Monday, October 31, 2011

Charlton Gothic Romance Comic Story - "Sleep, My Love..." Haunted Love #6 (October 1974)

Happy Halloween, everyone! Since Friday's Gothic romance story was such a hit, I thought I would post another! For a Halloween evening treat, I present "Sleep, My Love..." from Charlton's Haunted Love #6 (October 1974). As per the splash page, the story was edited by George Wildman, written by Joe Gill, and rendered (cover as well) by Tom Sutton.

Our story takes place in Paris in 1906. The young and handsome Dr. Henri Duval has just set up practice and makes a house call to his first patient -- an elderly Madame Maleure who resides in a crumbling mansion. The resilient Madame is taken care of by a beautiful young woman, Madeleine Beauvois.

During his examination of the frail woman, the Madame requests that he send Madeleine out of the room so they can speak privately. While Madeleine fetches fresh water, Madame Maleure tells Henri that Madeleine is so stressed out over taking care of her that the young woman stays awake day and night. The doctor and the elderly woman come to the conclusion that a tonic laced with a sleeping potion will be best for Madeleine.

Henri checks in on his elderly patient twice a week. While there on a visit one day, he finally decides to ask Madeleine out for dinner which greatly pleases Madame Maleure. The two fall in love, which pleases the old woman even more.

While out with the doctor, the old woman sneaks into Madeleine's bedroom and pours an extra sleeping aid into the prescribed tonic. That night after sipping the medicine, Madeleine falls into a deep sleep. Taking advantage of Madeleine's vulnerable state, the old woman casts a spell on her and infiltrates her body -- transforming her into the young and beautiful Madeleine.

The old Madame wastes no time, and heads out into the Paris night. Just as dawn breaks, she heads back -- in time to leave Madeleine's waking body. When Madeleine wakes, she doesn't feel quite right... and rightfully so!

While serving Madame Maleure her breakfast that morning, Madeleine is noticeably exhausted. The old woman suggests that she take a swig of the tonic and take a nap after lunch. Madeleine heeds her advice and falls into another coma-like sleep, giving Madame Maleure another chance to inhabit the young woman's body. But this time, instead of strolling the streets of Paris alone, the Madame takes Madeleine's body out on a date with Henri -- the next step in her ultimate evil plan.

Suddenly, Madeleine awakens -- much to her surprise. The last thing she remembers was going down for a nap. Henri chalks the strange occurrence up to a bad reaction to the tonic and advises Madeleine to stop taking it.

That night, Madeleine forgoes the tonic as recommended. Madame Maleure obviously has a problem as she is unable to penetrate Madeleine's body for her own use. But the old witch isn't willing to give up...

"I've learned what I must do to remain eternally young...
if I can assume Madeleine's identity while she sleeps...
and if my own body dies while I possess her youth
I will be young again!

The next day during tea time, Madame Maleure pours a potion into Madeleine's drink to pursue her goal of eternal youth and beauty. The unsuspecting young woman falls asleep. But she is not the only one to rest... the Madame has given herself a lethal dosage so that her transformation may be achieved.

Feeling that Madeleine is in danger, Henri bursts on the scene. He attempts to save the old woman with all of his being.

Henri revives the old woman's body which causes the essence of Madeleine to assume her own youthful body once more. Henri explains to a baffled Madeleine that he had a feeling that evil was afoot. Together, the two young lovers leave the house of horrors and the devious witch inside... forever!

So, what do you think? How does "Sleep, My Love..." stack up to the DC Gothic romance stories in your opinion? Here's to hoping you and yours have a wonderful and spooky Halloween!

Happy Halloween from yours truly!


Friday, October 28, 2011

"To Wed the Devil" - The Sinister House of Secret Love #2 (December 1971/January 1972)

It's almost that time of year -- Halloween! Not too many spooky romance comic tales out there... unless you count the brief foray into the Gothic Romance subgenre by DC and Charlton in the '70s. I have one such story to share today! For your visual and reading pleasure, please enjoy "To Wed the Devil" -- a "Graphic Novel of Gothic Terror" from DC's The Sinister House of Secret Love #2 (December 1971/January 1972).

The dark and brooding cover features an inset painting by Jeffrey Catherine Jones (Jeff Jones),* with border art by interior story artist, Tony DeZuniga. The five chapter story was plotted by Joe Orlando and scripted by Len Wein.

