Thursday, March 31, 2011

Three Different Romance Comic Book Publishers ♥ Three Different Views of the Women's Movement

On this last day of Women's History Month, I have for you three romance stories. Three! Yes, three! All from February of 1972, these stories come from Charlton, Marvel, and DC, respectively. It is no surprise that all three of these stories date to the same month -- the first sample issue of Ms. magazine was published just two months earlier, and the Equal Rights Amendment was approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate by the end of March in 1972. With all going on in society, romance comics had no choice but to keep up!

First, let's start out with the Charlton story, "Let Me Alone!" from Love and Romance #4 (February 1972). Charlton's output of stories concerning the Women's Movement has varied in tone with some stories on the more sensitive side à la "A Strange Good-Bye" and some like "I Hate You, Darling" with openly hostile characters. "Let Me Alone!" is definitely a story which makes a statement on the Women's Movement. But what sort of statement? Keep reading to find out!

Pam Burney is a successful executive computer analyst who isn't about to let any man get in the way of proving her worth to the company -- especially co-worker Glen Wasdell.

When invited to a party hosted by their boss, Pam tells Glen she will pick him up and not the other way around. While on her way to her car, Pam can't help but sneak a peek at the latest of fashions in a nearby shop window.

Pam passes that evening on new duds and admits that in public, she works hard to maintain her "image as a career woman." We as readers, however, are privy to Pam's dreams in which she and Glen carry on a romance. In real life, Pam ditches the provocative clothing of her dreams and wears instead to the party a sensible white blouse and knee-length skirt. During the evenings festivities, their boss compliments Pam and Glen both, saying that they are his two best young analysts. Instead of taking the compliment, Pam says to her boss, "If you expect me to swoon over being called 'as good as' Glen Wasdell, you'll be disappointed." Their boss takes Pam aside to let her know that it is not her sex, but her poor attitude towards her coworkers that will prevent her from reaching the top.

In a strange turn that seems typically Charlton, Pam removes her "Femme Lib outfit" to reveal a sexy romper underneath. Apparently, Pam takes the recommendation from her boss to be nicer as a cue to lose her convictions and appeal to the desires of her male co-worker. The end of the story has Pam declaring that her "preoccupation with Women's Lib" has ended and that she has surrendered.


Next up is the bittersweet Marvel story, "One Fleeting Moment..!" from Our Love Story #15 (February 1972).

Linda and Dave meet at a party, are instantly smitten with one another, and spend the whole night dancing and laughing.

Dave already knew an important tidbit about Linda from their hostess -- she was soon leaving for the Peace Corps in Africa. He mentions that he is also leaving -- to go to medical school in Europe. They agree to just have fun during the time they do have, but the dates on the calendar loom over them.

The weeks wear on and suddenly, September arrives and their parting is imminent. Having fallen in love with Dave, Linda is completely devastated. Dave loves Linda too, but reminds her that they must be true to their dreams and commitments.

Agreeing that they both must follow their individual paths, they decide to part with only fond memories of their brief time together. In her heart, Linda is hopeful that the future will bring a reunification.


Our final story for the month is "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Love!" from Young Love #92 (February 1972).

The title is actually misleading as it implies a choice to be made. Read on to find why that is not necessarily the case for our leading lady!

As Janis and Perry make their way to the boathouse late one evening, Perry slips up and accidentally in affection, calls his girlfriend "baby." Janis, who never lets a man carry her lunch tray or open doors for her, is furious and accuses him of being a typical chauvinist male.

But we see that Perry isn't all that bad -- on a following day he and Janis attend their Women's Lib group meeting to prepare for a demonstration to be held at a football game. Perry helps by distributing literature. At the demonstration, Janis isn't fazed by the nasty looks and jeers she receives from people who aren't on board with the Women's Movement. While standing her ground, Janis is trampled by a group of giddy young ladies with hopes of touching a football player. Suddenly in the confusion, a gorgeous football player scoops her up, saving her from further injury. He carries her to the team doctor who tapes up her twisted ankle.

Just as Janis begins to welcome the football player's chivalry, he tells her that "Things like picketing -- job security...civil rights -- they're strictly men's problems." Understandably horrified, Janis demands to be let out of the cab and lets her companion know that he is one of the creeps inhibiting the progress of women.

Already feeling bad about her susceptibility to the affection displayed by the football player, Janis is confronted by her Women's Lib group -- primarily the leader -- strict, glasses-wearing Harriet. The two get into it, and Harriet reprimands Janis for falling prey to the male ego. Janis tells Harriet that she is a dictator and asserts that femininity and equality can make for apt bedfellows.

