Monday, February 22, 2010

I Failed at Love!

The Kiss -- an essential element of any romance. The Kiss is the moment when lovers embrace and shut out the rest of the world, lips press together and hearts beat in unison. The Kiss in romance comics often signifies resolution; so when a romance story that ends well is missing The Kiss, one takes notice.

Such is the case with "I Failed at Love!" from Our Love Story #18 (August 1972), written by Anne Spencer (nom de plume of Steve Englehart), penciled by Syd Shores and inked by Jack Abel. As you will see, it is a touching love story -- but the element of the kiss remains AWOL.

Our leading lady, Sandy works incredibly hard to provide for both herself and her younger brother, Carey. Not only does she take care of Carey (which could be a full-time job in itself), but she works and goes to night school. Love isn't on the docket for Sandy -- not with her schedule and ambition. That doesn't stop her though from wanting the excitement and comfort that romance brings. When she meets Jack, her tightly routinized world all but falls apart.

Lured in by his good looks and confident personality, Sandy goes on a date with Jack and has a blast dancing the night away. As we all know though, a night on the town sometimes comes with a price. The next morning Sandy oversleeps, is late for work, and is unprepared for class.

How can she break it to him though? It is all becoming too much to handle -- the James Brown concerts, the homework, the dishes! And oh yeah, that pesky little brother that keeps needing to be fed!

A superwoman Sandy is not. It all comes crashing down when after an all-night cram session she flunks the midterm. After receiving the devastating news she bumps into Jack and tells him she never wants to see him again.

How can she ever not see him again, though? She loves him for crying out loud! Luckily, Jack chases her back to her home and overhears her reveal the incredible pressure she has been under since starting to date him. Don't fret -- the ending is a happy one, just as so many romance comic book stories tend to be. Jack pops the question, and as stars twinkle in the background they -- HUG?!

This would have been an opportune moment for a kiss! He just asked her to marry him -- so why no kiss? One could argue that perhaps it is because Sandy's little brother bears witness, or maybe because she just put on some lip gloss. Or -- could it be because editorial wouldn't allow it?

This is not anything that I have conclusive proof of, but perhaps there was some contention with non-White characters kissing. I (and others -- Nick Caputo, KB of Out of This World) have come across numerous romance stories where African-American characters are depicted hugging rather than kissing, while their White counterparts smooch away. This is not to say that all stories involving African-American characters as protagonists are sans The Kiss, but enough to notice a pattern. Any theories on this? I seem to remember romance comic guru Michelle Nolan telling me once that romance comics sold incredibly well in Southern states. Perhaps that has something to do with it? Though "I Failed at Love!" is a well written and beautifully illustrated story, without The Kiss it is still sort of like ending a soaring sonata without a coda to designate the conclusion.

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