Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to comics from one decade. This week’s decade: the 1950s! Today’s page is from Lovelorn #18, which was published by Michel Publishing and is cover dated October 1951. I borrowed this and several other comics over the next few weeks from Howard Harris, my comics retailer, who was nice enough to let me take them home and scan them. Enjoy!
Sam Cooper signed this, so I guess we can assume he drew it, but whether he wrote it or not or if someone else did is still a mystery. Such is life!
“Cupid Always Rings Twice” is one of the several stories in Lovelorn #18, and it had the most interesting first page. The large first panel sums up the story nicely in both the writing and the art – Jessica Wright (who decided to tell her story to this magazine, as if she were real) used to think that women could only find true love once, but from the artwork, it appears that’s crap. If your first love dies in an airplane crash, just tart yourself up and get right back out there! Soldiers will take anyone, it seems!
The sexism in the first panel is hilarious – “untold millions” of women have believed that you can only have one true love, and if that’s taken away, they immediately become creepy spinsters living in attics with old wedding cakes and terrorizing kids named Pip. Wait, where was I? Anyway, Jessica is here to tell us her story, which she hopes will show us all the way to “heart-throbbing happiness that’s every girl’s right!” I have to believe that 17-year-old Gloria Steinem read this and said to herself, “Fuck yeah!” but then decided that “heart-throbbing happiness” meant something different than it did to Jessica.
In the second panel, we see Jessica graduating from nursing school, after having put off “fun and dates” to achieve her goal. Now, she hopes she can find love. As we’ll see later on this week, that means the woman has to stop working so she can be a housewife, but this story is remarkably progressive – Jessica never actually stops being a nurse. As this is a melodrama, she finds love on her “first assignment” – she meets a nice young man who’s taking care of his mother. There’s nothing a young lady likes more than a young man who takes care of his mother! Alan makes his move right away – he’s glad he’s still single when he meets Jessica. Hey, the life expectancy in the 1950s was only 65 years – the men had to move fast!
Cooper’s artwork really makes the page, helping temper the melodramatic prose while still being plenty melodramatic itself, especially that first panel. Jessica sits on the left side, dressed in typical attire, mourning the loss of Alan, who has crashed in what looks like strangely like a MiG – is Alan a Soviet spy? Cooper, naturally, faces Jessica toward the center of the page, so that our eye is moved that way – we get her, the burning plane, and the handsome picture of Alan. The panel is split by the trail of Cupid’s arrow, a very nice technique. On the other side of the panel, we see Jessica clinching with Charles, and she’s in her nursing uniform while he wears a pilot’s uniform. The background on the left is dark green and black, signifying mourning, while on the right, Jessica and Charles stand in front of white clouds, implying a heavenly love. In Panel 2, Jessica stands tilted to the right and holding her diploma angled the same way, moving us to the final panel of the page. Cooper draws her with a slightly dreamy look in her eyes – she’s obviously thinking about some of that “heart-throbbing happiness.” Panel 3 gives us an interesting triangle: Jessica has to be smaller than Alan, because everyone knows that all men are taller than all women, so she can gaze up at him adoringly. Alan looks back at her, disrupting the flow of the panel and also, subtly, rejecting his mother for his future wife. Mrs. Wood completes the triangle, fading into the darkened background as Alan leaves her and moves on (Alan’s mother doesn’t die, by the way, but this panel shows his symbolic rejection of her, and in the next panel, she’s again in the background as Alan and Jessica take center stage; only when her son dies does she re-emerge as a force). This is a nice symbol-rich page, reinforcing gender stereotypes and the need of a new generation to stand on its own feet – Jessica does when she finds a new love and when she graduates, while Alan does when he rejects his mother.
Naturally, this is a ridiculously melodramatic story, as Jessica goes to Korea to confirm Alan’s death and ends up falling in love with his best friend, but Cooper (and whoever wrote this) do some very neat things on this page. Those 1950s comics – more subtle than you might expect!
Next: The Big Red Cheese! Everyone loves him, right? There’s more to love in the archives!