Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Romance Comic Book PSA - Charlton's Jonnie Love Speaks Out on Narcotics!

First introduced in Teen-Age Love #61 (November 1968) by writer Joe Gill and artists Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico (both credited under the united pseudonym Tony Williams); Jonnie Love was a roaming, long-haired, quasi-hippie on a quest to find meaning after a life-changing altercation with his high school principal over his follicular indiscretions. Stories featuring Jonnie appeared in 31 issues of Charlton romance comics across their various titles. Not long after his introduction, a PSA-style sequential one-page collaborative story between Charlton and the Nassau County Police Department, called, “Jonnie Love Speaks Out on Narcotics” was published and appeared in multiple Charlton romance titles. This particular one is from Career Girl Romances #48 (December 1968).*

In it, Jonnie is quickly established as a killjoy. When the traveling moralist overhears a young boy in a teen club offering drugs to a young girl (and yes, much to our collective disbelief, wise Jonnie Love is a teenager himself), Jonnie quickly springs in to action to stop the two from doing anything they would later regret. Jonnie informs the youngsters that they are playing with fire, and they will get burned. He lets them know under no uncertain terms that “Drug abusers never live successful lives...” The teens listen to Jonnie, and declare in the last panel, “You’ve convinced us, Jonnie Love...”

Remember kids, 
Jonnie is always watching.

This PSA is slightly puzzling in retrospect in that Jonnie Love’s crusade against drugs made it past the stringent hands of the Comics Code Authority (CCA) at all. Though the depiction of drugs were not technically banned by the CCA, this is the same organization that in 1971 infamously forced Marvel to publish a three-part Spider-Man anti-drug story in conjunction with the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare without the CCA’s approval. Jonnie Love’s long-term love affair with staying on the right side of the law and his helpful demeanor must have earned him some brownie points with the CCA!

*Scans courtesy of Spectergirl over at her blog, As Told to Stan Lee. Be sure to check out her impressive and hilarious collection of Jonnie Love stories!

10 comments:

  1. That anti-drug speech just doesn’t ring true. I could see this speech coming from a square like
    Dragnet’s Joe (Marijuana is gateway drug) Friday, but you’d think a hipster like Jonnie Love
    would be into that scene. Comes across as somewhat hypocritical. Kind of like the 8th grade
    teacher, with a pack of Parliament cigarettes in his shirt pocket, warning us about the dangers of
    tobacco. Guess those recessed paper filters somehow made those cigs safer. Or the high school
    principal who threatened suspensions if the boys’ sideburns were lower than the ear, or the girls’
    skirts were more than 4" above the knee. Sorry about the rant.

    Jake (still sporting sideburns after all these years) Oster

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    1. The beauty of Jonnie Love is that his character is so paradoxical!

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  2. Jonnie's powers of persuasion are so powerful he should think of going into politics! It is odd that this got past the Comics Code, especially since there were direct refrences to drugs, but maybe because it was a PSA it was allowed. There were a lot of arbitrary decisions concerning the Comics Code (depending on who was reviewing the comic that day), but maybe Jonnie's persuasive powers reached out to the Comics Code reviewer as well!

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    1. Seeing as Jonnie was only a teen himself, the imagination races at what could have become of him as an adult!

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  3. Thanks for sharing this one, Jacque!

    I was reminded of all of those PSAs that ran in DC comics from the late 1940s into the mid-1960s, prepared under the supervision of the National Board of Social Workers (I shouldn't laugh--I'm a social worker myself!). Of course, those PSAs tended to cover topics like not running into traffic and the joys of your public library. They never got around to anything like recreational drug use.

    What surprises me about this PSA is the date, 1968. Based on my knowledge of popular culture, that seems a little early to be warning about the dangers of drugs, at least among nice, middle-class kids. I wasn't aware that issue was on people's radar screens until the early 1970s (which is when the Spiderman story you mention and also the famous Green Lantern/Green Arrow anti-drug story were published).

    But at any rate, you gotta love the young man's Nehru jacket! :)

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    1. I attribute the early date of this PSA to the then recent "discovery" in the public sphere of the hippies. Jonnie Love, quasi-hippie warns the kids against becoming one!

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  4. Jonnie was the most conservative teen rebel in comics. I wish someone would publish a collection of his stories.

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    1. He sure was, Tony. That someone should definitely be me. I've actually been researching rights, ownership of the character, etc. to do just that in the near future. Unfortunately, the ownership of the Charlton romance titles are tricky...

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    2. Even when drawn by the best of the best (e.g. Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez) Jonnie Love always looked like he was pushing thirty, One suspected he also had hidden away one of those handsome stock portfolios which Charlton romance heroes used to win over the girl's parents.

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    3. You are correct. I'm guessing Jonnie Love had a mustache in middle school.

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