Saturday, December 27, 2014

Romance Comic Link Roundup!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! If you are off from work and doing a little relaxing, here are a few romance-related links for you to check out!

Don't get me wrong. I love the bell-bottoms
and polyester stylings of the '60s and '70s romances,
but a prairie bonnet in a romance comic?
Sign me up!

This one, over at Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine features a short story combining two of my favorite things -- presidential history and romance comics! Read the story of Abraham Lincoln and Ann Rutledge as featured in the 1950s romance comic, Thrilling Romances.

Scott Edelman has been delving into romance stories over at Comic Book Plus and has found a couple intriguing ones revolving around that touchy subject of weight. One story, "Too Fat for Love" ends pretty typically, while the second, "Was I Too Fat to Be Loved?" may just surprise you. Check 'em out!

A new romance comic?

Over on Facebook and Twitter I mentioned that I had the honor of writing an afterword for a new romance comic from Jamie S. Rich, Megan Levens, and Oni Press titled, Ares & Aphrodite: Love Wars. It will be out in April, so be sure to watch this space for more info as the time gets nearer. In the meantime, get your Jamie S. Rich fix by checking out his other new book (with Joélle Jones), Lady Killer which will hit comic book stores in January. Here's a preview! Though dark, fans of romance comics will definitely appreciate the mid-century style.

Thanks so much for reading!
If you haven't already, be sure to sign up for the
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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Holiday Wish for You

"Look the Other Way!"
Pencils: Mike Sekowsky, Inks: Bernard Sachs 
Secret Hearts #85 (January 1963)

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you are enjoying some quality cozy time with your loved ones, and enjoying the festive season! As we celebrate and leave 2014 behind us, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who takes the time to read the blog and keep up with all the goings on of Sequential Crush. I'm looking forward to a new year, and I hope you'll join me for more romance in 2015!   

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Showgirl and the Bully - Falling in Love's "Anybody's Girl!"

Cover by Bob Oksner
Falling in Love #124
(July 1971)

Today's story, "Anybody's Girl!" from Falling in Love #124 (July 1971) (pencils: Werner Roth, inks: Vince Colletta) is a little different from the rest of the pack. While most stories of working girls in the romance comics are about secretaries and stewardesses, this particular one features a working girl of a different type... a showgirl.

The story begins with a bleach-blonde dancer named Barbara. Though the job pays the bills, Barbara loathes it.

"...I hated being ogled, whistled at --
and how I had to keep smiling..." 

One night, the glares and gropes just become too much and Barbara snaps. She smacks one of the customers clear in the face.

"Maybe I shouldn't have done that,
but do you know what it's like to despise yourself?
To be fed up with hungry eyes and clutching hands?
I hit him and then ran, and I didn't stop..."

Barbara starts her life anew. After a few months taking odd jobs, she finally lands a waitressing gig. Though her hair is back to its natural color and her circumstances have changed, Barbara is still getting back on her feet. In the midst of the big life change comes another -- Cliff, a farmer who comes to the diner once a month while in town to deliver produce. The two quickly fall in love, and Cliff presents to Barbara his plans to marry her.

Cliff proposes that Barbara come stay at his farm until they are married, so that she can get to know Jonah, Cliff's older brother. Barbara is totally on board, at first. But once she meets Jonah, she regrets having come to their home at all. You see, Jonah is, uh, uptight, and a jerk. Immediately upon meeting Barbara he accuses her of dressing like a jezebel. Poor Barbara! As if she hasn't been through enough!

Jonah's judging eye continues to follow Barbara no matter what she does. He continues to belittle her.

"Woman, have you no shame?
My brother is young, he knows nothing of the wiles of women.
But I do! I know the sinful ways of the city!" 

Barbara gets sucked into a whirlwind of guilt, self-loathing, and confusion. Jonah makes Barbara remember her days as a dancer and makes her feel like "shoddy merchandise." Worse yet, every time Barbara tries to talk to Cliff alone, Jonah busts in, hurling insults and accusations.

Barbara decides it is time to leave, and she writes a note of surrender. As she opens Jonah's dresser drawer to slip the note in, she makes a shocking discovery that changes everything. She makes a run for Cliff.

"I was a sinner -- but not for the reasons I had cried over.
I had been willing to give up my love...
I'd been so blind!"

No longer distraught, Barbara finds Cliff in the fields and throws her arms around him, and boldly tells Cliff to marry her, "Now! Today!" Jonah is predictably, mouthy in his protestations.

