Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Hot Pants Romance - Young Love's "Daughter of Women's Lib" (October/November 1973)

"I was a girl in hot pants,
driven to steal a boy's job -- a boy I loved!"

Hello there! Happy Women's History Month! To kick it off, I have for you the classic DC story "Daughter of Women's Lib" from Young Love #106 (October/November 1973) (interior story art by Mike Sekowsky, I believe)! Before Sue Kiernan was a hot pants devotee , she was just a sweet and sensible sixteen year old on the hunt for romance and equality.

Sue's mother is an activist in the Women's Movement (or Women's Lib as they called it back then in the romance comics) and relentless in sticking up for what she believes in. Sue has come to terms with her mother's beliefs, and although Sue is aligned with many of those beliefs, she can't help but feel sorry for her father who shoulders the domestic duties of the household.

Her mother's outspokenness about the Women's Movement also creates hesitation for Sue when it comes to bringing her boyfriend, Mike Hudson home to hang out at her house. Mike worries that she is embarrassed by his summer job at a local gas station, but she comforts him telling him that she doesn't invite him over because her house is "such a drag."

One day when Sue goes to the gas station to pick Mike up from work, she stumbles upon a summer job opportunity pumping gas. Mike's boss, Mr. Corbett, is more than happy to hire her -- much to Mike's chagrin. Having secured a typically "male" job, Sue's mother is particularly pleased.

Sue is quite successful pumping gas and Mr. Corbett suggests that she take it to the next level by donning a pair of tight fitting hot pants. Sue complies and business soars. So pleased with the results of her new "uniform," Mr. Corbett announces that he will be hiring another young lady to help Sue. Concerned for the fate of Mike's position at the station, Sue asks Mr. Corbett what will happen to him. Unaware Mike is standing behind him, Mr. Corbett tells her not to worry, "Business is business. Besides, he'll be going back to school soon." Mr. Corbett crosses the line by putting his hands on the teenager's shoulders and as Sue shutters, declares that she is his favorite and that he thinks he is in love with her.

Mike quits and storms out. Sue bursts into tears and Mr. Corbett "consoles" Sue by giving her a raise and a highly inappropriate kiss on the lips. Mr. Corbett obviously did not get the memo that what we know today as sexual harassment was technically prohibited by the 1964 Civil Right Act's Title VII!

Just in the nick of time, Sue's mom arrives to pick her up. Though Ms. Kiernan doesn't witness the kiss initiated by Mr. Corbett, she does see Sue's skimpy outfit and immediately whisks her away from the scene -- much to Sue's relief. Interestingly, Sue's mom places the blame on her, calling Sue a "little fool" rather than directly holding Mr. Corbett accountable.

The rest of the summer passes uneventfully with Sue and Mike no longer speaking to one another. When school starts back up in the fall, Sue sees Mike with a new girlfriend -- jabbing at her heart. During a class assignment, Sue boldly starts to tell the class about losing Mike. Quickly realizing what she is doing, Sue stops and asks to be excused for a headache. Upon returning home, she bursts into tears.

Sue's mother listens to her daughter's woes, but their conversation is disrupted by a certain Mr. Corbett who shows up unexpectedly to their house. His impromptu visit is twofold; first he apologizes to Ms. Kiernan for asking Sue to wear hot pants and second, he announces that he has brought Sue a gift as an apology. And what is the gift, you wonder?! The gift is nothing other than Mike himself, wanting to reconcile with his sweetheart.

Interesting story, wouldn't you say? The highly intriguing Creig Flessel cover is a tad misleading (placing more agency on Sue than she seems to have in the actual story) but is effective in drawing the reader in. What do you think? Did the story live up to your expectations?


  1. I agree with you, Jacque, the cover IS 'misleading' compared with the actual story inside.

    But note the parentheses around MY 'misleading', because I don't actually think it's misleading at all.

    Or, rather, to me the cover's 'editorial' is openly hostile to what it imagines the ultimate outcome of feminism'll really be, depicting wild-eyed Sue as raving to the point of being almost deranged in her insane dream of pursuing equality with men.

