Apr 22, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 423: Haunted Love #2, June 1973 ("Wuv, twue wuv" Week, Day 3)

http://www.comics.org/issue/26271/

I don't know why I'm surprised to find such big-name creators working on a romance title from Charlton. I always forget that Charlton was a force to be reckoned with for some time in the late 70s and early 80s. I also have to work past that bias I have that superheroes are intrinsically the height of work for creators in comics. I know I would hate to do one thing for work for the rest of my life, so why should those involved in comics be any different? In fact, I can think of one or two contemporary professionals who should take a *cough cough Geoff Johns* break from superheroes for a bit, before one or both of them dies a horrendous death.

(Oops. Too late, DC Comics.)

Today's comic got me thinking about story lengths. There's two stories in this issue. The first, "Richard," is 8 pages long, and the second, "I'll Never Let You Go," is twice that. But "Richard" is a far superior tale. There's an odd juxtaposition of early 20th century-style clothing and seventies dialogue, but Staton's art is gorgeous, and Cuti's script is tightly-paced and plotted. (Also, Cuti produced a strange little underground comix series called Moonie that I am now hunting for, because it looks fucking bizarre.) There's even a rather lovely twist in the story in that the final teary love-revelation comes between two brothers, one deceased but still watching over his sibling, rather than the usual innocent waif and her hunky man. This offers a nice juxtaposition with the second story, though that's really the only interesting thing about it, in my opinion. "Never" is a cliched story of a woman whose bad-boy boyfriend dies in a car crash, and continues to haunt her even after she marries a nice guy (see that cover up there? That's literally all you need to know). The art is competent, but pales in comparison to Staton's work. Perhaps it would have been wiser to lead with this story so that the really stellar piece would end the comic. There's some nice use of flashback sequences, but, as with a number of the stories I've read over the last couple of days, the ending is just ridiculously rushed. The husband goes from not believing his wife to seeing and combating the ghost in the space of maybe 2 panels (and not two "a year passes" panels), and we're never given a good explanation as to why the ghost seemed to have been attracted to the house that eventually burns down (as they do), rather than the woman he was ostensibly haunting.

And so I wonder if the length of the piece allowed for too many extraneous details. Maybe we didn't need the flashbacks. Maybe this piece would have worked better as a short story, concentrating on the space and the setting and the situation, rather than the history, of the characters. Those other stories I mentioned above, with the rapid endings, are often ones of just this nature, regardless of the history of the characters we read about, and the stretch of time that becomes important in the tales is the one that comes "happily ever after" the end of the story. The effective romance stories, I'm finding, are the ones that tell the tale of the moment of love, rather than its history.

He said, having read probably less than 10 romance comics in his life. I guess we'll see over the next few days if my hypothesis is born out.

For those who might be interested, here's Nicola Cuti's Moonie at Comixjoint (which I've just discovered and it's amazing). More romance tomorrow. See you then.

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