Friday, February 11, 2011

Girls' Love Stories Advice Column Tackles Interracial Friendship

When reading romance comics from the '60s and '70s, it is often tempting to skip over the advice columns and head straight onto the next sequential story. Many of the letters are rather repetitive and often feature young girls in love with older boys, and the tensions and turmoils between blossoming teens and disapproving parents. Once in a while, however; a letter will stick out as being more than ordinary, just as this one from the Girls' Love Stories #164 (December 1971) column, "From Barbara Miles, with Love."

(click to enlarge!)

Though by 1971 our country had come a long way from the days of Jim Crow and government sanctioned segregation, it is obvious from this letter that the effects of discrimination were still very real and felt by many. If you look hard enough, it becomes obvious that romance comics weren't just a disposable mode of entertainment, but at times -- agents of change. And that's just another reason to love 'em!

Have a wonderful weekend!!!


  1. When my now-college-age children were much younger, nearly every family gathering with my in-laws (and sometimes my own family) would, when we got back home, end with my explaining to them why they shouldn't listen to Auntie Bigot or Uncle KKK. The racism was so thick you could cut with a knife at these gatherings.

    With the kids grown and happily attending The Ohio State University, I get to avoid these gatherings. On the rare occasions when I don't...the racism is still evident. If anything, the racists have been empowered by the rise of the Tea Party and Faux News.

    I would love to write romance comics in this day and age. There is so much compelling subject matter in today's world.

  2. I like the way the advice ends on such an optimistic note - but I kind of agree with Mr. Isabella above; it seems to me like public discourse in the U.S. has gotten really ugly in recent years as far as racism is concerned, esp. after Obama was elected.
    And Tony, I would love it if you were to write romance comics, too...

  3. Tony: Having lived in rural areas for the past few years I have definitely been exposed to racism I had no idea still existed. We can only hope that Ms. Miles is right and that "People will grow up someday..."

    Edo and Tony: I think we would all love it if Tony wrote romance comics!!!

  4. Jacque: Nice piece of research, finding this letter! Having lived in rural Florida for the last 15 years I can only corroborate your observations on residual racism.

    Tony: When one considers the vast current market for romance manga in the USA, it might be arguable that romance comics aimed at a mature audience (and by that I do not mean x-rated, but instead adult women and men, and teenagers also) that address modern love themes might sell. I found DC's revamp of Heart Throbs a few years ago rather unpleasant, and not the sort of thing I personally want to see in a romance comic revival. Similarly Army @ Love I felt was in very bad taste for a number of reasons. Neither of these series really attempted to bring the romance genre up to date in an intelligent way, but rather assumed that the comic reading public might only be interested in romance if it involves sleaze, debauchery, etc. Judging by the way the public continues to consume romantic movies of a variety of sub-genres, I'm personally convinced there's a market out there for good romance comics and graphic novels. Of course, I don't have the money to back up that hunch, and I couldn't pick one of the major comic book publishers that looks, from their current output, to be demonstrating any inclination in that direction. But I have to agree with Jacque and Edo - being a fan of your work as a writer and as an editor, I'd love to see you writing romance books for the 21st century. I think comic readers in the general public would too - I think people still want to read about relationships that work out, maybe now more than ever, and about love that's not degraded but contains elements like fidelity, commitment, sacrifice, all that good stuff that warms hearts and jerks tears!

  5. KB: Thank you! Occassionally these historical gems just pop out!