Friday, September 17, 2010

British Girls' Romance Comics: Jackie Annual 1980

Jackie was a British girls' comic published by D.C. Thompson from the mid-1960s through the early 1990s. It had a mixed magazine and comic format, with comics interspersed with fashion, pop, horoscopes, and other features deemed interesting to young teenage girls. At its zenith it was selling over half a million copies a week - 1 in every 100 inhabitants of the UK was buying Jackie! Each year, as was typical for British comics, a hard cover annual was published for Christmas. Here's a selection of material from the 1980 Jackie Annual, including 21 of the 22 total pages of comics contained therein (the entire book including covers is 96 pages). The comics are mostly in black and white. The first is a humorous piece about a young couple, but like the other strips in this book, delves into relationships. The male protagonist has a French rival for his girl's affections, but prevails in the end. The first story is drawn by David Matysiak.

The next story is historical fiction set in Cornwall. It's the tale of a love between a gypsy girl and a wealthy young man, who ends up making a huge sacrifice to save her from harm born of prejudice.

There's a fashion section much like those discussed regularly by Jacque Nodell in her Sequential Crush blog. Despite 1980 being at the tail end of the first wave of British punk, there's little evidence of this in the book. About the punkiest people mentioned are Blondie and Bob Geldoff. 1980 was, however, early in the emergence of the New Romantic genre in music (Duran Duran, ABC, Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, etc.), something that didn't really cross the Atlantic at the time, and the clothes on these fashion pages seem a little more in tune with that trend than anything else.

There are also advice sections, like in the American romance books. Jackie has a greater percentage of these kinds of features, in terms of the number of pages they occupy relative to the comics, when compared to its American counterparts.

The final story looks at sibling rivalry, something that many readers with sisters could probably relate to and perhaps be provoked into thinking about.

None of the art is signed, and I have little knowledge of British comics generally, girls' comics especially. Of course that makes it all the more interesting to me. Hopefully you'll also derive some enjoyment from this excellent art.

Jackie has acquired a kind of cult status in recent years, but has long been an object of popular as well as academic interest. An early analysis of the comic written during the peak years of its popularity is to be found in Angela McRobbie's book Feminism and Youth Culture: From 'Jackie' to 'Just Seventeen'.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nurse Romance Stories: Secret Hearts 63 - "Heartbeat of Jealousy"

"Heartbeat of Jealousy" in DC's Secret Hearts 63 features an oft-used ploy in hospital romance stories - that of the male patient with the bandaged up face. The nurse falls in love with the real 'him' rather than his looks. The patient is a war veteran, and his girlfriend can't handle seeing him disfigured after rescuing a pilot from crashed plane, despite the nurse's pleas for her to remember he's still the same boy she loved. Adam has lost the will to fight for his recovery, but Dr. Lubeck knows Nurse Stevens is in love with her patient, and that somehow she has the power to restore him. Restore him she does, and with the bandages off he looks like a real hunk! Nurse Stevens and Adam develop a relationship, which is soon tested when she escorts him home. He's greeted like a hero by the townsfolk, but now that he isn't ugly from his injuries, his old flame rekindles her interest and tries to rid him of his new partner. Adam figures it all out, though, and the nurse is rewarded for her devotion.

This is beautiful art, often found in DC romance comics, but it isn't romance without tears. We see our nurse and our rival shedding them on a couple of occasions. The nurse in this story is the doctor's handmaiden stereotype. She's also professional in her appearance, but falls in love with her patient. She does the bedside vigil, and is emotionally involved to the extent that her actual behavior might be considered inappropriate, getting intense with the girlfriend at the beginning. The doctor uses her attraction for the patient as part of his cure, thus making it all 'okay'. How often that would have happened in real life is debatable. This is one of the issues nursing leaders of the 70s had problems with, the fantasy that had evolved around the image of nurses, particularly from the 1950s and 60s media infatuation with hospitals.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nurses as Supporting Characters: Young Brides 17 - "Act of Faith"

