Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Time Travel Tuesdays - Dr. Wertham Speaks Out on Romance Comics!


Crime and horror comics bore the brunt of Dr. Fredric Wertham's attack, but did you know that he wasn't too keen on romance comics either? Below are a few of my favorite quotations on the love genre from Dr. Wertham's infamous book, Seduction of the Innocent!*


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The experts had said that what the children need is aggression, not affection -- crime, not love. But suddenly the industry converted from blood to kisses. They tooled up the industry for a kind of comic book that hardly existed before, the love-confession type. They began to turn them out quickly and plentifully before their own experts had time to retool for the new production line and write scientific papers proving that what children really needed and wanted -- what their psychological development really called for -- was after all not murder, but love! (p. 37)

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In many of them, in complete contrast to the previous teen-age group, sexual relations are assumed to have taken place in the background. Just as the crime-comics formula requires a violent ending, so the love-comics formula demands that the story end
with reconciliation. (p. 38)

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Studying these love-confession books is even more tedious than studying the usual crime comic books. You have to wade through all the mushiness, the false sentiments, the social hypocrisy, the titillation, the cheapness. (p. 38)

Fawcett
"Trail to Romance"
Cowboy Love #10
(June 1950)

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It is a mistake to think that love comics are read only by adolescent and older children. They are read by very young children as well. An eight-year-old girl living in a very comfortable environment on Long Island said, "I have lots of friends and we buy about one comic book a week and then we exchange. I can read about ten a day. I like to read the comic books about love because when I go to sleep at night I love to dream about love." (p. 39)

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Flooding the market with love-confession comics was so successful in diverting attention from crime comic books that it has been entirely overlooked that many of them really are crime comic books, with a seasoning of love added. Unless the love comics are sprinkled with some crime they do not sell. Apparently love does not pay. (p. 40)

Ace
"Impulsive!"
Love Experiences #18
(April 1953)

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False stereotypes of race prejudice exist also in the "love comics." Children can usually pick the unsatisfactory lover just by his looks. (p. 105)

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Love comics do harm in the sphere of taste, esthetics, ethics and human relations. The plots are stereotyped, banal, cheap. Whereas in crime comics the situation is boy meets girl, boy beats girl; in love comics it is boy meets girl, boy cheats girl -- or vice versa. (p. 185)

Fox
"Quicksand Romance"
My Secret Life #25
(January 1950)

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I wonder if Dr. Wertham ever read any post-Code romance comics? I think he would have rather liked their wholesome nature!

*All quotations from Fredric Wertham, M.D.'s Seduction of the Innocent. New York: Rinehart, 1954. Reprint, New York: Main Road Books, Inc., 2004.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Romance - "Love Lies Deep and Cold" Time for Love #16 (May 1970)

I hope you all are having a lovely extended Memorial Day weekend. This federal holiday isn't just about cook-outs and the start of summer vacation; it is a day for honoring those who have died during military service.

In recognition of this day of remembrance, I have for you a story called "Love Lies Deep and Cold" from Charlton's Time for Love #16 (May 1970). Story art is by Luis Avila.

In this moving splash page, we learn that newlywed Leah has just lost her husband, Ken. One of the unlucky ones, he was killed while serving in Vietnam.


Ken is given a full military burial. After the funeral, Leah goes back to the home they shared -- almost expecting for Ken to come bursting through the door as if nothing had happened at all.


One morning, Leah's neighbor Ben Tibbs comes to the door looking for bandages for his mangled hand. He fought in Vietnam too, but made it home alive. Tragically, when Ben came home from war, he was notified his fiancée had been killed in an accident. That night after meeting Ben and while lying in bed, Leah thinks about Ben's tragedy and is deeply saddened. Clearly she is suffering from depression as she thinks to herself, "What a rotten life... I wish I were dead!"


Finally, she decides she cannot fall asleep and ruminates between taking sleeping pills or going for a walk. She decides to go on a walk to avoid having her usual nightmares. She goes by the river and leans over the edge of the bridge and contemplates jumping. She is stopped from acting on her impulses by the sudden appearance of Ben Tibbs, her neighbor. Having taken a vow that she would never date again, Leah tells him to leave her alone and stop interfering with her life. Ben retreats, until out of nowhere a couple of strange men emerge from the shadows and start to attack her. Ben Tibbs hears her screams and comes to her aid.


