Thursday, February 28, 2013

Unlikely Romance - Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane in "I Am Curious (Black)!"

Today I have for you a story that I have been wanting to share for some time -- "I Am Curious (Black)!" from Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #106 (November 1970). Written by Bob Kanigher, and illustrated by Werner Roth and Vince Colletta, it is truly a story that only the 1970s could have birthed! And, perfect for both this last day of Black History Month and on the tail of the 75th anniversary of Superman. And yes, though Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane isn't a romance title per se, as you may remember from my 2010 booklet The Look of Love, many of the Lois Lane stories contain romance comic-like qualities. And as you will see in this issue, Lois's concern with Superman's love for her ultimately makes it a romance story.

The title of this story is a play on the name of
the 1967 Swedish film, I Am Curious (Yellow)

Lois, reporter extraordinaire, is given the chance to write an article on "Little Africa" -- Metropolis's African-American community. Completely stoked about the possible career changing opportunity, Lois vows to tell it like it really is, "nitty-gritty" and all. Superman (err, Clark Kent) is wary of her ambitions and decides to check in on Lois.

Lois soon finds that her enthusiasm for her article subject is not matched by the people living in Little Africa. She is dodged by everyone -- schoolchildren, teens, mothers, and even a blind elderly woman who detects Lois's "whiteness" when she goes to explain her project. 

When she comes upon a public demonstration, Lois is made an example of by the man lecturing and reminds his audience, "But never forget -- she's Whitey!" Though Lois knows she doesn't share any of the same sentiments that the man accuses her of, she does realizes the prejudices do exist for many.

Lois is frustrated by her inability to connect with the community of Little Africa. Luckily Superman swings by to check on her. Lois asks him to help her by turning her into a woman of color. A reluctant Superman brings her to his Fortress of Solitude and completes the dramatic transformation with his Plastimold machine.

Before she sets back out to continue her investigation, Superman reminds Lois that she will only be black for one day before her skin returns to its natural state. After a quick clothes change back in Metropolis into an Afrocentric outfit (one kinda wonders here why Lois didn't go shopping at a boutique in Little Africa to support the local economy!) Lois attempts to catch a cab back to Little Africa, but quickly learns after failing at that and a subsequent ride on the subway, that life as the Other isn't so easy.

Lois wanders into an ill-kept apartment building and has a cup of coffee with a woman who appears to be constantly battling the crumbling environment around her. Lois is touched when despite the woman's obvious hardships, she asks Lois what she can do to help her.

Soon after, Lois stumbles upon a man leading an impromptu class for children. While watching the exchange between teacher and students, Lois is approached by a man by the name of Dave Stevens who claims to recognize her. She recognizes him alright -- he is none other than the man who called her "Whitey." But, before she can say anything, Dave sees a group of teenage dropouts up to no good.

Lois follows Dave into the alley as he pursues the teens. The kids are dropping off a pile of loot to a couple of gangsters, and as Dave goes to stop them, he is shot by one of them. Superman quickly makes it to the scene before they can do further damage, and he quickly brings Lois and the weak Dave to a nearby hospital. The doctors inform them that Dave needs a blood transfusion, but they do not have his blood type (the rare O-) in stock due to lack of funding. Luckily, Lois knows she is a match so she volunteers to be Dave's donor.

As Lois and Dave lay side by side on hospital beds, connected to one another via tubes, Lois pleads for the injured man to wake up. Finally, much to her relief, Dave opens his eyes.

After the transfusion, Lois approaches Superman about an always touchy subject -- marriage. As she looks in the mirror at her altered self, she asks him if he would marry her even if she was black.

Though Superman briefly touches on the racial implications of her question and how he too is an outsider, he gives Lois the same answer he always does -- marriage between them could never happen. His enemies would kill Lois to hurt him. And before Lois can say anything else, she begins the transformation back -- ahead of schedule. A shocked nurse comes in to tell Lois that Dave has been asking for her. Lois panics and worries over Dave's reception of her in her current state. Superman tells Lois that she must see him or she will never know.

The last page of the story contains no dialogue, but the final panel says everything it needs to. There is hope for peace in the world after all. 

This is definitely one of those comic book stories that could be dismissed as overly goofy from today's perspective. But taken in context of the time it was published, the socially-relevant message that underneath it all, we are all the same, must have been pretty powerful for young and old readers alike.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Selling Romance - Diversity in Wigs (Part Two)

Click to enlarge!

