Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Women Write Romance Comics - "As Good As Any Man!" As Told to Holli Resnicoff

In my last post, I briefly mentioned that romance comics might have looked different if more women had been involved. As we enter into the month of April and Women's History Month draws to a close, let's look at the work of one woman who was involved in the romance comics -- Holli Resnicoff.

Holli Resnicoff with John Verpoorten
Photograph from Alter Ego #103 (July 2011)

Holli is a bit of a mystery. After doing some research and asking others from the industry who might have known her, I came up pretty much empty-handed. The only information readily available is that she was a production assistant at Marvel and Stan Lee's secretary. She was also at one point, married to Mike Ploog. When I asked Linda Fite (Night Nurse, The Cat) if she remembered Holli, she told me she hadn't heard from her in decades, but that she and Holli, along with Flo Steinberg and a few other friends, went to meetings of a consciousness-raising group in Manhattan. The group of friends even participated in the Women's Strike for Equality in August of 1970. Other than that, I wasn't able to gather much, and unfortunately, everyone I talked to eventually lost touch with Holli.

"As Good As Any Man!" -- one of the stories that Holli wrote (along with uncredited co-writer, Steve Englehart) from Our Love Story #16 (April 1972) takes a look at the more personal side of the Women's Movement. Though the Alan Weiss art is not my favorite, it does have a youthful, very 1970s quality about it that is pretty hard to resist. In fact, every time I look at it, I think it grows on me more and more!

The story starts out with the premise of a guys-only weekend camping trip. Blond-tressed David is headed out for some outdoor time with his girlfriend's brother, Ted. David cites not inviting his lady, Laura, because she wouldn't like it anyway -- "Camping is too rough for girls!" Laura requests for him to let her make up her own mind.

Polyester -- good for camping or no?
Talk amongst yourselves.

The next day, the two lovebirds head out, sans brother Ted. As they hike into their campsite, Laura is determined to show David that she can camp with the best of 'em. David teases Laura for going too slow, and at one point, for almost stepping on a snake. All's well and in good fun until David pulls a jerk move and makes Laura pitch the tent by herself.

Struggling with the tent, David finally says he'll help Laura if she cooks him up a meal. Laura complies and the two share a romantic moment before retiring to bed. At least David was gentleman enough to let Laura sleep in the tent!

Though David and Laura sleep separately,
I definitely see some seduction on this page --
going against one of the tenets

The two head out bright and early to climb. A few hours after setting out on the trail, a storm rolls in. David's cockiness finally does him in and...SLIP...! He plummets down the mountain.

Naturally, Laura freaks out. Though karma appears to have gotten David, Laura is a good and loving girlfriend -- not to mention, a super strong chick.

Though David has his doubts at first, Laura makes the three mile hike to the ranger station. As David waits for Laura's return, he makes the admission to himself that "She's got more strength and character than most men I know!" There ya go, David... looks like that fall knocked some sense into ya!

All's well that ends well, and Laura makes the trip back to David with the rangers. The story ends on a sweet note... or does it?

I'd love to find Ms. Resnicoff and ask her what she thinks today of her story written in 1972, but until then, let's discuss! I'd love to hear what you think! Did you think David's compliment at the end was a backhanded one or just plain romantic? Can this personal, seemingly innocuous story, act as a linchpin for our understanding of the Women's Movement and second-wave feminism? Please, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!

Speaking of women in comics... one more thing before we part! Good friend of Sequential Crush and famed DC letter writer, Irene Vartanoff, has published her first novel, Temporary Superheroine. If you are a fan of adventure, comic book culture, and romance novels, you should definitely check it out!


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11 comments:

  1. I worked with a lot of men and some girls in the Forestry Service about 1977, and the guys were constantly teasing us. It was pitiful. I tried to laugh it off, but it sure made me mad! This strip reminds me of how impatient I got when the guys started in on their inane remarks. You can tell at the end, he really hasn't changed, it seems to me.

