Here's your comic book fix for this Saturday, "stories of true love and heartbreak," with a dash of teen-age angst.
With a title like Teen-Age Temptations, the modern reader might expect something hot and spicy, or -- at the very least -- something akin to an old Orrie Hitt paperback.
In the first story Joan has been dating good ol' Fred, a nice guy but a bit of a stick in the mud. There doesn't seem to be too much spark in the relationship and Joan keeps dreaming of bigger things. Then along comes Hal, a handsome, smooth talking salesman in town for a few days.Joan's father does not trust Hal, but Joan is smitten -- Hal takes her to fancy places and lavishes attention on her. Joan's father ships her off to an aunt in Cleveland (Cleveland? Can there be a more horrible place for Joan?) Hal follows Joan to Cleveland and convinces her to secretly elope. The next morning -- after "a night I will never forget" -- Joan is bubbling over with happiness when she and Hal are confronted by an angry redhead. It's Hal's wife and (gasp!) Joan is in a bigamous relationship. Hal the cad leaves with his real wife and Joan returns home with her secret shame. And then Joan begins to think, what if I'm pregnant from that night I will never forget? To hedge her bets, Joan marries Fred and, although she turns out not to be pregnant, she actually is very happily married. But while Fred is off on a two-week business trip, up pops Hal the cad, ready to blackmail Joan. Oh, what to do? Oh, the angst!
Joan, of course is a dim bulb. She has a zoftag body that no teen-ager has ever had. And her clothes are expensive, revealing numbersof the latest fashion. But her heart is pure and true love will find a way beyond the heartbreak. Teen-age girls eat this sort of stuff up, or at least they did in 1954.
In "Lonesome for Love," Carol has the perfect boyfriend. Paul is gay (in the 1954 sense), sophisticated, handsome, and intelligent and -- just as Carol is leaving for a vacation cruise, she accepts an engagement ring. But things don't go as Carol planned. On the cruise she meets and falls in love with Randy, a ship's engineeer. Back home, Carol dumps Paul for Randy. Randy quits the sea life and goes back to college at night school. Carol agrees to marry Randy once he graduates, but between a day job, night school, and studying, Randy has little time to see Carol. Paul gets Carol to see him on a strictly Platonic basis until one night Paul gets drunk and proves himself to be as bad a cad as Hal was in the previous story. Alas, this is when Randy happens upon them. Paul tries to conince Randy that Carol has been unfaithful. Randy walks out. Carol cries. Angst ensues.
Question: Were all girls in 1954 dim bulbs, or just the ones in this comic book? I'm reminded of what Damon Knight called "idiot" books, one in which the plot is advanced only becaise the hero/heroine is an idiot. Will there be another dim bulb in the next story? Let's see.
Well, going by the title "I Was an Alibi Bride," I'd say we're heading into dim bulb territory. Marlie and Tom are quite the item and everyone's asking when they will marry. Tom, however, hates the idea of marriage and seems to spend much of his time disparaging both Marlie and the institute of marriage. (Not only are girls dim b ulbs in 1954, but men are unconscionable cads.) Marlie decides to trick Tom into proposing. She's begins a rumor that they are having an affair! Her friends urge her to get married: After all, a marriage is much better than an affair, darling! The rumors get back to Tom, who is shocked, I tell you, shocked! As an insurance salesman, Tom must have a squeaky clean reputation. (I gather insurance salesmen were aomewhat akin to priests in 1954.) Tom decidess the only way to scotch the rumors is to marry Marly, so he does. And they live happily ever after. Good. They deserve each other. They -- and the story -- left an ugly taste in my mouth.
Escaping her past, Marla arrived in Bayville to start a dancing school in "No Hiding Place." She rents a house from handsome Dwight Rawlings. Marla's school is a success and so is her relationship with Dwight. Soon they are engaged to be married. The dark cloud appears in the form of a crooked P.I., the man who had falsified photos "proving" Marla's affair with her married producer. It was a high-profile divorce and, accused as the correspondent in the affair, Marla's career as a ballerina ended. That was the past she was escaping from. Crooked P.I. (the cad!) blackmails Marla over her past. Thing become intolerable and Marla buys a gun, intending to kill the baddie. As you can guess, all ends well and Marla finds bliss.
Marla is not so much of a dim bulb as one who is afraid to admit her past, even though she had done nothing wrong. As with Carol and Joan, Marla ends up with a man who is kind and understanding. The stories indicate that these husbands are also forgiving, although there is really nothing there to forgive. I find this trait a bit more than condescending. Oh, well.
No one in this comic book is a teen-ager. The temptations are not very tempting, IMHO.
Teen-Age Temptations lasted for nine issues (from 1952 to 1954) from St. John Publishing. St. john also published the romance comics books Adventures in Romance, Cinderella Love, Diary Secrets, Going Steady, Hollywood Confessions, It's Love, Love, Love, Perfect Love, Pictorial Confessions, Pictorial Romances, Romantic Marriages, Teen-Age Romances, True Love Pictorial, and War Time Romances. Something for every ttoung girl.
Romance comics were very popular from 1947 to 1977, selling as well as many superhero and adventure titles. The publisher of True Story admitted that romance comics were cutting into his sales. The sexual revolution and its accompanying cultural shift signalled a slow, slow death knell for the traditional romance comic book, but while they reigned they were avidly read by teen-age and pre-teen girls. My sister had a pile of them up until age fourteen or fifteen.