Romance in Black and White - Romance Comic Stories Redrawn for Diversity
Swipes, reprints, and reinterpreted stories were not uncommon in the romance comics of the 1960s and '70s. Most often they were done to update hairstyles and adorn characters with more contemporary outfits to maintain relevancy with their primarily teen audience. However, there were a few stories that were redrawn, as well as recolored, to alter the race of the characters. Those such stories are a little more rare. Today I have an example of this from two stories, "Take Me Back!" and "Revenge!" that appeared in Young Romance #151 (December/January 1967) and Girls' Love Stories #170 (June 1972), respectively. The original pencils on the story were done by John Rosenberger.
This phenomena of redrawing and recoloring is extremely fascinating to me. When I thought about the why of it all and the reasons behind a comic book publisher doing this, I had a couple thoughts. First simply being that reprinting a story with the characters redrawn was probably a time saving, cost-effective way to repackage a story for a more modern audience. But then why not just change the hairstyles and outfits like usual? After thinking a bit more about it and coming across the Kerner Commission Report of 1968 (also known as the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, which can be read here), a line in Chapter 15 (p. 18) stuck out at me. It advised media outlets to:
"Integrate Negroes and Negro activities into all aspects of coverage and content, including newspaper articles and television programming. The news media must publish newspapers and produce programs that recognize the existence and activities of Negroes as a group within the community and as a part of the larger community."
After reading this document, I believe it is very likely that the comic book publishers were affected by this report or at least had some knowledge of it. Of course it will take more research to actually prove (cue dreams of me digging diligently through the DC and Marvel archives -- adorned in white gloves, pencil in hand), but it certainly is a strong possibility.
The story is simple enough... boy falls out of love, girl wants revenge. But our focus here really isn't the plot per se, but the fact that it was redrawn to promote diversity. As you will see, almost all of the dialogue is the same, and the characters' names are even the same. The only major difference besides the race of the characters is the story title.
As begins many a romance story, Terry has been cruelly and unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend, Rich. Time passes and anger and loneliness consume her.
Terry decides that she will get her revenge. She doesn't know how quite yet, but she'll get it.
The answer comes to her in a dream that night -- a dream that recurs over and over for Terry. In the fantasy-like dream, Rich comes back, admits he is a fool, and proclaims his love for Terry. What says the distraught maiden? A declarative "Tough!"
Dreams are one thing, but sometimes reality can be far stranger. A few months later (revenge still a wish for Terry), she is out for lunch and just as her food arrives, so does Rich. The sad sack tells her he is sick. Sick in love... with her! It seems Terry's dream has come true, but how will she react?
As Rich begs Terry to take him back, she suddenly has a change of heart. No longer wanting to get revenge, Terry coolly declares that she no longer is in love with him.
As they walk out of the restaurant together, Terry tells Rich that she had dreamed of the moment when revenge was hers for the taking. She then goes on to tell him that she just couldn't do it when she remembered the hurt she felt when he broke her heart. Upon telling Rich that, he declares what a wonderful person she is, and asks Terry if she would like to be friends.
And so friends the two become. One day while hanging out, they realize that they weren't even friends to begin with when they were dating. As a result of their friendship, the two seem to like one another more now that they are friends. Rich goes in for a kiss, and well, the rest is history.
Not the most Earth-shattering story on its own, but the fact that it was redrawn and recolored is what makes this tale memorable. For whatever reason DC decided to recolor this story, it does go to show that love and romance are truly universal. I still have more thinking and research to do when it comes to these rare redrawn and recolored stories, but as it stands, this is a fascinating slice of American history when it comes to the examination of race in popular culture.
For more romance comic book goodness, read How to Go Steady!