Friday, November 30, 2012

Secret Hearts Comics - Reach for Happiness! No. 121, July, 1967

It's vintage romance comics time once more. Today's entry is unusual (at least to me) because it's part of a serial soap opera entitled "Reach for Happiness!" I don't own other copies of DC's Secret Hearts, so unfortunately I don't know how this cliffhanger is resolved. But like most soaps, the pace is so slow you won't miss much anyway. I love how everything takes place in a nondescript town called Danville Corners, complete with nightclub, discotheque, a wealthy part of town, the ever-present "wrong side of the tracks" (apparently near the hardware store), and a seemingly constant swirl of emotional turmoil. Danville Corners has it all!

And now: Reach for Happiness! Episode 12.

Our cover art. Check out the mod geometric style of Rita Phillips, girl from the "wrong side of the tracks." What's she doing with a straight-edge like Dr. Greg Marsh? Let's find out!

Whoa. This is an entirely different mise en scene! Rita is not such a modern Miss after all. The cover was just a ploy! And I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Hmf! Will Greg believe Rita's slightly cross-eyed exclamation of love? Pay special attention to Rita's above-the-elbow-length gloves here. There will be a quiz.

One thing is certain: Greg is pissed
Let's take a look at our cast of characters, shall we? My favorite part of "Reach for Happiness!" is that one guy is named Richy Smathers, son of Roger and Lila Smathers, the richest family in town. That's swanky! Also, Richy has a go-go girlfriend named Joanie, who looks a little high. It is 1967 after all.

So Bob Martin is on a date with old flame Peggy Wilder, when in stomps his soon-to-be ex-wife, Brenda. And boy is she PISSED. Look at that body language in the red dress. She dominates the romantic meal-for-two entirely.

If we were to sum up this scene in one panel, it would definitely be this one:

We've all been there, Peggy. Is Bob a complete cad? Is Brenda a dangerous lunatic? Just what the heck is going on here?

Brenda just wants to make Bob's life miserable, that's all. Is she going to bust up every dinner-date he has from now on? That could be a full-time job in this town. Peggy reacts as if physically assaulted. She needs to learn some assertiveness training, stat! Let's sum up this page thusly:

Don't worry. Peggy learns to trust and believe in Bob, all in the space of one car ride home. They smooch in front of Peggy's house, her lonely sister Karen, watching them furtively. Weird. This results in Karen's only storyline but it's pretty tragic: INSOMNIA.

Meanwhile, at the discotheque on the other side of town... Richy and Joanie are cutting a rug. Wow!, says one of the youngsters on the dance floor, What's the name of that dance, kids? Hee. No comment. Oh, all right, it's called the ASS GRINDER, doofus.

Richy and Joanie are super happy together. They're young, speak in baby talk, and always refer to themselves in the third person. What could possibly be the matter with this relationship? Well, Richy's wealthy family does not approve of go-go Joanie and keeps cock-blocking his efforts to marry her. The 1%—always causing trouble for regular folks!

No matter! Richy's got a plan. This time, they'll elope immediately with no snoops as wedding witnesses. Instead they'll invite the whole gang down to the...wherever they go to get married, I guess. It's nighttime in Danville Corners. Are they located by Las Vegas or something? Nobody says. Anyway, the whole gang agrees to witness the nuptial arrangement and it's on!

Wouldn't you totally want this guy to witness your marriage? I would.

BUT there's trouble afoot because on the OTHER side of the room sits Dr. Greg Marsh, on a date with Rita Phillips. And he's a friend of Richy's family and he's, well, he's a SNITCH, that's what he is. Yeah. A snitch. The gears are in motion for a wedding take-down.

Look at that lantern jaw—trouble
The flash of lights. The sound of sirens. There'll be no honeymoon tonight! Plus we're shown Rita's ex, dicey nightclub-owner Ray, who is only too happy to suck up to his financial backer and Richy's millionaire grandfather—Wallace Hendrickson. Oooh, the 1%! They control EVERYTHING.

Nice wheels, trust-fund brat
The law steps in (being in cahoots with Danville Corners' wealthy elite) and the wedding is off. Again. Look at ol' man Hendrickson, smoking a cigar in court. Show some respect, you manipulative codger! MEANWHILE, Rita invites Greg home for "coffee," which he eagerly accepts because, although it's late, he's "Not one bit sleepy!" Idiot.

Ray now calls in the middle of romance, setting the tone for suspicion, jealousy and furrowed eyebrows! Look at Rita's gloves—what happened to the fingers on the gloves from page 1?! I tell you mystery is afoot in Danville Corners.

The gloves—what happened?
And check out Rita's full-length shot on the lower left. What's up with her posture? Usually the anatomy of romance comics is pretty technically great (one of the reasons I love looking at them), but this is really "off."

Remind you of anyone?

That's right, the Geico Gecko
 Let's wrap up with a whimper. I do like Dr. Greg's "anger face" in the last panel. Would you date this guy, or even see him as a patient? He looks like a murder suspect. And so ends our thrilling episode of "Reach for Happiness!"

I may have to buy this issue of Maniaks on eBay. Looks good.

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