Monday, January 28, 2013

Mad Mad Modes for Moderns Mondays - Swimsuits in the Winter!

"Mad Mad Modes for Moderns"
Girls' Romances #147
(March 1970)

It's the end of January and I am totally sick of winter! I've been dreaming of a tropical vacation to stave off the funk that comes with the chilly wind and slush. But, since that isn't in the cards right now, I'm going to live vicariously through this 1970 "Mad Mad Modes for Moderns" featuring bright and sunny swimsuits!

How about you? How are you doing? You have probably noticed that things have slowed down again here at Sequential Crush. Well... I have another big relocation on the horizon. Those of you who have been around reading for a while know that in 2011 I moved to Denmark. It has been very exciting and a time of growth, but for both personal and professional reasons, I have decided to move on back to the United States! And, my friends, that move will be taking place at the end of this week! I am pretty excited, and of course scrambling about to get everything prepared! I have prepped a few posts for the coming weeks, but we'll just see how things go. So, long story short,  if things are a little quiet, no worries -- I'll be back! As always, thank you for being the best readers around!!! 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Understanding Comic Book Cover Dates

Just wanted to share with you today this little DC house ad from Heart Throbs #104 (October/November 1966). Not only is it visually intriguing, I think it nicely illustrates the difference between comic book cover dates and actual publication dates -- which can get pretty confusing if you ask me!

This particular house ad advertises Girls' Romances #120 (cover date of October 1966, "on sale" date of August 25th, 1966) and Young Love #58 (cover date of November/December 1966, "on sale" date of August 13th, 1966). Why the two different dates? Well, these two comics both went on sale (or were technically "published") in August of 1966. The other dates (which are listed on the cover and indicia) refer to the date by which the comic was to be pulled off the newsstand in the event that any issues went unsold.

You have probably noticed that I always use the cover date here at Sequential Crush -- just a little simpler, and it is the industry standard when referring to older comics. Even though I use the cover date as a point of reference, when I am reading the romance comic book stories I always find it important to hold the earlier "on sale" date in mind to account for things that may seem outdated or out of place. The stories were of course for the most part written and illustrated even months prior to the sale date (though surely some were last minute additions), which must be accounted for also. Society, fashion, and popular culture were all changing rapidly at this time, and the romance comics appear to have done a pretty good job of incorporating true-to-life tidbits despite the rigorous publishing schedule -- adding to their magazine-like quality that was so popular with readers.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Artist Spotlight - Manny Stallman

Earlier this week I presented a little mystery of sorts when I shared the 1966 Young Love #57 story, "How Long Can I Go on Loving the Man I Hate?" I was completely stumped on the artist, but luckily in the comments section, a few readers (including Nick Caputo of Marvel Mysteries and Comics Minutiae) were able to help me out! I now can concretely say after receiving their comments and doing some research on my end, that the artist responsible for the story in question is Manny Stallman.

"Girl on the Run!" 
Girls' Love Stories #115
(November 1965) 

Born in 1927, Stallman started in the comic book industry as a teenager. He had hopes of using his skills as an artist to break into the world of advertising, but Stallman worked for quite a few comic publishers before moving on. His first known published work was on a series of stories called Young Robin Hood in 1943 for Lev Gleason. In the following years, Stallman work for almost every publisher out there -- Atlas, Avon, Harvey, and Prize, to name a few.

"The Strange Tree"
Mystic #1 (March 1951)

As you can see, Stallman also worked on a variety of genres including crime, horror, and romance. At times he just inked, as can be seen in this early example of Stallman's contribution to the romance genre:

"The Life of the Party!" 
Pencils: John Guinta, Inks: Manny Stallman
Young Love #6 (December 1949)

Stallman only worked on a few DC romance stories in the '60s, but they are quite special. Not only are they rare, but they posses a certain fervid charm. What a shock it must have been for romance readers in the mid-sixties to encounter art and layouts so drastically unique as his!

