Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Romance Under the Covers - Love Stories #147 (November 1972)

When DC's Heart Throbs called it quits in October of 1972 with issue #146, the short lived series Love Stories swooped in and picked up where it left off. Starting with issue #147 (November 1972) Love Stories followed the formula of most other romance comics of the time -- a few sequential stories, a contest or two, a primarily text-based featurette, and an advice column.

The first story, "I Loved a Drop-Out" (illustrated by Tony DeZuniga) is equal parts romance story and medical drama. Madly in love, Christopher and Sybil must face the wrath of parents with high expectations. Chris is "hair-brained" and "idealistic" according to his doctor father, from whom he is supposed to take over a successful practice. Chris has other plans, and above all -- wants to do something meaningful with his life. Sybil is completely supportive of her fiance's decision, but her parents? Well, they are none too pleased.

Sybil starts to have doubts about Christopher's search for meaning when he is unable to find work. The lovers' parents don't help the situation any, but the couple stands by one another, as so beautifully demonstrated in the following panel.

One morning, Chris surprises Sybil with the news that he has taken a volunteer job as an orderly at the Neighborhood Free Clinic. Though a tad worried about their future, Sybil enjoys watching how elated Chris becomes when interacting with patients.

His talents not unrecognized to him, Chris hatches a plan to infiltrate his father's pricey practice with patients from the free clinic. In exchange for his father's pro bono work, Chris promises to go back to school, so that he really can make a difference.

"I Loved a Drop-Out is one of the more interesting stories in the issue. The title itself promises a certain degree of subversiveness, but the story turns out to be quite compliant with social norms and expectations. The story is also notable for the fact that Sybil hardly has a role in it, other than acting as Chris's support system. The story would have turned out mostly the same had she not been in it at all, but then it hardly would be a romance story -- now would it?!

Many of the romance comic contests are neat, but this one may take the cake. The "Make Me a Star" contest promised to turn one lucky reader's real life love story into a sequential piece fit for Love Stories. How cool would that have been, to have you and your special someone's likeness in a romance comic? Pretty cool, if you ask me!

The second story in Love Stories #147, "Pity Her but Love Me" (penciled by John Rosenberger) is a classic in DC's "pity" sub-genre involving beautifully angelic girls in wheelchairs, and the dark haired hussies who try to steal their men.

The story opens with Paul boldly smooching his mistress -- Wendy, while waiting for his betrothed, Robin. While rushing over to the car to meet them, Robin is struck by another car.

Paralyzed from the waist down, Robin maintains a cheery disposition; all the while oblivious to Paul and Wendy's terrible secret. Paul promises they can tell Robin when she is on the mend. Wendy feels jilted because despite Paul's claims that he will break it off with Robin, he continues to say things to Wendy like, "We've just got to be patient for a few more days," and "It's just a matter of time, honey!"

Months go by, and still Robin is paralyzed -- as is Paul's ability to choose to commit. When Robin tells Paul that she doesn't want the fact that she is a "cripple" to tie him down, a spark of hope is ignited in Wendy.

Wendy's small sliver of hope is quickly destroyed when Paul tells her that he can learn to love Robin again. The betrayed mistress demands that Paul tell Robin the truth, and the readers are left with a cliff-hanger! But not just any cliff-hanger... a contest for the best ending, worth five bucks! Fond of contests such as these, DC knew reader participation would surely ensure repeat customers and brand loyalty.

A reprieve from sequential stories is taken with the text featurette, "Ten Things You Should Know About Boys." The most important thing I learned from this is that, boys are "human beings, after all." Phew! Good to know!

The last story of Love Stories #147, "No Wedding for Me!" is about practical Ivy, and her wealth-driven boyfriend, Larry. Not satisfied working an average 9 to 5 with average wages, Larry gets wrapped up in one get rich quick scheme after another.

None of Larry's exploits seem to work out and they all require him to leave town and Ivy for months on end. Ivy is warned/wooed by her handsome friend Edwin of Larry's flightiness, but she just doesn't want to listen.

Larry's real estate deal in the Bahamas goes sour, and he winds up working in a shoe store. He quits that steady job however, when he is promised he will strike it rich selling uranium shares. Once again, he quits his job and leaves Ivy behind. Once again, the deal falls through. He comes back home and gets another job at a used car lot, which is quickly supplanted by a yearning to work at a boat factory. Ivy can't take any more and sets him free to chart his course.

After going their separate ways, Ivy begins to date her friend Edwin seriously, and eventually they become engaged. Ivy however, cannot forget her love for Larry. She seeks him out at the used car lot where he happens to work again. Despite her attempts to get him out of her mind, she succumbs to a marriage proposal and admits in the end that she is merely a fool for love.

As we saw a few posts back, a romance comic would not be complete without an advice column. Love Stories not only took over the numbering of Heart Throbs, but it also inherited Heart Throbs columnist, Donna Fayne to help readers solve their romantic woes.

All in all, not a bad issue. Not terribly memorable either, but important for the fact it was the first issue of the new title. The awesome cover doesn't hurt either, when ranking this issue's greatness factor. Throughout the summer I will post on the five remaining issues.

That's all from me for now! I am going to be gone for a bit on vacation -- road trip style. Perhaps I will find a few romance comics scattered throughout the rust belt? We can only hope! Have a wonderful Fourth of July, everybody!!! See you soon!

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