Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Brad and Maria - From Different Sides of the Tracks in "Strangers in Love!"

Cover art: Don Heck/Dick Giordono
Young Romance #171
(April/May 1971)

I purchased this issue of Young Romance on Ebay last spring, primarily because the cover is just so cool! I just sort of assumed the corresponding interior story, "Strangers in Love!" would be an original '70s story. As it turns out, it is a retouched reprint (pencils by John Romita). Unfortunately, I do not have the original story, so I can't tell you if it is similar in plot or not. But, I just had to share this one not only for the groovy cover, but because it appears that leading lady Maria, and her family are Hispanic. Diverse characters (being few and far between in romance comics) are always exciting!

Maria decides to take a break from her urban life, and goes to visit her Aunt and Uncle. Though the change of scenery is nice, her extended family still lives on the "wrong side of the tracks." This fact comes to the forefront when Maria meets Brad, a handsome and wealthy local. The differences between them have no bearing on their attraction, and the two spend a lovely afternoon smooching and getting to know one another.

Brad takes Maria home to meet his elderly uncle Josh -- Brad's legal guardian since early childhood. Brad warns Maria that his uncle is intimidating, but nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, Uncle Josh's reaction to Maria does not help put her at ease in Brad's wealthy and unfamiliar surroundings, but Brad's goodnight kiss assures her all will work out for the best.

Giddy with love, Maria eagerly tells her aunt and uncle about her new found romance. Sadly, her relatives are just as uptight about the relationship as Brad's uncle.

Ignoring those around them, Brad and Maria continue to date and fall madly in love. Brad ultimately pops the question, to which Maria says "Yes." Uncle Josh gives a resounding "No." He has already arranged a future wife for Brad, and it isn't Maria. Uncle Josh goes on to tell Brad that if he chooses to go through with his marriage to Maria, he will be cut out of his will.

You may notice that in a few panels Maria was
mistakenly not recolored for this reprint -- Oops!

Seeing as Brad has lived a life of luxury and never had to work, he doubts his abilities to support Maria without his uncle's help. Ultimately, Brad decides to call the engagement off.

Devastated, Maria tries to forget about Brad, but she can't stop thinking about how it was prejudice that ripped them apart. Or was it? Did Brad just not love her enough?

Just as the swirling questions and doubts cloud her mind, Brad comes up to Maria and declares that he cannot live without her and that nothing matters -- except for their love. Maria knows that is all true, but she wonders if Brad can handle living a life that he is unaccustomed to.

In an unexpected turn of events, Uncle Josh's chauffeur comes to Maria's house and announces to Brad that his uncle has passed away. In a last act of compassion, Uncle Josh scribbled a note to Brad accepting the marriage. And just like that, Brad and Maria are given the Happily Ever After they so deserve!

Love between boy and girl from opposite sides of the tracks was a common theme in the romance comics. In "Strangers in Love!" Maria and Brad's geographical relation to one another is used not only to denote social class, but ethnicity as well. I am guessing that the original printing of this story involved just a class division between the characters and that Maria was added in the '70s for diversification. If and when I do find the original story, I will be sure to let you all know!

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