 "Burn, Heart -- Burn!"
Girls' Love Stories #113
(August 1965) 

Later on in his career, Stallman did get to that advertising work he had intended on when he was a teen. He went on to draw promotional comics for the ice cream chain, Baskin-Robbins, as well as for Big Boy. In his fantastic tribute to Stallman (which is definitely worth a read if you have a few minutes), Mark Evanier explains, "Manny’s Big Boy stories were just like Manny: sweet and utterly bizarre."

Adventures of Big Boy #73

Stallman passed away in 1997, but from all accounts, he is remembered as a genuinely kind man and a certainly interesting (though relatively unknown) part of comic book industry history. Now that I know what his art looks like, I will be sure to keep an eye out for more in the 1960s romance books and report back in a future post if I find any! What do you think of Stallman's romance work?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Unidentified DC Romance Artist - Young Love's "How Long Can I Go on Loving the Man I Hate?"

This is an issue that used the splash page
of the story as the cover. The dialogue was altered slightly
from the original splash for increased dramatic impact.

I have a romance comic book conundrum to share with you today! Young Love #57 (September/October 1966) features a story titled, "How Long Can I Go on Loving the Man I Hate?" After studying the artwork for quite a while, I am completely stumped by who the artist(s) could be. Read on and see if you have any thoughts concerning who may have been responsible for this story! 

One day, out of the blue, Gary breaks things off with his girlfriend, Myrna. He says that he thinks he loves her, but he needs time to think things over. Myrna tries to give him back the ring he gave her, but Gary tells her not to.

Myrna stays glued to the bench in the park, completely in shock and frozen to the spot. Eventually, she goes home and cries things out. Her mother comforts her for a while until she asks to be alone. Myrna then cries herself to sleep. When she wakes in the morning, she is confronted with a sudden burst of conflicting emotions -- hate, love, more hate! (Oh, girl -- I so understand!) Myrna's hate for Gary leads her to picture a scene in the future in which Gary returns and wants her back. In this waking dream, Myrna exclaims to the man who jilted her, "Take your hands off me! I no longer love you!" And so go the next few weeks -- love, hate, hate, love...

During one of Myrna's "hate cycles," her cousin Carol comes to visit for a few months. Myrna asks Carol to help her seek revenge on Gary.

Carol tries to talk Myrna out of it, but since Myrna won't relent, Carol decides to help her cousin out. Carol meets Gary out at one of his usual haunts and secures a date with him for the next evening. Though it was her idea, Myrna is still upset. Carol suggests that Myrna stop wearing Gary's ring and give it to her to hold onto until Myrna figures out what she wants to do with it.

The weeks pass and Carol and Gary see more of one another. One evening, Carol comes home in tears -- Gary has fallen in love with her. Myrna is confused why she is crying, as making Gary fall in love with Carol was the object of the "game" all along. Carol confesses that she has fallen in love with Gary in return, and that was certainly not in the plan.

Carol decides to head back home, and Myrna does not convince her to stay. The two cousins do not see each other for weeks, except in Myrna's nightmares. About a month after Carol confessed her love for Gary to Myrna and leaves, Carol shows up at Myrna's house crying. Gary broke up with her, and she is crushed. Myrna suggests she either cry it out or attempt to seek revenge as she did. Awkward! Thinking of her own heartache, Myrna says to her cousin, "I'm sorry, Carol! You'll get over it!" But Myrna herself hasn't gotten over Gary.

And because life seems to work this way, right after Carol leaves, Gary shows up at Myrna's door. She tells him that Carol has left -- but Gary isn't looking for Carol. He wants Myrna back. Myrna reacts strongly and calls Gary out as she did in her daydream:

"You mean -- now that you've finished with her,
you're ready for me again? No, thank you --
I've suffered enough! Please go away!" 

Gary goes on to say that he wanted to call her -- to tell her that he hated himself for ever having doubts about loving her. When Myrna quizzes him as to why he didn't call her then, he says it was because Carol gave him the ring and said that Myrna never wanted to see him again. Myrna wonders how her cousin could do such an awful thing to her. But Gary shifts the blame to himself, saying the only thing that bothers him is that he hurt her. As Gary slips the ring back on Myrna's finger, he tells her to never take it off.