The interesting cover of this issue of Young Brides points to a different story that I'll hopefully get time to scan one day. Here we'll take a look at a medical romance story in the issue that features a doctor, with a nurse only playing a minor supporting role. Douglas Wilson is a newly qualified young doctor and husband, who fails to save his wife when she succumbs to peritonitis from a burst appendix. He blames himself for her death, quits the medical profession, and joins a traveling carnival as a mechanic (I'm sure I've read a few Simon/Kirby stories in which roustabouts and circuses feature!). After a while a young woman, Diane, falls for him, but Doug restrains himself from getting involved, even though he's attracted to her. His hand is forced when she becomes the victim of a violent ex-employee of the carnival, and Doug has to come out of the medicine cabinet and use his skills to save her life. That's the turning point, and he is able to move past his grief at the loss of his first wife, marry Diane, and resume his work as a doctor.

The story is narrated by Doug, so it is in the minority as far as romance comics are concerned, in which the 'confessions' usually come from the woman. The image of nurses portrayed in this story is that of the Doctor's Handmaiden. She serves the doctor by following his orders and performing support duties such as taking calls. She's professional in her appearance and conduct, and in this story she's not in love with the doctor!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nurse Romance Stories: Great Lover Romances 13 - "No Remedy for Love"

Toby Press published Great Lover Romances, and in issue 13 we find this nurse romance story, which begins with a young girl Marge's admiration for her sister Wendy who is an army nurse in World War II. Marge's reaction to her sister's death is to consolidate the plans she had already been formulating to follow in her footsteps and become a nurse. It was a tough act to follow, however, because Wendy's reputation as a self-sacrificing angel of the highest caliber is widely dispersed, and is of course prominent in the local nursing school. Marge overcomes the assumption that she's trying to get by on her sister's merit, and begins her studies, living in the dorm. Here's where the usual handsome interns enter the story, Clyde Mitchell, with whom Marge conducts an ongoing clandestine love affair. Mrs. McKelty, the hospital battle-axe and matron, strikes fear into the hearts of the young couple, ensuring that their efforts to remain undiscovered are carefully enacted.

Conflict is introduced into the tale with the complicating entry of Phil, an older, single male patron of the hospital, who develops an attraction for Marge. Marge goes along with Phil's desires for her company, partly because she's also somewhat attracted to him, but also because she convinces herself that doing so might help Clyde advance in his career. The climax comes when all three - Marge, Clyde, and Phil - go for a ride in Phil's plane, which chooses that moment to malfunction. They all survive the impact, but Phil shows his true colors, pushing Marge aside so that he can escape the crashed plane. When Marge comes to, it is in Clyde's arms. Phil is dead, killed in the explosion that happened as he exited the plane. Marge completes nursing school and graduates as an RN. Now she and Clyde can be open about their relationship, and they'll soon be "doctor and nurse - man and wife".

This story illustrates many of the nurse stereotypes around in the mid-1950s. In the beginning the absent Wendy exemplifies the self-sacrificing angel. While Marge didn't initially enter nursing to find herself a husband, that's what happens in the end, and he's a doctor, although she could easily have snagged herself a rich patron. While the nursing school rules forbid nurses to fraternize with the interns, nurses have romance figuring prominently in their consciousness, and breaking this rule is inevitable. The older nurse is a bit of a battle-axe, determined to keep her younger charges in line, ultimately for their own good. This one isn't a 'Miss', but she is quite severe externally, although at the end we see that she is warm-hearted. Marge is young, pretty, and white, like the vast majority of nurses in 1950s popular culture (I have yet to find a comic book nurse prior to the mid-60s that wasn't white).

Finally here's a really suspect-looking method of losing weight, advertised on the back cover of this comic. I wonder what the chemical composition of Dropex was! I like the picture of the 1950s middle class housewife popping a couple of drops of Dropex into her afternoon Martini, in the break from housework provided by her modern labor-saving appliances!