With a new found confidence due to the discovery in Jonah's drawer, Barbara does not let Jonah's cruel words go without reprimand. And just like that, Jonah's holier-than-thou attitude is shot down. For what was in his drawer that gave his hypocritical indiscretions away? One of Barbara's garters!

And there you have it folks! Though it may have seemed at the outset that Jonah was concerned about his brother, it turns out he was just a bully, plain and simple. Barbara's mild-mannered, affable personality fails to convey her strength (until the end), as does the well-drawn, but misleading cover. Just another reason not to judge the romance comics by their covers!

I hope you enjoyed this story -- the reveal at the end is definitely gratifying. I've had this story planned for some time, so when I saw Scott Edelman's blog post last week, it was serendipitous. In it, Scott looks at the story, "Woman of Shame" from Dream Book of Romance #8 (September/October 1954). Though nearly twenty years separates the two stories, both have a similar message of empowerment. For both women, the journey to discovering that the shame of their occupations is not on them, is one that ends well.

Thank you so much for reading! I'd really love to hear your opinions on "Anybody's Girl!" And, if you haven't already, be sure to sign up for the Sequential Crush newsletter email list to get updates and other romance comic book goodness!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Favorites - Vintage Beauty Hacks! Elizabeth's "Beauty on a Budget" Featurette

Hooray for Friday! Today I have for you five of my favorite "Beauty on a Budget" featurette pages -- all themed around beauty regimens that are natural, practical, and inexpensive. Since most readers were teenagers with (most likely) limited money for beauty products, it makes sense that these would have been in the pages of the romance comics. What makes them so applicable today is that they discuss using natural items found in one's house and kitchen to create beauty products; perfect for those on a budget and watching their commercial and chemical consumption. All of these featurettes were illustrated by Elizabeth Berube, one of only a few women to work on the romance comics of the 1960s and '70s. She is also a favorite 'round these parts! Enjoy these decadent pieces of eye candy, and be sure to click to enlarge. 

Young Romance #170
(February/March 1971)

Young Love #121
(October 1976)

 Young Romance #166
(June/July 1970)

Falling in Love #119
(November 1970)

 Young Love #119
(December 1975/January 1976)

Have a wonderful and restful weekend! If you try any of these beauty tips, be sure to let us know in the comments! And if you haven't already, be sure to sign up for the Sequential Crush newsletter email list to get updates and other romance comic book goodness!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Spooky Halloween Romance - The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #2 (November/December 1971)!

The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #2
(November/December 1971)
Cover by Joe Orlando (GCD)

Happy Halloween! We don't often think of today as a romantic holiday on par with say, Valentine's Day, but don't tell the Gothic Romance comics that! Today, I have for you a very special exposé on The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #2 (November/December 1971). Though the cover of my copy is nearly coming off, this issue is special to me for two reasons. Firstly, because it is one of only four issues of this series before it became the horror title, Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion. Secondly, it is important to me because it is one of the issues that your generous donations helped me purchase last fall! So thank you for that! The first story in the issue is called, "Honeymoon of Horror" and was written by Sy Reit and Jack Oleck (via Robin Snyder and DC's records) and penciled by Tony DeZuniga. The story is broken up into three part and begins its first chapter, "Death in the Night!" with a young woman in a white nightgown cradled by a shadowy figure. 

Newlyweds, David and Ellen Drew, are on their honeymoon in the English countryside. After dinner at the Blue Boar Inn, Ellen insists the couple change their overnight plans and leave right away. She felt someone watching her as they ate, and she is terrified. David obliges, but first calms his new wife with a kiss.

As the couple drives away from the inn, it is clear they are being followed by another car. David accelerates in fear. As in so many other comic book tales, a curve in the road comes too fast, and a crash follows. Ellen clings to her lifeless husband.

Before she knows it, Ellen wakes up in a strange bed. Hovering over her are two men -- Doctor Winter, and Detective Sergeant White. They explain that she was brought back to the Blue Boar Inn after the crash and fell into a coma for a week. She slept, while her husband was buried in the churchyard. As the detective leaves, the doctor gives Ellen an injection to make her sleep. But the call of David from the grave is much too strong, and Ellen awakes and makes her way out to the churchyard. Confused and overwhelmed, she stumbles toward a man shrouded in darkness, thinking it is her beloved, David. Chapter one ends with Ellen crumpled into a fainted heap in the churchyard.

When Ellen awakes in chapter two, she has no idea where she is. She is in an elegant canopy, surrounded by people she does not know. To exacerbate Ellen's confusion, everyone around her is calling her Mary. Mary Cartwright.

