Saturday, April 30, 2011

Your Poll Pick - John Romita!

Thanks to all who participated in the latest poll! Thirty-six percent of readers wanted to see a sequential story by John Romita! No stranger to romance, Romita drew love stories for Atlas in the early days of the genre, as well as many of DC's romance stories and covers throughout the 1950s and into the '60s. Today, please enjoy a Marvel romance story illustrated by Romita -- "I Dream of Romance!" originally published in My Love #1 (September 1969) and reprinted (as shown here) in Our Love Story #13 (October 1971).

Val is a dedicated young woman -- always striving to better herself through work and study. Unlike everyone around her, Val has no one to depend on but herself, therefore necessitating the utmost in self-discipline. As such, romance is only a distant dream for Val.

One evening Val goes to a babysitting gig for a family she has not met before. She relieves the housekeeper from the day shift and after putting the baby down for the night, attempts to study. Val finds herself distracted by a photograph on a nearby table of the baby's father. Soon, all she can think of is the man in the picture -- handsome yes, but the husband of someone else and therefore forbidden. Soon, Val dozes off and her waking fantasy melts into a warm and thrilling dream.

But in a surprise twist, it wasn't entirely a dream! Val wakes up to find herself actually kissing the mystery man from the photo. She runs out of the house, devastated to have lip-locked with another woman's husband.

Out of shame, Val decides she must skip town. As she makes her getaway, the mystery man chases after her, begging her to stop. Finally he catches up to her and apologizes for kissing her while she was watching his -- wait for it -- nephew!!! You can now breathe a big sigh of relief! Our sweet Val is not a home-wrecker and dreams do come true as it turns out!

Thanks again for participating in the poll! Ya'll selected one of the best floating head drawers out there! Have a most wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Romance Comic Book Fans! You are Invited to Join Me for a Comic Chatcast! Tonight! 9pm (EST)

Join me tonight (Thursday, April 28th) over at Comic Chatcast for a lively discussion on a few key DC romance issues from the '60s and '70s!!! It was difficult to do, but I narrowed it down to five fantastic issues which I think represent the best of the best! After I share my picks, I would love to hear what you would add!

So join me, romance fans!
The chat starts at 9pm (EST)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time Travel Tuesdays - Pre-Code Romance Comics Romantic Love's "Nightmare Romance!"

Today's Time Travel story "Nightmare Romance!" comes from 1951 -- before the comic book industry started to self-regulate with the Comics Magazine Association of America's Comics Code Authority. As such, this story from Avon's Romantic Love #7 (September/October 1951) with art by Marion Sitton, is quite scandalous! No slumber parties or football games here!

We are introduced to Fran Edwards as she heals in a hospital, complete with a guard outside her door. She reminisces for us on what got her in the whole mess in the first place. As the proprietor of a successful modeling agency, she was looking for a man to assist with the agency job placements.

Fran ends up hiring Wayde Hanley -- a handsome and smooth talking applicant. Fran quickly falls head over heels in love with him.

Wayde seems to be doing a swell job at the agency, until he starts bringing "younger and cruder" girls in to model -- Gloria Porter being one of them. Fran starts to get suspicious of Wayde's intentions when one of the models mysteriously disappears. Wayde admits to running a scheme to steal money from businessmen with the aid of Gloria and the other model recruits. If the models asked to participate refuse, they are quickly done away with.

At first, Fran wants to go to the police, but Wayde convinces her to keep quiet and the rewards will be theirs to reap. She agrees, but is shaken when the agency auditor finds severe and purposeful errors on their tax returns. Wayde tries to smooth things over, but Fran insists they give the scheme up. Wayde promises they only need to do a few more jobs.

One evening, Fran heads back to the office after hours to finish up some work. She is shocked to find Gloria and Wayde engaged in an embrace with Gloria suggesting they poison her. Fran realizes what a fool she has been to go along with things and decides she must go to the police.

The District Attorney decides to send Officer Mary Nichols undercover as one of the "party girls." After two weeks of infiltration, Officer Mary is finally assigned to attend a party for a group of wealthy cattlemen. Wayde promises her there will be at least $1000 in it for each of the girls.

The party ensues and Wayde and Fran wait anxiously at her apartment. Suddenly, the phone rings. Gloria frantically tells Wayde that Mary was an undercover cop and Fran knew all along. Gloria manages to escape during the raid, and heads over to Fran's -- just in time to stop Wayde from beating the pulp out of her.

