Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Time Travel Tuesdays - Miss America Romance Comic Featurette by Mart Nodell!

Today's Time Travel post is a very special one! June has been a big month for the Green Lantern! Even though the film didn't perform as well as expected and DC decided to go with the story of Hal Jordan, the hoopla surrounding the movie still made me really proud of my grandfather -- the creator of the original Golden Age Green Lantern!

Me and my grandparents,
Marty and Carrie Nodell in 1988

Not only did my grandfather draw superhero comics, he dabbled in other comic book genres, including romance! The following little featurette "Charm Corner" is from Miss America v7#33 [66] (April 1950), an issue in which he also served as Art Associate.

Prepare yourself to learn some charm and etiquette...
from my grandpa!

Pretty cute, huh?! I especially like the battling teeth! This issue is definitely on my want list, but for now, these scans of "Charm Corner" are courtesy of Dr. Michael J. Vassallo of the Timely-Atlas-Comics Blog! For more information on the history of the Green Lantern, check out this month's issue of Alter Ego wholly dedicated to the character!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fab! Tuff! Outasight! - Monkees Mania in Romance Comics!

Hello, romance comic fans! When I was a kid and dragged to comic book conventions, I quickly learned that having a niche thing to collect made the cons ten thousand times more fun. At 12 years old, I wasn't super into collecting comics (yet), but I had been recently captivated by the Monkees and oh goodness, was I obsessed! And so, the comic book conventions I attended with my family turned into all out Monkees memorabilia hunts. I still really dig the Monkees and I am of course a wee bit sad I won't be seeing any of their latest tour performances.

Anyhow, how does this relate to romance comics, you ask? Well, there are quite a few advertisements for Monkees merchandise in the romance comics. Quite fitting when you think about it!

In the DC advice column "To You... from Carol Andrews" from Falling in Love #95 (November 1967), Carol advises readers on a new teen mag from DC called Teen Beat. The inaugural issue featured a sensationalistic story on the Monkees!

The second issue of Teen Beat was reincarnated as Teen Beam. This house ad for Teen Beam advertising frameable Monkees pictures was printed in Young Love #66 (March/April 1968).

Charlton published a magazine called Teen Tunes and Pin-Ups and naturally, advertised it in their romance comics. This ad featuring Micky, Davy, Mike, Peter and compatriots appeared in Teen Confessions #48 (January 1968).

Space in some of DC romance comics were purchased by Charlton to advertise their "huge kissable - SINGABLE - posters" of the Monkees. This one appeared on the back cover of Girls' Romances #130 (January 1968).

The Beatles made a few appearances in the stories and covers of romance comics, but besides these advertisements, I don't think any story in romance comics mentioned the Monkees. *Sob!*

Friday, June 24, 2011

Visit My New Blog - The Coziness Project!

Yup, that's right! I have a new blog! In addition to Sequential Crush, I am going to start posting semi-regularly at The Coziness Project! I hope to see you there!

Thanks as always for
being the best readers around!!!

Rest in Peace, Gene Colan - Romance Comic Book Artist Extraordinaire

Sad news struck the comic book industry early this morning -- Gene Colan has passed away. Primarily known for his work on Daredevil, Howard the Duck and Tomb of Dracula, Gene was also a prolific romance artist. Gene had been on my mind lately and I think that is why I posted a "Reach for Happiness!" episode just the other day. He had been ill for quite some time, so while not completely unexpected, his death is nonetheless a time for reflection. Below, are a few images which I feel eloquently capture Colan's distinct 1960s and '70s romance work for DC and Marvel.

Colan excelled at illustrating the sadness
that sometimes accompanies romantic relationships

"Love is Two Strangers!"
Secret Hearts #101
(January 1965)

On the other end of the emotional spectrum,
Colan drew kisses effortlessly, and with a high degree of intimacy.

"A Visit to a Lost Love!"
Young Love #56
(July/August 1966)

Colan's romance work was realistic and never
shied away from the vulnerabilities inherent in romance.

"Diary of a Broken Heart"
Young Romance #144
(October/November 1966)

Gene's 1970s pencils for Marvel helped to show his range.
Colan's characters most definitely knew how to have fun!

Inks by Dick Ayers
"Born to be Unloved?"
My Love #8
(November 1970)

Youth and movement were not things Colan
took for granted in the pages of the romance comics.

Inks by Dick Ayers
"I Loved You Once -- Remember?"
My Love #9
(January 1971)

Gorgeous layouts and sweeping
cinematic scenes came naturally for Colan.