    Well look at the poor little thing - she hasn't even got the brains to wear protective garments in that environment in the way a naturally professional MAN would: cue overall and cap wearing Mike to tenderly clutch her pitifully confused face with one hand, even as he tries to withstand her bursts of manic aggressiveness with the other.

    Why, she hasn't even got the sense to realise what little clothing she is wearing she should be using to get what she wants out of life by wrapping Mike and his boss and the customers 'round her little finger, instead of running the risk of being burnt, scalded or cut in a highly dangerous workplace.

    Tch, girls, eh?

    The story inside's more subtle about it, but its ultimate message's the same: a girl's place is in her man's arms.

    Would it surprise you to know I've got a 15 yr old Lady Gaga loving feminist firebrand for a daughter?

  2. Yeah, the story is very, um, quaint. Very typical of the backlash against "women's lib" at the time, in that it seems to imply that feminism would engender what it was actually fighting against, i.e. sexual objectification and sexual harassment.

  3. I bought this issue just last week. It could be Sekowsky, but the inker (Mortimer?) has done a fabulous job of smoothing out his rough edges. The story disapoints after the enticing cover -- but then that was often the case.

    I can't imagine editor Joe Simon imagined he'd be getting away with this sort of thing when he co-created the romance genre 26 years previously.

  4. Anyone know who inked this story? They really did a terrific job.

  5. Jacque,

    An interesting story, although there is still an unresolved issue: who gets to keep their job, Sue, Mike or both of them? With your help I've discovered that the romance comics deal with many contemporary issues, more often and usually better than the superhero comics were able to.

    The pencils are definitely by Sekowsky, although I can't quite place the inker, although I do like his style.

    BTW, I was at a cool warehouse in Brooklyn this weekend that is open to the public once a month and sells comics. I bought a nice romance comic (A Young Romance with a cover by Walter Simonson) and directed another woman who was looking through romance comics to your website. No charge for the free advertisement!

  6. One name that comes to mind as a possible inker is Sal Amendola, although I'd have to do more research before I'm certain.

  7. Borky: That does not surprise me! You are correct though -- most of these stories do ultimately end with girl getting guy equals pure happiness. But I guess that is why they are romance comics!

    Edo: Look out for some more quaint stories this month! :) Many start off with good intentions, but end somewhere else entirely!

    Allan: This is a good issue overall -- it has that Curly girl story I am so fond of! I don't think the inks are Mortimer -- I am not sure if he inked the work of others?

    Tony: I hope someone knows! Sekowsky is not my favorite romance artist, but this inker was able to soften him up a bit with very nice results!

    Nick: I guess that is for us the readers to ponder! I suppose in a perfect world they would have both gone back to their jobs, sans harassment and skimpy outfits!

    I am not familiar with Amendola, but be sure to let us know if you find anything that points to him as the inker!

    That warehouse sounds very cool! Which issue of Young Romance? Thanks for the free advertisement! I should send you a little stack of my business cards! :)

  8. Win Mortimer was a prolific inker as well as penciller. He defintely did a lot of inking on the DC romance titles of the 1970s.

  9. Jacque,

    It was actually Young Love (not Romance, my error) #125 that I purchased.

    Re:Amendola. I've done a little research and don't think it is his work. His style came to mind for some reason, although I still feel the inker is naggingly familiar....

  10. Allan: I am trying to think of a story where he inked someone else's work. Mortimer is truly best when he inked his own pencils, I do think.

    Nick: That's what issue I was thinking it probably was! The cover is quite unique, isn't it?

  11. I'm probably wrong -- I'm not the most expert at detecting individual styles. We know Mortimer was around at the time as two of the other stories in this issue are by him, and there's another one inked by the same person who inked this story. There's also a Creig Flessel one -- it's a packed issue!

    Admittedly, the inking on this story does look too clean to be Mortimer, but there are a few stylistic touches that carry hints of his work.

  12. Allan: I love these later issues of Young Love and Young Romance -- so much Mortimer and Flessel!!!