We are introduced to Sarah, a beautiful (if not spoiled) young woman who resides with her wealthy father and their dutiful and witchy servant, Agatha.

One day while walking through their immense estate, Sarah and her beloved white cat -- Tabbeta, come across Agatha in the middle of a pentagram performing a spell. Sarah is furious at her blasphemy, but Agatha is quick to explain that she is casting a spell in hopes that it will improve Sarah's chances at love. Though Agatha says she views Sarah as the daughter she never had, Sarah does not share her feelings of kindred devotion.

When Sarah and Agatha return to the main level of the home, Sarah is pleased to see that her uncle -- Samuel, has come to visit. He however, is not pleased with her treatment of Agatha. Uncle Samuel as well as her father, feel that Sarah is far too harsh and judgmental of the old woman. Sarah feels that firing Agatha is the only way to rid their house of evil, but Sarah's father is not having any of it. It was Sarah's mother and his late wife's dying wish to keep Agatha employed in their home.

"There is something wrong here, dear Tabbeta --
A feeling that chills the very air! Deep in the shadows
surround us, there is an evil afoot in this house!"

Fortunately for distraught Sarah, her beau Justin comes for a much needed visit. In a scene straight out of a regular ol' romance comic, Justin proposes. Sarah gives resounding approval to his request.

Deeply in love and quite ecstatic, Sarah and Justin go to announce their future plans to her father -- but he has other plans for Sarah's future. He explains to her that his investments have gone sour and that their fortune is completely gone. The only way he can make things right is to give Sarah's hand in marriage to an admiring Baron -- Luther Dumont, who will loan him the money he needs to get back on his feet. After hearing her father's pleas, Sarah agrees to marry the Baron, albeit tearfully. Understandably, Justin is furious when he learns the news and attacks Sarah's father, knocking him to the ground.

Without haste, Sarah is sent by carriage off to Bohemia to meet her new husband. She is accompanied on her journey by dutiful Tabbeta and witchy Agatha. Throughout the drive, Agatha is sure to remind Sarah that she has chosen the right path and that Justin was not the right mate for her. A part of Sarah starts to believe her. Suddenly, the carriage comes to a halt. Having lost a wheel, the driver gets out to inspect the damage. Out of darkness appears a band of thieves. In the ensuing scuffle, both the driver and Agatha are shot and left in the dust. Sarah makes a run for it, only to be halted by one of the aggressive highwaymen. Before he can assault Sarah any further, a mysterious pistol bearing man appears from the shadows.

The mysterious man carries Sarah and Tabbeta towards the Baron's lofty castle. Realizing her state of disarray, Sarah is horrified that she will have to meet her future husband looking like a "beggar come calling." Upon her arrival to the estate, the man gruffly instructs her to clean herself up for presentation.

Once Sarah is refreshed, an elderly manservant leads her to the library to be introduced to the Baron. Sarah pulls aside an ornate curtain and is shocked to find her rescuer inside of a pentagram. But, as fate would have it -- he is not only her rescuer... He is... the Baron!

And with that revelation, the Baron Luther Dumont draws his bride-to-be in his arms and (in a most exquisitely rendered page I must point out) bewitches her with his kiss. Sarah's past begins to drift away.

In what is the last chapter of the story, Sarah is abruptly shaken out of her dark and romantic dream world when she finds her treasured companion, Tabbeta dead. She feels it must be the work of evil and those feelings are confirmed when she is locked in her chambers. From behind a pillar emerges the frail manservant. He tells Sarah that he is there to help her escape. He instructs her to don dark garments and a veil to hide in the shadows. Sarah notices there is something distinctly matrimonial about the getaway disguise, but continues to dress as instructed.

The manservant leads Sarah down a dark staircase and through a passageway. Expecting to meet her freedom, Sarah is disturbed to see not the night air, but a gathering of darkly dressed figures. Before Sarah can utter words of revolt, the manservant reveals the awful truth! He is not a "he" after all, but Agatha! And Agatha at that moment isn't just the old woman whom Sarah was raised around, but the Baron Dumont's mother!

Sarah is quickly ushered to the alter to be married off to the sickening force of evil who momentarily captured her basest of emotions.

As the chanting commences, a familiar voice bursts from the darkness. Justin! He managed to track Sarah to her whereabouts -- and just in the nick of time too!

