<p>What do pinups, girl reporters, wimmin’s libbers and riot grrrlz have in common? A nice lot of different Silver or Bronze Age, (1960's &1970's) DC & Charlton romance comic books.
<p>The DC romance comics of late sixties and early seventies had absolutely gorgeous art and the stories were sophisticated and very mod in their reflection of the new morality of the times: inter-racial love and unwed mothers, as well as thinly-guised allusions to prostitution and lesbianism. However, the Charlton romance comics of the same era were probably the absolute worst comics ever produced. Each issue gave the impression that, after having blown the entire monthly budget on a beautiful cover, the editors parceled out the interior pages for peanuts to very talented high school student relatives of the staff. On top of the bad art, Charlton used mechanical lettering, which contributed chilliness to their pages. Sudsy soaps with torrid titles like “Love Thy Neighbor” and “The Hippy and the Cop” promised more than they delivered. With dismal stories and hideous art, Charltons truly are undiscovered gems if you like oddball, weirdo comics.
<p>In romance comics prior to 1965 the most a woman could aspire to was the position of nurse, private secretary or model. And they always gave it up anyway to get married and become housewives. The entire country had changed drastically by the mid-sixties and romance comics tried to keep up with the change and failed miserably. Although our heroines moved up in the world; they evolved from working-class waitresses and housewives into college students, airline stewardesses, rock stars and models, the stories remained mostly the same: some fetching, lush-lipped heroine, tear in her eye, agonizing over - something - a lost love, a lost job, parents who just don’t understand, sexist pig boyfriends, back-stabbin’b!tches.
<p>Some of these comics got pretty sordid or as sordid as they were allowed to exist in those days. Cheating, underage sex, wild parties, bad crowds: these topics were still somewhat taboo at that time. Often the art featured classic “good girl” art featuring “headlights,” spanking panels, slapping panels, shower scenes, negligee panels, etc. An even seemier story appears in … from the ….issue of …
<p>Interesting "generation gap" comics emerged as the publishers tried to appeal to mid-to-late teenage girls The writers wanted to be "with it" but in many cases just didn't know quite how. Unfortunately, in a desperate attempt to be hip, the stories read as though they were written by clueless 45 year old men. Which they were. The results are unintentionally hilarious. Embarrassingly pseudo-hip dialogue such as…I can’t pick just one. On every page someone says something incredibly strange. It’s all…simply…too…much. You’ll be beside yourself saying, “Did I just read that correctly? I can’t believe I’m reading this. Is this how it really was? They couldn’t have actually done, said or wore those things. It’s all just so…alien. And they thought it was cool.” Haircuts, fashion and slang in these comics captures that tasteless late-1960’s to mid-1970s era of groovy hippies and hot disco music.
<p>These types of comics are the source of the generic “pop art” look seen today on hundreds of campy T-shirts, cups, greeting cards, kitchen magnets and Roy Lichtenstein’s Ban-Day dot oil paintings. A virtual treasure trove of clip art. Real corny period pieces. A sociology student could write a thesis and a fashion student could find inspiration. The rest of us are ROTFL. These books are still unresearched in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide for the most part.
<p>Joe Gill, who wrote most of Charlton’s romance comics, says he always felt a responsibility to keep the stories clean and moral. “I knew what I was writing was being read by young, impressionable people…and I didn’t want to corrupt them. You know, virtue has its own rewards…(laughs) and all that s--t. Television changed all the values of the (subsequent) generation enormously. They found out about sex and drugs. It was pretty sordid. And these harmless little comics had no place in their lives.” The books were looked at with the same derision as Harlequin books and TV soap operas. Gill remembers that, “I worked for Stan Lee way back when and as assignments were getting rarer he offered me some romance assignments - and I wouldn’t do them. I thought they were sissy stuff. I’d rather go work on the docks.” Later, of course, with a family to feed, Gill changed his mind and while at Charlton went on to become probably the most prolific romance comic book writer of all time.
What do pinups, girl reporters, wimmin’s libbers . . .
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