Not only do the strangers insist that Ellen is actually named Mary, a raven-haired man named Edwin tells her he is her fiancé. A woman named Elizabeth tells Ellen that she is Edwin's sister and has been taking care of her for quite some time. Ellen is startled by the other man in the room, a doctor holding a syringe. She recognizes him as having been with the detective when she woke up at the Blue Boar Inn after the accident. But the doctor denies not only knowing her, but that there's been an accident at all. As the doctor gives Ellen an injection, he tells her that she's been in a coma for months after contracting an infection, and clearly has some sort of amnesia. But does she?

Outside of the building waits a man. But not any man. Detective Sergeant White. We the audience now know for certain that something fishy is going on.

Meanwhile, Edwin tries to convince Ellen to try to remember their life together, so that they can proceed with their wedding plans. Let's just say Edwin's kisses seem to be pretty darn convincing.

Despite Edwin's solid romantic skills, Ellen still can't shake the feeling that something is gravely awry. She is told by Elizabeth to take her pills and stop worrying. That evening, while she sleeps, Ellen is awoken by a mystery man who calls her by her true name, Mrs. Drew. Ellen is plunged into confusion even further, and has the urge to tell Edwin.

Ellen gets up to find Edwin and just as suddenly as the mystery man arrived, he runs off when the butler comes carrying a tray of food to a nearby room. Already up, Ellen attempts to satiate her curiosity of who may be behind the door. She knows it is neither Edwin nor Elizabeth. When she parts the curtains of the canopy, she is terrified at what she sees -- an elderly man calling out for his daughter, Mary... calling out... for her! She runs back to her room, shaken by the events of the evening.

The next day, Edwin summons the doctor for a consult. Though the doctor tells Ellen she is well enough to go on with the wedding plans, he still gives her an injection to help her sleep that evening. Despite the mind-fogging medicine, Ellen finds herself unable to sleep yet again. This time, she is kept up by a rhythmic "Thunk, thunk" coming from the cellar. What Ellen sees takes her breath away -- a man... digging a grave! In blind terror, Ellen escapes the house (effectively joining the ranks of "women running from houses") but is quickly stopped by Edwin, who wraps her in his arms. Ellen explains to Edwin what she heard and saw. Edwin tells her that what she saw must be a hallucination induced by her illness. To prove it, he insists on visiting the cellar with her. When they arrive at the bottom of the steps, there is nothing but a few pieces of wood atop undisturbed earth. Fraught with confusion, Ellen has no choice but to believe Edwin that what she saw was indeed a figment of her imagination.

In the days that followed the "grave digging" incident, Edwin kisses and caresses Ellen, more tenderly than ever. She feels safe and comforted in his arms and just when it doesn't seem like he can get any more charming, Edwin makes Ellen a proposition... marry him, marry him today! Ellen, who is feeling decidedly more like Mary Cartwright every day in her love haze, agrees. Conveniently, there is already a wedding dress prepared for her.

But Ellen's happiness as soon-to-be bride Mary is short lived. She begins having doubts again after Edwin insists that her father is waiting for the ceremony to start. Ellen pleads with him that her father is dead, just as her husband David is. In a major jerk move, Edwin slaps Ellen.

Incredibly, somehow, someway, Edwin is able to worm himself back into her heart, just in time to say, "I do." But there is no alter kiss, no tender looks of eternal commitment. As soon as they are pronounced man and wife, Edwin leaves Ellen's side and demands his inheritance from the old elderly man who claims to be Mary's (Ellen's) father. The old man tells him to look to the picture on the wall.

Seeing nothing behind the wall, Edwin flies off the handle, and in a move that crushes my museum-trained heart, destroys the painting. He then chokes the old man, causing his death.

Ellen slowly realizes that the grave was not a hallucination after all. It was intended for her, but Edwin's charm (and plank of wood) was enough to convince her otherwise. Other realizations come into fruition at this time... the old man did have a daughter named Mary who was promised a fortune as a wedding present, and, Edwin was the one at the Blue Boar Inn watching Ellen and David. In a panic over these realizations and Edwin and Elizabeth's death threats, Ellen makes a break for it.

Ellen runs and runs, until she bumps into a man. Thankfully, the man is Detective Sergeant White, and he's been trying to rescue her ever since her disappearance from the inn after the accident. Detective White knew things were coming to a head when a no-good man from the village named Jackson left town wearing a fake minister's outfit. Ellen is thankful that her marriage to Edwin is as much of a sham as her identity as Mary Cartwright. 

