Romance Under the Covers - Patsy Walker #122 (August 1965)
I don't read many new comic books, but while at the comic book store last week I decided to pick a few up. I ended up buying the first and second issues of Marvel Divas, mostly to check out what all the commotion has been about the past couple of months. I was pleasantly surprised with the first two issues... they were rather amusing and with Patsy Walker as one of the main characters, I am intrigued enough to pick up the third issue when it comes out.
Patsy has changed quite a bit through the years, going from a feature in the romance magazine, Miss America to teen-humor comic star to Hellcat in Avengers and now Divas. One thing that hasn't changed is her status as a stunning redhead!
Miss Walker has been the star of various titles, most of which are considered teen-humor. Her solo title which ran from 1945 to 1965 changed throughout the course of its run, with the later issues resembling romance comics. Some may not consider Patsy Walker a romance comic, but it seems to have all the necessary requirements -- fashion, romance, and tears! With the later issues (like the one I am reviewing here) I tend to err on the side of romance.
Issue #122 is the third to last issue in the series. Although the storyline was nearing a close at this point, I still had no trouble delving in and becoming familiar with the characters. Truth be told, I primarily picked it up because I love the cover!
The issue has one 18 page story, "No Greater Love!" with art and story by Al Hartley. In it, Patsy's boyfriend Buzz is back stateside in the hospital after being wounded in Vietnam. Patsy is torn up because she didn't know he was fighting in the war. Instead, she figured he had run off with another girl and hadn't bothered to contact her. As it turns out though, his letters were just delayed.
Thing is, Patsy never wrote him since she didn't even know he had left the country. She feels guilty about this and the fact that she dated other guys while Buzz was away (since she thought he was two-timing her), makes her feel even more guilty. When she visits Buzz at the hospital it seems as if he has been changed by the war. Not only does he bear outward scars, but the scars on his psyche are evident as well. Patsy is determined to figure out why Buzz is acting so strangely, while Hedy (Patsy's roommate) tries to explain that it is probably just from "battle fatigue."
The girls decide to have Buzz over for dinner at their place. He explains to Patsy, Hedy and Nan (Buzz's nurse and their girlfriend) that he is being sent back to Vietnam for another year. Hedy and Nan go off, leaving the young couple to discuss their future. It turns out not to be such a bright one for Patsy -- as Buzz reveals that he is no longer in love with her.
As Buzz leaves, Hedy confronts him wanting to know what was up with his "cock-and-bull story" about not loving Patsy anymore. He replies tersely, as he only wants to protect Patsy in the end -- in case something terrible happens to him in Vietnam.
Although a bit slow in the beginning, the story picks up towards the middle and is quite enjoyable. I definitely was on the edge of my seat when I finished, and I am anxious to read how the whole thing pans out with Buzz.
It is obvious from reading just this one issue that fashion is one of the predominant underlying themes of Patsy Walker. Readers were encouraged to send in their fashion designs, making for a colorful array of changing outfits for the characters. As someone who was constantly designing and drawing outfits when I was a little girl -- I can see how Marvel's approach would have really invested the reader and encouraged them to pick up the book time after time.
I do find it interesting that the fashions in this issue lean more towards the fashions of the early 1960s (fitted top, cinched waist and full or A-line skirt) rather than transitioning into the more "mod" style of the mid-sixties. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the readers designing the outfits were going off of what was around them (mothers, classmates, etc.), and not necessary the British youthquake movement or haute couture styles.
Though maybe not my most favorite art, I did like the story of this issue. Though not a typical romance comic, it does fit rather nicely into the genre. Besides the story and a letters page, it was also was packed with fun fashion extras such as the above pin-up page and a couple pages of "heavenly hairdos," also designed by readers. In the future, I will definitely be looking for more Patsy Walker!