Thursday, October 31, 2013

Celebrate Halloween with Charlton's Gothic Romance Comic - Haunted Love #4 (October 1973)

Greetings, you romantic ghouls, you! Happy Halloween! 'Tis the perfect time of the year to share with you an issue of Charlton's Gothic romance title, Haunted Love! This particular issue (#4, with a cover date of October 1973) came into my collection via way of my very generous and supportive boyfriend, James, who got a kick out of the fact that there were Gothic romance comics published in the first place. I think you will get a kick out of this issue as well, especially considering the first story, "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!" was illustrated by the legendary Steve Ditko -- a rarity for the romance comics. So wait no further! Follow along with me through Haunted Love #4... if you dare!


The first story of the issue, "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!" (edited by George Wildman, written by Joe Gill, and penciled/inked by Steve Ditko) takes place in 17th century Salem. The splash page introduces us to Henrietta Hanks, thought to have been a witch in life, and equally despised in death.


On the next few pages we are taken back to when Henrietta was young enough to court. Ugly (check out those teeth!), spiteful, and terribly jealous of the other young ladies in the village, Henrietta is madly in love with the village hunk, Edward Reeves. Sadly for her, Henrietta is certainly not the object of any man's desire. While out one day, she comes across Dame Magnus. The Dame perceives Henrietta's romantic frustrations and invites her to her barn that evening. Henrietta is both surprised and intrigued by the old witch's invitation.


Determined to have Edward return her affections, Henrietta makes the journey to the Dame's barn that evening as instructed. Lo and behold, Satan is there waiting for her. Naturally, he offers to take her soul off her hands in exchange for the love of a man.

Satan guarantees that if Henrietta signs over her soul to him, Edward Reeves will fall madly in love with her. With no time to spare, Henrietta puts blood-soaked quill to paper. And like clockwork, Edward comes a callin'.

However! In a cruel twist of fate, it turns out that Edward is not as admirable as he was from afar. Henrietta finds his conversation dull, his mannerisms and breath offensive, and worst of all, "his teeth are gapped and crooked!" When Edward attempts to make Henrietta his bride, she lies and tells him that she is promised to another. But ironically, the lie becomes reality when after her death, Satan comes to claim his eternal bride!


The second spooky story in this issue is "Reunion," with art by Joe Staton, script by Joe Gill, and edited by George Wildman. Just prior to their wedding day, lovers Daniel Morton and Cleo Drake take a trip to enjoy some romantic time by the sea.


Though the couple would rather kiss the night away (as lovers are wont to do), Daniel and Cleo start to make their way across the bay for a party being held on their behalf. But before they can make it to the celebration, tragedy strikes. As the two make their way there, a mysterious wave comes from out of the fog and envelopes their tiny boat, throwing them overboard.

Though Daniel is rescued, Cleo's body is never recovered. Despite the fact that the love of his life is never found, Daniel never stops feeling her presence.


The whole town knows of Daniel's great sorrow, and everyone around him respects his mourning. But when a pair of traveling "spiritualists" (AKA a con-man and woman) catch wind of the accident, Daniel's world is turned upside down.

Daniel is suspicious at first of their claims to be able to conjure his beloved from her watery grave. But before long, Daniel's love-sick heart gives in and decides to allow the spiritualists to assist him in contacting Cleo. Nadia, the duo's "medium" feels bad for Daniel, but goes along with her partner's tricks anyhow -- they at least need gas money to get out of town when the going inevitably gets tough. As Daniel approaches their "headquarters" (an abandoned, dilapidated cottage on a deserted beach), the spirit of Cleo surrounds him, further convincing him to go along with Nadia and Anton's deception.


When Daniel arrives for the session, Anton tells him that Nadia has many health problems as a result of her contacting the dead for people such as himself. Anton goes on to tell Daniel that in order to receive a message from Cleo, he must pay up -- at least $1,000 worth. So hopeful he will be reunited with his one true love, Daniel forks it over.

Nadia begins her ritual. And though she and Anton know that what they are doing is a scam, the ghost of Cleo apparently doesn't. Her spirit hovers over Daniel and Nadia as they join hands.


Suddenly, and so naturally, the spirit of Cleo enters Nadia's body. Daniel kisses the medium, overjoyed to find that his love has returned to him, despite the mysterious circumstances.

Anton attempts to stop Nadia from running off with Daniel, but love is far too strong. In this Gothic romance tale, good overcomes evil.


The last feature of this issue is a one-page text story -- "Ghostly Gallery." Read at your own risk, bwhaha!


I hope you enjoyed this issue of Haunted Love as much as I did! Though not your typical romance stories, the Gothic romance issues from DC and Charlton definitely enjoy a well-earned place in both comic book history and our hearts. 

Have a Very Happy and Haunted Halloween!

18 comments:

  1. Oh my stars. I am SO happy i stumbled across this blog. My husband laughs at me for reading these old comics and I'm so glad to find I'm not alone! This is my new favorite blog!

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    1. Don't worry. My wife laughs at me for reading these..

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    2. Thank you, Naija! So glad to hear it!!!

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  2. Thanks for posting this, Jacque. I love the Haunted Love series. #1 has my favorite Charlton romance story of all time "Eternal Teacher" by Nicola Cuti and Joe Staton. I actually choked up reading the end of that story. ---John Lustig

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    1. I love the cover of Haunted Love #1! So beautiful!

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  3. Great stuff, Jacque. Of course, as a Ditko enthusiast I have the issue, and he does his usual outstanding work, creating characters and mood. Joe Staton did some wonderful work early on for Charlton, and this is an example of his skillful art. I can even see the Ditko influence on the face of the woman on page 9, panel 2.

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  4. Wow, is Dame Mangus creepy or what in that close-up?

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  5. Not a Ditka fan, but this is much better than his work on ROM.

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  6. Hey,Jacque--didn't I tell you, a few years back, how (winningly) twisted "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" was? I mean, the wicked heroine gets a happy ending with the Devil? The censors at the Comics Code Authority were caught napping on this one.

    Oh, and congratulations on all the new acquisitions!

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  7. I never cared for Staton's art, but this is the worst example I think I've seen of his art.

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    1. I'm not the biggest fan either, Lee, although I do like how he rendered Cleo's ghost.

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  8. A fun issue, Jacque! I generally don't think as much of Charleton comics, but this issue is quite good.

    The Ditko art on the first story is fun. I love how Satan seems to be wearing a super-villain costume. And in that second panel of Edward Reeves, he looks something like a red-headed Peter Parker. :)

    The second story is quite good. (I don't know much about writer Joe Gill, but he did write at least one DC romance story in an issue I own, Young Love 101.) The script has fine twists and turns, and the reader comes to care about the characters.

    I'm not quite as crazy about Joe Staton's cover, though--Cleo looks a bit too pneumatic for my taste! :)

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    1. I don't quite know how many romance stories Gill wrote, but it is a whole darn lot. I'm partial to his Jonnie Love stories!

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  9. Wow, a Charlton trifecta - stories by Gill, art by Ditko and Staton. All it needs is another feature written by Cuti and drawn by Sutton, and it would have contained pretty much all that is good in Charlton in the 1970s...

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    1. Haunted Love on a whole highlighted all those guys! Quite an interesting title really!

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  10. Thank you everyone for stopping by and reading!

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