Inks by Dick Ayers
"He's Hers, But -- I Want Him!"
Our Love Story #21
(February 1973)

Rest in peace, Mr. Colan


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Long Running Romance Comic Book Serial "Reach for Happiness!"- Episode Four

Last time we visited with the Danville Corners gang, nightclub owner Ray Silva paid a visit to Rita Phillips and the love triangle between Rita, blonde beauty Karen Wilder Sommers, and Dr. Greg Marsh became more evident. In this fourth episode from Secret Hearts #113 (July 1966) Gene Colan once again takes us through "The day-by-day story of real people trapped in a whirlpool of life and death, love and hate, laughter and tears..."

If you are new to the "Reach for Happiness!" series, be sure to check out the previous posts, or catch up with this handy little summary page!

After Greg bails on Lila and Roger's party, Karen is left to ponder the situations of those around her. She is most concerned about her sour sister, Peggy. Lila explains that she is so bitter because she hasn't found love. Karen worries that she may be in for the same fate if she doesn't find love herself.

The sisters leave the party for the evening and make a stop at the Crystal Club for a drink before heading home. While there, Peggy spots none other than Rita and Greg enjoying a romantic evening together. Naturally, Karen wants to split.

Meanwhile, Lila and Roger's teenage son, Richie is out cruising with his girlfriend in his grandfather's Rolls Royce. When challenged to a drag race by a passerby, Richie can't resist. After a bit, Ritchie spins out of control and crashes. Unhurt, he is still in trouble and detained by the police. When Roger and Lila are called with the news, Roger decides to let him sit in jail for the night. The news of the accident is relayed to Ritchie's grandfather who was at Ray Silva's nightclub. The grandfather goes to bail Ritchie out and requests that Dr. Greg Marsh is sent to Lila and Roger's house to inspect Ritchie. Karen and Peggy are called and made aware of the accident.

Karen decides to head over to the house. Fortuitously, Greg is over there as well and when the grandfather asks Greg to check on Richie's girlfriend at the hospital, Karen tags along at Greg's request. During the quiet car ride, Karen longs for Greg to tell her he still loves her. He doesn't say the words, but he draws her close for a passionate kiss.

After the kiss, Greg goes into the hospital to check on Richie's girlfriend. When he comes back to the car, Karen expects they will pick up where they left off, but Greg just drives her home in silence and only musters out "See you, Karen." And so, Karen is left to ponder their future.

My goodness, the drama! What do you think so far? Are you able to keep up with all the names and faces? Dying to know what happens next?! Stay tuned next month for another installment!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fashion Files - Dates 'N' Mates - Jumpsuits Are For Swingers!

To start your week off right, here's a little one-page fashion spread from the groovy Ric Estrada!

"Dates 'n' Mates"
Heart Throbs #122
(October/November 1969)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Young Romance's "That Strange Girl" - An LGBTQ Romance Comic Book Story - Or Is It?

Today's story, "That Strange Girl" from Young Romance #197 (January/February 1974) with art by Creig Flessel is one of the more "infamous" romance comic book stories of the 1970s.

Billed on the cover as "The Story They Dared Us to Print!" it tells the tale of Liz Baker -- tomboy extraordinaire. Enjoy, and be sure to stick around after the story for a few thoughts from yours truly!

The splash page introduces us to narrator and protagonist, Liz. She explains her reasoning for telling the ensuing painful story -- to ease the hurt of other girls like her.

Liz and her father are close. They frequently work on household projects together, including odd jobs for the neighbors. She spends her 16th birthday helping him install a fence. While working on the fence, two classmates walk by. One, named Fred, seems to be interested in Liz. His friend tells him to forget it -- "Liz isn't interested in boys!"

Later that evening, the family has a little birthday party for Liz. Her mother is concerned that they didn't invite any of her friends, but Liz isn't worried. She explains that later that evening, her friend Agnes will be treating her to a movie. Before Liz leaves for the movie, her mother asks her if she has any interest in boys. Liz (who has never gone out with a boy) responds, "Boys are a drag! Besides, I don't have anything to wear." Her mother quickly remedies the wardrobe issue by presenting Liz with a series of the latest fashions -- dresses and "other frilly junk." A fight between mother and daughter ensues when her mother makes an insinuation about her sexuality. Liz leaves the house and spends the night at Agnes's. Liz narrates, "Agnes didn't go out with boys either, but her family was more understanding."

