Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Win Mortimer Illustrated Tale from Marvel - "Back Street Affair!"

In a romance story, it may seem that a "happily ever after" ending can only come from the depiction of a successful romantic relationship. But what if a happily ever after doesn't come from a romantic source or at least not in the traditional sense? "Back Street Affair!" from My Love #33 (March 1975) (originally published in My Love #19 - September 1972) with pencils (and possibly inks, at least in places) by Win Mortimer is one such story.


Martha Tyler is a self-proclaimed "Miss Nobody" -- a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. She is madly in love with Nick, the wealthiest and most popular guy in town. Their relationship is one that takes place in the hush of the night, when no one else is around to witness their affair.

Martha loves Nick, but she's sick and tired of just being his girl on the side. In an unexpected move, she tells Nick to hit the road until he is willing to see her in public.


After the confrontation, Martha lies in bed, surprised with her new found strength. She decides then and there that she cannot settle -- parking and necking just isn't for her. She wants all the other things that go along with being in love and in a relationship. Who can blame her?

Martha decides to take matters into her own hands and goes to speak her mind to Nick's father, Dr. Rolfe -- the wealthiest doctor in town. It does not go well. Dr. Rolfe calls poor Martha a "cheap little nobody" and tells her to get out of his son's life before she regrets ever knowing him. The day just keeps getting worse for Martha when she runs into Nick on her way out. He is not pleased that Martha spoke with his father, and Martha is not pleased that he is a huge jerk. A slap ensues.


Despite the heartbreak, Martha is not one of those girls who just sits around and waits for reconciliation. In the months that follow, Martha works on putting together a portfolio for a teen modeling contest and prepares for her high school graduation. On graduation day, her father gives her the good news that she has been selected as Miss Teenage Cover Girl. All her hard work and determination has paid off. Within a few months of promoting the magazine in New York City, she is offered jobs with not one but four top modeling agencies.

Before plunging into the world of elite big city modeling, Martha decides to take a quick trip home.

"But before I could accept anything,
I knew I had to go back home... just to be certain
I'd gotten the one bad thing in
my life out of my blood..." 

Martha is greeted at the airport by a throng of fans. Naturally, she wonders if (and hopes that) Nick will be in the crowd to greet her. Suddenly, Martha sees a figure running towards her and no doubt is internally satisfied that it is Nick. He puts his arms around Martha and tells her that now she is a famous model, his father approves of them being together.

And in what has to be one of the most gratifying endings in a romance story, Martha gives Nick the hand and a clear, "No dice, Nick!"

And so, Martha gets her "happily ever after" but not in the traditional sense. Though she is alone at the end of the story, Martha's ending is one of self-respect. It's a pretty darn good story, elevated by the fantastic art of Win Mortimer. In a genre where stories most often end with a woman being fulfilled in her life because of a man, "Back Street Affair!" is unique. Though it is true romance comics did most often times promote marriage as the be all and end all in a woman's life, they occasionally featured stories such as this that break the mold. Next time someone scoffs at the romance comics for sending a bad message to young women -- be sure to point this tale out to them!

12 comments:

  1. Wow! That is extremely well illustrated.

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  2. Yes, loved it. Has Win Mortimer written more stories like this?

    Prithnush

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    1. Here is a link to the other Win Mortimer posts I have done
      http://www.sequentialcrush.blogspot.com/search/label/Winslow%20Mortimer

      He is known as an artist, but I am not sure if he wrote any stories, or had some hand in any of the writing of stories such as this. But as far as his artwork, there is a ton of it in the romance comics, thank goodness!

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  3. http://comicbookplus.com/?cid=2712

    Serenata

    Sorry, off topic. Not sure where else to mention this. It's a short Spanish language comic and well-illustrated. Romance comic fans may like it.

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    1. No problem! Thanks for the link! I will share on FB and Twitter!

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  4. This is just wonderful - I was a but wary, with that title, 'backstreet' having certain connotations ... happily we have a young woman quickly finding her self-respect, and her way through a tough teenage time. Win Mortimer really was a talent - but I wonder who wrote this.

    Did anyone NOT laugh out loud at the poncho thingie?

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    1. I wonder too, Martin. This one is missing the distinctive "As Told to/Narrated to Stan Lee" marking of so many other Marvel romance stories from this time. It is too bad this one is not credited!

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  5. Yes, the art is nice, but I am really digging that story more than anything else. What an awesome end!

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    1. Definitely a rarity in the romance comics to have THAT good of an ending!

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  6. I enjoyed this story, too! I am curious, though, how many readers of the mid-1970s would have been familiar with the concept of a "back street" romance. "Back Street" was the name of a late 1920s or early 1930s book by the once famous novelist Fannie Hurst, about a woman who devotes her life to being the mistress of a wealthy married man. The book was made into a film three times, in 1932, 1941 and 1961, but by 1961 the premise of the story was considered pretty dated.

    The feminist message of this story, though, is wonderful and affirming.

    I also do like Mortimer's art very much. Lots of tiny, clenched fists in the panels you reproduced, Jacque! :)

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    1. I learn so much from you all! Thanks, David for the info about the book and subsequent films. I suppose it is possible this was titled with that in mind!

      Thanks for reading! Mortimer was one of the greats in my opinion!

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  7. I love the line, "I felt as though a piano had fallen on me!" Paging Laurel and Hardy!!

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