After beating up the attackers together (yup, Leah clunks one on the back of the head with her shoe), Leah feels a little better about spending time with Ben. Soon, he starts running errands for her and she starts cooking meals for him. Before long, they even attend a movie together. Leah appreciates his company, but decides it is best to keep her distance for fear of falling in love with him. Leah successfully ignores Ben, until one night she smells smoke in their apartment complex.


Leah scrambles to notify Ben. Once both are safe from the smoke and flames, they admit their love for one another and Ben asks Leah to marry him. In spite of her vow to never love again, she says yes.


Despite her best efforts to run from love, Leah surrenders to it -- obviously moved by Ben's own tragic past. Kind of a bittersweet story, but I appreciate the unexpected grooviness of Avila's artwork and Charlton's acknowledgement of the hardships of war.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Air Hostess with the Mostess! ABC's New Show Pan Am and Charlton's Tri-Am Saga

ABC recently announced a new 1960s-set television show for next season starring the glamorous stewardesses of Pan Am! As a huge fan of Mad Men and all things 1960s, I think it looks terrific!

Watch the trailer for Pan Am


Romance comics were full of stories of career girls. Becoming a stewardesses (or air hostesses) as they were called back then, was a viable career option for the young, single gal looking to broaden her horizons and earn some money before settling down. This story, "Rendevous on Cloud 9" [sic] from Career Girl Romances #47 (October 1968) tells the story of one such young stewardess, Tessa Clark. The story is narrated throughout by Ms. Lydia Chalmers Drew, the Supervisor of Stewardesses for Tri-Am Airlines (obviously a play on Pan Am).


Tessa has yearned to have a career in air travel since childhood. She follows her dreams by graduating at the top of her high school class and working for Tri-Am part time while taking college courses -- something Ms. Drew recommended to her from the beginning.


After training and graduation, Tessa is assigned to Tri-Am's Paris flight with the handsome (and slightly cocky) young pilot, Sam Bollard. Once they arrive in Paris, Tessa goes off on her own to explore the city. She is followed by a creepy local named Pierre, who starts harassing her on top of the Eiffel Tower. Having been unable to get Tessa out of his mind, Sam miraculously appears and tells Pierre to scram.


Sam apologizes for his cold behavior during Tessa's first flight and asks her out to a romantic dinner to make up for it. They have a wonderful time as evidenced by this wonderfully hilarious (and stern) panel.


The lovebirds break all of Tri-Am's rules and continue to see each other -- dining, dancing and dating their way all over the world. One day while on a flight to Karachi, Pakistan, an engine on the aircraft goes out.


The piloting team grounds the plane and put out the flames that have engulfed the craft, while Tessa clears out the passengers. Afterwards, shaken from the ordeal, Tessa and Sam embrace. They both declare they do not want the other flying anymore, but Sam refuses to give up his career. Once back home, Tessa gives her letter of resignation to Ms. Drew -- who thinks Tessa is making a big mistake. Ms. Drew puts her on the inactive list anyhow, and a month passes. During her time off, Tessa becomes depressed and Sam's work performance declines. Tessa decides to give her career one more shot and Ms. Drew puts her on the next flight to Karachi.


"In Karachi, the Eastbound TAA flight
meets the Westbound...
"

As soon as the plane lands, Tessa runs into Sam's arms -- effectively ending her tenure as a career girl and cementing her role as a woman of the domestic realm. Remember, marriage was a no-no for ladies of the sky throughout the 1960s!


No doubt the characters of ABC's Pan Am will be similar to Tessa, Sam and Ms. Drew from this comic book romance tale!

Have a wonderful
Memorial Day weekend!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Romance Comic Book Rarity - "Love Wears No Uniform!" by Jack and Gary Abel

One romance artist I really like, but don't talk about as much as I should, is Jack Abel. Primarily an inker on the romance comics, his work always seems to add a little something special to a story. Jack occasionally went by the pseudonym Gary Michaels, which was his son's name. Today's story, "Love Wears No Uniform!" from Career Girl Romances #73 (February 1973) is by Jack and his pseudonym-sake son, Gary. I couldn't find much on Gary Abel, and it is not clear whether he wrote this story and Jack illustrated it completely, or if Gary penciled it and Jack inked it. Either way, it is quite the rarity! This invaluable resource on Charlton personnel lists Gary as having only done one romance story with his father (Teen-Age Love #88), but as you can see today, there are at least two out there! Enjoy this little gem!

Susan Peters is a newly minted officer on the force. Becoming a cop has been a life-long dream of hers, as well as getting married.


