Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day with Girls' Romances - Love Letters

Most love letters are between sweethearts, but some, are between mother and child. Today's special Mother's Day story, "Love Letters" from Girls' Romances #159 (September 1971) is a tearjerker -- so go round up some tissues! Lovely art courtesy of John Rosenberger and Tony DeZuniga!*

This touching story of love and loss opens with a young woman lying on her bed reading a stack of letters, the first of which reads:

Dearest darling daughter,

I asked your father to withhold these letters until you were old enough to understand. How I wanted to be here, but these words must be my voice. You know me from my photographs, but I must tell you what was in my mind. I have so much to say, and so little time -- that is why I pour out my soul to you in these...

It is through these narrative letters of a mother's short life in which the rest of the story unfolds.

A proud set of parents to a bride-to-be go over last minute details, but an unexpected phone call puts an end to their joy and shatters their world. They receive the life-altering news from the doctor that their beloved daughter Nancy has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease and only has a short time left to live.

Nancy takes the news far better than her parents, but she is still all too aware that her sentence is terminal and hence, tries to break things off with her betrothed, Johnny. He insists that they can still "squeeze a lifetime of happiness" into the time she has left, but Nancy can't bear to make him suffer through the ordeal.

Nancy goes to bed that night devastated -- not only for her own life, but for Johnny's. In the morning she finds Johnny asleep on the couch, as he was unable to make it home due to the stress of the prior evening's events. She heads down the stairs to him and in a romantic embrace, the young couple decides to go through with their marriage. They know it will be tough, but they also know that being apart would be tougher. Sadly, Nancy's parents don't see the silver lining and feel that Johnny is marrying her out of pity. Nancy can only say that maybe someday they will understand. Despite their disapproval, the wedding ensues.

Nancy and Johnny do all the things newlyweds do, despite the sadness that looms just over their heads.

It wasn't false gaiety, but genuine fun. Each minute was an eternity to be enjoyed and savored, each second hoarded for its happiness. The future we pushed from our minds. We promised never to talk about it... but the shadow was always there in our own, our very own, little temporary world.

As the newlyweds attempt to have as normal of a marriage as possible despite the ticking clock, they soon find themselves welcoming an infant into the world. Nancy grows weaker throughout the pregnancy, but gives birth to a healthy baby girl.

After the delivery, Nancy grows weaker still. She feels her time drawing to a close and hands the baby to Johnny to hold so that she can finish composing the last of her letters to their daughter. Nancy's parents finally understand why she was so set on marrying Johnny -- to give him a child through which her memory and love would live on. And so, one life ends and another begins. Their child grows into a beautiful young woman and upon reading her mother's letters, knows that she is watched over and loved.

I shall never see you grow up, share the joys and heartaches of your childhood... but God is good and kind in his infinite wisdom... and I shall be near you eternally...

"The story you'll never forget" indeed!

To all the mothers out there -- to those that are still with us,
and to those whose memories we cherish...

Happy Mother's Day!

*Identification of the artists on this one has proved tricky! See comments below!


  1. Very unusual story, quite beautiful. Probably influenced by the film Love Story that was big at the time.

    I can understand why you'd credit DeZuniga, and indeed that splash page does have echoes of his work, but the rest of it doesn't. I do possibly see John Rosenberger in there though, especially in the high and low angles chosen.

  2. Wow! Great story.

    Jacque, I really hope that your recent posts can serve as examples to vanquish the critique that romance comics are outdated trash. Because as you know, I really can’t stand when people mock them!

    And I hope that today wasn't too hard on you!

  3. Allan: Great story, isn't it?! I am gonna stick by DeZuniga as penciler on this for now -- funny, but I really see it in the teeth. The art is very similar to this story I posted a long time ago:

    as well as a DeZuniga Supergirl story.

    But these things are so tricky!

    Justin: This story is definitely an example of the best of the genre! Today was difficult, as I had anticipated, but it seems to get easier as time goes on...

  4. Jacque, Very Nice story. I agree with Allan, I believe this is DeZuniga inks. Although DeZuniga's style is strong enough to pretty much obliterate any pencillers style, I see figures and layouts that remind me of the work of Bill Draut, although Rosenberger is also a possibility.

  5. Me, I see no DeZuniga -- not on the worst, most rushed day of his life. Or may be this is his worst job ever and the rushed jobs (70s Marvels with deadline issues) were, like, the second worst days....

    Can anyone actually confirm?

  6. Ah, made me look. Grand Comic Book Database has Rosenberger pencils. GCD isn't perfect but is often reliable. As for inks, I'd hazard a Giordano clone -- *not* DG -- McLaughlin, Trapani???

  7. Nick, I’m not sure you agree with Allen, since Allen says that this is NOT DeZungia. If you think DeZuniga inked this, I think you agree more with Jacque ;)

    Anyway, Heritage says Rosenberger and DeZuniga:

  8. Thanks everyone for weighing in! I emailed Mr. DeZuniga to see if he could provide any insight. If he gets back to me, I will let you all know! Some of these stories are pretty tricky to ID!