Monday, March 25, 2013

"Mother, Let Me Go!" - A Story of Liberation

 Cover of Secret Hearts #151
by Werner Roth and Vince Colletta

Hello and Happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend. If you didn't read my last post that introduces the dynamic of parental liberation in the romance comics, do that first! Then come right on back and read "Mother, Let Me Go!" from Secret Hearts #151 (April 1971).

This Lee Elias illustrated story introduces us to Elaine, her meddling mother, and Elaine's "date" Bruce. Except, as you will see, Bruce isn't really Elaine's date... 

Bruce is actually the fiancé of Gail, Elaine's friend. Elaine just borrowed him for the evening to get her mother off of her back. You see, Elaine's mother is absolutely terrified that no one will marry her headstrong daughter. Marrying Elaine off has been her mother's be all and end all goal for Elaine since she was a little girl. Naturally, her mother's pushiness, spying, and meddling resulted in many an embarrassing moment for Elaine, not to mention exhaustion.

"...If I don't go out every single night,
you start pressing the panic button!"

Yeah, coming home to this after a successful first date... that's not embarrassing, right? Eep! Poor Elaine!

A few months later, Elaine confides in Gail that she is sick and tired of every date leading to a battle with her mother. She tells Gail that she is so tired in fact that she doesn't think she could even fall in love -- "I'm so completely drained of all feelings and desires... even for love!" But that doesn't stop Elaine's mother from hooking her up the new neighbor boy, Danny.

Things get "serious" between Danny and Elaine. In truth, Elaine is just seeing him to keep her mother happy. One day when Danny proposes marriage, Elaine has to tell the truth. Her mother is beside herself and goes so far as to tell Elaine that it would have been better if she had never been born at all. 

Understandably, Elaine goes into a depression of sorts after her mother's tirade. One day while in the cafeteria, Elaine is approached by a history professor named Alan. One thing leads to the next and the two fall in love. Their engagement comes quickly, and only after Alan's proposal does Elaine bring him home to meet her mother. The story ends on a humorous note with Elaine's mother reverting to her old ways of bribery. Alan is forgiving, but he'll learn -- right readers?!

Not all 1970s romance comics dealt with the Women's Movement directly. Some, such as "Mother, Let Me Go!" effectively demonstrated the power of establishing one's self as an individual in the context of family as a clear first step in liberation for young women. Maybe not as marketable as hot pants, but important nonetheless! 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Girl's Guide to Liberation!

Liberation! Such a provocative word! As used in the romance comics of the 1970s, it conjures up images of protests and yes, even hot pants. Unfortunately for us fascinated 21st century readers, the stories dedicated solely to "Women's Lib" are few and far between in the romance comics. Back when I purchased Falling in Love #117 (August 1970), I was super excited that "A Girl's Guide to Liberation!" would be a fascinating document doling out advice to budding feminists of the era, and would provide me with further insight into how the Women's Movement was portrayed in the comics. But what I read in the interior article was something far different than my expectations. Click on each page to enlarge!

Though a bit clinical, this piece on breaking away from parents is a good solid read. Completely fitting for a comic magazine that was geared for girls and young women.

Join me Monday for a bit of a part two to this post. I will be sharing with you "Mother, Let Me Go!" a story from Secret Hearts that really exemplifies the struggle of the parent/child liberation dynamic! See you then!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Miss Young America Winners as Depicted by John Romita!

Remember this call for entries for the Miss Young America contest that I posted last year? Well, today I have for you two of the winners! These lucky ladies were featured in Young Romance #140 (February/March 1966). As their prize, they were given the original sketch of themselves by none other than John Romita! Lucky indeed!

