Friday, May 17, 2013

How Can I Love a Member of the Establishment?

"How Can I Love a Member of the Establishment?"
Story: Stan Lee, Pencils: Don Heck, Inks: John Verpoorten
My Love #5 (May 1970)

Girl, I honestly don't know. How can one love a member of the establishment?  In the second counterculture-themed story from My Love #5 (May 1970) that I told you about last week, college student Lorna falls for "the grooviest male on campus." But groovy he certainly is not! According to Lorna's hip friends,  "He's an organization man!" They warn Lorna not to go there, but all she can think about is instructor Walter Price's dreamy ways.

Lorna is surprised and delighted when Walter takes a mutual interest in her. The two start dating, and Lorna's evenings are suddenly filled with sophisticated trips to art galleries and the theatre.

Once Lorna's friends and acquaintances find out about the pairing, all hell breaks loose. Lorna is now a traitor to the student power movement.

Despite being head over heels for Walter, Lorna does feel some dissonance. She knows that by dating Walter and skipping the protest she herself helped organized, she is sacrificing her own principles. Things get even worse later that evening when Lorna comes home to a note from Aggie that the student committee has planned another protest and she has been selected as one of the leaders. Lorna knows that if she refuses to lead the demonstration as asked, she will be turning her back on her peers. At the same time, participating in it could cause her to lose Walter. That night, Lorna thinks long and hard about her difficult decision. Will she chose love or the movement?

In what may surprise some readers (especially those familiar with the Charlton career stories), Lorna chooses the movement.

"It had to be this way!
I couldn't betray my beliefs --
just for a boy!"

As the protest rages on, Lorna is convinced she sees Walter through the crowd. It turns out it is him, and Lorna moves in his direction without hesitation. She is confused over his presence at a students' rights rally (surely something he would have no interest in as a member of the establishment). But Walter sets Lorna straight. He is for justice for all. Even if he is "one of them." And so, the story wraps up nicely, with Lorna having learned an important lesson: 

"...A girl can be true to her convictions --
without losing what she wants the most!" 

Definitely a different ending for this Marvel story than many other romance stories from the genre's history. By questioning her principles and her desires instead of just blindly going with her heart, this is a memorable and uniquely 1970s story. In my opinion, this internal struggle is part of what makes the romance comic book characters so appealing, and ultimately, relatable.

Have a Great Weekend!


  1. Ho boy. Yeah. Should she choose a guy with a future, or settle for a life of free love, drug abuse, and all that other stuff? Gee, what a decision...! ;-)

  2. Amazing to see how much heart and passion Stan Lee put into each and every one of his stories - and not just the ones that superhero fanboys would see or care for too!

  3. I've never been a big Don Heck fan but I love his work here. Thanks for printing this--I've been curious ever since I heard the title.

    1. I am not a big Heck fan either, but I think his work is definitely effective for this story!

  4. Spidey (Peter Parker) had similar tensions around this same time, in there were stories where Parker was looked down upon by campus peaceniks (including cute hippie chicks -- always a strong motiviating force) because he wouldn't "join" the protests and wouldn't explain why. Little did the peaceniks know that his Spidey duties made it difficult for him to "commit" to peace when the Green Goblin was running amok and terrorizing the city. Poor Petey -- such a social pariah. Like Clark Kent, he had to keep his heroism a secret.


    1. Thanks for the apt parallel, Wes. And what a great cover (I think this is the one you are referring to?)

      It is clear Stan was excellent at writing conflicted characters -- superhero or otherwise!

  5. Oh, such fun! But wouldn't Walter get sacked for dating a student? And wouldn't his pipe breath stink?

    But he sure is dreamy! And her pinch-faced pals? Just bitter!

  6. A very interesting and different story. Yes, Stan was versatile and could write different types of stories. I think that's what made his superhero tales so good. He took parts of the romance and humor features he wrote and transplanted them into the superhero.

    Heck was a very talented artist whose work stood out with a good script and inker. Here Verpoorten compliments his pencils. Check out some of Heck's covers and stories for DC's romance titles. He was particularly well teamed with Dick Giordano, who enjoyed inking Heck.

  7. Looking at the heroine's eyes throughout, I'd be more inclined to wonder what SHE'S been smoking, but I guess we know the answer to that! It's a nice story, but this Ken and Barbie duo doesn't really fit the groovy scene back then -- they are a little too clean.