Suddenly, Officer Mary bursts onto the scene. Wayde produces a gun and tries to shoot the lady cop, but Fran flies in front of her and takes the shot. As Fran crumples to the ground, two other officers appear and shoot and kill Wayde. Gloria is carted off and Officer Mary is thankful that Fran saved her life. Relieved the ordeal is over, Fran is happy to repent for her sins of lust and passion. As she waits in the ambulance, Fran asks for God's forgiveness.

Pretty crazy story, no?! Party girls, guns, and cleavage, oh my! Very different from the romance comic book stories of the 1960s and '70s! Which do you prefer? The wide-eyed innocence of the post-Code period or stories à la "Nightmare Romance!"?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mad Mad Modes for Moderns Mondays - Fancy Time!

Click to enlarge!
Super fancy stylings from
Falling in Love #107
(May 1969)

I hope you are having a fantastic Monday!
Be sure to vote in the sidebar poll -- only one day left!
A story from the winning artist will be featured on Friday!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Yup! It's My Birthday!

Not only am I getting older... so is Sequential Crush! Next week, the blog will have been around for two years! Wow! Have a wonderful holiday weekend and see you next week for some more romance comic book goodness!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Somber Cautionary Tale - Win Mortimer's Pajama Party!

This four page Win Mortimer illustrated story, "Pajama Party: The Night I Wish Never Happened" from Young Romance #200 (July/August 1974) is a tad unexpected. Stuck in between the usual stories of flirting and heart break, this somber tale chronicles a teenager and the disastrous results of her decision to serve alcohol to her friends one night. Though nothing completely tragic happens, its tone is still unusual to the romance comics. My favorite line?

"So we left my mother's wigs on the chair, and we ran downstairs feeling frisky, and I made the next big mistake that night, by showing them my father's whiskey."

One can only wonder how effective this was, but it definitely points to a younger demographic. Quite a different scene from a mid-1950s romance panel!

"I Hate You, Darling"
Love Romances #54
(December 1955)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Few Announcements!

A few announcements!

There are now three ways to access Sequential Crush! In addition to, you can now access the site from and Just in case you like to mix things up!

If you haven't already, check out my Amazon astore bookshop! I have lots of recommendations for books on comics, as well many of the historical issues discussed here on the blog!

Thursday, April 28th at 9pm (EST) I will be leading a discussion on key DC romance issues of the 1960s and '70s over at Comic Chatcast! It should be a fun evening, so please join us!

If you need a break from romance comics (not that anyone would!), check out Justin Bleep's (the boyfriend) new blog -- We Slaves. When he isn't designing little LEGO people, he is writing! Justin is new to the blogging world, so stop by and check it out!

Don't forget to vote in the poll in the sidebar! I will feature a story at the end of month on whichever artist is chosen! You have six days left to vote!

One more thing! Are you on Twitter? I am and I would love to hear from you!

Have a wonderful evening!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Q & A with Michael Barson on "Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics"

Hi all! I hope your week is off to a great start! Today I have for you a short Q & A session I did with author Michael Barson about his soon-to-be released anthology of 1940s and '50s romance comics through Harper Design -- Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics. Grab your morning beverage of choice (coffee for me, please) and enjoy!

How and when did you become interested in romance comics?

I had been a comic book fan and collector since my teen years in the 1960s. But that was all about the superhero stuff -- I paid no attention whatsoever to the romance comics that were still being published then, though their heyday was already past. It wasn’t until much later, when I moved to New York City and was still collecting Golden Age comics, that I came across some early copies of the seminal Simon & Kirby titles Young Love and Young Romance – and I was hooked.

Why the time period of 1947-57, say over the later romance comics?

To me, the style of the stories and artwork seemed much more serious in that earlier time period. By the mid-60s, the content and art style has become simplified and, I think, also directed to a younger audience. For me, that didn’t work nearly as well. Of course, if I had grown up as a teenage girl in that same period, I might have liked them just fine. But I am a child of the Fifties.

Do you have any favorite romance comic book artists, writers, publishers, etc.?

I do favor the early Simon & Kirby material – those guys were flat-out geniuses! But as their titles became diluted as a product of the “S & K shop,” the standards were lowered to a way more average product. Matt Baker’s work for (primarily) St. John was always attractive and interesting. And I loved it when the Marvel/Atlas artists like Russ Heath and Bill Everett turned their talents to one of these Love stories… but that didn’t happen often enough! I also am a sucker for a good, trashy photo cover, many of which I have included in this book.

What publishers’ comics are featured in Agonizing Love?

