Apr 20, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 421: Girls' Love Stories #178, August 1973 ("Wuv, twue wuv" Week, Day 1)

Two things before we begin - a shiny, Giant Box of Comics No-Prize to the first person who tells me where this week's subtitle comes from. Second, today is April 20 (Happy 4/20, all), and yesterday was day 420 of the project. Missed it by one day.


Unfortunately, my copy of this comic is in so much worse condition than the cover scan above. So much so, in fact, that I'm missing the middle 8 pages, and never will find out how things work out for the young lady being swept off her feet by the skull-wearing biker up there. Welcome to Romance Comics week! I have a grand total of 12 romance comics (according to my genre listing) in my collection, so this week we're going to look at more than half of them. That's a little depressing, I think, though if today's comic is any indication, it's a bit of a mixed blessing not having more. At least, not having more from the 70s, like this comic. Now, I was but a twinkle in my parents' eyes when this comic came out (actually, I was more like a zygote in my mother's womb, but that's less poetic), but did every woman who fell for some dude she crashed into in the park, or met on the street on her first day in New York, go to his home and cook him a steak? Where are all the vegetarian men?

The stories, as you can imagine, are mired in a time when women were this weird mixture of homemaker and what comics writers thought feminists were, and men were....actually, in this comic, men are sex objects. It's an odd juxtaposition, in that the men in the comics take what, at the time, is traditionally the female place, that of the eye candy, and the women are balls of barely-controlled lust and June Cleaver-style life goals. So in at least one way, in acknowledging the desires of women (Emilia would be so proud, boys), this comic is sort of (I emphasize, sort of) forward thinking. I think the best practice for reading such works, though, is to have a soccer ball-sized grain of salt handy at all times.

What I do thank this comic for is for introducing me to the art of Jay Scott Pike, who illustrated (according to the GCD) the first story. He's got a semi-Carmine Infantino thing going on, but with slightly less stylization happening. He apparently was also a well-regarded "Good Girl" pin-up artist (a genre I have a weakness for), so I'm happy to have a new artist to explore and discover.

This week's comics are from a span of about 50 years, so it'll be interesting to see what's changed in romance comics, and what hasn't. In the early days, young women were the target demographic (imagine a comics industry that actually targeted young women - madness!!), and I'm curious to see if something like the I [Heart] Marvel Marvel Ai issue I'll be reading this week still targets that group. Can't men like romance too?


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