Archaeology, Human Sacrifice, Romance - Charlton's Zany Love Story "Xtachoa's Bride"
I feel like there has been a lack of Charlton zaniness around here lately! To remedy that, today I have one of Charlton's more memorable stories -- "Xtachoa's Bride" from For Lovers Only #82 (December 1975) with art by Charles Nicholas and Vincent Alascia.
Charlton wasn't much for diversity, but when they did feature characters that broke the mold, they went all out. "Xtachoa's Bride" involves not only an interracial romance, but a time-traveling one at that! If you are intrigued by the cover (illustrated by Art Cappello)... by all means, keep reading!
Caroline Gunn is a graduate from the University of Arizona. Her research has brought her to Mexico to study Aztec scrolls that she believes prove the existence of an ancient Aztec temple devoted to Xtachoa -- the God of Love.* She is led by Luis Mendoza -- Mexican archeologist, as well as native guides who are descendants of the Aztecs themselves.
Luis has a hard time believing that Caroline isn't frightened about confronting ancient legends firsthand in the temple. He warns the guides not to follow the "Yanqui Maiden," as the gods will place a penalty upon them for doing so. Caroline doesn't hesitate for a moment and heads right into the temple.
Upon entry, Caroline is amazed by its state of preservation and proclaims that it will be the ticket to her doctorate. Luis warns her that there is still time to escape, but Caroline isn't hearing it.
As she happens upon the statue of Xtachoa, she can't help but notice how much it looks like Luis. As she stares at her guide's life-like doppelganger, Caroline starts to feel dizzy from strong smelling incense she can't place. Luis vanishes, and just as quickly, the statue comes to life.
"I am Xtachao [sic], Aztec god of love! You are the maiden who will be sacrificed this day!"
Though she appears to be hallucinating, Caroline is skeptical of the unfolding events. She believes that Luis is merely playing a joke on her. She follows Xtachoa's demands for her sacrifice, but does so with a little sassy backtalk.
Xtachoa performs some sort of sacrifice (which is pretty much left to our imagination), upon which Caroline assumes her new Aztec identity, Caro. Xtachoa tells her that she has passed beyond the "mortal phase," but that it isn't an ending, but a beginning.
Caro declares that she loves the Aztec god and that her fate is in his hands. But just as the hunky animated statue really gets down to kiss her good, she starts to wake...
As she utters sleepily, "Yes, Xtachao [sic]... please kiss me again!" she finds herself in the arms of none other than Luis Mendoza -- mortal man, professional archaeologist, and darn good kisser.
Luis helps Caro (Oops! I mean Caroline!) out of the temple and laments that he allowed her to go in there in the first place. Caroline on the other hand is thankful for her time in the mysterious temple, only wishing she had taken a souvenir. Fortuitously, Luis has a gold and emerald medallion that had been worn by Xtachoa himself. Handed down to him from ancestors, Luis presents it to Caroline as a symbol of their love. Eternal love, I presume.
Definitely more of a characterization than a sensitive portrayal of a person of color, "Xtachoa's Bride" is anything but forgettable. Strangely enough, this is one of the more "diverse" stories that Charlton published in the romance genre in the 1970s. Obviously, DC and Marvel were leaps and bounds ahead in that regard. Now, we can only imagine how Charlton would have handled a more diverse set of characters and storylines...
*You will probably notice that throughout the story, the Aztec god's name is written as "Xtachao," even though his name on the splash is written as "Xtachoa." I have used "Xtachoa" throughout, but I am unsure of what Charlton actually had intended.