Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Ultimate Romantic Fantasy - Gray Morrow's Gorgeous "Love Me a Little Longer!"

Why hello there! It's been a minute, hasn't it? Thanks for joining me today, despite the fact I've been a little AWOL lately. I think I mentioned this in a prior post, but I'm stepping away from blogging a bit to work on a larger project for Sequential Crush. I definitely think it'll all be worth it in the end, but thank you for your patience and loyalty all the same. Now, on to the romance!

Young Love #80 (May/June 1970)

"Love Me a Little Longer!" has some of the most gorgeous romance comic book art you've ever seen, and was illustrated by the talented Gray Morrow. This story stands as a testament to the trials of real-life romance (that so many of us have had to deal with at one time or another) played out in four-color glory, and with quite the fantastical ending. Join me, as we witness protagonist Liz ride the roller coaster that is, Young Love!

Liz lives by the axiom, "Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all." But as you'll see, her carefree convictions are soon challenged by Richard Gates. Richard, as we come to find out, is not only a famous actor, but a complete and utter playboy. No woman thus far has been spared Richard's waning affections -- will Liz?

Liz preoccupies herself during the first week of rehearsals with learning her part, as any good actress would. However, her concentration is soon interrupted by Richard's desire for her. One day, Richard treats Liz to lunch. During their meal, Mr. Gates puts his ambitions for Liz out on the table.

Knowing his reputation, Liz is quick to dismiss him, but that only makes Richard press harder.

"How many times? Many times, Liz...
But don't get me wrong... I'm not a playboy...
Whenever I tell a girl I love her... I mean it!
D-Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you, Liz?
I--I never lie... I mean it when I tell a girl I love her...
But I also make sure to tell her... It can never last
much longer than six months or so...
and then... then... it's over!" 

Not a playboy, huh, Richard? Well, lucky for you sir, Liz is totally smitten. And so, Richard dumps his current lady friend and an epic romance between him and Liz begins. Though Liz knows in her heart that she will soon meet the same fate as the other girls that Richard has toyed with, she relishes in their blossoming romance.

In an anticipatory move, Liz asks Richard what happens when he falls out of love with a girl. He is frank and tells her, "nothing, love!" He just leaves his former flames hanging. No more calls, no more text messages... oh wait -- that's our fate, isn't it, dating ladies of the 21st century? Anyway, like so many of us at one time or another, Liz begins to feel impending doom every time the phone doesn't ring. Or, doesn't vibrate, in our case.

Luckily for Liz, she hasn't gotten the ax yet, but that hasn't stopped her paranoia. She even goes so far as to ask Richard if he has ever, even once, asked a girl to marry him.

The months go on and finally, the play comes to a close. Richard has been offered a role in a movie that will be filmed in Italy. When Liz overhears that he is possibly going to take it, the end of their romance looms. The following day is the end as far as she is concerned. Having not heard from Richard since the evening before, Liz paces her apartment, curses her seemingly non-operable telephone, and throws herself down on her couch to sob,

"No, no, I can't blame you, Richard...
You never lied to me... or pretended...
You warned me it wouldn't last...
I--I went into it with my eyes wide open,
my dear, dear darling..."

And then, very late that evening, there is a knock on Liz's door. Richard stands there, and then goes into a tirade. Liz, poor thing, looks pretty confused at this point.

Richard then takes Liz in his arms and declares that she has ruined his life. Ruined, because he can't live without her. Richard, former player, must marry Liz and spend the rest of his life with her and only her. Liz ecstatically promises to make marriage as painless as possible.

Whoa! So how do you feel after reading that beautifully illustrated story, replete with ups and downs?! This Gray Morrow piece is the ultimate in romantic fantasy -- one that addresses the dream of having the ability to change someone merely through the power of love. By the end, Liz is able to change Richard, so completely, so effortlessly -- just by being her wonderful self. Liz was, in short, able to "tame the beast."

Now, I know most of us at one time or another have had hopes we could change someone, whether it be a romantic interest or a family member. If you've been in this situation, you know the anxiety that goes along with hoping something we said or did would just rub off on them already, and make them come to a sudden realization about how wrong they were! Now, there is another side to this coin. Maybe it isn't so much that Liz changed Richard, but that she just turned out to be his "soul mate" -- which is decidedly more romantic. Either way you think about it, "Love Me a Little Longer!" is the ultimate romantic fantasy. And what better place for fantasy than in a comic book, right?


