cover to Secret Hearts #147

Secret Hearts #147, October 1970

“Cry, Soul; Cry, Love!”

Cathy is very much in love with Vinnie, her “steady”. Unfortunately, she discovers him in the arms of another girl and he’s unrepentant: “I asked you to go steady with me…” he explains. “Nobody ever said anything about me going steady with you!” Understandibly, Cathy flees.

The next day Cathy’s friend, Mike, suggests to Greg and Chuck that they should all give Cathy the space she needs at this difficult time. However, when alone with her, Greg tells Cathy he loves her. Cathy reacts badly and rejects him. Later, Chuck tries to console her, telling her how special she is. She then becomes confused when he walks away. The poor girl, so full of emotions, doesn’t know where to turn.

At lunch the following day Mike asks her out on a date. She agrees, and soon Cathy falls for him. Chuck catches the pair kissing and, in a rage, decks Mike. He accuses Mike—fairly—of manipulating the situation for his own ends. Chuck storms off, and Cathy kisses Mike. She knows that she loves him with all her heart.

Some time later, Cathy discovers Mike kissing another girl. History repeats itself. “Did you really think I’d stay with just one girl?” taunts Mike. Cathy flees again, but this time Chuck follows her.

At a nearby lake the pair talk. Cathy wonders why she always ends up like this. “Because you’re stupid!” says Chuck. “You’ll jump on anyone who comes along…”

Stung by the truth of it, Cathy bursts into tears. Chuck comforts her. “I told you once before, you’re special!” he says, and Cathy realises she’s finally found true love. They embrace.

Rewind.

Cathy discovers Vinnie in the arms of another girl and flees. That other girl is Jane Austin, and she’s horrified to find that Vinnie is cheating on his steady with her. She dumps him and storms off, full of anger and remorse. She’s afraid of the reputation she has as a “love thief”. “I don’t mean to steal boys,” she sobs, “it just happens!”

The next day she bumps into Dave, and it’s love at first sight. The pair go on a date and everything is going great until Jane overhears a pair of girls whispering that Dave is already taken. All around her she feels accusing eyes boring into her soul. Boy thief! She runs into a hall of mirrors and faints when she sees eyes all around her.

Dave wakes her. He explains that, yes, he had been going out with Judy, but they’d had a big argument the previous night and broken up. Dave’s a free man; no strings attached.

The pair kiss.

Rewind.

Cathy discovers Vinnie in the arms of another girl and flees. Vinnie’s new girl then dumps him. He can’t understand why this keeps happening. Things go great with girls at first, but then they want to get their hooks into him. “Nobody runs my life!” Then he sees  platinum blonde Gail. He’s utterly smitten. Over the next few days their relationship grows. “This will be different … I can feel it…” he thinks.

At the lake, Vinnie rows Gail to a small island. They caress in the cool breeze and Vinnie can “feel something swell up…”

Then, Gail commits the ultimate sin of saying that she loves him. Suddenly he turns cold once more. “She had to ruin it,” he thinks. Alone again, Vinnie goes to a party and meets yet another girl. Gail appears and dismisses her. Vinnie is annoyed, but Gail explains to the dunderhead that she loves him. True love. And love is “something more than romance… more than going steady… To care, really care for someone, to get up in the morning with him on your mind… or her!”

Finally, Vinnie understands. He’s been too scared of commitment to see love when it came along. Now he sees. “I’ve been going around blind! Can you forgive me…” he asks as Gail embraces him with a warm kiss.

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The dialogue makes it somewhat overblown melodrama, but this is actually a pretty solid, experimental tale that examines three stories that branch off from a single incident: Cathy’s discovery of Vinnie’s infidelity. The point is made clear by the page where Cathy finds Vinnie being used three times. It’s a neat effect.

The story is over-written, to be sure, with packed-full word balloons, and seemingly endless ellipsis. No one in history ever actually talked like these guys, and yet… and yet.. it kind of works. It’s a different way to tell the requisite three stories of a romance comic of this era, perhaps more satisfying than a trio of unrelated stories, and not as over-bearing as a full-length epic.

I have no idea who wrote this, and I doubt anyone would admit to it now. However, what really makes this issue so special is the art. The complete job is by Frank Langford, who was a British artist that occasionally moonlighted in US romance comics. One of the second tier of British greats, Langford’s art was a common sight in many a UK comic during the 1960s and 70s. He’s perhaps best known for his regular gig illustrating the weekly adventures of Lady Penelope in her eponymous comic: at least two fully painted pages per issue. His work is utterly gorgeous. Issues of Lady Penelope are, sadly, very difficult to find. As it was a spin-off from the very successful Thunderbirds tv show, the comic appeals to a wide fan base outside of regular comics fans, also, it seems that girls weren’t as keen to hoard their comics, and often just threw them away when finished with them.

Anyway, here is a comic with a large chunk of Frank Langford art. Find it. Treasure it. Love it.

Images ©2011 DC Comics