Thursday, July 16, 2015

Charlton Romance Comics Take on Alcoholism - One for the Road

Ah, cautionary tales! As readers today, these tend to be the types of stories that help give the impression that romance comics were tone deaf to the needs of teen readers -- no matter how well meaning. "One for the Road" from Charlton's For Lovers Only #81 (October 1975) is one such story. I believe this to be a reprint (or commissioned sometime in the 1960s), due to the mod clothing worn by the characters. There appears to be a signature on the splash page, but I am unable to identify the artist at this time.

Before we dive in, it's worth pointing out the narration at the top of the page as an indicator of where the story is going to go:

"In this era of pot, acid, tranks, and all the other
garbage some kids do, I had to go and get involved with
one of the deadliest things of all... booze!"

I don't know about you but in my mind, dropping acid seems a bit more risky than indulging in a glass of wine (responsibly of course), but alas! Charlton did here what they did best... baffle. Interestingly enough, just a few years earlier, Charlton and its signature character Jonnie Love gave a sequential lecture on the danger of narcotics. Anyhow! Let's move on to today's story!

As you already saw in the splash page, Eve has tried wine for the first time... and well, she likes it. Like, really likes it. Reb, the man who introduced Eve to alcohol and is quickly becoming the object of her affection, tries to get her to slow down.

Unfortunately, it becomes clear that Eve is an alcoholic. Reb's ensuing quest to get Eve off the sauce proves fruitless.

Eve's girlfriends can't even convince her to take it easy.

Eve grows increasingly irritated with the concerns of those around her. She pays no mind to them, however, and continues to revel in her new found hobby. 

Reb grows especially concerned when Eve tells him one day that she "needs" a drink. Eve doesn't see Reb's concern for her, as she feels that he is just "preaching" at her. Eve flips out on him, gets out of his car, and tells him to get out of her life. She then flags down a passing car in hopes they will drive her back to town.

The car that picks her up (Eve clearly didn't read the DC story on the dangers of hitchhiking!) contains two sketchy men, but Eve gets in with them anyway. The three head to a bar, and the men proceed to buy Eve drink after drink. When one moves in on her, she demands that the men let her out to get a taxi. The guys pull over and as she runs off, a police officer passes in his squad car. Eve expresses her displeasure to the cop in all the "rat finks" around her. Taking pity on the distraught young woman the cop calls a taxi, and lets Eve sit in his car until her ride shows.

When Eve arrives home, her mother expresses concern with Eve's drinking, blaming it on Reb. Eve explains to her that Reb tried to warn her, but she got hooked despite his admonitions. Having had enough of being questioned, Eve heads out for a martini. Suddenly, Reb shows up and declares his love for Eve... the sober Eve. Reb lets her know how much he wants to marry her, but first, she must get on the wagon. Reb takes Eve to a doctor, who promptly prescribes her a "mild tranquilizer" and assures her that the pounds she's packed on during her bender will melt away.

Upon leaving the doctor's office, Reb suggests he and his sweetheart go to city hall and get married immediately. Eve convinces Reb that they should wait a month to make sure she is "cured," and so that she can lose the weight she gained so she will look good on their honeymoon. The two kiss, and presumably, live happily ever after with not a drop to drink.

While I know this is just a comic book story, the implication that curing alcoholism with the snap of a finger and tranquilizers seems like a more damaging message to me than no message at all. Though the story is beautifully illustrated and gets its point across well enough, for me, the Win Mortimer illustrated cautionary tale, "Pajama Party: The Night I Wish Never Happened" is far more impactful.

Either way, I hope you've enjoyed this little trip into the wacky world that is Charlton! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this story!

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  1. The signature looks like "Cole" to me, and i see there is a Cole (V. Cole?) drawing cartoons for Charlton's cartoon mags in the late 1970s. I have no idea if the same guy.

    1. The signature looks like "Cole" to me, too. I believe this is a Spanish artist named Antonio Colmeiro who signed his work Cole. He has work in the Charlton war comics in the same time period.

      Jake Oster

    2. Thanks, guys! I saw Cole or Cope, and wasn't sure who "Cole" might be. Mystery solved!

  2. Hi Jackie,

    Judging by job numbers and the time frame this was a new material Charlton story. I also suspect Colmeiro is the artist. As Jake mentioned he has credits in war titles and the few images I've seen by him look similar to the work seen here.

    Storywise I agree with you that the simplistic resolution to Eve's alcoholism failed to ring true or provide readers with any sense of the depth of the problem.

    1. I totally neglected the job number here, and was looking at the fashion (as I am wont to do!) when assessing the time period. Thank you for the reminder to check that, Nick!

  3. I dunno if pure romantic love by itself can stop somebody drinking, but I sure know it can START a person drinking, and how.

  4. I lived through this "era of pot, acid, and tranks, and all the other garbage some kids do," but it took me a couple of minutes to figure out what tranks are. Like Bubba, I didn't inhale. :-)
    Actually I spent all my spare change on comic books, which didn't leave much for recreational
    drugs. We all have our vices.

    Jake Oster

    PS: I haven't posted much of anything lately because I was unable to convince the spam filter that I'm not a robot. Glad I finally got through.

    1. I am so sorry about that, Jake! Ugh! So glad you were able to get through this time. If you ever have that problem again, please don't hesitate to shoot me an email and I'll look into it. Thank you for reading!

  5. Dear Jacque: Hi! This is an interesting story. I agree the conclusion is rushed and a bit unrealistic. If Eve was starting to experience the shakes between drinks, then she would need a hospital stay at the very least to help her quit! But the story does at least suggest Eve was starting to question whether her drinking was a problem, and that's the first step for someone to reach out and get help.

    I also agree with you the art makes the time period unclear. Reb's hair and clothes look early 1970s, but Eve's look is more like something circa 1967. Maybe the artist just was not up on current fashions.

    Overall, though, I do like this story more than some of the other Charleton pieces you've featured. And who knows--maybe it did make a reader or two stop and think!

    1. Many of the Charlton stories aren't for everyone, that's for sure!

  6. Unfortunately the conviction if you (parent/child/SO) just love someone enough it will fix their depression/alcoholism/drug addiction still crops up even in the 21st century.