Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, March 30, 2019


Black comic books were a rarity in the Forties and Fifties.  1947 saw the single issue of All-Negro Comics, the first comic book written and drawn by Black writers and artists.  This 48-page small-press comic book touted itself as "another milestone in the splendid history of Negro journalism."  It featured a story about Negro private detective, Ace Harlem, and a story about "Lion Man," a college-educated African-American sent to Africa by the United Nations; there, he adopts Bubba, an impish African orphan.  Ace Harlem represented the "thousands of fearless, intelligent Negro police officers engaged in a constant fight against crime in the United States."  Lion Man was designed to promote pride in the African heritage of Afro-Americans although this college-educated dude wore either a leotard costume or a loin cloth (depending on whether it was the comic book's cover or the actual story).  The was also a children's feature concerning cherubs that could only be seen by babies, as well as a two-page text story, "Ezekiel's Manhunt."  An attempt to produce a second issue failed.

Then in 1950 Fawcett brought out Negro Romance, a title that lasted for just three issues, and one that avoided the Negro stereotypes of the time.  The comic book was conceived and written by Fawcett editor Roy Ald, who had hoped to expand into the burgeoning romance market.  Sadly, the bi-monthly comic lasted only three issue, ending with the October 1950 issue.  It seems likely to me that Fawcett's distributors were not equipped to handle such a title.

Negro Romance was reborn (in a way) when Charlton Comics Group picked up the title with issue #4 in 1955.  This was merely a reprint of Fawcett's issue #2 with a new cover thrown on.  For issue #5 Charlton renamed the book Romantic Secrets and any comic book featuring a major black character then had to wait for more politically correct times.

Negro Romance #4 (or, if you will, #2) starts off with "Possessed," the story of Gloria Conan, an insecure woman who was just fired from her job.  She meets and eventually falls in love with Lloyd Jaimson, an optimistic man who arranges for Gloria to get a job in his mother's beauty parlor.  Gloria's insecurities soon inadvertently caused her to become over-possessive, almost destroying her happiness and alienating her from Lloyd and his family.  She realizes her mistake in time.  Happy ending.

From there we move to "Forever Yours."  Edith and Don are blissfully in love and plan to get married, when Edith receives bad news from her doctor:  she has a disease that could prove fatal in just two years.  In my opinion, Edith is a dunderhead.  She accepts her fate and does not go for treatment that could cure her and she does not tell Don the bad news, letting the knowledge of her two-year death sentence fester.  With only death to look forward to, she decides that she must not marry Don, no matter how much she loves him.  She pushes Don away and opts for the wild life even though she's ashamed of herself.  She is a good girl after all.  It takes a medical crisis for Edith to come to her senses and for Don to crush her in his loving embrace.  Happy ending, since they will face the uncertain future together.

In "Love's Decoy," Sara Morgan is a lowly chorus girl although she hopes to become a big-time dancer.  Sleazy nightclub owner Bailey promises Sara a spot as a featured dancer if she would only play up to customer Bruce Ebberly.  Ebberly turns out to be a regular customer of the club who is always seated alone.  Sara "accidentally" meets Ebberly and they soon start up a sincere and loving relationship.  Bailey then demands that Sara somehow get Ebberly's signature.  Smelling a rat, Sara refuses but Bailey holds the featured spot in his revue over her head and she finally agrees.  I'm afraid Sara's a bit of a dim bulb because she has no idea why Bailey wants Ebberly's signature so desperately.  It turns out Ebberly is a cop who is investigating Bailey's shady racket and Bailey has used his signature to forge a letter demanding $15,000 blackmail.  Ebberly is arrested and Sara is wracked with guilt for betraying the man she loves.  Will Sara now do the right thing?  Of course she will.  Will Bruce Ebberly forgive her so they can live happily ever after?  Of course he will, but between doing the right thing and living happily ever after, one of Bailey's goons tries to kill her but only wounds her in the shoulder.  I mean, there's got to be some cosmic payback for betrayal, right?  Aching shoulder happy ending.

Negro Romances is an interesting bit of cultural history.  Check it out.

By the way, the cover illustration has absolutely nothing to do with any of the stories.  Oh, well.

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