Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Inter-Racial Hospital Romance: Young Romance 194 - "Full Hands Empty Heart"

The July/August 1973 issue of DC's Young Romance features a tale of inter-racial love in a hospital setting. It's interesting that it's an anti-racist piece again written by Bob Kanigher, this time illustrated by John Rosenberger and Vince Colletta. African American Nurse Phyllis Carter is a gorgeous but single woman, lacking confidence that she will ever find a partner to love her. She even helps other couples get together, like the wheelchair-bound lovers at the hospital, who provide a brief reprise of DC's phase of increased disability awareness. But then out of the blue she falls straight in love with a doctor new to the hospital, when she finds herself assisting him with an emergency.
 
While not a problem at all for these two love birds, the fact that they are representatives of different racial groups doesn't sit well with their respective sets of friends, nor with the rest of the hospital staff. The couple go through their own version of Columbia's "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?" (Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton, 1967).
 
The story gives a sense of the strength of the couple's love, that continues despite hostile social environments everywhere they go. Tragically, it comes to an abrupt end when Phyllis's doctor takes a knife thrust to protect her from a drug-crazed patient she's caught trying to steal medications. As sometimes happens, the knife gets something vital and the doctor expires in the arms of his love. Poor Phyllis has just lost her life as well, and dazed but in an angry phase of grieving, she doesn't hold back in letting the prejudiced staff know her feelings - "We're finished. Are you satisfied now?" But her boyfriend's last wish was that she didn't go sour on the world, and quickly she composes herself and morphs her anger into a philosophical stance with the line, "If we don't learn to love each other, the world will always be a jungle!"

Phyllis's parting line, as she accepts her loss and walks off to continue tending to the sick, is, "In some worlds there's no color, only people..." Although this stance is sometimes criticized nowadays for being color blind and non-PC, I don't equate color blind with culture blind, and I don't think the intent of this story is to negate appreciation for different cultural groups within society. I think Kanigher, through Phyllis, is saying that skin color isn't a criterion by which a person's worth should be judged, and that's true to Dr. MLK Jr.'s philosophy. So I'm definitely with Phyllis on this one and I say, "Amen to that, sister!"

I'm wondering, after reading this, when the first inter-racial kiss happened in comics. Does anyone know? The first inter-racial kiss on television, between Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner, was on Star Trek in 1968. This issue of Young Romance was three years later. Were there any earlier inter-racial kisses, romances, or relationships, especially between an African American and a Caucasian, anywhere in comics before this?

9 comments:

  1. Great post, KB. I was actually going to cover this issue tomorrow, but it looks like you beat me to it! Great minds think alike, I guess! This is a good romance story -- one that you can feel matters and may have struck a cord with a few readers at the time.

    I will respond to your question at the bottom of your post, with a post of my own tomorrow night!!! Sorry to keep you in suspense! :)

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  2. Oh I'm sorry that I chose the same story to post - kind of like turning up at a party wearing the same dress as someone else after spending all day shopping! Eek! Anyway, now I'm eagerly anticipating your next post! By the way, if you happen to have Young Romance 185 and would like to post the cover and nurse story at some point I'd be grateful. I just can't seem to get a hold of a copy of that one.

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  3. Excellent commentary (as usual). I love the way 'DC' is enveloped in a heart-shape on the cover. I started to collect comics seriously when they were 20 cents cover price, so anything from this period brings back fond memories.

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  4. Lysdexicuss: I like the experimentation with the DC logo around the 15c/20c time as well. I think its cool how they used a distinctive logo for the romance comics at different times, besides this 20 cent one.

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  5. yo!! man, love this comics and storys much show!!!

    God blsd you...peace.

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  6. negobrown: glad you like the comics & stories. Thank you for your appreciation! If you haven't looked already, please check out these other comic book bloggers whose blogs I am sure you will also enjoy:

    Jacque Nodell:

    [ http://sequentialcrush.blogspot.com/ ]

    Lysdexicuss:

    [ http://tencentdreams.blogspot.com/ ]

    and Mykal:

    [ http://www.comicbookwar.com/ ]

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  7. Unfortunately I don't have Young Romance 185, but if I come across it I will be sure to do a post on it.

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  9. Great post, KB. I've just discovered your blog through Jacque's Sequential Crush and I'm glad I did!
    Kanigher deserves props--you are probably already aware of his 1970 "I Am Curious (Black)!", which appeared in Lois Lane #106 (1970). In this story Lois temporarily becomes black and asks Superman if he would still love her if she were to remain black permanently. Even though the premise conveniently overlooks the fact that Supes is an alien who only LOOKS Caucasian, this was daring stuff for comic books back then.

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