Fan Illustrated Romance Story - Marvel's "I Can't Love Anyone!"

 My Love #33 Paty Cockrum romance comic book artist

Tonight's story, "I Can't Love Anyone!" from My Love #33 (March 1975) (originally published in My Love #19 - September 1972) is one I'm really excited to share with you. Not only does it have a compelling plot and gorgeous art, the creative team is somewhat of an unusual one.

This tale of "tender triumph" was written by Anne Spencer (nom de plume of Steve Englehart), and illustrated by John Tartaglione (inks) and "Paty" (pencils). On the last page of the story you will notice the postscript: 

"A few words about the artist: Paty, (rhymes with "Katy") is a long-time Marvel fan who always decorated her fan mail with pictures, we asked for a whole story, and got this romantic result. We love it, and hope you do too!" 

Fan turned artist, Paty Cockrum, née Greer is none other Marvel bullpen penciler, inker, and colorist, as well as the wife of the late Dave Cockrum. With the ironic fact that there were so few women who worked on the romance comics (despite it being a genre intended for them), I definitely take notice and get super excited when I find a story with the contributions of a talented lady such as Paty.

 My Love #33 Paty Cockrum romance comic book artist Steve Englehart

"I Can't Love Anyone!" is the story of Wanda Kingston, a young woman whose life is pretty darn "out of sight." As you will see, Wanda is quite the love addict. Her days are booked solid with thrilling dates, her nights filled with passionate goodbye smooches.

 My Love #33 Paty Cockrum romance comic book artist Steve Englehart

Sounds like heaven, right? Well, Wanda certainly doesn't think so. Despite enjoying the company of her suitors, she is troubled by the fact that every single one of them seems to fall in love with her. And for Wanda, love equals seriousness, and serious relationships lead to marriage, "squawling [sic] babies... and smelly armloads of laundry... and red hands from household drudgery." To that, Wanda gives a resounding thumbs down. For her, there are simply too many thrilling things to be accomplished in life to be tied down in such a domestic fashion. 

 My Love #33 Paty Cockrum romance comic book artist Steve Englehart

Wanda longs to meet a guy who shares her feelings on casual romance, and finally, one day she does. Simon is not only handsome, but he enjoys playing the field as well. For Wanda, he's perfect. 

 My Love #33 Paty Cockrum romance comic book artist Steve Englehart

But in the spirit of we always want what we can't have, Wanda becomes increasingly devastated every time she runs into Simon and his never ending bevy of lady companions. Could it be? Could it be that Wanda Kingston has fallen in love?   

 My Love #33 Paty Cockrum romance comic book artist Steve Englehart

Wanda takes her new found realization to Simon, clearly hoping for the fawning reaction she would get in the past from all the other men she dated. But Simon is committed to playing the field, and chastises her:

"Oh wow, baby! Back off! I'm not interested in staying with one chick! I thought you were different from those other dumb broads!" 

And to that, Wanda makes no apology for her feelings. She doesn't crumble. She doesn't break. But, she does concede that she is merely just human. And though it may not seem like this story has a particularly happy ending, we can be sure that Wanda's temporal heartbreak will lead to her future happiness.

 My Love #33 Paty Cockrum romance comic book artist Steve Englehart

This story is in part so fascinating because we are given a taste (in that great pink background colored panel above) of the very real fears associated with becoming a midcentury housewife. No doubt many a young reader could identify. We are also presented with a female protagonist who goes against norms and acts as she pleases -- stopped only by her own internal realizations and not the often harrowing demands of cultural expectations. In my opinion, this story represents so much of what is good about the romance comics of this time period. Not only is the art beautiful and exciting, in it, love is depicted as the complex beast it really is. "I Can't Love Anyone!" is a "tender triumph" indeed.