Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Women Write Romance Comics - "As Good As Any Man!" As Told to Holli Resnicoff

In my last post, I briefly mentioned that romance comics might have looked different if more women had been involved. As we enter into the month of April and Women's History Month draws to a close, let's look at the work of one woman who was involved in the romance comics -- Holli Resnicoff.

Holli Resnicoff with John Verpoorten
Photograph from Alter Ego #103 (July 2011)

Holli is a bit of a mystery. After doing some research and asking others from the industry who might have known her, I came up pretty much empty-handed. The only information readily available is that she was a production assistant at Marvel and Stan Lee's secretary. She was also at one point, married to Mike Ploog. When I asked Linda Fite (Night Nurse, The Cat) if she remembered Holli, she told me she hadn't heard from her in decades, but that she and Holli, along with Flo Steinberg and a few other friends, went to meetings of a consciousness-raising group in Manhattan. The group of friends even participated in the Women's Strike for Equality in August of 1970. Other than that, I wasn't able to gather much, and unfortunately, everyone I talked to eventually lost touch with Holli.

"As Good As Any Man!" -- one of the stories that Holli wrote (along with uncredited co-writer, Steve Englehart) from Our Love Story #16 (April 1972) takes a look at the more personal side of the Women's Movement. Though the Alan Weiss art is not my favorite, it does have a youthful, very 1970s quality about it that is pretty hard to resist. In fact, every time I look at it, I think it grows on me more and more!

The story starts out with the premise of a guys-only weekend camping trip. Blond-tressed David is headed out for some outdoor time with his girlfriend's brother, Ted. David cites not inviting his lady, Laura, because she wouldn't like it anyway -- "Camping is too rough for girls!" Laura requests for him to let her make up her own mind.

Polyester -- good for camping or no?
Talk amongst yourselves.

The next day, the two lovebirds head out, sans brother Ted. As they hike into their campsite, Laura is determined to show David that she can camp with the best of 'em. David teases Laura for going too slow, and at one point, for almost stepping on a snake. All's well and in good fun until David pulls a jerk move and makes Laura pitch the tent by herself.

Struggling with the tent, David finally says he'll help Laura if she cooks him up a meal. Laura complies and the two share a romantic moment before retiring to bed. At least David was gentleman enough to let Laura sleep in the tent!

Though David and Laura sleep separately,
I definitely see some seduction on this page --
going against one of the tenets

The two head out bright and early to climb. A few hours after setting out on the trail, a storm rolls in. David's cockiness finally does him in and...SLIP...! He plummets down the mountain.

Naturally, Laura freaks out. Though karma appears to have gotten David, Laura is a good and loving girlfriend -- not to mention, a super strong chick.

Though David has his doubts at first, Laura makes the three mile hike to the ranger station. As David waits for Laura's return, he makes the admission to himself that "She's got more strength and character than most men I know!" There ya go, David... looks like that fall knocked some sense into ya!

All's well that ends well, and Laura makes the trip back to David with the rangers. The story ends on a sweet note... or does it?

I'd love to find Ms. Resnicoff and ask her what she thinks today of her story written in 1972, but until then, let's discuss! I'd love to hear what you think! Did you think David's compliment at the end was a backhanded one or just plain romantic? Can this personal, seemingly innocuous story, act as a linchpin for our understanding of the Women's Movement and second-wave feminism? Please, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!

Speaking of women in comics... one more thing before we part! Good friend of Sequential Crush and famed DC letter writer, Irene Vartanoff, has published her first novel, Temporary Superheroine. If you are a fan of adventure, comic book culture, and romance novels, you should definitely check it out!

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Women’s History Month – Libbers Say, Down with the Romance Comics!

The beauty (or perhaps aggravation) of research is the tendency for bits and pieces of information to reveal themselves slowly over time. There have been quite a few occasions when I've made a post, only to learn something significant later on that takes my understanding of a certain story or artist to another level. Today's post looks back at one such Marvel story that I've gathered a new piece of information on, and sheds a different light on the cultural climate surrounding the romance comics.

Remember this one?

