Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Romance Comics and Black History Month - Marvel's 1970 Story "--But He's the Boy I Love!"

Hey everyone! I apologize for my recent disappearance! Sometimes life gets crazy, and well -- you know how it goes! But I am back, and I have a really good one for you today to help celebrate Black History Month! "--But He's the Boy I Love!" hails from the legendary Marvel romance issue, Our Love Story #5 (June 1970) and features the extraordinary talents of Stan Lee, Gene Colan, and John Romita. After reading this beautifully illustrated story, I think you will agree... they made quite a team!

Mindy craves attention from boyfriend, Allan Stone. Unfortunately for her, Al is a promising young social worker for the Family Service Bureau with a hectic schedule and clients who depend on him. Overall, Mindy thinks that Al takes life far too seriously but she is willing to be patient.

The next morning while out, Al bumps into Mindy's little brother -- Skip -- who is truant from school. When Al declares playing hookey a "loser's game," Skip exclaims without thinking, "Wow! You're just as square as sis always says you are!" Naturally, Al is offended by Skip's off-the-cuff admittance.

Not so surprisingly, Mindy doesn't hear from Al after the run-in with Skip. Though she doesn't know why exactly she hasn't heard from him, Mindy takes the opportunity to go on a date with a guy by the name of Duke Dunphy. Duke is fun and "with it," but decidedly not Al. Duke senses Mindy is preoccupied, and encourages her to go after who she really wants. Mindy kicks herself for loving Al and not someone hip like Duke.

At some point over the days of agony while not hearing from Al, Skip reveals to his sister that he told Al she thought he was a square. Mindy laments that things turned out as they did, and wishes that things could have gone differently. The next day, Al breaks and decides to call Mindy. Al's timing is impeccable -- Skip is missing and Mindy believes he is in trouble. Al calms Mindy down and promises to find her brother.

Al rushes to track Skip down and when he finally does, Mindy's brother is in the process of being hauled to the local precinct. Skip explains to Al that the group of friends he was hanging out with decided to break into a store. Skip went along to try to discourage them from going through with it, but in the end, Skip wound up getting picked up by the police as well. Al takes on Skip's case and sees it through to Skip's acquittal.

Mindy apologizes to Al for calling him a square -- Skip's trial made her understand how hard Al works and why he strives tirelessly to help those in need. Al explains, "Maybe, in a way, doing whatever good I can do -- is having fun to me!" Mindy understands his point of view, and with that understanding, romance blossoms.

An element of this story I noticed that is perhaps worth mentioning, is the fact that Mindy appears to be the sole caretaker of her brother -- something that also occurs in the 1972 Marvel story, "I Failed at Love!" Georgia Jenkins, one of the three nurses from Marvel's Night Nurse, finds herself in a similar situation to Mindy, in which she must attend her brother's criminal trial. Interestingly, the parents of Georgia and her brother Ben are not mentioned either. Though it is never expressed why the parents appear to be out of the picture in any of the stories, it is a curious portrayal that I can't recollect seeing in other romance comic stories. As I discussed last year, depictions of African-American women as maternal were not uncommon in the romance comics (and I have a few more examples coming up this month). Though I believe these 1970s stories were well-meaning attempts at diversification, from today's viewpoint, they still border a little bit on the stereotypical. What do you think?

*Story scans generously provided by Nick Caputo!


  1. Another great post! Romita's art and Stan's storytelling is always worth catching.

    And I miss you when you're gone!!

  2. Welcome back! It is interesting to note that there is no reference to parents, something I think Stan also did with an African-American teenager in his concurrent Captain America stories, where, coincidentally, Sam Wilson, the Falcon was also a social worker (and Gene Colan drew those stories as well).

    Nevertheless, Stan was doing his best to portray African- Americans in a positive light and contributing to society, with problems similar to everyone else's. Yes, some of his dialouge is painfully "Un-hip", and I wonder if the last panel was altered so that the couple were not kissing (which is usually how a tale such as this would end), but overall Marvel, starting from the early 1960's with characters such as Gabe Jones in Sgt. Fury, to Steve Ditko's use of black supporting characters such as doctors, policeman and college students, to The Black Panther, presented a positive outlook at a time when role models were often lacking,

  3. Oh, that was some great art. In many ways this reminds me of the superhero/girlfriend problem, where the hero has to run off and break the date in order to save lives.
    -Fraser, who can't seem to make blogspot accept him unless he's anonymous.

  4. Jacque, I think we all "know how it goes," so you have no need to apologize...
    As for this post - any Marvel romance story is a winner simply because of the art. This seems to be one of those examples in which you can get the gist of the story just by following the art in each panel.
    And yes, the story seems a bit dated and stereotypical, but I'm afraid that happened in comics (and not just comics!) all the time when attempts were made to be socially relevant. At least in the panels you posted here there's no cases of those flagrant and painful attempts at "hip" dialogue.

  5. The art is fantastic, isn't it? The panel where Mindy is on the phone is really moving and shows so much depth. Definitely a nice move towards social relevance and diversification.

    Nick: Interesting coincidence about the Falcon being a social worker as well!

  6. I feel so old...I actually remember that comic. Another kid brought it to school and I thought it was "boring" back then

  7. I think most of Stan lees work has a social conscience to it.A lot of black characters in comics speak in ebonics slang now, is that better or worse?. I remember watching 24, the first series. And the presidents son, who went to private schools (one would assume money was no object) spoke in street slang and sometimes acted in a cliche manner. I always thought that odd.