Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fear of the Domestic - Three Short Stories from Charlton's Just Married

I’m excited to share with you today, three one-page sequential stories about marital fears that appeared in Charlton’s Just Married #39 (December 1964).* Whereas DC and Marvel published romance stories that were more general, Charlton, with titles such as Just Married and Career Girl Romances, published stories thematized around issues like marriage and careers. These three stories are Charlton's interpretations of what a new bride could possibly expect in her new union in terms of cooking, quarrels, and pregnancy. It also could potentially be construed as a subtle message that brunettes aren't very good at domestic life! Though these stories seem outdated to us as modern readers, I love these because they show what would have been typically expected of a young woman, and the fears associated with her new role as a Mrs. I find the last one especially haunting -- pretty serious stuff for a romance comic!

Click to enlarge!

"Try, Try Again"

"First Quarrel"

"Three's a Family"

*One of the issues that you, my fine readers, helped me purchase with your generous donations back in the fall. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Popular Romance Project

Image: “I Was a Girl Who’d Stop at Nothing” from My Love #17 (May 1972), written by Stan Lee and illustrated by George Tuska (cover art by Alan Weiss).

Hi all! Just want to let you know that I did a guest post on unhappy romance comic book endings over at the Popular Romance Project today! If you are interested in romance in popular culture as a whole, this is the site for you. My post, Unhappily Ever After, can be found here. Please have a look, and feel free to leave a comment!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Loving is Believing - Jealousy in "Free to Love"

Hello there! How are you all doing? I had wanted to post this earlier, but a string of technical difficulties prevented me. Anyhow! As we say goodbye to March and hello to April, let's look at one last story for Women's History Month -- "Free to Love" from Young Love #99 (September 1972). This beautifully illustrated story (which looks to be courtesy of Tony DeZuniga, at least in part) shares a little bit in common with the last story I posted, which prompted some really interesting discussion . "Free to Love," like "Cry Like a Real Girl!" depicts the power of female friendship, and what happens when women work together, as opposed to against one another. However, I think you'll find this story (and the extra added bonus of the quiz that immediately followed) a much more productive representation of the Women's Movement. 

In this "true story," readers are introduced to Gail who is immediately depicted as "a jealous girl." When her friend Eileen comes to town, Gail is certain that upon meeting Eileen, her boyfriend Brent's affections for her are on a downward trajectory. Gail doesn't hesitate one bit to let Eileen know to keep her mitts off Brent.

When Brent takes the two girls out to the theatre and dancing afterward, Gail catapults further into a sour mood. By dancing with Eileen (in his eyes being friendly), Brent has embroiled himself in quite the uncomfortable situation with Gail.

After declaring that he doesn't want to be owned, Brent leaves Gail to stew.

 A few days after the fight, Gail asks Eileen to coffee. Anyone in their right mind knows that a conversation that begins with, "You haven't done anything wrong, not yet! But..." probably won't end well. Eileen socks it to Gail bluntly and instructs her to go to Brent and show him that she has learned to be understanding. But has she?

Nope! The next day when Brent shows up to talk, another fight ensues. By the end of it, Gail accuses Eileen of being vicious and calculating. Brent accuses Gail of making mountains out of molehills, and once again, expresses his need to not feel like he is owned. Needles to say, the two former lovers do not part on good terms.

A week later, Gail stumbles into a horrific scene -- Eileen and Brent hanging out in the park together. Though it seems to be platonic, Gail is beyond hurt. She realizes that she really has lost Brent. She then quits her job, gets a new one, and attempts to forget Brent by dating other guys. Not long after, Eileen drops by. Eileen insists that it isn't she who has hurt Gail, but Gail herself.

The two women then have a heart to heart and Eileen helps Gail realize that she is sorely lacking self-confidence, and in effect, has been led down the path of jealousy.

As a result of their conversation, Gail attempts to be less jealous when out with other men on future dates. One evening while out dancing, Gail bumps into Brent and his date. When alone, Gail sucks it up and wishes Brent the very best with his new lady and hurries off to "powder her nose" (AKA sob into a tree). Brent follows her and tells her she has changed. And clearly, if his kiss is any indicator, he is attracted to that change.

"You see, I knew the secret, then. 
Every grown-up girl knows it. Loving is Believing!
I'll never forget that in the years ahead!"

Following the sequentially illustrated story is the quiz, "Are you Jealous of Other Girls?" I haven't seen this tie-in between a story and a quiz before, so it is rather unique. Click to read in more detail, or take the quiz yourself! 

"Free to Love" is in essence, a cautionary tale. This story (and the ensuing quiz) is interesting because it takes an age old condition of romance -- jealousy, and uses it to sound off about the Women's Movement. "Free to Love" is most certainly a continuation of the recurring theme in 1960s and '70s romance comics that loudly and clearly instructed readers that jealousy would, without a doubt, kill a man's love. Though there is definitely a huge amount of truth to that, I can't help but think that this cautionary framework is somewhat a byproduct of men writing stories for women. What do you think? I'd love to hear! And hear your quiz results of course!