She dates a lot of fellow officers, but ultimately decides that she would rather date someone not on the long arm of the law.


One evening, Officer Peters goes to a civilian party in hopes of meeting an eligible young bachelor. She is approached by a handsome guy named Steve. They seem to hit if off right away and naturally, he asks what she does for a living.


Unfortunately, her livelihood is met with some resistance and Steve flees the scene of the short-lived romance.


Things start to look up for Officer Peters at work, and she is assigned to a special plain clothes assignment guarding a famous television star at his hotel. Except, it isn't really a plain clothes assignment -- she has to pose as the star's maid. Nick Jones, the star turns out to be a jerk, but his friend Bill Downs is quite nice. Susan and Bill go on a date and quickly fall in love. However, Bill has a confession to make... ooh the suspense!!!


Bill is not really a friend of the television star, but a detective assigned to the case as well! Our Charlton version of Lady Cop decides she is cool with that and lets Detective Downs know with a kiss!


I really enjoy the wide-eyed cuteness of Jack Abel's art, and the addition of his son (in whatever capacity) makes for a nice little story. Have a great afternoon!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mad Mad Modes for Moderns Mondays - Hair Rollers!

Being a naturally curly girl, I have never had to fuss with hair rollers -- then again how many modern girls do? This "Mad Mad Modes for Moderns" spread from Young Love #60 (March/April 1960) with art by Jay Scott Pike gives a few tutorials for some kicky 'dos!


Happy Monday!
Here's to a great week!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Frank Langford's - Love on a Rooftop!

I've got Frank Langford fever!

Yup, ever since I saw Allan Harvey's post on the Langford story "Cry, Soul; Cry, Love" over at his blog Gorilla Daze, I have had an unquenchable thirst for the art of Frank Langford! Can you blame me?! Hopefully you will see what I mean in the beautifully illustrated "Love on a Rooftop!" from Young Love #90 (December 1971) in which we meet Mark and Lori -- a couple with little in the way of money, but rich in love (or so Mark thinks).


Lori feels that things will never look up, but Mark assures her that if she is just content, their luck will turn around. Having lived all their lives in a tenement building in the slums, Lori's patience diminishes on a daily basis.


While at work the next day, a handsome guy by the name of Peter Forrest introduces himself and asks Lori out to dinner. Feeling lonely, Lori accepts. That evening, Peter picks her up in a fancy sports car and takes her to an opulent French restaurant. The two have a wonderful time and continue to see each other.


Lori dates Peter and has a great time, but meanwhile, she is still in a sort of limbo stage with Mark. Eventually they do break up, but Mark clearly still has feelings for her. But Lori's world only has room for Peter and eventually her days and nights revolve around the wealthy young man who has adventure, glamor, and love to offer.


One day when Peter drops Lori off at her tenement, Mark encounters them and declares that he won't back down from loving her. It turns out to be very bad timing though, as Lori has just accepted Peter's marriage proposal. Peter announces that he will be introducing Lori to his parents during a formal dinner party that Saturday. Peter's plan stresses Lori out, as she does not own a gown. As Mark looks on, Lori and Peter walk away as she verbally frets about her attire for the party. Peter assures her that she will be beautiful in whatever she wears.


The day of the party, a package containing a stunning white gown is delivered to Lori. Her heart brims over with joy and she cannot thank Peter enough for the surprise. The two make their way to the home of Peter's parents, but the young couple is not welcomed with open arms.


Peter's parents do not want him marrying Lori because as his mother puts it, "He has a future to think of..." Lori is obviously crushed, but Peter acts pretty nonchalant about it and tells her that he doesn't want to risk his parents cutting him off financially. Lori thinks that Peter is ashamed of her and that is why he bought her a new gown to wear. But suddenly, it clicks that it wasn't Peter that purchased the dress -- but Mark!


"One man wanted me -- but not enough to
risk his future for me, and another had spent his meager savings
to insure [sic] my happiness..."

Lori runs to Mark and lets him know that nothing can substitute for real genuine love. Mark doesn't give her the old "I told you so," but simply, embraces her. In a sweet narrated ending, Lori announces that the white gown Mark gave her will be her wedding dress.


So, what do you think? Do you have Langford fever now too?! Not only is the art fantastic, the story is quite good too with the dress bit and all! Hopefully this was a nice start to what I hope is a fantastic weekend for ya!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guest Post - Justin Bleep Reminisces on Collecting Romance Comics!