Quite the story! It really solidifies the saying that love and hate are two sides of the same coin, doesn't it? Art wise, it is unlike any other story I have seen in the romance comics. And the strange thing is, even though the art is sort of bad (a bit amateur looking and many of the faces are almost grotesquely rendered) I am strangely attracted to it. Maybe something about Myrna's eyes in some of the panels or maybe it is because of the large, dramatic Gene Colan-esque panels on pages four and seven? Perhaps it was drawn by a rarely used artist? There is something vaguely familiar about it. Could it have been from the hands of a more well-known artist trying out a different style? If you have any thoughts on who it might be, please share!

Update: Thanks to some very knowledgeable readers out there, this mystery has been solved! This story was penciled and inked by Manny Stallman. Read more about Stallman here

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Retouched Reprint - DC's "Winter of Love"

I hope 2013 is off to a good start for you! Since winter is officially in full swing, today's story "Winter of Love" is quite fitting. Though this incarnation of the story was published in Heart Throbs #137 (January 1972) it is actually a retouched reprint of a story that originally appeared in Young Romance #140 (February/March 1966). Though it has no bearing on the plot, the characters in the original story "Winter in My Heart" were white, whereas in this reprint they are African-American. Though rare, there are a few other instances of this occurring in the romance comics, and it was done simply to diversify the comics for a new audience in a new age.

Lois moved to the big city to pursue a career in modeling, as well as find friends and true love. But sadly, Lois has a tough go at all three. Her modeling career is taking off slower than she had hoped, and Lois has to take a secretary job at an insurance company to make ends meet. Lois is invited to a few parties here and there and also befriends her neighbor named Hope, but overall, Lois is disappointed with how things are going in her life.

Lois starts dating a guy named Vic out of loneliness. Though eventually she feels as if she is falling for him, Lois never quite feels as strongly about Vic as he does about her. Then, one day they get in a fight -- Vic doesn't like Lois working overtime. He thinks that she has eyes for her flirty boss, and Lois can't convince him otherwise.

The couple splits. To make matters worse, Hope moves away and Lois gets fired from her job. Her boss says it is because she is just too unfriendly (or because she has turned down too many of his date requests, Lois thinks to herself). Lois sinks into despair and contemplates going back home to Ohio. But thankfully, her troubles are short-lived. 

Suddenly and out of the blue, Lois is contacted for modeling jobs -- her career is finally picking up! She is invited to many glamorous parties at which she makes lots of new friends and meets "Mister Right."

Marty is charming and everything Lois has ever wanted in a guy. She begins to fall deeply in love with him, continues to meet new people, and secures more and more modeling jobs. But, Marty is too charming, and one evening at a party Lois walks in on him making out with another woman. Brokenhearted (and embarrassed too, since her new "friends" warned her Marty would cheat) Lois questions everything -- her career, her friendships, and her dreams.

Lois decides to take some time for herself to sort out her feelings and heads to the "Rustic Lodge." The lodge has no other visitors, so Lois uses the solitude to try to find some answers to her unhappiness. But, she comes up empty-handed and can only conclude out of her sorrow that maybe happiness just isn't her lot in life. Upon returning to the lodge after a long walk, Lois is surprised with an announcement that she has visitors... Hope and Vic! They are a sight for sore eyes! Vic apologizes for being a "jealous nut" and asks Lois to marry him. In the end, Lois feels that dreams do come true, though not always how one envisions them.

And that my friends is "Winter of Love." The story is overall pretty typical for mid-1960s DC romance comics, but it is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, there are only a handful of stories out there that featured retouched artwork to promote diversity (and not retouched just to update fashions and hairstyles as was common), and this is one of them. It is also an important story because it is one of the few where the main characters are not only African-American, but one where the color of their skin has nothing to do with the point of the story.