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!


  1. Hi Jacque,

    I very much enjoyed this atypical romance story. The protagonist judged herself harshly and but the hypocritical brother was exposed as the real source of shame. Barbara comes off as a warm, thoughtful person who independently supported herself and didn't let anyone take advantage of her. Thanks for sharing.

    I wish I knew who the author was, but the artwork is by underrated favorite of mine: Werner Roth, inked by Vince Colletta, who make a perfect combination here.

    1. Thanks, Nick! The art team was on the tip of my tongue, but I just couldn't quite put a finger on it! I'll add that in.

  2. Pretty daring, even in 1971, for the female protagonist to be an ex-stripper!

    Mainstream comics for years before and after this would virtually never even hint at women taking their clothes off in front of ogling men for a living!

    1. I agree it is pretty daring! I struggled with using the word "stripper," (went back and forth on it) and ultimately decided to use the word showgirl. Though I think it is implied she was actually stripping (to some extent anyway), I felt like the term showgirl was more fitting considering the intended audience of the time.

  3. One mainstream character that made it into printer on a recurring basis was Nova Kane in Charlton's E-Man in 1973, categorized as a "dancer: but quite clearly a stripper.

  4. Thanks, Jacque, for another great find! When I was gathering my small collection of 1970s romance comics, I tried to get this issue, but couldn't find one in decent shape. Thanks for giving me the chance to read the cover story!

    To me, the story is as intriguing for what it doesn't say as what it does say. There are some ellipses in the dialogue where words were left out ("holding me like a--a--" "he thinks I'm a. ..") Were the intended words not Code approved? Or was not stating the words intended to reflect Barbara's shame about her occupation and herself, as though she can't bring herself to say aloud what she's thinking?

    Barbara is a very intriguing character. What was her life like before her showgirl job? Was she running from some terrible circumstances that may already have damaged her self-esteem? Lots to think about!

    And like Nick, I too wonder who the author was. Maybe Robert Kanigher? His romance scripts often are quite complex, with well-rounded characters.

    1. You are welcome, David! Glad I could be of assistance. I hope this issue is in your collection's future.

      My first instinct is to think this story was written by Kanigher as well. It is definitely tougher to identify writers than artists, but I think it is a safe bet here.

      The unspoken parts are very intriguing, and I think in this story, let the original reader (who may have been quite young) fill in the blanks with where they where at in their education in this particular subject matter. Also, definitely a way of going around the Code!

  5. I think Roth was one of the artists who didn't adapt well to the smaller art boards started to be used in the 1960s. I also think part of his "failure" on the X-Men was that the genre was just wrong. So moving to DC and doing romance stories helped -- a genre in which he was more comfortable -- and here, being inked by Vinnie Colette, who toned down some of the roughness in Roth's art.

    And as for the Oksner cover...! I loved his young women in the early 70s. He and Cardy....

    1. Roth certainly excelled at the romance genre, and Oksner too! Angel and the Ape is where it's at!

  6. Yes, this story has a really unusual "hook" for a comics romance story, and it's pretty well written. And yes, the smackdown of the self-righteous older brother is quite satisfying - all the more so since my impression is that whoever the writer additionally implied that he's also jealous of his kid brother (and probably has the hots for Barbara himself).
    And thanks for the link to Edelman's post. That's another great story - and so cool that it came out in the 1950s.

    1. I definitely think Jonah was jealous, and liked Barbara too!

      Definitely some great romance stories from the '50s. I know they aren't my focus here at Sequential Crush, but I always love reading them. I may have to revive Time Travel Tuesdays!

  7. Well, this is a pretty nice one, though it certainly isn't the first time the trope of a half-dressed girl with a heart of gold has been used! I recall another story that ended with a granny-type saying the heroine's suit reminded her of one she'd worn in--"Never mind the year!'

    1. Unless you are thinking of another story, you are probably calling to mind the story that I linked to at the end that Scott Edelman posted:

  8. Poor Jonah'll never score a decent gal, "They're all alike!!!"