Hi Everyone!

Nope, this isn’t Jacque. She has decided to try something different and has let me write a guest post for Sequential Crush. Some quick info about myself:

I’m 31 years old. I live and work in Billund, Denmark. From 8am to 4pm I design children’s toys for LEGO. I experienced a short career drawing comic books between 2003 and 2009. I first fell in love with romance comics in 1997.

And for those who might still be a little confused as to why I’m taking Jacque’s place today -- I’m Justin, Jacque’s boyfriend (and biggest fan)!


I remember 1997 vividly. This year witnessed the beginning of a new life for comics published between 1970 and 1980. And the proof of this is documented -- the increase in interest was reflected in the increase in prices paid for these books. The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide reported sales reaching 3000% over the previous year’s listed guide value for many key issues. Particularly, the DC 100-Page Super Spectaculars, which were listed at $3.00 in 1996, demanded hundreds of dollars during the following years. Needless to say, all of the speculation which took place in the early 90’s was completely misplaced. 1997 was a much different year than we collectors of Valiant or Image books could have imagined in 1993!

However, this event in collecting history gave birth to an even more remarkable phenomenon. Romance comic books began to take center stage. In fact, for the first time since the 1950s, the spotlight was not on superhero books. When Overstreet deemed DC 100 Page Super Spectacular #5 (1971) as the rarest of the Bronze Age comic books, we collectors took notice.


During the late 1990s, new classics of comic book history were born. For the first time, Marvel’s Night Nurse (November 1972 – May 1973) became a recognized name in modern comic book culture. And since then, Linda Carter has developed a cult following, appearing in issues of Daredevil, Spider-man and Dr. Strange.

Now, while these romance and other odd-ball books were first recognized for their scarcity in high grade condition, it was not long after, that we collectors took notice of the craftsmanship which went into them. Many of the acclaimed artists who worked on superhero, western and horror books in the 1970s also worked on romance titles -- and to our surprise, some of their best work was contained within them. We found plenty of Nick Cardy covers and Tony DeZuniga interiors, but a few books were of key interest in those early romance comic book collecting days. Neal Adam’s cover to Heart Throbs #120 (June/July 1969) for one, as well as Steranko’s “My Heart Broke in Hollywood” from Our Love Story #5 (June 1970). But our reaction to these two books was merely a knee-jerk. When turning back the covers, we were soon to discover yet a deeper reason for appreciating the romance genre.


Young Love
and Young Romance were two of the longer running titles from this era, and when one stumbles upon a story penciled and inked by Night Nurse artist, Winslow Mortimer (best known for his work on Superman in the 1950s and his work on Spider-Man in the 1970s) it is easy to recognize his work as unique gems within the long run of books. And luckily for us, he dominates the later issues of these two titles!


After seeing his beautiful depictions of Linda, Georgia and Christina, it is clear that Mortimer’s career no longer has to sit in the shadows of the pantheon of Superman artists -- surely it would be futile to contend with names like Shuster if all that posterity remembered you for was Superman! The same could be said for Mortimer’s work on Spidey. In the eyes of collectors, historians and fans, how could his work on Spidey Super Stories compete with the Spider-Man of John Romita, Todd McFarlane or Erik Larsen?

However, in the new territory of romance comic book appreciation, every career is an equal contender. Here we find not only Mortimer, but others who come to our immediate attention. An unfortunate rarity in the DC titles are the gorgeous women of Frank Langford -- a name which is completely absent from the superhero genre.


1997 was a great year. I was 18 years old then, and now look back on it quite romantically. I was a traveler exploring new lands and acquiring new treasures. From Detroit to Chicago to Indianapolis, I took back with me to Lafayette, Indiana hundreds of romance books. All of which were gifted to Jacque around 2008. And though she has acquired many more hundreds over the past few years, you might say that these books were the foundation on which Sequential Crush was built.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post! If Jacque lets me, and you’d like it, I would love to write another one for you soon!

♥♥♥

Thanks, Justin!
For more of Justin's writing, visit his blog!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Original "Marc - On the Man's Side!" Page - Young Love #119 (December 1975/January 1976)

One of the books I found this weekend was Young Love #119 (December 1975/January 1976). This issue was definitely on my want list because a couple of years ago I acquired the original page of the "Marc - On the Man's Side!" column from this issue. Below is the scanned original page, as well as the printed version!


