The Showgirl and the Bully - Falling in Love's "Anybody's Girl!"
Today's story, "Anybody's Girl!" from Falling in Love #124 (July 1971) (pencils: Werner Roth, inks: Vince Colletta) is a little different from the rest of the pack. While most stories of working girls in the romance comics are about secretaries and stewardesses, this particular one features a working girl of a different type... a showgirl.
The story begins with a bleach-blonde dancer named Barbara. Though the job pays the bills, Barbara loathes it.
One night, the glares and gropes just become too much and Barbara snaps. She smacks one of the customers clear in the face.
"Maybe I shouldn't have done that, but do you know what it's like to despise yourself? To be fed up with hungry eyes and clutching hands? I hit him and then ran, and I didn't stop..."
Barbara starts her life anew. After a few months taking odd jobs, she finally lands a waitressing gig. Though her hair is back to its natural color and her circumstances have changed, Barbara is still getting back on her feet. In the midst of the big life change comes another -- Cliff, a farmer who comes to the diner once a month while in town to deliver produce. The two quickly fall in love, and Cliff presents to Barbara his plans to marry her.
Cliff proposes that Barbara come stay at his farm until they are married, so that she can get to know Jonah, Cliff's older brother. Barbara is totally on board, at first. But once she meets Jonah, she regrets having come to their home at all. You see, Jonah is, uh, uptight, and a jerk. Immediately upon meeting Barbara he accuses her of dressing like a jezebel. Poor Barbara! As if she hasn't been through enough!
Jonah's judging eye continues to follow Barbara no matter what she does. He continues to belittle her.
"Woman, have you no shame? My brother is young, he knows nothing of the wiles of women. But I do! I know the sinful ways of the city!"
Barbara gets sucked into a whirlwind of guilt, self-loathing, and confusion. Jonah makes Barbara remember her days as a dancer and makes her feel like "shoddy merchandise." Worse yet, every time Barbara tries to talk to Cliff alone, Jonah busts in, hurling insults and accusations.
Barbara decides it is time to leave, and she writes a note of surrender. As she opens Jonah's dresser drawer to slip the note in, she makes a shocking discovery that changes everything. She makes a run for Cliff.
"I was a sinner -- but not for the reasons I had cried over. I had been willing to give up my love... I'd been so blind!"
No longer distraught, Barbara finds Cliff in the fields and throws her arms around him, and boldly tells Cliff to marry her, "Now! Today!" Jonah is predictably, mouthy in his protestations.
With a new found confidence due to the discovery in Jonah's drawer, Barbara does not let Jonah's cruel words go without reprimand. And just like that, Jonah's holier-than-thou attitude is shot down. For what was in his drawer that gave his hypocritical indiscretions away? One of Barbara's garters!
And there you have it folks! Though it may have seemed at the outset that Jonah was concerned about his brother, it turns out he was just a bully, plain and simple. Barbara's mild-mannered, affable personality fails to convey her strength (until the end), as does the well-drawn, but misleading cover. Just another reason not to judge the romance comics by their covers!
I hope you enjoyed this story -- the reveal at the end is definitely gratifying. I've had this story planned for some time, so when I saw Scott Edelman's blog post last week, it was serendipitous. In it, Scott looks at the story, "Woman of Shame" from Dream Book of Romance #8 (September/October 1954). Though nearly twenty years separates the two stories, both have a similar message of empowerment. For both women, the journey to discovering that the shame of their occupations is not on them, is one that ends well.
Thank you so much for reading! I'd really love to hear your opinions on "Anybody's Girl!"