Tuesday, July 12, 2011

First Kiss #2

I haven't talked much about Charlton Comics here. Aside from Steve Ditko's terrific work, it's safe to say that they are considered the ugly stepsister of Silver Age comics, with (mostly) mediocre art and stories. Their comics even seemed to be printed on cheaper paper than the other publishers. And yet they did publish a boatload of comics in the Silver Age; at least 2500 that I've been able to catalog, and I'm positive that I'm missing some.

Like most publishers in the Silver Age, Charlton eschewed the superhero comics except during Batmania. They published a LOT of romance comics, even more than
DC. Their active romance titles in the Silver Age included Career Girl Romances (37 issues), Cynthia Doyle, Nurse In Love, Dr Tom Brett Young Intern, First Kiss (40 issues), High School Confidential Diary and Confidential Diary (17), Hollywood Romances (10), I Love You (82), Just Married (74), Love Diary (69), My Secret Life (29), Nurse Betsy Crane (16), Romantic Secrets (44), Romantic Story (83), Secret Romance (10), Secrets of Love and Marriage (25), Secrets of Young Brides (40), Sweetheart Diary (34), Sweethearts (92), Teen Confessions (65), and Teen-Age Love (70 issues). When flipping through the comics racks back then, I often thought of Charlton as the equivalent of Harlequin in the comics.

The opening story in this issue is pretty good despite the dull-as-dishwater title, Love Him, Love What He Does. Alice is a bit ashamed of her prizefighter boyfriend George. She wants him to take up a more genteel profession, like her friends' husbands:

So she gives him an ultimatum: Either he gives up boxing or she dumps him. However, he's on the verge of a title bout and isn't about to abandon the sport he loves. Alice, who's been moping about, decides to attend the big fight, initially hoping that he will lose and come to his senses:

And win he does, making Alice realize that she's as proud of him as she would be of a lawyer or doctor:

The story could have been more dramatic if there had been a confrontation before the fight between the two lovers, with Alice initially admitting that she hoped George would lose, and then him recovering to win the bout when he realizes that she's rooting for him. Still, it's a solid effort. The subtext (accept your man for who he is, not for who you wish he were) is a frequent theme during romances of this era, although that would change as editors began to demand that leading men be wealthy and/or powerful. Of course, you could argue that a championship fighter was exactly that; back in the 1950s they were probably the most well-paid figures in sports.

The second story is not as satisfying; you can probably guess the ending from this panel alone:

The dreaded mustache tells us that he's not the right man for her. She goes out shopping, gets stuck in a ditch and meets an arrogant man who tells her to stop spinning her wheels. No real surprises here; the arrogant man is her true love.

The third story does present some interesting points. Doris Wiles had married a wealthy playboy, who died and left her and her infant son penniless. She works her way up from waitressing to running her own restaurant. A wealthy former friend of her husband, improbably named Carlos McLean, starts to woo her. But wait, he has the dreaded mustache! Is he a villain?

Nope, and he seals the deal when her son swallows something that puts him in peril:

I'm going to guess that the specialist went by the name of Dr Heimlich. ;)

There's an interesting PSA:

I don't remember DC publishing any overtly religious PSAs during the Silver Age, although they certainly published ones that promoted religious tolerance.

Solid Gold Heart closes out the book. Donna is a succesful model who wants to make the jump to acting. Her downstairs neighbor is Larry, a self-employed biochemist. Donna is promoting her career and making the gossip columns by going out with various wealthy playboys, but she wishes Larry were more successful. One days she promises to attend a sales pitch to an investor, but then her manager calls with a rich date who will certainly get her name in the paper. Torn, she attends the date even though it is at the same corner as Larry is waiting. But it all works out in the end, as:

It's an entertaining story, largely selling the same message about accepting your man for who he is as the opening tale. And as in the opener, the woman doesn't really have to suffer, as it is clear her man will become wealthy.

There's a "movie date" filler bit of advice here:

One oddity; the comic does not seem to contain many ads aimed at women; in fact the inside front cover contains a Joe Weider body-building ad.


hobbyfan said...

You speak of Charlton's cheap paper. Toward the end of the run, I will swear to you, they looked as if they printed some of their books on bathroom paper towels!!

Anonymous said...

I would have more sympathy for Alice if she had wanted her boyfriend to quit boxing because she was afraid he would get hurt. As it is, she comes across as a snob.