Janis quits the group, vowing to find another that supports her viewpoints. In the meantime, it is Perry who stands by Janis's side as both boyfriend and ally.


From today's viewpoint, Charlton's take on the Women's Movement is nutty to say the least, but stands as a testament to the various opinions of the changes occurring in society. Marvel's take on the societal changes of the 1970s definitely is more palatable to the reader of today, and one that in my opinion is more romantic -- but still implies that being feminist means abandoning love. I myself prefer the DC take -- one in which love and romance are compatible with equality and feminism.

It has been a discussion-filled month here at Sequential Crush and I would love to hear your thoughts on these three stories! As always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Time Travel Tuesdays - Romance Comic Character asks, "Should I Give Up My Career for Marriage?"

For this special Women's History Month installment of Time Travel Tuesdays I have a striking one-pager about a young career driven young woman with a heartbreaking choice to make. In "Should I Give Up My Career for Marriage?" Rita Benson, head of the copy department at a large publishing firm finds she must choose between her fulfilling job and her beau, Paul. Her potential husband declares that no wife of his will work, but Rita finds herself wanting to have it "all."

Illustrated by Bob Powell
"Should I Give Up My Career for Marriage?"

Love Problems and Advice Illustrated #15
(May 1952)*

Perhaps the most interesting facet of this short story is the last panel which appears to take place in some sort of clinical setting. The 1950s are often associated with various experts (think Dr. Wertham!) and the last panel of this romance story is a very good example of reliance on the musings of authoritarian figures.

*I know I have used this issue before, but I just couldn't resist sharing this one-page story!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Selling Romance - Career Girl Guides

"A gal trying to successfully solve bewildering problems about a career, marriage, etc., will find these SUCCESS GUIDES reveal startling but proven steps to success."

Or so promised this ad selling "Career Girl Guides" that appeared in romance comics such as Falling in Love #94 (October 1967). Aside from the guide that features tips on how to become a successful, glamorous model and the one with advice on breaking into show business, these guides appear to have left much to be desired for young women in search of career counseling.

We can only hope that the young ambitious readers of romance comics turned their attention to Charlton's Career Girl Romances instead!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Young Woman of the Month - Gilda Radner

Hey friends! It has been a few days, I know! After attending the C2E2 con (which unfortunately did not yield as many romance comics as I had hoped) I went on a short visit to see my family. But now I am back!

Today I have for you an interesting little one-pager, "Young Woman of the Month" from Young Love #122 (November 1976) featuring legendary comedienne, Gilda Radner. Published shortly after Gilda began her run on Saturday Night Live as an original cast member, this beautiful piece no doubt influenced many a young reader to follow their dreams -- no matter how goofy.

Scripted by Ellen Spencer
Pencils: Joe Orlando, Inks: Vince Colletta

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Celebrate Spring with the 2nd Annual Squirrels in Romance Comics Extravaganza!

If you live in a cold weather climate as I do, the first day of spring is a very exciting thing! Though it hasn't warmed up quite yet, the promise of flowers and sunshine is enough to lift anyone's spirit! Today, join me in celebrating the first day of spring with my favorite little critters that so often grace the pages of romance comics -- squirrels!

For more squirrely goodness in the romance comics,
be sure to check out last spring's squirrel celebration!

"Too Good at Love!"
Love Problems and
Advice Illustrated
(May 1952)

"My Mother -- My Rival!"
Young Romance #157
(December/January 1969)

"We'll Never Meet Again!"
Our Love Story #2
(December 1969)

"I Dream of Love"
Love Diary #67
(July 1970)

Girls' Love Stories #170
(June 1972)

"Never Forget Me"
Teen-Age Love #93
(June 1973)


Happy First Day of Spring!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Strange Good-Bye - Love and Romance #20 (January 1975)

Ready for another Charlton story of romance and heartache? Sure you are! This evening, I have for you the funky stylings of Enrique Nieto in "A Strange Good-Bye" from Love and Romance #20 (January 1975).

Though this story doesn't directly reference the Women's Movement, it is obvious that by the time this story was published in 1975 the idea of women pursuing education and careers had started to sink in with society and mirrored in popular culture. Enjoy!

Didi is an ambitious young woman -- unwilling to abandon her dreams for love, or as she puts it, "become a victim of Cupid and throw everything way..." So when she meets hunky Wade on a beach vacation in California, her plan is foiled! Or is it?