Aided by his men, Detective White accosts Edwin. Much to the con man's surprise and dismay, it is revealed that the painting itself was the present. It was a Rembrandt! Oops!

As Edwin is hauled away, Detective White gently takes Ellen's arm. And because at its core, this is a romance comic, he tells her that he thinks he is falling in love with her. Ellen has been given a new lease on life; one with a promising new love.

Phew! Poor Ellen! At 26 pages for just the first story alone, the $0.25 original cover price seems like such a bargain! But that's not all folks -- in keeping with other romance comic books, in between the two stories is a quiz, "Do You Have Psychic Powers?" Well, take it and see! Do you?!

The second story in this issue is the Don Heck illustrated, "The Mystery of Dead Man's Cove!" It is decidedly more romantic than the last, but no less spooky in its own way. Tracy Stevens is in the process of recovering from a broken engagement. She decides at the behest of friends to take a trip to Greece. Unfortunately, the trip starts off on a bad foot -- her luggage has been lost, and the weather is crummy. The only positive thing about the trip so far is the handsome man named Nikolos who was sent by the innkeeper, Mrs. Pennyworth, to fetch her.

On the way to the inn, hunky Nikolos explains to Tracy how Mrs. Pennyworth's ancestors owned the whole island over two hundred years ago. They were all killed while on a fishing boat in a bad storm. He goes on to explain how the locals believe the Siren of Mysinos was responsible for their deaths. His story of legends of yore is soon forgotten, as other thoughts of Nikolos take over.

The next day, Tracy wakes up refreshed and ready for the beach. After hours searching for shells on the cove, she approaches a grotto. Just as she is about to enter, she is hit in the back of the head with a rock, sending her plunging unconscious into the water. Thankfully, Nikolos saves her from drowning. After a hot and heavy rescue kiss, Nikolos tells Tracy he doesn't want her to come to cove again -- its history is much too bloody. Not only is it the site of the shipwreck, many others have perished over the years in the locale, including his uncle.

That night, Nikolos takes Tracy out to dinner at the Taverna. Nikolos is approached by a rough looking man, and in private, they make plans to head to the grotto. Tracy overhears the conversation, and naturally, starts worrying. Nikolos frantically drops Tracy back off at the inn. While having tea with Ms. Pennyworth after the strange encounter at the restaurant, Tracy divulges to the old woman that Nikolos was headed to the grotto with the rough men. Mrs. Pennyworth then goes on to tell Tracy about her dearly departed husband.

After a while of listening to the forlorn woman, Tracy decides she must go to the grotto herself and find out what Nikolos is up to. She sees that he is aboard a ship that is set to sail, despite the impending storm. Wasting no time, Tracy sneaks on and hides in the piled anchor rope. Nikolos quickly finds her and reprimands her for not staying with Mrs. Pennyworth at the inn. As they pass the grotto, a figure shrouded in light appears -- The Siren of Mysinos! But suddenly, it becomes clear that the siren is actually the old woman, Mrs. Pennyworth.

The crew chases her into the grotto, and finally, the dark secret of the lair is revealed. Inside is the mummified body of the old woman's dearly departed husband, Charles Pennyworth!

As Tracy and Nikolos leave the scene of the incident, he explains to her how after his uncle was killed he suspected Mrs. Pennyworth. In order to trap the old woman, he purposefully let Tracy overhear his plans to go to the grotto so that she would tell Mrs. Pennyworth. Clearly, the Greek hunk's explanation is sufficient for Tracy.

Lastly, the issue contains a special letter/advice column titled, "Through the Keyhole of the Dark Mansion," which in part addresses the phenomena of ESP.

Well, what do you think? Are the Gothic Romances for you, or do you prefer the not-so-spooky variety of love comics? I know this was a long one, so I really appreciate you sticking around to the end! Thank you so much for reading! And if you haven't already, be sure to sign up for the Sequential Crush newsletter email list to get updates and other romance comic book goodness!

Have a very happy and safe Halloween!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Video - NYCC 2014 Panel "Granddaughters of the Comic Book Revolution: The Golden Age Lives!"

This fall has been rather eventful for me, convention wise. Last month I spoke at Wizard World Nashville about romance comics and my grandfather, Golden Age creator and artist, Mart Nodell. When I was asked to be on a panel at the New York City Comic Con along with other comic book grandkids in a panel titled "Granddaughters of the Comic Book Revolution: The Golden Age Lives!" I was pretty bummed that I wasn't going to be able to attend. Luckily, Travis Langley (panel moderator) graciously arranged for me to participate in the panel via Skype where I joined the other wonderful and affable panelists, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson, Chelle Mayer, and Athena Finger in a lively discussion about our grandfathers and our own work in the comic book industry. Thankfully, audience member, Lawrence Brenner was kind enough to film the panel, and I've put the first part here for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

If you'd like to watch all four parts on YouTube they can be found at the following links: part onepart twopart three, and part four!