One day at an after-school basketball game, while in the process of executing a lay-up, Liz crashes into Fred Reese. He tells her he will meet her outside the locker room after the game, as he wants her to help him "limp home." A fellow classmate turns to Fred as he waits for Liz and declares, "You must have hit your head, Fred! She doesn't go for boys!" Fred ignores the bully and proceeds to walk with his crush, Liz.

Fred draws Liz in for a kiss, but she quickly pushes him away, feeling frightened and ashamed. Fred asks if she likes him, and she tells him no -- she thinks that he is making fun of her like the rest of their peers. Fred retorts, "Liz, the way you kissed me... you can't be... I mean you have to be normal!" Fred's choice of words infuriates Liz. He then tells her he is in love with her, while Liz simultaneously yells that she hates him. Liz runs home, completely confused about her feelings.

I was all mixed up inside. Were they right?
Was there something wrong with me?
I ran home crying, hating them...hating myself!

Upon returning home, Liz's parents comfort her. Fred appears, having followed Liz back home. He tells her he loves her and kisses her and subsequently, Fred becomes Liz's first boyfriend.

Quite a story, huh?! Flessel really had a knack for capturing the awkwardness of teenage-hood, and his art fits the story of Liz's trials and tribulations perfectly!

I have read this story many times, but I am still not absolutely sure where I stand on its interpretation. On one hand, it does very much seem to a thinly-veiled look into the life of a young lesbian. Just the mere cover blurb, "The Story They Dared Us to Print!" points to a coded story. On the other hand, without knowing the exact intentions of the creators, it could be interpreted more literally -- as a story of the hardships of a "strange" teenage girl. If it is the latter, I can identify.

When I was in high school, I was a little "quirky" you could say. My hair was big, I was cursed with braces, and I was a theater nerd. By no means was I one of the "popular" kids, but I still managed to have a pretty good time. In pursuit of academic and extra-curricular excellence, boys were lower down on the list of priorities. It wasn't that I didn't like them, because I certainly did. I think that any of my high school friends could attest to the fact that I was a wee bit "boy crazy." But, as luck would have it, none of the guys seemed to like me! So I dealt with it, and concentrated on my quest for future fame and world domination -- still workin' on that, by the way! Anyhow, the fact that I didn't have a steady or an endless stream of dates, greatly worried my grandmother. She was like, distraught. And so, she went to my mother with her concerns and I distinctly remember my mom awkwardly insinuating at the behest of her mother, that perhaps I didn't like boys after all. Liz's reaction on the third page, "Mother! How could you?" was my reaction as well. The horror that someone would think I was something I knew I wasn't, stressed me out!

Unfortunately, in this story we learn more about Liz via her bullies than through her. Perhaps if we as the reader would have been privy to more conversations between Liz and her friend Agnes, the story would be more clear cut. Modern inclination may be to get snarky or be mad that romance comics couldn't just be cool with publishing a story of non-heteronormativity. But we have to remember, it was the early '70s and depictions of same-sex relationships were not accepted in mainstream media like they are today -- much less in a venue for adolescent girls.

Which ever way our main girl, Liz swings, she certainly is loveable. She reminds us that being a teenager is hard, and the external and internal pressures to fit in with the crowd creates incredible turmoil in the hearts of the young. In that light, "That Strange Girl" really isn't any different than other comic book romance stories of the 1960s and '70s.

Now that you are familiar with the story, what do you think? Was Liz really as "strange" as everyone made her out to be, or was she just undergoing the typical trials of youth?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mad Mad Modes for Moderns Mondays - Swimsuit Season!

Another gorgeous Tony Abruzzo "Mad Mad Modes for Moderns" -- this one is from Secret Hearts #122 (September 1967)!

The mod flower suit
is my favorite!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Puppy Love Week - Falling in Love with "Puppy Love!"

Ready for some more cute pups and their lovestruck owners? Today's story is aptly named, "Puppy Love!" and it is from the pages of Falling in Love #124 (July 1971). Sheila is an "airline stewardess" and shares an apartment in New York with two of her co-workers. All three of them have a crush on the aloof Quentin P. Reardon, but he doesn't seem to notice any of them.

After a run-in with Quentin proves futile, Sheila decides she must take drastic measures and heads to the pet store to buy a dog! Now, Sheila doesn't buy any dog, but a dog identical to Quentin's pup -- a rare Tibetan Terrier.

Sheila's investment pays off. The next time she runs into Quentin at the apartment building, sparks fly.

Purchasing little Ying seems to do the trick and Quentin not only notices, but is completely enamored. Sheila and Quentin take their matching dogs to the park and then decide to take a drive to Connecticut, dogs in tow.