There is a lot of material from a number of the pre-Marvel titles, a good amount culled from the Simon & Kirby titles Young Love and Young Romance, some from Harvey titles, some from St. John, from Quality -- probably a couple dozen publishers in all, if I stop to think about it. I didn’t do that much with Fawcett, Fox or DC, for various reasons.

Did you draw from your own collection for this book?

Yes, I drew largely from my own collection for this book, as I do for all of my pop culture books. But once I knew I had a publisher for this book, I did contact my dealer friends to augment my holdings with the best of what they had on hand at that point. You think you have seen it all, but you never really have. I even kept adding to my holdings after production on the book had closed. Such a shame!!

Do you have a favorite story included in the anthology?

If I had to pick, I’d probably opt for one of the several mother-in-law stories I included… maybe “Mother’s Boy” from Romantic Marriage #2 (1950). And yes, I have a mother-in-law. But I do also have a soft spot for the westerns that featured love stories—Real West Romances and the like. I guess I can identify with those (temporarily) untamed cowboys.

Thank you, Michael!

Michael Barson's Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics from Harper Design is set to release on May 10th and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon! Be sure to get your copy!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ugly Duckling Week - "Wallflower" from Girls' Love Stories #150 (April 1970)

In the rest of the "Ugly Duckling" stories this week, the leading ladies made transformations which helped improve their lives and catch their men. Tonight's story, "Wallflower" from Girls' Love Stories #150 (April 1970) involves a transformation gone awry!!!

Marcy Simms, a self-proclaimed "ugly duckling" and "Miss Unpopularity of 1970" is frustrated. She is frustrated by her inability to catch the attention of boys and especially one boy in particular -- Bill.

Marcy constantly spots Bill gallivanting around town with Barbara Peters. Consequently, Marcy hates Barbara. One night at a party, the oh-so-friendly Bill asks Marcy to dance. During their moment together, Marcy floats on air and convinces herself that Bill indeed is in love with her and not Barbara. When Bill thanks her for the dance and goes back to his date, Marcy is devastated and runs home. She decides that things have got to change.

And so, our "ugly duckling" begins her transformation. First comes the physical -- new clothes, a new hairstyle and new glasses (just when I had you thinkin' glasses were always shorthand for ugly in the romance comics, hehe!) to boot. Marcy's new look makes the boys swarm.

The new Marcy becomes quite popular with the boys -- too popular in fact! She begins to earn a bad reputation. This worries Bill and he takes her aside one day to chat. He acknowledges her change as being a positive thing for the most part, but that she is "too nice a girl" for such a bad rap. Marcy then throws herself at Bill -- promising to change and letting him know that she took such drastic measures in the first place just so he would notice her. Naturally, this freaks Bill out and he tries to explain that he was just trying to be a friend to her, but he had her all wrong. As he parts he suggests that in the future when she likes a guy, she should let him do the "chasing." Humiliated, Marcy vows, "All right, Bill Thomas, you win... for now! But before I'm through with you I'll make you wish you'd never met me!" And she isn't kidding!!!

Hell-bent on getting back at Bill, Marcy starts spreading rumors during a party that Bill has been cheating on Barbara with her for weeks.

Of course, everyone knows that Marcy is merely spreading ugly lies out of jealousy. Her popularity quickly fades and Marcy is left just as lonely as before her transformation.

One day, while Marcy sits alone on a park bench, Bill comes to talk to her again. He says he comes as a friend and wants to tell her the truth about herself -- warning her that it might sting. Conceding her miserableness, Marcy is all ears. Essentially, Bill tells her that she acted needy and cruel and that in the end, honesty is what will get her far in life. He also mentions that things were never serious with Barbara, so she was flipping out over nothing. Bill then departs, wishing her the best of luck. After crying for days, Marcy realizes it is time to bid adieu to the bitter and awful stranger she has become.

Marcy returns to her old physical self, and quickly dashes over to Bill's place to apologize for her behavior. Surprised by her new/old look, he envelopes her in his arms and confesses that he has been in love with her for months. He then pops "the question." Marcy is hesitant at first, telling Bill he deserves better than a wallflower. He playfully agrees, and makes his fondness for miniskirts (in moderation) known.

I certainly hope you enjoyed Ugly Duckling Week here at Sequential Crush! I know I did! I saved this story for last because it is my favorite out of the bunch -- and not just because Marcy's new look involved curly hair and glasses! It stresses to readers that old saying that true beauty comes from within -- something we all need to be reminded of once in a while!

