Guy's Point of View Week - A Vietnam War Era Romance Story
Romance stories from the "guy's point of view" continue!
Love triangles were certainly not uncommon in romance comics, but Vietnam War centered love triangle were more rare. "I Lived a Lie!" appeared in Girls' Romances #150 (July 1970) and tells a tale woven with bits of secrets, lies, and desertion.
Published not long after the public was made aware of the My Lai Massacre and the horrific shootings at Kent State, "I Lived a Lie!" (penciled by Werner Roth and inked by Vince Colletta) opens with two young men (Steve and Roy) who have just been drafted.
Having been in a relationship with the beautiful Julie since high school, Steve wants to move their wedding day up so that they can walk down the aisle before he and Roy are shipped out. Julie is hesitant, and Roy is devastated -- Steve hasn't been the only one in love with Julie since high school.
While Roy waits out on the porch, Julie and Steve discuss their future together. Julie drops the bomb, and tells Steve she will not marry him -- at least not until he returns from the army. Steve is disappointed and as he and Roy drive away from Julie's house, Steve confides in Roy, "I wish I'd asked her to marry me a year ago! Maybe we'd have had a kid by now and I'd have beat the draft!" Roy is perturbed by Steve's attitude towards their impending service and accuses Steve of merely trying to use Julie to beat the draft. Steve assures Roy that he really does love Julie for the right reasons, despite his off-the-cuff rant.
Steve continues to pursue marriage with Julie, and each time she resists. Just as the guys are about to head out for basic training, Julie has a change of heart and proposes an impromptu marriage.
Soon after basic training, Steve and Roy find themselves in Vietnam. During their down time, Steve reads the letters sent to him by his bride to the heartsick Roy. Eventually, the soldiers are ordered to ship out to Hue to act as reinforcements. Just as they are leaving, Steve tries to tell Roy something.
Roy never gets to hear what Steve had to tell him, as they were ambushed and Steve disappears. Roy is hit by mortar and sent back stateside, where he is met by Julie. Roy tells Julie that Steve was classified as MIA, but she is doubtful. Roy eventually tells Julie that Steve was killed by a land mine and promptly begins dating her.
Julie however, is not ready for the intense relationship that Roy wants. Though she continues to date him, she tells him that she will always love Steve. One evening Roy goes to Julie's house and is met at the door by Julie who is holding a newspaper in shock. She has just read an article declaring that Steve was in fact a deserter -- a fact that Roy knew the whole time.
Julie tells Roy she never wants to see him again for the lie he told her. Heartbroken and ashamed, the vet moves into a lonely boarding house far from Julie and his hometown. A couple of months later, Julie tracks Roy down and tells him she is over Steve and that she realizes Roy was just trying to spare her pain. Consequently, she has had her marriage annulled and is free to be with Roy completely.
An interesting romance story, with strong characters, "I Lived a Lie!" is not only beautiful to look at, but a great historical document as well. For example, when Julie announces the fact that Steve deserted to Sweden, it may seem at first glance like a random bit of comic book dialogue. But when you take into consideration that during the Vietnam War, Sweden was a safe haven for draft dodgers and deserters, the romance story suddenly becomes a little time capsule of the tumultuous era. And all told from a male character's view to boot!
For a very similar story (but one that includes a baby and no desertion) be sure to check out a review of "Second Choice!" that appeared in Heart Throbs #121 (August/September 1969) at the blog, As Told to Stan Lee.