaps not noticeable on a first glance, the curled hand just adds so much and works for so many emotions. Can you see why I love Mortimer so much?! Any Mortimer fist panels you would like to share? Don't forget to check Spidey Super Stories!