Two things struck me about this filler page. First of all, it was published in the comic horizontally -- something that wasn't too common for one reason or another. The other thing that is interesting about this page is that in 1966 when this issue was on the newsstands, there weren't any African-American characters in the DC romance comics. Yet, the presence of Lessie Williams as a winner clearly demonstrates that young women from various ethnic backgrounds were reading romance comics -- despite the fact that the genre depicted almost exclusively white characters. As you can imagine, I was pretty excited to stumble upon this page, as it reveals quite a bit about the readership of the romance comics!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Look at Charlton's Career Girl Romances

Of all the Charlton titles, I can conclusively say that Career Girl Romances is my favorite. Not just a hodge-podge of random romantic stories like some titles, Career Girl Romances focuses on girls who dream big. Unfortunately, some of the stories in the pages of Career Girl Romances are probably the ones that make people take such issue with the romance comics for being sexist and harmful. And yes, as you read these pages, you will see that these definitely don't have the socially progressive message that say, DC did or even the memorable "Nobody Wants a Girl Auto Mechanic!" that appeared in a later issue of Career Girl Romances. But, the following stories are a part of comic book history nonetheless, as well as the history of how women and relationships were depicted in the '60s and '70s. With these stories that are less than savory for us readers today, the woman's career is introduced on the splash page -- but by the last page of the story she has abandoned her ambitions for marriage. Let's have a closer look shall, we?

"Formula for Love" (1968) follows a "trained laboratory analyst" and scientist, Miss Halleck who always tries to maintain "cool, scientific detachment toward all men."

But, by the end of the story, our Miss Halleck has abandoned her career without any qualms. Meh, science!

"Formula for Love"
Pencils: Charles Nicholas, Inks: Vincent Alascia
Career Girl Romances #45 (June 1968)

In this next example, "Tennis or Kisses?" Marla Lund is a tennis pro. She loves her career, and excels at it.

By the end of the story, Marla has caught the heart of Reese Garner, and Reese has captured the heart of Marla's stern coach. Marriage is on the docket, and professional tennis will no longer be a part of Marla's life as a married woman.

"Tennis or Kisses?"
Career Girl Romances #57 (June 1970)

In "No Time for Kisses..." our leading lady is a show-stopping singer with adoring fans.

But as it turns out, Carl is a heart-stopper. Singing falls by the wayside, and soon, love and marriage are the "only career that matters!" 

 "No Time for Kisses..."
Pencils and Inks: Luis Avila
Career Girl Romances #62 (April 1971)

Now, "His Love Will Destroy Me" is a little different. From the splash page it looks like this story will turn out like the rest and love will trump career. 

However, Gabe is a hunky egalitarian and decides that he and his girl should team up and pool their talents. Phew! 

 "His Love Will Destroy Me"
Career Girl Romances #60 (December 1970)

So yes, it's true. These stories aren't glowing beacons of progressivism. But, they do give us an idea of the overarching mentality of women's autonomy during the mid-century. It is interesting to see in these examples that marriage was definitely seen as a career path, and not just a practical part of life. Thank goodness for Gabe there at the end!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Happy International Women's Day 2013!

"Today's Heartbreak!"
Secret Hearts #137  (July 1969)

Happy International Women's Day! This year's theme is "gaining momentum." And although the romance comics of the '60s and '70s weren't anywhere near where we are at in terms of equality in depictions of womanhood today in media, it is pretty cool that our leading lady (above) was even given the chance in the pages of Secret Hearts to ponder choosing her career over marriage. By 1969, the DC line of romance comics was gaining momentum, indeed!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Familiar Imagery - Werner Roth's Handshake Panels

Hard to believe that it is March already... and you know what that means -- Women's History Month! But, before we move on to that, I wanted to do a little follow-up post on last week's Lois Lane story. If you thought the last panel (above) of  "I Am Curious (Black)!) from Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #106 (November 1970) looked familiar, then you are correct! Very similar imagery can be found in panels of two other stories I have covered here at Sequential Crush, "Someone to Love!" and "Black + White = Heartbreak!" -- and all three stories were penciled by Werner Roth.

Girls' Love Stories #159 (May 1971) 

Girls' Love Stories #163 (November 1971)

Here we go again...
Celia and Angela shakin' on it,
also from Roth's "Someone to Love!"

We can conclude from these examples that either Roth really loved drawing hands, or that he found the handshake a simple and powerful way to convey solidarity between characters of different races. Though we can't be sure if this visual shorthand was a conscious effort by Roth, it certainly defines his style in part (not unlike "The Tiny Fists of Mortimer" or the phenomena of "Kirby Krackle") and helps Roth's work stand out as some of the best in the romance comics.