As the dogs frolic together, Sheila and Quentin walk side by side. Upon returning to New York, Sheila's roommates marvel at the newly formed romance, wondering how she managed to catch him. I guess they will find out when they are introduced to their new shaggy roommate!

Kind of a silly little story, but cute nonetheless! I hope you have enjoyed "Puppy Love Week!" Have a wonderful rest of the weekend and see you soon!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Puppy Love Week - Art Saaf's "Love Thy Neighbor"

Today's tale of puppy love is "Love Thy Neighbor" from Girls' Love Stories #157 (February 1971). This story, beautifully rendered by Art Saaf, was actually one of the first romance comic book stories I ever read -- and it really stuck with me. Read on to see why!

For Millie Hayes and Ben Mason, their first encounter was anything but the proverbial, love at first sight. In fact, Millie describes it as just the opposite.

Raised in the country, Ben has decided to bring a bit of the farm to the shared penthouse roof. Millie is completely horrified and isn't shy about showing her disdain for Ben's chickens. He in turn lets her know that he isn't that impressed with her enormous Great Dane -- Caesar.

Millie attempts to avoid Ben (though she admits there is a physical attraction to him), but random accidents seem to occur whenever the two are in the vicinity of one another.

Incident one -- faulty elevator
Incident two -- fender bender
The last straw for Millie is when Ben puts a fence up, dividing the roof in two. She doesn't speak to him for weeks until one day when Caesar tries to jump the fence... and succeeds.

Putting aside their differences for a moment, Millie helps the injured Ben by calling the doctor and staying with him while a cast is put on his fractured ankle. The whole ordeal makes Millie realize that she is falling in love with Ben. She asks if they can start over and be friends.

Ben erupts with fury, claiming that she is only being nice to him so that he doesn't sue her. Enraged that Ben doubts her sincerity, Millie starts to leave, but Ben stops her. He proclaims his love for her and also admits that he planned all the freakish accidents so that she would notice him. Stunned and a tad confused, Millie kisses him. In a moment of intense passion, Ben proposes and Millie accepts. As they continue to kiss, Millie chuckles with the knowledge that unbeknownst to Ben, Caesar was the catalyst for their reconciliation.

Memorable, eh?! The art is wonderful -- as always is the case with Saaf's work, in my opinion. The dialogue is also really amusing. Never were better insults hurled in a comic book romance!!! "Love Thy Neighbor" is a good reminder that hate is often the compatriot of love!

I have one more dog-related story for you,
so be sure to stop by Saturday!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Puppy Love Week - Another Way to a Man's Heart

Welcome to day three of "Puppy Love Week!" As promised, I have for you today a Charlton story. Now, if you have been to Sequential Crush before, you know that Charlton romance stories tend to be a little bit on the nutty side. But hey! That's what makes them so lovable! Without further ado, in all its day-glo crazy-pants glory, I present "Another Way to a Man's Heart" from For Lovers Only #82 (December 1975).

Despite being neighbors, Pete Betterton will not acknowledge Julia. She pulls out all the stops (which includes wearing granny dresses) to no avail. Julia does however, manage to attract the attention of Pete's adorable little pup, Gizmo. Well, with the help of some biscuits anyhow.

A few weeks later, while grabbing her mail, Julia runs into Pete and a very obstinate Gizmo. Pete explains to Julia that he is trying to get Gizmo off to the kennel so he can make his flight to Europe for a ten-day business trip. Seeing that Gizmo is putting up a fight, Julia volunteers to take the dog to the kennel so that Pete can catch his plane on time. After Pete leaves, Julia decides to just watch over Gizmo herself and skip the kennel.

After a fantastic ten days with little Gizmo, Pete returns. With a feeling that Julia kept Gizmo at her place the whole time, Pete appears at the door bearing a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine. He even cooks her dinner!

A romance starts to blossom but Julia lets Pete know that he isn't the only one with goals. She is a liberated woman!

The next day, Julia, Pete and Gizmo take a little road trip from New York city to Connecticut and spend the afternoon picnicking and swimming under a waterfall. Not only fun, the time together gives Pete and Julia time to discuss their future.

Once back home, Pete asks Julia to marry him. She says yes, joking that Gizmo would never forgive her if she said no. And so, brought together by a little furry mutt, a family is born -- Charlton style!

The art in this story may not be the best (not sure who is responsible for it), but I think the story is a cute one and there is just something so real and honest about it. Perhaps it is the slightly heartbreaking panel where Julia and Gizmo are watching television or Charlton's proclivity for bizarreness? In any case, Gizmo has a special place in my heart!