Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Charlton's "I Hate You, Darling" - Secret Romance #16 (December 1971)

When one thinks of the Women's Movement and romance comics, Marvel and DC probably come to mind. But alas! Charlton also addressed "Women's Lib!" To what extent the publisher was successful in this venture is for us to discuss, but first, read "I Hate You, Darling" from Secret Romance #16 (December 1971) as illustrated by Charles Nicholas and Vincent Alascia.

After earning a degree from a "large and very liberal Eastern college for women" Cleo Hanlon takes a high level secretarial job at an investment firm. Cleo adores her job, but cannot reconcile her beliefs with those of her chauvinistic boss, Nathaniel Carr.

Later that day at a demonstration, Cleo shows her co-workers that she means business when it comes to equal rights and equal pay. After stepping down from the podium, Cleo is ambushed by her boss who suddenly kisses her in front of all her fellow demonstrators and Mr. Carr's cheering male colleagues. Pushing him away and demanding an explanation, Nathaniel is only able to utter, "I thought it would be funny, Miss Hanlon... but I was wrong!"

Cleo vows to seek revenge upon Nathaniel Carr. Instead of going the route of reporting him for his inappropriateness, Cleo decides to use her feminine wiles to get back at him.

The next day, Cleo takes extra care to dress in a way she knows will attract Mr. Carr's attention. His gaze she manages to garner, along with a few bystanders who notice her short skirt and expertly tied bow.

Cleo's goal of revenge is realized when her boss goes in for another smooch and apologizes for the ill-timed first kiss.

All is forgiven between the two, and plans for the future are discussed. Nathaniel declares that after they are married, "There'll be none of this Women's Lib nonsense around our house, is that understood?" Cleo tells him to hush and leans in for another kiss.

Oh Charlton. You so crazy! We can only hope that after that little "end" symbol in the bottom right-hand corner, Nathaniel and Cleo went on to have a satisfying marriage; one that included and respected Cleo's pre-marital beliefs of equality and justice.

Interestingly, while this December 1971 story is markedly hostile to the Women's Movement, Charlton published a very positive depiction of the movement that very same month in Career Girl Romances #66, in a story titled "Nobody Wants a Girl Auto Mechanic!"

Who could forget this hunk?


  1. So cool for International Women's Day! I adore your blog ;)

  2. Actually, one would hope that if Cleo and Nathaniel's marriage lasted beyond the honeymoon, we could have expected scenes like one featured in a previous post, i.e., Cleo chatting with friends in the salon as Nathaniel washes the dishes in the background. Poetic justice, no?

  3. Wow! Obviously a story written by someone who didn't take the women's movement seriously, didn't care to weigh the issues objectively, and ended with a trite and insulting cliche.

  4. Magda: Thank you for reading! Happy International Women's Day to you (and to everyone!!!)

    Edo: Haha, yes!

    Nick: I sure wish I knew who wrote some of these Charlton stories!

  5. I know that Joe Gill was prolific and wrote a large majority of Charlton's output, so this may be one of his stories.

  6. Her revenge plot really fizzled at the end there. Wah waaaah.

  7. The one place where the scripter indirectly acknowledged the "old boy's network" was the line where Cleo thinks that the "board chairman would probably try to kiss me too!" Truer words were never spoken, at least in 1971.

  8. Nick: Writing style seems much harder to identify than art, unfortunately!

    Doni: It did, didn't it! So much so that it bordered on not making any sense!

    Gene: Good catch. I sort of whisked over that, but it is pretty powerful as you point out.

  9. I love that oddly-composed/posed panel of the man watching the woman's rear end as she enters the taxi.


  10. It is a visual situation that doesn't appear often in the romance comics!

  11. Maybe it's just me being perverse, Jacque, but I read this story as actually being really quite subversive.

    Right from the beginning, our heroine's openly hostile to chauvinistic conceit, even as all the way through the story she very clearly identifies countless injustices to female kind.

    Midway through we even have her carefully weighing up the possible outcomes of various strategies for dealing with the unjust circumstances she and her sister workers' find themselves under, until she finally decides to fight fire with fire.

    Then, at the end, when we have her mentally declaring her own equivalent of, 'He's got me - right where I want him!' only to have her future hubby-to-be put his foot down that now they're together there'll be no more feminist shenanigans, she replies by hushing him, not only NOT agreeing to his decree but if anything tacitly declaring a covert war on his ideological outlook, almost as if to say, my world view can't prevail at this particular time, but we'll see who won this particular battle when our kids are in their late teens!

  12. I gotta agree with Borky's post! That's how I read the comic as well.

  13. Borky and gnomeyhead: These Charlton stories really can be quite complicated and open to numerous interpretations -- though they can seem a bit shallow on the surface!