Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Romance Comic Book Icon - Young Romance #150

At the end of September when I reported that Jay Scott Pike had passed, I shared the cover of Young Romance #150 (October/November 1967) as a tribute to his mastery as an artist and his lasting contribution to the romance genre. To the uninitiated, the cover of Young Romance #150 may seem just like any other, but many will recognize it as one of the quintessential images of the genre. Used for many a merchandising opportunity including everything from a "Romance Pulp" postcard set to t-shirts to a pop art swipe in an art exhibition, this cover is a striking testament to the iconic power of American romance comics.

During a Twitter exchange, fellow romance fan Nigel Steele (@Bobbi_Betamax), commented on the appeal of the cover, "A design classic. I guess it evokes, better than most, a feeling that resonates so much: hiding the heartbreak." I couldn't have said it better myself, Nigel.

Now that we've established the allure of the cover and its extensive use, I think it's time to take a look at the story behind the cover, don't you? "Can Any Many Really Be Trusted?" is a fifteen-page epic penciled by Jay Scott Pike and inked by Vince Colletta.

The seeds of doubt over the integrity of men started early for Janie. When she was just a little girl, Janie overheard her Aunt Norma's devastation over losing a beau. Janie's mother assured her that her aunt was just upset and dealing with the loss in her own way.

Years later, the memory of her aunt's grief is brought to the surface when Janie's friend Lynn is suddenly dropped by her boyfriend of two years. As Janie consoles her, Lynn vows never to trust a man again.

One night at a pajama party, Janie's friends take a pledge swearing never to trust a man. Janie takes issue with the oath. While there are some rotten eggs, Janie feels it is unfair to lump all men in the same boat. Needless to say, Janie's friends don't take kindly to her assertion.

Janie truly believes what she says -- all men aren't bad. At the same time, she knows that she doesn't ever want to be stuck with a guy she can't completely trust. One night at a dance Janie's stance on the matter is put to the test when she meets a super swell guy named Peter. Her intuition tells her he can be trusted, but Janie is given quite a jolt when Peter volunteers the information that there has been someone in his life. Responding to Janie's visible shock, Peter qualms her fears by letting her know that was before meeting her.

Peter then takes Janie into his arms, and with his kiss, all of Janie's fears melt away.

Janie is clearly excited about her new crush. Janie's roommate, Brenda? Not so much.

Brenda gives Janie a stern warning -- what has happened to women since time immemorial will happen to her.

Naturally, Janie starts to doubt herself a bit. What if Brenda and the rest of her friends are right? What if men can't be trusted? Visions of Peter quickly put Janie at ease, and all seems right with the world. The next morning, Janie gives Peter a good morning call that goes unanswered. Unfazed, she goes off to class.

 As Janie rounds the corner, she is stopped dead in her tracks. As depicted in the reflection of her sunglasses, Janie has caught her "faithful" Peter kissing another girl. Ugh, Peter! How could you?

Janie runs back to her dorm room. Her roommate Brenda had seen her running and goes to check on her. Janie tells Brenda the story of how she caught Peter kissing another girl. Brenda is empathetic but reminds Janie that men cannot be trusted. She suggests that Janie head back to class to help her forget the heartbreak. In a cruel twist of fate, Janie bumps into Peter on her way.

She coolly walks right on by without acknowledging Peter. He stops her and asks her what the problem is. After rebuffing him a few times, Janie finally spills the beans that she saw him kissing another girl. Peter reminds Janie that when they first met, he had told her that he was seeing someone else. Turns out he was just saying goodbye to that someone else. With tears of relief, the two embrace and the question is posed -- "Can any man really be trusted?" In Peter, Janie feels she has her answer.

I have mixed emotions about this story. I like that Janie wasn't willing to just blindly follow her friends' advice, but I do think she could have made Peter work a little harder for her affections after breaking her heart. Take out the "I had my answer -- forever!" on that last panel, and I think it would have packed a little more of a punch. What are your thoughts on the story? Does it live up to its celebrated cover?

I couldn't help myself!

On that note friends, I want to take a second to wish those of you stateside a very happy Thanksgiving. As always, I continue to be grateful for your readership, your dedication to me and this little old blog, and for your friendship. Now go out and have yourselves a lovely holiday! 

If you decide to forgo the whole Black Friday
shopping thing but still need some gifts, why not check
out my Gumroad shop or some of the romance comic
book-related books I recommend on Amazon?
Thank you for your support!


  1. Thanks for the insights, always loved Pike's work for its style and simplicity, and this cover has always been one of my favorites..


    1. It's easy to see why this one is a favorite cover of yours, Adam. Thank you for stopping by!

  2. Dear Jacque: Hi! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, too!

    Thanks for sharing the story behind this iconic cover image! I admit I have some slightly mixed feelings about the cover, though, and I'm not sure I can explain why, but I'll try. The image of a young woman in tears is one of the most common images in the entire romance genre, for obvious reasons--how else do you depict someone suffering heartbreak? But that image also is one that causes those unfamiliar with or unsympathetic to the romance genre to mock it, as though romance comics are about nothing else but young women in tears! ("Do they cry in every single story?") Maybe I'm not explaining myself very well, but I wonder if anyone else has the same mixed feelings I do about such images.

    Like you, I also had a mixed reaction to the story itself. I also liked that Janie wasn't willing to stereotype an entire sex based on a few rotten examples. But my doubts about Peter weren't put to rest by his explanation. After all, what made him break up with the other girlfriend? And because he started seeing Janie before making a break, wasn't he essentially "cheating" with Janie? Which would not exactly make him trustworthy!

    I like Pike's artwork a great deal, but I wonder if the inks here truly are Coletta's. I'm used to him having a smoother, slicker look, whereas the inks here are quite "scratchy." Although this story is earlier than the Coletta stories I'm generally familiar with, so maybe his inking style changed over time.

    1. I totally understand what you mean about not liking the cover for its almost stereotyping of the romance genre. On the other hand, hopefully the people who see tears as weakness rather than vulnerability will get hip to things and start reading Sequential Crush ;)

      As far as the inker -- the other possibility is that it is all Pike. I've been looking to see if anyone online has the original art, as sometimes it is easier to look at that and tell. I will update if I run across anything!

  3. P.S. I should add, even if I have something of a problem with the concept of the cover image, the artwork is beautifully rendered. Pike used quite a bit of sophistication by employing the glasses and the reflected image.