Back in September of 2009 I ran the Marvel story, "No Man is My Master!" and a nice little discussion was had over the yarn. Just the other week, Sean Howe (author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story) sent me a link for an underground newspaper on eBay, letting me know that there was something special in the publication that would probably be of interest to me. Naturally, it was of interest! Behold, the center spread of the January 15th - 21st, 1971 issue of the influential Californian underground newspaper, the Berkeley Barb

This find on Sean's part was quite fortuitous timing-wise, and I’m so thankful to him for sharing his find with me. Not only is it Women’s History Month and this historic document is incredibly relevant, a reader also made a generous donation, allowing me to make the purchase of the newspaper and add it to my collection.
It takes a few seconds to orient oneself to the spread, thick with age and lavender ink (from its creation on a spirit duplicator) to realize that the full story, “No Man is My Master" has been replicated in its entirety, complete with the following editorial message courtesy of the Liberation News Service

The sisters and brothers of Liberation News Service -- who felt the underground should know what Women's Liberation is up against -- had this to say about the accompanying comic art: "Comics are becoming increasingly more political. We're reprinting 'No Man Is My Master' not because it's so unusual but because it is a good example of what Marvel Comics is up to. Read on and let three men tell you what women's liberation is all about.

One of the things people who aren't familiar with romance comics are shocked to hear is the fact that the romances were in the majority, created by men (in this case, Stan Lee, John Buscema, and John Verpoorten). This spread in Berkeley Barb is a strong and definite push against the story of women being told by men at a time when the role of women in society was quickly changing. While I don’t have a definitive answer concerning if men can completely and accurately tell the experience of women (and vice-versa) I am reminded of something that Irene Vartanoff told me in her 2009 interview for Sequential Crush: "A truly excellent writer ought to be able to write from the perspective of either gender, any age, and any personality, race, national origin, or whatever." In that same interview, however, Irene went on to say,

I think it is part of feminism that we should not have our fantasies dictated to us or even related to us by men. It is important for women to learn what their fantasies are, rather than be told what they should be, or worse, what they should accept as a happy ending.

Irene's words, taken in context of the romance comics, ignite the imagination as to what the romance comics would have been like had they been primarily created by women instead of men. 

So what do you think? Were the romance comics successful depictions of the longings of womens' hearts? Or were they cheap stabs for monetary gain? Was this jab from the Liberation News Service via the Berkeley Barb warranted? I'd like to hear your reaction to all this! 

One other thing before we say goodbye! If you missed it -- last week, Women Write about Comics ran an interview with your truly! A fantastic site worth checking out, and I'm honored to have made a contribution. Check it out!

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Romance Comics and Black History Month - Jack Kirby's Unpublished Soul Love

Cover of Soul Love #1 (Unpublished)
Image from Heritage Auctions

As Black History Month winds down, lets take a little look at one of the most interesting romance comics ever made; and consequently, not published -- Jack Kirby's Soul Love. Created for DC Comics in the early 1970s, Soul Love was conceptualized, written, and penciled by Jack Kirby, and inked by Vince Colletta and Tony DeZuniga. The origin of Soul Love stemmed from another Kirby story, "The Model" in an equally obscure and unpublished "romance" title, True Divorce Cases.*

"Fears of a Go-Go Girl" page two
Pencils: Jack Kirby, Inks: Vince Colletta
Soul Love #1 (Unpublished)
Image from Heritage Auctions

The stories in the unpublished Soul Love issue appear to have included (not necessarily in the intended order):

1.) "The Teacher"
2.) "Diary of the Disappointed Doll"
3.) "Dedicated Nurse"
4.) "Fears of a Go-Go Girl"
5.) "Old Fires"

Many of the pages are available for viewing over at Heritage's website. For the most part, they are pretty typical romance stories, albeit with a rather hefty dose of stereotypes. Though its hard to judge from the bits and pieces I've seen, "Diary of a Disappointed Doll" about a blooper of a blind date arranged by computer, is probably my favorite of the bunch.

