Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Look at Charlton's Career Girl Romances

Of all the Charlton titles, I can conclusively say that Career Girl Romances is my favorite. Not just a hodge-podge of random romantic stories like some titles, Career Girl Romances focuses on girls who dream big. Unfortunately, some of the stories in the pages of Career Girl Romances are probably the ones that make people take such issue with the romance comics for being sexist and harmful. And yes, as you read these pages, you will see that these definitely don't have the socially progressive message that say, DC did or even the memorable "Nobody Wants a Girl Auto Mechanic!" that appeared in a later issue of Career Girl Romances. But, the following stories are a part of comic book history nonetheless, as well as the history of how women and relationships were depicted in the '60s and '70s. With these stories that are less than savory for us readers today, the woman's career is introduced on the splash page -- but by the last page of the story she has abandoned her ambitions for marriage. Let's have a closer look shall, we?

"Formula for Love" (1968) follows a "trained laboratory analyst" and scientist, Miss Halleck who always tries to maintain "cool, scientific detachment toward all men."

But, by the end of the story, our Miss Halleck has abandoned her career without any qualms. Meh, science!

"Formula for Love"
Pencils: Charles Nicholas, Inks: Vincent Alascia
Career Girl Romances #45 (June 1968)

In this next example, "Tennis or Kisses?" Marla Lund is a tennis pro. She loves her career, and excels at it.

By the end of the story, Marla has caught the heart of Reese Garner, and Reese has captured the heart of Marla's stern coach. Marriage is on the docket, and professional tennis will no longer be a part of Marla's life as a married woman.

"Tennis or Kisses?"
Career Girl Romances #57 (June 1970)

In "No Time for Kisses..." our leading lady is a show-stopping singer with adoring fans.

But as it turns out, Carl is a heart-stopper. Singing falls by the wayside, and soon, love and marriage are the "only career that matters!" 

 "No Time for Kisses..."
Pencils and Inks: Luis Avila
Career Girl Romances #62 (April 1971)

Now, "His Love Will Destroy Me" is a little different. From the splash page it looks like this story will turn out like the rest and love will trump career. 

However, Gabe is a hunky egalitarian and decides that he and his girl should team up and pool their talents. Phew! 

 "His Love Will Destroy Me"
Career Girl Romances #60 (December 1970)

So yes, it's true. These stories aren't glowing beacons of progressivism. But, they do give us an idea of the overarching mentality of women's autonomy during the mid-century. It is interesting to see in these examples that marriage was definitely seen as a career path, and not just a practical part of life. Thank goodness for Gabe there at the end!


  1. The old-school attitudes of these stories were reflected in most Charltons of the period. While writers at Marvel (and to an extent DC) were presenting "liberal" viewpoints (questioning authority, treating the counter-culture sympathetically, criticizing war), Charlton provided the "conservative" side of the balance. Their romance comics stressed family values and traditional roles, their war comics were pro-military and strongly anti-Communist, and hippies were frequently cast as villains. Over time this changed, especially as Dick Giordano brought in younger writers. It may be that since Joe Gill wrote an incredible number of stories for every kind of Charlton comic, this trend was simply his personal outlook showing through in his scripts. At any rate I find it interesting.

    1. Yes, it is interesting, even free-spirit Jonnie Love is quite conservative at his core.

  2. OTOH...
    "Tiffany Sinn: the CIA Sweetheart" a female private eye turned super-spy ran in Career Girl Romances #38-39 (and Secret Agent #10)

    1. Yes, still working on tracking down those two issues!

    2. Here'e Tiffany's first appearance...
      and her final tale...
      Unfortunately, I don't have her second story (which also had her only cover appearance).

  3. And if you ever get the second Tiffany Sinn story, we demand you POST IT!! ;-)

  4. Wow, even GCD doesn't know who did the art for "Tennis or Kisses?"! Interesting style though. Looks like one of their horror guys filling in. Anyone know?

    I had never heard of Luis Avila (I'm more of a DC guy) but that was a great look.

    It's interesting to read all the old comics to find how society has changed over 50 years. From individuality to relationships to crime and punishment. Great post, Jacque.

    1. Here's some more Avila information for you from the blog Out of This World! Be sure to check out the handy chart. http://kb-outofthisworld.blogspot.com/search/label/Luis%20Avila

  5. Love that hair! Thanks for the link.

  6. Oh, I don't know if Charlton was that conservative, that's too reductive a label. When it came to sexual politics, I'll grant it. Main Charlton writer Joe Gill's social liberalism was way ahead of the majority of Marvel and DC's scribes, and more coherent and sincere at that. But it's most obvious in the westerns and adventure books (Billy the Kid, Cheyenne Kid, the Phantom and Yang, for instance), where the focus is on avoiding violence and solving conflict with intelligence. Across the board, Gill is remarkably kind to non-whites and animals and women, and not in a patronizing way, either. And this was evident in the very early sixties, too. Of course, he had no love of commies, which he viewed as anti-freedom hypocrites, from what I've seen, particularly in the early Captain Atom stories and the war books. Plus Charlton's war books actually dealt with the Vietnam was while it was going on, instead of focussing on WWII and the Korean war, where revisionist morals were easier to dole out.

  7. BION, Career Girl Romances is kind of the template I'm using for a romance satire. We'll see if it works!