Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fan Illustrated Romance Story - Marvel's "I Can't Love Anyone!"

Tonight's story, "I Can't Love Anyone!" from My Love #33 (March 1975) (originally published in My Love #19 - September 1972) is one I'm really excited to share with you. Not only does it have a compelling plot and gorgeous art, the creative team is somewhat of an unusual one.

This tale of "tender triumph" was written by Anne Spencer (nom de plume of Steve Englehart), and illustrated by John Tartaglione (inks) and "Paty" (pencils). On the last page of the story you will notice the postscript: 

"A few words about the artist: Paty,
(rhymes with "Katy") is a long-time Marvel fan
who always decorated her fan mail with pictureswe asked for a
whole storyand got this romantic result.
We love it, and hope you do too!" 

Fan turned artist, Paty Cockrum, née Greer is none other Marvel bullpen penciller, inker, and colorist, as well as the wife of the late Dave Cockrum. With the ironic fact that there were so few women who worked on the romance comics (despite it being a genre intended for them), I definitely take notice and get super excited when I find a story with the contributions of a talented lady such as Paty.

"I Can't Love Anyone!" is the story of Wanda Kingston, a young woman whose life is pretty darn "out of sight." As you will see, Wanda is quite the love addict. Her days are booked solid with thrilling dates, her nights filled with passionate goodbye smooches.

Sounds like heaven, right? Well, Wanda certainly doesn't think so. Despite enjoying the company of her suitors, she is troubled by the fact that every single one of them seems to fall in love with her. And for Wanda, love equals seriousness, and serious relationships lead to marriage, "squawling [sic] babies... and smelly armloads of laundry... and red hands from household drudgery." To that, Wanda gives a resounding thumbs down. For her, there are simply too many thrilling things to be accomplished in life to be tied down in such a domestic fashion. 

Wanda longs to meet a guy who shares her feelings on casual romance, and finally, one day she does. Simon is not only handsome, but he enjoys playing the field as well. For Wanda, he's perfect.

But in the spirit of we always want what we can't have, Wanda becomes increasingly devastated every time she runs into Simon and his never ending bevy of lady companions. Could it be? Could it be that Wanda Kingston has fallen in love?  

Wanda takes her new found realization to Simon, clearly hoping for the fawning reaction she would get in the past from all the other men she dated. But Simon is committed to playing the field, and chastises her:

"Oh wow, baby! Back off!
I'm not interested in staying with one chick!
I thought you were different from
those other dumb broads!" 

And to that, Wanda makes no apology for her feelings. She doesn't crumble. She doesn't break. But, she does concede that she is merely just human. And though it may not seem like this story has a particularly happy ending, we can be sure that Wanda's temporal heartbreak will lead to her future happiness.

This story is in part so fascinating because we are given a taste (in that great pink background colored panel above) of the very real fears associated with becoming a midcentury housewife. No doubt many a young reader could identify. We are also presented with a female protagonist who goes against norms and acts as she pleases -- stopped only by her own internal realizations and not the often harrowing demands of cultural expectations. In my opinion, this story represents so much of what is good about the romance comics of this time period. Not only is the art beautiful and exciting, in it, love is depicted as the complex beast it really is. "I Can't Love Anyone!" is a "tender triumph" indeed.


  1. I really dig MY LOVE and OUR LOVE STORY, Marvel's twin romance titles of the early 70s. The initial issues were all drawn by first-stringers, and had some of the best art coming out of the company at the time. Gradually the books started getting padded with reprints (initially early 60s stuff with redrawn with "contemporary" hair and clothing styles, then reprints from just a year or two earlier in ML and OLS.) Then, for a brief, shining moment, Marvel decided to try new material again, mainly from unknown talents. The stuff was idiosyncratic, but GREAT.

    Typically what I want out of romance comic art is fluidity. The example you've covered here has it in spades. Even in some panels where the characters don't look particularly attractive, the lips, the eyebrows, and THAT HAIR...just flows and flows.


    1. The hair is exquisitely rendered, Marshall. I get so excited by these Marvel stories from the more unknown artists as you mention. My favorite is the Montserrat illustrated tale (but this is one is definitely a contender):


  2. BRILLIANT! Thanks for sharing. I just love this story, one of the more "girl power" ones that I've read! Wanda rocks! I also appreciated the depiction of life as a house wife (summed up my feelings on the subject) Ha ha.

    1. Wanda does rock! There are a few romance stories where the prospects of being a housewife are depicted as being far from appealing for the protagonist, but so few come to a conclusion like this. Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Wow, people do change, and want different things at various stages of their life. Good for you, Wanda!
    An enjoyable story, thanks :)

    1. My pleasure! People DO change and have realizations that take them off their original course. This story is definitely a gem for recognizing that aspect of the human experience.

  4. I agree with all three previous postings--a fine story, and believable. This story seems to "get" what Women's Liberation was about--that a woman should be free (just like men are) to make her own choices, whether or not they are in line with society's conventions, and not be judged for them.

    Despite her tears in the final panel, I think Wanda will be OK!

    I also like John Romita's cover, by the way!

    1. Thanks David for bringing up the Women's Liberation aspect! I kind of overlooked that in my post, but you couldn't be more right. This story definitely gets it. (I added a tag for it under "Women's Movement" so others can find it easily - thanks!)

  5. Interesting. And an impressive first-time bit of artwork, too.
    Greer? I wonder if that's where they got the name of the Cat, Greer Nelson?

    1. I wouldn't doubt it! Definitely impressive first-time effort. I long to see the bits of artwork Paty had sent in with her fan mail, but alas! They are probably long gone.

  6. Great art -- I love the tears in the last frames -- no one cries like that anymore over love -- or do they?


    1. It is strange to say tears are lovely, but in this story, they really are.