  1. I feel like... all my failed relationships would have succeeded if only Gray Morrow illustrated them !

    1. So talented! I only wish he had illustrated more romance stories!

  2. Morrow was amazing. My favorites were his covers for the Frankenstein Horror Series paperbacks.

    He also did great poster art for some schlocky films from Independent International in the 70s.


    1. Thank you for sharing the Frankenstein covers, Marshall! Love those!!!

  3. Hi Jacque,

    Beautifully drawn story by Gray Morrow! As you noted it is frustrating when you are unable to make someone rethink something or change their position in a positive way. The happy ending of this story can be taken at face value. but then again...Is Richard "acting" or does he really love Liz? It's possible that he sincerely believes what he is saying, but can he change? It's open to interpretation, at any rate.

    The names Richard and Liz were thinly veiled references to Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, who were very much in the gossip sections of newspapers and magazines at the time.

    1. It is open to interpretation, Nick. In some ways, the "forever" part of the marriage contract is a continuation of the fantasy rather than a guarantee.

  4. Fantasy is a very apt way to describe this story, as is your point about it being perfect for comics - in the same way that, say, superhero comics are also fantasies of a different sort. In that sense, it's really elevated by Morrow's gorgeous art. And I think my favorite image (of those you posted) is the opening splash page - what a wonderful use of shadows and a minimum of colors.
    And Nick, nice catch on the Richard & Liz reference.

    1. That splash page is something, Edo! So stylized. I knew we were in for a treat as soon as I saw that!

  5. Jacque,

    An interesting example of a typical romance story with artwork by an atypical romance artist. The talented Gray Morrow elevates this story, certainly. If I was to pick, I think my favorite panel would be that last panel on page 7 where Liz is reaching for that long expected phone call. Her facial expression so adeptly sums up that love-sick heart on the edge of insanity feeling of an all-consuming love affair - overwhelming relief mingled with overwhelming anguish! Morrow was an expert at his craft, no doubts.

    Even while Morrow draws us away from the standard romance art, we do still have the obligatory and perennial tear-stained heart-broken silently suffering damsel gracing the cover, so we aren't pulled too far from the familiar romance habitat.

    Without going full-on crude as I occasionally do, there always exists a fine line between the text and subtext, the implicit and overt romantic themes and the explicit sexual nature lurking just beneath the surface in every romance comic since the origin of romance comics. The title, please "Love Me A Little Longer" exhibits this double entendre that most certainly has been thought of concerning, if not spoken directly to, our own "Young Love'" at one time or another.

    As to the names Richard and Liz, the implication seems fairly obvious to anyone over a certain age.

    All the best!

    1. I'm ashamed to say, I didn't immediately catch on to the Liz and Richard reference. Thanks, Nick! But in my defense, Ms. Taylor was already on her seventh husband by the time I knew of her existence!

      And yes, while it's too bad we didn't get a Morrow-rendered cover for this issue, the existing cover is quite beautiful, and sets the tone for the romance and heartbreak inside.

      Thanks for reading! :)

    2. Richard is a Harlequin, clearly shown in the style of his clothes in the middle panels of the story -- black and red scarf on their first date, the black and red autumn leaves crossing his person in Fall scene, echoed by his checkered pants, and even in the makeup room panel, he's got a checkered hat in the background -- all harlequin motifs. And when his harlequin nature ends with him falling in love and proposing marriage, he's as plain as a Ken doll!! Very sad to see the harlequin destroyed. Great story, art, and clever, subtle motifs that only the artists might have know about. Great post. Wes

    3. Very interesting observation, Wes! Thanks!

  6. Now If ever a story demanded a sequel - he'll have left her within the year, I tell you. It's interesting that no one comments on the age difference between Liz and Richard, that's olde time romance for you. Not that there's anything wrong with May-September love, but that'd definitely be a plot point today.

    1. I always find the older woman/younger man (I guess what we'd call today a cougar situation) in the romance comics interesting!

  7. The cover art for Young Love #80 is as good as I have seen in Romance comics since the Timely Atlas cover art of the fifties. You could not find a sexier woman in any comic book, IMO. Props to Oksner and Colletta.

    1. I love that cover too. And props to the cover colorist as well. Those pinks and purples can't be beat!