Justin succeeds in sending the Baron plunging to his death. The rest of the satanic tribe lunges on the two young lovers, but they manage to escape their grasp. As they run to leave the enormous structure, they are met by Sarah's uncle and his friend. Both men of faith -- they stand strong, holding up symbols to ward off the worshipers of evil.

Their faith is so strong in fact, that the house filled with evil explodes -- taking the worshipers (including old Agatha) as hell-bound captors.

And so, the epilogue tells us that Justin and Sarah were married -- just as they should have been in the first place. Sarah's father apologizes for the errors of his ways and all is forgiven. He is even offered help from local investors who learn that his finances had been tampered with by Agatha and the Baron for their own evil gain.

Despite her impending future as a working man's wife, and after all the craziness brought forth by her father, Agatha, and the Baron, Sarah is able to feel these words of hope...

"...Justin and I had our love, a power far greater
than any that wealth could attain. And somehow,
everything else seemed terribly unimportant
by comparison."

Click to enlarge!

There you have it folks! An epic story filled with fright and a dash of romance. What do you think? Do you prefer fanciful Gothic romances such as "To Wed the Devil" over the "everyday" high school and soda fountain variety? Or are both just as groovy in your eyes?! Feel free to share!

Happy Halloween!!!

*Update: This cover is most often attributed to Jeffrey Catherine Jones (Jeff Jones), but recent evidence has come to light that it may be the work of painter Jerome Podwil. See comments and this forum discussion for more information.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Time Travel Tuesdays - "Out to Show Me Up" from Real Love #35 (January 1951)

Hello romance comic loving friends! I hope the day is off to a good start for you! To make it even better, I have a classic romance tale for today's Time Travel Tuesday! "Out to Show Me Up" is from Ace's Real Love #35 (January 1951) and it's a good one! You probably will recognize the splash page image from the above header! Anyhow, on to the story!

As a new bride, Sharon has big shoes to fill -- those of her new mother-in-law. Formerly a secretary in a law office, Sharon is determined to measure up to the home life husband Wally has been accustomed to his whole life.

As soon as they arrive at their new home in New York, Sharon gets to work on making their new apartment homey and organized. Wally is extremely pleased... pleased in fact, that he goes so far as to brag about Sharon's homemaking skills to their new neighbors, Jane and Harry Jenson. Sharon is thrilled that Wally and Harry find her comparable to their mothers. Meanwhile, super fashionable Jane expresses her distaste for the domestic arts, which makes Sharon cringe.

"I felt very superior as Jane
displayed her irresponsibility as a housewife..."

Soon, the evening homemaking classes that Sharon attends take over all of her spare time, which frustrates Wally who wants to have fun as young newlyweds.

"But after slip covers there were bedspreads and cooking class
got more and more interesting.
I was so absorbed in
my triumphs as a homemaker that I was totally unaware

of a growing restlessness in Wally."

The tension between Sharon and Wally builds. Finally one evening, Wally tries to get Sharon to stay home from class to watch a wrestling match on their new television set. Sharon dismisses Wally's request and goes to her home decoration class anyhow. When she gets home, Sharon is angered to see the Jensons on her couch -- more specifically, angered to see Wally enjoying Jane's company.

After Jane and Harry leave, Sharon and Wally get into a full blown fight that lasts into the evening. Sharon accuses Wally of having a thing for Jane, and Wally accuses Sharon of no longer being any fun (or "gay" as they used to say back then).

Things only get worse when Jane knocks on the door that evening claiming to be looking for Harry. Sharon assumes she has just caught her husband and Jane in the middle of a tryst. Wally tries to explain that Jane was innocently looking for Harry, but Sharon cannot be swayed. The next day, in an attempt to seek revenge, Sharon goes to the beauty parlor to get done up à la Jane and be purposefully late in getting dinner on the table. When Sharon arrives home to show off her new look and send the message to Wally that she can't do it all, she finds Wally and Jane in a compromising position on the couch.

Jane starts sobbing and runs out the door. Wally yells at Sharon for being cruel and Sharon yells at him for going along with Jane's seductive ways. Wally then retorts that it is not Jane who is the problem, it is Sharon! With her perfect homemaking, Sharon is in effect, the true home-wrecker. Wally was only comforting Jane after she got into a fight with her husband over her lack of skills as a housewife. Upset and confused, Sharon learns that Wally wants her to be more wife and less housekeeper. Fortunately, the neighbors patch things up and Jane and Sharon agree to both try to find balance by drawing from each other's positive attributes.

