Saturday, February 14, 2009

Single Issue Review: Search for Love #2

This comic is, strictly speaking, out of my general bailiwick as it was published in 1950, but it contains such beautiful and interesting romance stories that I couldn't resist breaking the format for Valentine's Day.

The first story concerns a gal who's something of a klutz:

Resolving to try to overcome her problem Audrey signs up for horseback riding, but of course the animal can sense her nervousness and takes off with her. A friendly guy saves her and demands a date in return. They hit it off well, and he wants to help her conquer her demons, but:

Of course all Terry (who we learn is a construction engineer) cares about is that she admitted that he's someone who really matters. We learn the complication in the way of their happiness; a crooked contractor in town is bidding against Terry for a high-rise office building. Terry's bid is successful, but he soon encounters problems on the job and learns that Larson, the crooked builder, has agents of his stirring up trouble.

Terry confronts Larson and as they are fighting, one of Larson's henchmen creeps up behind Terry with a blackjack. Audrey tries to save him but as we've seen she's a complete klutz and trips and puts Terry in the water. He refuses to believe it was an accident, assuming that she's set her cap for Larson, and breaks off with her. Sure enough Larson comes courting, and in a weak moment Audrey agrees to date him, causing further insults from Terry. She becomes engaged to Larson, but burns for revenge against her former boyfriend. Which Larson can arrange:

Terry rescues the worker, but the unstable structure gives way and he's kayoed before he can get down himself. What will happen?

The ending of course writes itself; she saves Terry who realizes she truly loves him, Larson goes to jail, and they live happily ever after.

Comments: The sudden heroism by Audrey is breathtaking the first time through and the dramatic tension is well-served by the earlier parts highlighting her clumsiness. Is it somewhat unbelievable? Sure, but I talk most days about people with super powers on this blog, so I'm not going to quibble about that. There is certainly negative characterization of Audrey when she falls for Larson, but that makes her redemption at the end more powerful. A well-crafted story with excellent artwork.

The second story is the one highlighted on the cover. Pearl Erskine's boyfriend dumped her because she was too feminine, so she resolved to be the toughest gal alive, becoming a famed adventurer and big game hunter. And she has custody of her niece Janice, who she's bringing up to be just as tough as she is.

When one of the boys accidentally hits a ball onto the roof of the school, Janice decides to show her abilities:

That last line is stolen from the then-current film Annie Get Your Gun:

Janice is attracted to the boy and they have a fun time together, but Auntie discourages romance:

So she breaks off with Dick, but:

Amazingly, Aunt Pearl ups the pressure; she's going on a wild game hunt in Africa and when she returns she wants Janice to make her final decision. The time slips by too quickly and:

So you can see that the story has become a psychological drama; can Janice break free of the influence of her aunt?

And right off the bat, Pearl's scheme goes awry. She wants Janice to learn from the archaeologist Harvey Presser, but he very quickly starts giving her the "wrong" lessons. Pearl confronts them in a rage:

Aunt Pearl drags Janice off to Africa, where she's hunting a giant tiger (okay, so they got the geography lesson wrong). Harvey is going to be over there as well on an archaeological expedition. As it happens, the giant tiger is unstoppable and attacks Janice and Pearl. Harvey manages to kill it, but not before Pearl is fatally wounded:

Comments: I've always been a fan of psychological drama stories in comics, so this one is right up my alley.

No one could say that this comic lacks for strong women pursuing unusual and interesting lives, especially when you see the splash for the next story:

Lorraine has no interest in men or relationships and she pursues her studies instead of romance. But then one night on a train, there's a mixup and:

Of course the "Baby, it's cold outside," line refers to the pop song of the late 1940s of the same name. It turns out that Lorraine is actually in the wrong car, so she's embarrassed, and the next morning the only seat that's available in the dining car is across from Eddy:

So he proceeds to do a carnival barker act on the train, embarrassing her even more. But as she runs away, her glasses fall off and Eddy gets a good look at her. Of course this was a cliched moment even back then. For a moment she submits to a kiss from him but then she remembers their relative stations in life:

At the conference in Chicago, Lorraine meets the other man, who seems to be perfect for her--another highly respected scientist in her field. Of course, his satanic beard gives him away as the villain of the piece:

And he does seem to be more interested in the weapons applications of her research than might be considered normal. But later he shows that he can handle the pesky carnival barker:

And he can think of a way she can repay him. She falls for Pierre and when he suggests that they elope she agrees. But:

She learns the truth shortly:

Now that's a panel. Of course Eddy bursts in, has a big fight with the phony Pierre, saves Lorraine and:

Comments: Another great story, with interesting characters. Similar to the first one in that the girl falls (on the rebound) for the bad guy but realizes in the end who she really loves.

The final story concerns an artist's model. Barbara falls in love with Dean, the struggling artist, but is enticed away by the man who buys her portrait. We can see the warning signs of problems ahead:

After a quarrel with the artist, she marries Robert. But Robert turns out to be gambling with his clients' money (shades of Bernie Madoff!) and cheating on her with Myrna, and when his empire collapses he commits suicide. To try to make up for his theft, Barbara sells all their property, including the painting that started it all, which Dean, now more successful, purchases. Apparently he's still got a thing for Barbara. But Myrna has other ideas. This time Barbara is ready to fight, though:

Fortunately Dean hears the argument and reveals that he's completed Myrna's portrait, which shows her hidden side as a bitter and vindictive woman.

Comments: Clearly the weakest story in the issue as the characterization is secondary to the plot, but the artwork is nice and the other stories are tough competition.

Unfortunately, Search for Love #3 was never issued, although it was advertised; I believe its contents were published as Romantic Adventures #8. I'm not sure what happened; first guess is that ACG discovered that the romance market was getting saturated. But these were terrific comics (I've read SfL #1 as well) with outstanding characters and they deserve to be remembered as among the finest of their time.