Thanks so much for reading!
If you haven't already, be sure to sign up for the
Sequential Crush newsletter email list

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Unlikely Romance - "I Married a Ghost" from The Witching Hour #15 (June/July 1971)

Cover art by Nick Cardy
The Witching Hour #15
(June/July 1971)

October is upon us! And that can mean only one thing -- it's time for a good ghost story! This evening, I have for you "I Married a Ghost" from The Witching Hour #15 (June/July 1971). This story is a little outside the realm of romance comic books, but I think you'll agree that it definitely has romance comic book elements to it; and, with good reason. Not only was the cover of the issue illustrated by Sequential Crush favorite Nick Cardy, the interior art chores for the featured story were completed by Art Saaf -- a frequent romance comic book contributor. The story, written by "Al Case" (a pseudonym of Murray Boltinoff) also has a flair for the romantic. Though "I Married a Ghost" isn't a typical romance story, I think you'll enjoy the subtle touches you may recognize from the romance comics, along with its hefty dose of spooky horror tropes!

The story begins with a car crash, a theme used often in romance comics. On the splash page, Jennifer and Gil are introduced by Mordred, one of the witch narrators from The Witching Hour series. The couple is shown taking a drive the night before their wedding. Jennifer is scared the meeting will incur bad luck, but Gil chalks her fears up to silly superstitions. 

Unfortunately, fate is cruel and and it turns out Gil is wrong. Dead wrong. While he survives the crash, poor Jennifer does not. Gil however, can sense her presence after she is declared deceased and exclaims to his friend, "Jack, she's still alive! Can't you almost see her spirit?"

Though we readers along with Gil can see Jennifer's ghostly form, Jack cannot, and is rightfully spooked when he is sent by Gil to fetch a bouquet. Gil is going to marry Jennifer -- alive or not!

Jack goes along with Gil's grief-stricken demands, and handsomely compensates a none too happy justice of the peace for his troubles. And with that, Gil and Jennifer become husband and "wife." After the ceremony, Gil insists on carrying his new bride over the threshold of the house he bought for them on Thunder Hill.

By the end of the week, Jack has made an appointment with a psychiatrist for Gil. When Jack goes to pick up his friend to try to get him to the city to see the doctor, Gil lets him know that he is busy working on something. As Gil leads Jack into his studio to show him the painting of Jennifer he's been working on, they pass by the dining room table which hasn't been cleared. Gil apologizes for the mess and says that Jennifer hasn't yet had time to clean up breakfast. Jack is taken aback when he realizes that both settings have been used! Jack wonders -- has he descended into madness along with Gil?

Gil is aware that everyone in town thinks he's a nut. He keeps the shades drawn to prevent prying eyes, and his trips into town for groceries are unpleasant to say the least. After a violent attack on a mouthy townsperson, Jack grows increasingly worried over his friend. The morning after Gil's outburst, Jack goes to Gil's house to check on him. Upon entering, Jack is overwhelmed by gas. When he finds Gil strewn about on the bed, he finds that he has arrived just in the nick of time.

When Gil comes to, Jack inquires why he turned the gas jet on in the first place. Gil can only answer that he has no recollection of it. As Jack passes by the jet on his way back from calling the doctor, he feels a cool breeze and gets a faint whiff of Jennifer's perfume. He also sees a piece of torn gossamer-like cloth by the jet.

Finally, the doctor arrives to cart Gil off to treatment and help him realize that Jennifer is really dead. As the story ends and Gil is safe in the care of a doctor, we are left wondering -- will Jack be able to return to reality, or will he too be sucked in to Jennifer's otherworldly charms?

Bonus! The splash page of the issue features the three witches of the series, Cynthia, Mildred, and Mordred introducing the stories that ensue. This panel from the splash featuring witch Cynthia, gives a nod to the social climate of the time, and is reminiscent of the themes and language of romance comics in the 1970s! Just another reason this issue of The Witching Hour is worthy of the moniker, "Unlikely Romance!"

Cynthia the witch does her own thing!
For more The Witching Hour with a story also illustrated by a romance comic book artist (Lee Elias) check out this post over at Detective Comics' Pages of Fear!

Thanks so much for reading!
If you haven't already, be sure to sign up for the