"Diary of the Disappointed Doll"
Pencils: Jack Kirby, Inks: Tony DeZuniga
Soul Love #1 (Unpublished)
Image from Heritage Auctions

Despite having Kirby's name attached to the project, it went unpublished, and was panned for its awkward use of "hip" language and its Blaxploitation feel. While ultimately it is difficult to judge a work unfinished, Soul Love is no doubt an important aspect of the complete story of Jack Kirby, romance comics, and the portrayal of African Americans in popular culture. One can't help but wonder what this comic book would have looked like and the impact it might have had, had it gone to publication and perhaps, refined over time.

*See Jack Kirby Collector #56 (Spring 2011)

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day from Sequential Crush - Thoughts on Romance, Comics, and True Love

"One More Summer"
Pencils: Mike Sekowsky, Inks: Bernard Sachs
Secret Hearts #115 (October 1966)

Happy Valentine's Day! I know the day is nearing an end and evening has crept in, but I just wanted to drop in and say hello. I hope you enjoyed your day with your loved ones -- whether they be friends, family, or a significant other, and that more than anything, you felt the love today.

To tell you the truth, I've always had a really tough time conceptualizing Valentine's Day posts, and this year, the sixth Valentine's Day since I started Sequential Crush, is no exception. I always feel this immense pressure to do something a-m-a-z-i-n-g to commemorate the romantic holiday, and always feel like a let down. I don't know. Maybe I need a mentor who writes a Christmas blog and see how they structure their December 25th post! Seriously though, I felt so much anxiety over posting something earth-shattering for the holiday this year, that part of me was like, meh! Nevermind!

But, something made me change my mind. I started thinking about love and what it means to me in my own life. The past couple of weeks have been quite a bit more stressful than usual for yours truly. I'm in the middle of moving. As I write this, I am actually sitting in my old house, surrounded by the broom, mop, and other assorted cleaning supplies I'm supposed to be using right now. After enjoying my own little living and workspace for two years now, I'm moving to a house with my handsome, loving, generous, and supportive boyfriend. I feel awesome about this move and our future, but because of the move (which is a stressor I think many of you can identify with), coupled with unfulfilling day jobs, and never enough time together because we are working said jobs, I've been a little down. These are the stresses in life that make us lose focus on what's really important -- love.

The thing I love about romance comics is that they give me hope. Despite their beautiful hair, stunning clothes, and perfectly proportioned bodies (well, usually -- sometimes those Charlton comics can be a little iffy), the romance comic book characters are imperfect. Flawed men and women with neuroses, hangups, and vulnerabilities. Romance comics get a ton of flack for being unrealistic and outdated, but for the most part -- they are entertaining, and in many ways, comforting. Though many of the romance stories are problematic from a modern view when it comes to gender issues and diversity, overall, the romance comics of the '60s and '70s are full of identifiable situations, characters, and stories. Love is not perfect. Love is messy. Love is damn hard sometimes. But, as the romance comics so beautifully demonstrate with their breathtaking finale kisses, it is so undoubtedly worth it.

So tonight, if you are feeling low on hope, crack open a romance comic or flip through past posts here at Sequential Crush. I think you'll find that the stories will give you comfort that everything will end Happily Ever After.

Happy Valentine's Day!


Saturday, January 31, 2015

500 Posts + The Aquarius Woman Horoscope Page

"The Aquarius Woman"
Secret Hearts #150
(March 1971)

Hey everyone! I hope you are having a relaxing Saturday, and an excellent start to your weekend. If you are an Aquarius lady or if you know one, I think you'll really dig this DC horoscope page. It is especially fitting since the bulk of the comics we look at here on Sequential Crush are from the "Age of Aquarius!" I love these particular horoscope pages -- I have yet to dig them all up, but "The Gemini Woman" and "The Taurus Woman" are delightful as well. 

Today is a big day for the blog -- today's post is the 500th! I can hardly believe it. Though I'm more of a "slow blogger" these days, I am reminded of when I first started and thought to myself, "How long can I keep this up? Will I be able to make this last?" Well, here we are over six years and 500 posts later! I'm not quite where I want to be, but I feel like I'm getting closer every day. As always, thank you so much for stopping by, and I'd love to hear if you've had any favorite posts over the years! 

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