Update: Nick Caputo (the unofficial art identifier here at Sequential Crush) is pretty sure the gorgeous cover was done by Bill Draut. He also identified the interior pencils as those of Werner Roth and the inks by Wally Wood!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ugly Duckling Week - Marvel's Turn!

Charlton and DC have had their turns tackling the "Ugly Duckling" here at Sequential Crush, but today Marvel takes the reins!

"How? How Can He Love Me?" from Our Love Story #22 (April 1973)* (script by Stan Lee, pencils by John Buscema and inks by Frank Giacoia) is the story of Jo, little sister to glamorous model Jennifer Blythe. Though Jo describes herself as not "exactly an ugly duckling," she still has a tough time keeping up with her elegant sister.

Not only beautiful, sister Jen is benevolent and encourages Jo to come out of her shell instead of living off of her success. Jen has faith in Jo, but Jo is unwilling to believe in herself wholeheartedly. Jo embraces the notion that, "...if I don't expect too much, I can't be hurt too much!"

After Jen leaves the house for her modeling gig, she calls Jo to tell her she has left behind her Pucci and she needs Jo to deliver it to the shoot. Upon her arrival, Jo gets a cold welcoming from handsome and famous photographer Martin Drake. As Jo stands before him, her brain turns to mush.

Later, back at home -- Jen apologizes for Martin Drake's boorish behavior. Jo hardly seems to mind, as Martin's attractiveness lingers in her mind. As a consolation (and knowing she could use the social exposure) Jen invites Jo to the "Model's Ball" being held that evening. Upon arrival, Jo immediately regrets accepting Jen's invitation.

Just a few moments pass -- suddenly, Martin Drake comes up to Jo. He tells her he is so happy she made it and apologizes for his earlier behavior. He asks if he could drop by the following day to see her. Jo agrees, but in the back of her mind thinks that Jen must have put him up to it.

Martin drops by and much to Jo's disappointment, he and sister Jen talk shop the whole time. Just before he leaves, Martin tells Jo that he paints and would like her to pose for him. Once again, Jo agrees to Martin's request but doesn't get her hopes up for anything to happen between them romantically.

But Jo is wrong! Martin has the hots for her and the goddess-like painting shows! As Martin unveils his masterpiece he declares, "No mere painting could ever capture your true, natural, innocent beauty!" The heat of the moment takes over and Martin removes Jo's glasses and ravenously kisses her. It is in that instant that Jo feels herself transform into a beautiful young woman.

Join me tomorrow for
one more "Ugly Duckling" tale!

*Cover art by John Romita. This story was originally published a few years earlier in Our Love Story #6 (August 1970).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ugly Duckling Week - "Plain Jane Fell in Love"

Today's Ugly Duckling story, "Plain Jane Fell in Love" from Heart Throbs #135 (November 1971) involves another glasses-wearing lady -- as depicted by Mike Sekowsky. Fantastic splash page, no?!

Bespectacled Bonnie is hired for her efficiency and neatness to be the "Gal Friday" of fashion consultant Coral Babbitt -- a job which involves frequent and high dosages of glamor. Constantly surrounded by women getting makeovers takes its toll on Bonnie, and soon she finds herself wondering if she could also use a change.

In her dreams, Bonnie is beautiful with a full social calendar and suitors aplenty. In reality, it is fashionable and fabulous Miss Babbitt who gets the guys.

One day, a young man named Jim McHugh comes into the office looking for Miss Babbitt. After his initial visit, Jim continues to drop by -- but not for Coral. Bonnie clearly becomes the object of Jim's infatuation. Bonnie starts crushing on Jim as well, but she is convinced that he only comes by because he is in love with Coral.

Bonnie decides that resigning from her position as Miss Babbitt's employee would be the best thing to do for the sake of her sanity. Just as Bonnie is about to go to Coral's office with her resignation letter, Jim walks in. He tears the glasses off of Bonnie's face, unpins her hair and kisses her. Surprised, Bonnie looks in the mirror -- liking the reflection staring back at her. Suddenly, a bitter Miss Babbitt walks in. Jim lashes out at her for "keeping" Bonnie unattractive to lessen competition.

Taken aback, Coral tells the two lovebirds to scram. They hightail it out of there -- giddy with excitement and adoration for one another, and the possibilities inherent with blossoming love.

Kind of romantic, huh? I am usually not a super huge fan of Sekowsky, but this story has a nice pace to it and Bonnie's golden flowing locks add a nice visual touch. For Bonnie's sake, we can only hope that Jim is an optometrist and has a fresh set of contact lenses waiting for her!