Be sure to join me tomorrow
for a special guest post!!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fashion Files - Legs by Liz Berube!

Hi everyone! I hope you had a great weekend! Sorry I disappeared for a little bit there -- life things came up, Blogger was down and then with the weekend came a trip to the Motor City Comic Con! I had a nice time and found quite a few romance books -- about a short box full! So, while I go through those, enjoy this one page fashion spread by Liz Berube!

"Legs"
Illustrated by "Elizabeth"
Girls' Love Stories #150
(April 1970)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Demographics of Romance Comic Book Readers

The first romance comic, Young Romance #1 (September/October 1947) clearly stated across its cover -- Designed For the More Adult Readers of Comics. Early stories such as last month's "Nightmare Romance!" demonstrated the adult nature of the love comics. As the 1960s and '70s wore on (thanks largely in part to the Comics Code Authority) it became apparent that the romance comics were written for a younger audience. Though I have never found an official statement from any of the comic book publishers as far as their target demographic, I think it is safe to say that they were aiming at a readership of around ages 12 years to early 20s.

A few weeks ago as I was flipping through Young Love #53 (January/February 1966), I came across this letter addressed to the "As Jane Ford Sees It..." advice column. Interestingly, the reader monikered "Worried" was only 9 (and one half) years old -- making her quite a bit younger than the 12+ target demographic.

I am sure "Worried" was not alone
and that many a mid-century little sister
borrowed big sis's comic book!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day with Girls' Romances - Love Letters

Most love letters are between sweethearts, but some, are between mother and child. Today's special Mother's Day story, "Love Letters" from Girls' Romances #159 (September 1971) is a tearjerker -- so go round up some tissues! Lovely art courtesy of John Rosenberger and Tony DeZuniga!*


This touching story of love and loss opens with a young woman lying on her bed reading a stack of letters, the first of which reads:

Dearest darling daughter,

I asked your father to withhold these letters until you were old enough to understand. How I wanted to be here, but these words must be my voice. You know me from my photographs, but I must tell you what was in my mind. I have so much to say, and so little time -- that is why I pour out my soul to you in these...

It is through these narrative letters of a mother's short life in which the rest of the story unfolds.


A proud set of parents to a bride-to-be go over last minute details, but an unexpected phone call puts an end to their joy and shatters their world. They receive the life-altering news from the doctor that their beloved daughter Nancy has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease and only has a short time left to live.


Nancy takes the news far better than her parents, but she is still all too aware that her sentence is terminal and hence, tries to break things off with her betrothed, Johnny. He insists that they can still "squeeze a lifetime of happiness" into the time she has left, but Nancy can't bear to make him suffer through the ordeal.


Nancy goes to bed that night devastated -- not only for her own life, but for Johnny's. In the morning she finds Johnny asleep on the couch, as he was unable to make it home due to the stress of the prior evening's events. She heads down the stairs to him and in a romantic embrace, the young couple decides to go through with their marriage. They know it will be tough, but they also know that being apart would be tougher. Sadly, Nancy's parents don't see the silver lining and feel that Johnny is marrying her out of pity. Nancy can only say that maybe someday they will understand. Despite their disapproval, the wedding ensues.


Nancy and Johnny do all the things newlyweds do, despite the sadness that looms just over their heads.

It wasn't false gaiety, but genuine fun. Each minute was an eternity to be enjoyed and savored, each second hoarded for its happiness. The future we pushed from our minds. We promised never to talk about it... but the shadow was always there in our own, our very own, little temporary world.


As the newlyweds attempt to have as normal of a marriage as possible despite the ticking clock, they soon find themselves welcoming an infant into the world. Nancy grows weaker throughout the pregnancy, but gives birth to a healthy baby girl.


After the delivery, Nancy grows weaker still. She feels her time drawing to a close and hands the baby to Johnny to hold so that she can finish composing the last of her letters to their daughter. Nancy's parents finally understand why she was so set on marrying Johnny -- to give him a child through which her memory and love would live on. And so, one life ends and another begins. Their child grows into a beautiful young woman and upon reading her mother's letters, knows that she is watched over and loved.

I shall never see you grow up, share the joys and heartaches of your childhood... but God is good and kind in his infinite wisdom... and I shall be near you eternally...

"The story you'll never forget" indeed!

To all the mothers out there -- to those that are still with us,
and to those whose memories we cherish...

Happy Mother's Day!



*Identification of the artists on this one has proved tricky! See comments below!

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