How did romance comics treat interracial dating in the early 70s, just a few years after the landmark decision Loving v. Virginia? After the jump, comics blogger Jacque Nordell delves into the full-color world of 'Black + White = Heartbreak!'
I was going to wait on posting this very important story, "Black + White = Heartbreak!" from Girls' Love Stories #163 (November 1971) until a later date, but fellow romance comic blogger KB did a post yesterday at Out of This World that has encouraged me to post this story now instead of later.
The story KB covered, "Full Hands Empty Heart!" from Young Romance #194 (July/August 1973) tells the story of the love between a young African-American nurse and a white doctor. At the end of his post, KB posed the question:
Were there any earlier inter-racial kisses, romances, or relationships, especially between an African American and a Caucasian, anywhere in comics before this?
To that I can say a resounding yes! Though I do not know if "Black + White = Heartbreak!" is the first interracial relationship in the entirety of the comics medium, it does predate "Full Hands Empty Heart!"
In this Girls' Love Stories feature, we meet the fathers of our two main characters Chuck and Margo. After working together during World War Two, the two men decide to continue their relationship as civilians by starting an auto dealership together.
Not only are the two men business partners, but friends that share the most joyous of life's occasions.
As their two small children grew up into good looking teenagers, and then into thoughtful young adults, it was only natural for handsome Chuck and beautiful Margo to fall in love. Their life-long friendship blossomed into romance and the only thing that kept them apart was their attendance at different colleges. When reunited during summer vacation however, they make their love known to the world.
But the world wasn't understanding. At first it was merely strangers that would ridicule and shun Chuck and Margo.
Eventually though, friends turned into strangers with cold shoulders and icy glares.
Even the young couple's parents can't accept their love for one another.
Chuck announces their plans for marriage, completely shocking both of their parents - and Margo! They decide to set out right away to look for a place to live, so that they can get married before the fall semester starts. During their apartment search, they are continually harassed by folks who are opposed to their relationship. They are subject to discrimination by landlords who will not rent them an apartment, and Chuck and Margo eventually have to consider settling on a complete dive.
As the lovebirds go to tell their parents they have found a place and are going to get married right away, they overhear their fathers - who were once the best of friends - arguing. Margo and Chuck can't bear the strain they have put on their loved ones and Chuck proposes going away to a place that will accept them and their love.
That is where our story ends though. For this pressing topic, DC decided to let the readers decide the fate of Chuck and Margo by holding a contest for the best story resolution.
I am sorry to inform you all that as of yet, I have been unable to track down the issues with the reader responses! Like I mentioned, I was going to save this one (until I had the issues with the responses) but given KB's timely post, I decided to just go ahead and share it. I am going to look high and low for these issues. It may take me a while to find them, but when I do, I will be sure to share! It will be interesting to see the endings fabricated by readers of the time, especially taking into consideration that interracial marriage had only been legal in all states since the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision that knocked out restrictions on marriage hinged on race.
When we remember what the Civil Rights Movement entailed, I think we often think of the struggles endured by separate groups of people. "Black + White = Heartbreak!" reminds us of the battle fought by those that believed that people of different races could bring their love for one another into fruition, and have it be accepted and welcomed by society.
Welcome back for a second installment on the fate of lovers Margo and Chuck! We left off with a cliff hanger of a story. Margo and Chuck. Lovers from different racial backgrounds, united in their deep and undying love for one another. Friends since childhood, these two lovers had to make a choice - stay around their friends and families who demand they part ways, or stay together and leave everything and everyone they have ever known behind.
At the end of the sequential story in Girls' Love Stories #163 (November 1971), readers were ask to send in their version of the fate of Margo and Chuck for cash prizes. The above solicitation appeared in Girls' Love Stories #165 in January of 1972, letting readers know they could still enter into the contest.
As I mentioned in the first part of the Margo-Chuck saga, I don't have the issues that contain the readers' entries, issues #166 (February 1972) and #167 (March 1972). Lucky for us though, the ever so kind Gene Kehoe - editor of It's A Fanzine, has #167 and was so very gracious to send me a scan of the contest page. As we move on to the second wave of fan endings, lets give a mighty round of applause for Gene!!! Hooray!!!
How do you feel about how it ended? Though I probably would have gone for a more thrilling and dramatic ending, I think DC did a nice job of acting as a catalyst for cultural change; even if it was just in the form of something so seemingly "frivolous" as a romance comic book!
This post originally appeared on the blog Sequential Crush, via Racialcious. Reprinted with permission.