Didi decides that no matter her feelings for Wade, she will just have fun -- but not commit herself to anything serious. For Didi, finishing college and starting her career is most important.

Wade is also ambitious and lets Didi know that he too is unwilling to sacrifice his education for a serious romance. The vacation draws to a close and Didi and Wade part, without so much as a promise to write.

The months pass and Didi graduates from college and starts her industrial design career with the prestigious Nichols & Rodino design firm.

So impressed with her work, the firm decides to send Didi on a six week European tour to scope out the latest in design trends. Thrilled to be recognized and rewarded for her dedication, Didi starts the trip in Paris. Lonely in the city of lights and love, she begins to have doubts over her decision to abandon the prospects of a future with Wade.

While sketching and photographing skyscrapers in Rotterdam, Didi is shocked when she is approached by none other than her long lost love, Wade. They discover that they have both made strides in their careers, but have been at a romantic standstill since leaving the arms of one another after that summer in California.

They also discover that they will both be in the Netherlands for another month, and that their domestic offices aren't drastically far apart (he in Chicago, she in St. Paul). Deciding that they have been sensible enough for far too long -- they marry.

Now, the art of Nieto is definitely an acquired taste. But, if you can get past his flair for the ultra groovy, "A Strange Good-Bye" is actually a pretty good little story. Though throughout the story Didi has doubts over delaying romance, it is refreshing to see that in the end, she was happy with her decision to wait.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Bechdel Test as Applied to Romance Comics!

It isn't a surprise that most dialogue in romance comics is, well, about romance! Boys, marriage and all things courtship usually dominate the panels of our beloved genre! The following two panels from the story, "The Only Girl for Him!" from Secret Hearts #149 (January 1971) serve as good examples of pretty typical romance comic dialogue.

If one looks hard enough, however, there are the occasional panels in romance comics that feature young women talking about things other than romance! But I must admit, these types of panels that pass what is known as the Bechdel Test are in the minority. Most commonly used in film criticism, the Bechdel Test first appeared in a 1985 comic strip by Alison Bechdel titled, "The Rule." The three main qualifiers to see if movies (or in our case, romance comic book panels) pass this test are:

1.) There must be at least two female characters
2.) These two characters must talk to each other
3.) Discussion must center around something other than men

The following panels are ones that I have selected because I feel they fit the terms of the Bechdel Test. Though it is expected by their very nature that romance stories center around the discussion of romantic partners, these panels show that careers, familial relations and cultural issues were not only on the minds of the characters, but on the minds of the creators -- who recognized that these issues were relevant in the lives of their readers.

"Love Against Time"
Young Love #54 (March/April 1966)
Pencils: Tony Abruzzo, Inks: Bernard Sachs

"Rendevous on Cloud 9" [sic]
Career Girl Romances #47 (October 1968)

"Love Can't Happen Here"
Romantic Story #99 (March 1969)
Pencils and Inks: Ernesto R. Garcia
Girls' Love Stories #146 (October 1969)
Pencils: Tony Abruzzo

"My Double Love!"
Girls' Love Stories #148 (January 1970)
Pencils: Ric Estrada, Inks: Vince Colletta

"The Loneliest Girl in Town!"
Girls' Romances #150 (July 1970)
Pencils: Jack Sparling, Inks: Vince Colletta

"All About Holly!"
Heart Throbs #139 (March 1972)

"The Price is Right!"
Young Romance #182 (May 1972)
Script: Irene Vartanoff, Pencils and Inks: Jack Abel

"Give Him Back"
Heart Throbs #141 (May 1972)
Pencils: Mike Sekowsky

"Take an Order, Darling"
Just Married #76 (April 1971)

"The Awakening of Nancy Turner"
My Love #11 (May 1971)

"Once Upon a Time... in My Heart!"
Our Love Story #21 (February 1973)
Script: Joy Jackson, Pencils: Jim Mooney, Inks: Ernie Chua

"Journey to Love!"
Secret Hearts #148 (December 1970)
Pencils by Jay Scott Pike

"A Little Kiss for Big Sister!"
Young Love #84 (January/February 1971)
Pencils: Art Saaf

Now, I am aware that three of these panels do mention men (a father, a male professor and Elton John) but I included them because I felt the males were not necessarily the point of the conversation. Even though this exercise holds these mid-century romance comic book characters up to a 1980s and later standard, it turned out to be an interesting challenge and one that proves that romance comics aren't just all fluff and talk of dating and marriage!