Personally, I really like this story -- not because I delight in seeing either woman suffer, but for all the historical insights that it exudes. "Out to Show Me Up" embodies the expectations and pressures inherent in trying to "do it all" for the mid-century woman culturally trained to be both content motherly housekeeper and doting sex-kitten. I hope this story got you thinking just as much as it did me!!!

Be sure to join me Friday for a
spooky (and romantic) Halloween tale!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Happy United Nations Day from Teen-Age Love!

"Romance Can Be Found in Many Places..."
Cover by Dick Giordano for Charlton's
Teen-Age Love #37 (May 1964)

Happy United Nations Day 2011!!! Believe it or not, I had more than one UN themed romance comic cover up my sleeve! When you think about it though, the UN isn't such a strange setting for a romance story considering the organization's importance and prestige after the Second World War. While in college, I completed a month long seminar at the United Nations and believe me, the General Assembly and Security Council Chamber are quite glamorous!!! With all that mid-century design it would be hard not to fall in love at the UN!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My First Visit to a Danish Comic Book Store!

Tucked away from the main shopping street in Aarhus, Denmark, down a little corridor of graffiti and ivy, is a small comic book shop bursting at the seams with comic book goodness -- Komics. I visited the store for the first time today to purchase bags, boards, and short boxes -- all of which I had to leave behind when I moved from the States a couple of months ago. Long story short, after much online research it became clear that purchasing the supplies from my semi-local comic book store would be more cost efficient than having them shipped. So this morning I hopped on a train and spent a nice afternoon chatting with owner, Kjeld about comics and what not! Here are a few pictures I snapped with my phone of the inside of Komics! Naturally, I forgot to take a picture of the outside sign... next time!

At some point in our conversation, the owner pulled out a copy of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read by Tony Isabella -- 1970s romance comic book editor and Sequential Crush reader! Small world, eh?!

This one is for you, Tony!
Your book is for sale in Denmark!!!
(As held by Komics owner, Kjeld)

So now, I can breathe a big sigh of relief that my comics now have bags and boards and boxes to live in! And if you ever find yourself in Denmark, be sure to visit Komics!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Gallery of Regrettable Fashion AKA Your Next Halloween Costume!

Halloween is rapidly approaching! Still looking for that perfect costume? Well look no further than the pages of '60s and '70s romance comics! While most of the fashion choices in the romance books are quite lovely, here are a few that are just a tad off the mark but may be perfect for that costume party you're obliged to attend!

Whoa! That outfit is quite the statement, isn't it?

"I'll Be a Modern Wife"
Pencils and Inks: Luis Avila
Just Married #61
(November 1968)

In his defense, he is a rockstar...

"Forbidden Romance"

Pencils and Inks: Tony Abruzzo
Secret Hearts #137 (July 1969)

Immediately following the
mysterious disappearance of the local zoo's tiger...

"Love is a Game... for Two!"
Girls' Romances #145
(December 1969)

Romance character or lost super-heroine from the DC universe?

"Beggar for Love"
Girls' Romances #146
(January 1970)

Ah, the rebelliousness of youth -- flip-flops and ponchos.

"Love a la Mode"
Pencils: George Tuska, Inks: Vince Colletta
Girls' Love Stories #160
(July 1971)

She stands out?

"Cage of Love"
Pencils and Inks: John Rosenberger
Young Romance #173
(August 1971)

"Please, Joe -- please! Take off that ridiculous
sweater vest before kissing me!"

"Too Easy to Love"
Heart Throbs #134
(October 1971)

Gratuitous hot pants!

"The Facts of Life"
Young Romance #178
(January 1972)

"Welcome to Planet X-72,
you will be given your uniform shortly!"

"Never Give up on Love!"
Pencils: Don Perlin, Inks: Vincent Alascia
Romantic Story #118
(April 1972)

"I said I wouldn't blame you for walking out on me!
...but, I do blame you for that outfit."

"...the Man in my Life!"
Pencils: John Romita (Retouched Reprint)
Girls' Love Stories #170
(June 1972)

My thoughts exactly...

"First Date"
Falling in Love #142
(August/September 1973)

Too bad his date can't
say the same about him...

"Like Love"
Pencils and Inks: Enrique Nieto
For Lovers Only #82
(December 1975)