Charlton's "I Hate You, Darling" - Secret Romance #16 (December 1971)

When one thinks of the Women's Movement and romance comics, Marvel and DC probably come to mind. But alas! Charlton also addressed "Women's Lib!" To what extent the publisher was successful in this venture is for us to discuss, but first, read "I Hate You, Darling" from Secret Romance #16 (December 1971) as illustrated by Charles Nicholas and Vincent Alascia.

After earning a degree from a "large and very liberal Eastern college for women" Cleo Hanlon takes a high-level secretarial job at an investment firm. Cleo adores her job, but cannot reconcile her beliefs with those of her chauvinistic boss, Nathaniel Carr.

 Secret Romance Women's Lib movement 1970s comic book romance male chauvinism

Later that day at a demonstration, Cleo shows her co-workers that she means business when it comes to equal rights and equal pay. After stepping down from the podium, Cleo is ambushed by her boss who suddenly kisses her in front of all her fellow demonstrators and Mr. Carr's cheering male colleagues. Pushing him away and demanding an explanation, Nathaniel is only able to utter, "I thought it would be funny, Miss Hanlon... but I was wrong!"

 Secret Romance Women's Lib movement 1970s comic book romance male chauvinism

Cleo vows to seek revenge upon Nathaniel Carr. Instead of going the route of reporting him for his inappropriateness, Cleo decides to use her feminine wiles to get back at him.

 Secret Romance Women's Lib movement 1970s comic book romance male chauvinism

The next day, Cleo takes extra care to dress in a way she knows will attract Mr. Carr's attention. His gaze she manages to garner, along with a few bystanders who notice her short skirt and expertly tied bow.

 Secret Romance Women's Lib movement 1970s comic book romance male chauvinism

Cleo's goal of revenge is realized when her boss goes in for another smooch and apologizes for the ill-timed first kiss.

 Secret Romance Women's Lib movement 1970s comic book romance male chauvinism

All is forgiven between the two, and plans for the future are discussed. Nathaniel declares that after they are married, "There'll be none of this Women's Lib nonsense around our house, is that understood?" Cleo tells him to hush and leans in for another kiss.

 Secret Romance Women's Lib movement 1970s comic book romance male chauvinism

Oh, Charlton. You so crazy! We can only hope that after that little "end" symbol in the bottom right-hand corner, Nathaniel and Cleo went on to have a satisfying marriage; one that included and respected Cleo's pre-marital beliefs of equality and justice.

Interestingly, while this December 1971 story is markedly hostile to the Women's Movement, Charlton published a very positive depiction of the movement that very same month in Career Girl Romances #66, in a story titled "Nobody Wants a Girl Auto Mechanic!"

  Who could forget this hunk?

Who could forget this hunk?