Similar to an ad I posted during Black History Month 2011, this 1973 ad for "Permanently Styled S-T-R-E-T-C-H Wigs" from Charlton's I Love You #108 (September 1974) is a great reference for period hairstyles of the early 1970s. It primarily features hairstyles for African-American women, ranging from the everyday to the more fanciful ("Love Knot" anyone?). My favorite part of the copy -- "Gives you Exciting Sex appeal." Definitely a fine example of the commodification of romance and womanhood!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Love is All Around Us - Romance Comic Book Links!

It probably comes as no surprise that in February -- the month of love, there would be a ton of romance comic book related things out there on the web. Here are a few links I saw that may be of interest to you!

Scott Edelman recently wrote a post pondering the differences between the covers of romance comics and romance novels while purchasing some original art for his wife, Irene Vartanoff. He then did a subsequent post of the story he ended up purchasing a page from.

Johanna Draper Carlson reviewed the Fantagraphics publication Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics. Have you picked it up yet?

Have time for a longer read on romance comics? Read CBLDF's historical look at them by Joe Sergi, "Tales From the Code: You've Lost That Loving Feeling." Sergi reiterates many of the same quotes from Wertham I did in my 2011 post, "Time Travel Tuesdays - Dr. Wertham Speaks Out on Romance Comics."

Dork Shelf gives their pick on the most ridiculous romance comic book covers ever. The cover for Young Love #104 (June/July 1973)? No way! :)

Any thoughts on Marvel's plan to introduce a line of romance comic-esque novels based on Rogue and She-Hulk?

Spectergirl over at As Told to Stan Lee lends her always excellent sense of humor to Charlton's "There's More Than Tears!" published in I Love You #99 (September 1972) (panel at top from her post). Neighbors Bart and Evelyn get off to a bad start courtesy of a noisy typewriter, but soon, romance blossoms. Read the whole post here!

I hope you enjoy these links and be sure to visit the Sequential Crush Facebook page or my Twitter for more!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Romance + Floating Heads = Happy (Very Belated) Valentine's Day!

Hello! I hope you all had a nice Valentine's Day last week! I am delinquent on this post, but unfortunately the last leg of my move had to take first priority. It was a little hectic and stressful, but I made it! Anyhow, today I have for you examples of floating heads. Yes, you heard that right -- floating heads. Quite common in the romance comic books actually. You will see as you scroll down that disembodied craniums were used in the romance comics to convey longing, confusion, and obsession! Please enjoy this emotion-filled, cerebral ride!

"Once I Was in Love"
Pencils: Charles Nicholas, Inks: Vincent Alascia
For Lovers Only #62 (December 1971)

 "I Love You, I Hate You!"
Pencils: John Romita
Falling in Love #133 (June 1972)

 "No Love for Lisa!"
Pencils: John Rosenberger
Young Love #90 (December 1971)

"When Strangers Meet!"
Our Love Story #33 Cover (April 1975)
Reprinted from My Love #20 (November 1972)

 "The Mirror"
Young Romance #199 (May/June 1974)

 "Drops of Heartbreak"
Romantic Story #83 (July 1966)

 "As Time Goes By!"
Pencils: Gene Colan, Inks: Dick Giordano
My Love #30 (September 1974)

 "No Wedding Ring for Me!"
Young Romance #169 (December 1970/January 1971)

Pencils: Win Mortimer, Inks: Vince Colletta
Young Romance #166 (June/July 1970)

 "We'll Never Meet Again!"
Pencils: John Buscema, Inks: John Romita
Our Love Story #2 (December 1969)

 "The Drop-Out and the Debutante!"
Pencils: John Buscema, Inks: John Verpoorten
Our Love Story #19 (October 1972)

And to thank you all for being so patient with my neglect of Sequential Crush due to moving/life stuff, here is a full story for you that is chock-full of floating heads! It is called "How Can I Forget His Face?" from Heart Throbs #110 (October/November 1967), illustrated by none other than my absolute favorite --Win Mortimer!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Romance Comic DIY - Sew Here's How!

Hey all! How have you been? As you probably read in my last post, I moved back to the United States a few days ago! I am currently visiting with my family before I move on to my final destination, so things have been a little hectic to say the least. But, I just wanted to say hello and share with you this cute little sewing tutorial that appeared in Young Romance #199 (May/June 1974) by the one and only Elizabeth.

I love this little featurette! Not only are the colors fun and vibrant, the subject matter was certainly practical for a teen audience with limited money to spend on clothing and accessories. With an original cover price of $.60 (equivalent to about $2.79 today), this two page tutorial helped make this 100-pager a great value!