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    1. I'm so sorry, Alice that you had to deal with that! But thank you for sharing your remembrances with us!

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  2. Normally I'd consider that last remark harmless flirtation, but given the time in which this was written, I have to agree with Alice, above: the guy's probably still kind of a jerk at heart despite everything.
    Even so, I have to say I like what this story is trying to do as a whole, but there are some other little details I found bothersome besides that last bit. For one, that panel in which David "approves" of the meal, showing Laura smiling (and possibly pumping her fist - was that a thing in the early '70s?) basically reinforces the idea that women have to feel validated by the approval of their manly men.
    Otherwise, I'm not a big fan of camping, but for me the whole point of going out on a camping trip alone with my girlfriend (or spouse or whatever) would be so we could snuggle up together in the tent at night...
    Also, I rather like the art, but I've always liked Alan Weiss' work.

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  3. Oh, yeah: thanks so much for the tip on Vartanoff's book. I'm definitely interested in reading it.

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    1. No problem! If you do read it, I'd love to hear what you think!

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  4. Dear Jacque: Hi! I really enjoyed this story--thanks for sharing it.

    I do tend to agree with LoveAlice and Edo that David hasn't changed at the end, or that at least he still has a lot of growing to do. I believe there's hope for him, though--his comment about Laura's strength and character seems sincere.

    Looking at the story from a historical perspective, though, it's important to keep in mind how many men in the early 1970s really were shocked and uncomprehending about the Women's Movement. As a student of pop culture, I'm a big fan of the old Marlo Thomas sitcom "That Girl," about a single young woman trying to be a success in the big city. (Are you familiar with the show, Jacque? If you aren't I suspect you might like it--for one thing, the years it ran, 1966 to 1971, are perhaps your favorite time in history!) :) On an episode I just watched, Marlo's character tries to persuade her fiancé to accompany her to a Women's Lib meeting. He is completely opposed to the idea and sees it as ridiculous, and that attitude is depicted not as offensive Stone Age thinking but as the way any average guy would have felt at the time.

    There are frequent references to Women's Lib in Archie comics stories from the early 1970s, too. And whenever Betty and Veronica raise the topic, Archie and the guys seem either hostile or at least mystified about the idea of equal rights for women.

    Keeping in mind that "As Good as Any Man" was co-written by a woman, maybe the author believed (perhaps from personal experience) that consciousness raising in a man would by nature be a slow and gradual process.

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    1. I haven't seen the show other than clips on YouTube, but I know I would really enjoy it! Thank you for reminding me to seek it out!

      I think throughout history whenever men are brought into the fold of what is considered the domain of women, a typical reaction is certainly confoundment, which certainly can lead to hostility. I like what you said about consciousness raising being a "slow and gradual process." Like any shift in society, it certainly can be slow going at first. If the romance comics had continued longer into the '70s and into the '80s, who knows what sorts of situations characters would have found themselves in concerning the Women's Movement!

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  5. Hi Jacque,

    This is an interesting story for the period, especially since there are younger creators working on the story. Much as I enjoyed the work of Romita, Buscema, Heck, etc, I suspect a more contemporary style and fresher ideas might have helped keep the romance genre going. But that's only a theory.

    This story has a strong female protagonist who appears a lot smarter and more efficient than her boyfriend, who comes off as a condescending lug. Did he learn anything from his experience? That's questionable. I hope you can track down Holli Resnicoff one day and get her thoughts on working at Marvel and writing stories.

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    1. Thank you, Nick! I really hope I find her too!

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  6. I'm more optimistic. He does acknowledge her skills as an outdoorswoman--his compliment may be awkward, but I think it's meant as "you're still sexy even though you did all that unfeminine stuff"

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    1. The beauty of so many of these stories -- they can be interpreted in any number of ways. I think that is a possible reason they were appealing for someone who was reading about romance - the reader could glean what they wanted out of the story, and apply it to their own situation. Thanks for reading frashersherman!

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