With Further Ado #230: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Just like you (probably) did, I bought a few things for myself during the recent Yuletide Season. There’s this one antique shop that has old comic books on sale from time to time. Generally, they are wildly mispriced, but every once in a while you can find a treasure. And hey, who am I to say what’s the “real price” on any particular old comic? I’ll leave that to J.C. Vaughn, the guiding force behind Gemstone’s annual Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.

Let’s focus a bit on romance comics. When I was a kid, we drew imaginary lines in the imaginary sand, and would never buy or read “girls’ comics”. Forget it! We were men.

[Except when we went to the Orthodontist. They had tons of Archie comics in the waiting rooms. (Back then, Archie offered an incredible subscription program to dentists’ offices). Somehow, we could shoehorn that exception into our rigid sense of self and burgeoning masculinity.]

Fast forward to today: I am always eager to snag a vintage romance comic! There are so many unexpected delights packed into each one. You never know if you’ll stumble across spectacular art (I’m a nut for Jay Scott Pike), oddball stories, or totally antiquated relationship advice to laugh at with my wife.

(As a testament to the genre, longtime With Further Ado readers may remember how much I loved Jacque Nodell’s How to Go Steady book way back in WFA #009.)

And so, that’s all my lead up to my recent acquisitions. I snagged a few romance comics during this recent shopping season. We were at the Dickens Festival in Skaneateles, NY and a favorite antique store on the main drag had reader copies for $2 a pop. What a bargain! I just had to share these treasures with you. (My wife is grateful that I didn’t wrap them up, and put a bow on them, and give them to her!)

“Hey Kids, Swingers Are Bad”

Just Married #110 (April, 1976) kicks off with a lead story called “Ice Cold Heart”. (That seemed appropriate after that storm last week -brrr!) In this story, a raven-haired beauty named Liana marries a perfectly nice guy named Ron. The problem arises in that she can never say “I love you” to Ron. She hems and haws until the final pages of the story, when their groovy friends Vikki and Ray invite them over for dinner.

Surprisingly, Ron pulls Liana close and explains to her, “stop worrying about being married, Liana,… it doesn’t bother Vikki and me!” And as Liana watches Vikki plant a big kiss on her husband, she realizes that (1) swinging isn’t for her, and (2) she does love her husband.

Now, I might be a bit old-fashioned, but I didn’t know this was a theme that Charlton Romance Comics even discussed! Wow! They never went over this kind of thing in comics like The Defenders that I was reading at the time.

Partridge in Pear Tree Romance Comic

Sweethearts #125 (June 1972) had a surprise David Cassidy pin-up by Don Sherwood. I will admit that I did listen to the Partridge Family Christmas Card album this past season (can you believe it was the #1 Christmas album sold in 1972), so this seemed appropriate. And you might remember, from a previous column, that I did rescue a Partridge Family comic this past summer from another antique store.

MJ vs. Gwen

Marvel’s My Love #34 (or is it my Love ?) (May, 1975) made me think of Spider-Man, as the two women in the tennis story “Loyalty …or Love!” look a lot like his two great loves, Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy. Shari is a sexy redhead, while Linda is blonde who buys her hairbands from the same place Gwen did!

This story was written by Holli Resnicoff, and it originally appeared a few years earlier, in 1972’s My Love #16. Surprisingly, there’s an incorrect editor’s footnote that points out this story was originally printed in Our Love #16. Geez, Marvel, get your Romance Comic titles right, willya?

The final story’s art is brilliant. We’ll Never Meet Again illustrated by John Buscema with John Romita inks. Does it get any more gorgeous than this? This was also a reprint, from 1969’s Our Love Story #2.

And they screwed up an editor’s footnote again! It’s erroneously listed as being originally published in My Love #2. I get the impression that Romance Comics weren’t a priority for Marvel at this time!

Wait, wait – was Steranko Moonlighting ?

Was the secret of Charlton’s Secrets of Young Brides #3 (November,1975) the fact that Steranko was moonlighting? No, no, that wasn’t the case, but the artwork in the first story “Can This Be Love?”, by Enrique Nieto, is stunning! The compositions are bold, the color choices are inspired and the textures are wonky. And the anatomy and drawing are top-notch too. What a treat! I must learn more about Enrique Nieto.

The last story, “A Bad Scene”, (that title didn’t date well, did it?) is illustrated by an uncredited artist. But it’s all evocative of Walter Simonson’s work. I’m such a big Simonson fan*, I think that stumbling upon art by even a Simonson wanna-be is just fine!

Giordano AND Toth

DC’s (The new) Young Love #123, originally published in January, 1977 also showcases two favorite artists.

Dick Giordano’s artwork had such an impact on me as a kid. I felt he always gave things a slick texture that seemed so “now”. And as you can imagine; it was a quite a treat for me to work with Giordano on Captain Action cover years later. Giordano supplied this Young Love cover and a lovely, poem-focused splash page (See the top of the column). They don’t make them like that anymore, do they?

Alex Toth collaborated with Barbara Friedlander on “20 Miles to Heart Break (Part 2)” to finish out the issue. A few years back, I thoroughly enjoyed and studied, Greg Sadowski’s brilliant Setting the Standard. It is a fascinating book examining Toth’s 1950s romance stories for Standard Publishing. With that in mind, I was delighted to stumble across this Toth 70s love story. And I didn’t even let the Vinnie Colletta inks bother me this time.

Of note : this Beauty on Budget page has a 70s charm all of its own!

* * *

But what a way to end my year of reading comics. Maybe I was looking for love in all the wrong places way back when.

*I’m a big fanboy of both Walter’s and Louise’s Simonson’s work.