Romance under the Covers – Review of Falling in Love #128 (January 1972)
I chose to review this particular issue of Falling in Love today because it is one of the first romance books that I ever bought and read.
The first story in Falling in Love #128 (January 1972) is called “Stranger in My Arms.” It’s a rather heartbreaking story about the tragedies of war. On this page we see Jan getting ready to see her boyfriend Danny who has been at war for two years. She is very nervous to see him and gets all dolled up in anticipation. When they do see each other Danny drinks and become argumentative. His friend Nick tells Jan to be patient because Danny saw some terrible things while on the front. Jan is patient but Danny turns neglectful, and eventually stops calling. Naturally, she waits by the phone.
She finally goes to his house sick with worry, only to find him unshaven and zombified. To cheer Danny up, Jan takes him to the St. Gennaro’s Feast in Little Italy (so specific!). He is having a terrible time until a little girl comes up to him and mistakes him for her father. The mom apologizes for the child’s reaction and explains that the little girl doesn’t understand that her dad will never come back from the war. Danny wraps the orphan in a tight embrace. He then spills his guts to Jan – his friend was killed in action and he has been feeling overwhelming guilt. He couldn’t stop thinking how it should have been him instead, but the little orphan opened his eyes. She helped him realize that he must go on – for his friend’s memory and for the little girl’s father too. Jan patiently listens and then tenderly touches him. As beams of light radiate off of them, they kiss and all is well on the home front.
Overall I thought this story was pretty good, even though it’s maybe a little sappy. The semi-nude shower scene is a bit risqué perhaps, but does help with continuity and exposes Jan’s vulnerability in her uncertain relationship. Many, if not most romance stories show the protagonist in some state of undress (i.e. lingerie, bra and undies, nightgowns). I am guessing that besides showing the femininity and vulnerability of the characters, these particular scenes were fun for the artist to create!
The second story in this issue is titled “The Perfect Gift.” It is about two sisters who reunite at Christmas. Julie lives at home while Carla lives in New York City. Carla is sure to rub this in to Julie, reminding her that she is the “big town career type,” furthering Julie’s insecurity. Their brother Jim comes home too and brings a friend, Martin (hard to miss with that giant mustache). Julie and Martin hang out intensely and do things like build a snow Santa. They end up kissing and Martin tells her to stop belittling herself and comparing herself to her sister. Carla warns Julie that Martin could be a heartbreaker, so to be careful. But when he gives her a piece of jewelry as a forget-me-not gift, she has a hard time believing that he would hurt her. As her wise big city sister warns though, things don’t turn out in Julie’s favor.
Martin tells Julie that he came to their Christmas celebration because he was lonely and heartbroken over another girl and wanted to see if he could ever recover. Apparently kissing her and toying with her emotions was part of that recovery! After receiving the ever-so-disappointing, patronizing, patriarchal forehead kiss, she continues to sing Christmas carols with the family, moping quietly inside.
In between stories there is a brief interlude with essays from readers about their dream man. My favorite was the girl who wants a man with a big brain and who speaks in foreign languages that she can’t understand – for mysteries sake! She also wants to discuss the latest Dustin Hoffman flick with him (could be difficult without an interpreter) and listen to the Grand Funk Railroad together. Now that’s romance!!!
Probably the most compelling story of this issue is the third entitled, “I Was a Cheat.” The main character, Rita has a flashback to when she felt that she led a guy (Kirk) on and he tried to take
it too far. Though not said, it is implied that he tries to rape her. She tries to get away, Kirk chases her and he falls off a cliff and dies (or so she thinks). She flees the scene and leaves him there, holding herself responsible for his plunge – pretty ridiculous considering he tried to rape her!
Rita goes on the run and works in a small town as a waitress. She disguises herself by putting glasses on and wearing her hair in a ponytail. One day she serves a cop (Ben) who is interested in her. She panics about her past, but they start to date anyway. He asks her to marry him. She freaks out and says she needs time to think.
So she thinks and agonizes about the proposition – in her skivvies of course! She then goes to his office, but he isn’t there. She sees her picture (of her old self, pre-disguise) on his desk, so she freaks out again and decides to go on the run once more. Before leaving she leaves him a note with the truth, about how she had killed Kirk and how she was a liar and a cheat. She tries to run away and gets on a bus but it is stopped due to police activity in the road. Rita jumps off the bus and runs to Ben. She then in a frenzy explains everything to him. He reveals that Kirk didn’t die after all and the cops only had her picture because her parents had brought it to the station and she was considered a missing person. In an epic conclusion, Ben gives a cheesy speech about a guardian angel watching over them. It ends happily when she asks for forgiveness for what she used to be and is (to paraphrase Rita) washed clean by the rain.
I found this story interesting. The character Rita feels so guilty about being a tease and practically blames herself for the attempted rape. Though it is a bit convoluted, this story has a little more depth to it than many of the romance stories, à la “Glamor Girl,” the fourth story.
“Glamor Girl” is the simple tale of a model frustrated by her boyfriend because he is on a budget. She dumps him in hopes that she will meet a fancy, rich man. She then meets a wealth couple from Paris, and becomes a tad jealous. She then sees that they have problems too, and realizes that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. The French man reinforces this when he tells her that money can’t replace genuine love. Naturally, she goes running back to the boyfriend she dumped and he quickly takes her back.
The final story, “I Don’t Love You Anymore” is also on the fluffy side. Debbie goes on a vacation for a few weeks to visit her cousin. While she is away her cousin sets her up with a guy named Jerry, even though she has been dating a guy named Cary for five years. She falls in love with Jerry over the couple weeks. She feels terrible about telling Cary, but conveniently when she gets home, he tells her that he has found someone else –all before she can mention Jerry to him. Phew! She got out of that one easy! She gives him a kiss on the cheek and tells him not to worry about it. If only all breakups were that simple!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about Falling in Love #128 in this installment of what I am calling, “Romance under the Covers.” Though these might not have been the greatest stories in the world, you can probably understand how reading this issue first got me hooked! In romance comics, some stories are good, some stories are bad, but they are all indisputably entertaining!
By the way, you probably have noticed that I have not mentioned any of the artists for this issue. It’s because I simply don’t know yet! Since most romance stories were unsigned it makes it difficult to always know concretely who penciled and/or inked a certain piece. I am keeping a record though of the individual art styles I see in each book. This hopefully will enable me to say with more accuracy later on who contributed to what. Artists with more distinct styles are of course easier to place, but also help to put the other pieces of the puzzle together. So, thank you for your patience and if you recognize an artist, please by all means, point it out! Wouldn’t it be great if someday romance artists were all given the credit they deserve?!
For more romance comic book goodness, be sure to check out my book How to Go Steady!