Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The De-Evolution of Nellie the Nurse: Part V of VI

Atlas published a single issue in volume 2 of Nellie the Nurse in 1957. The stories are signed by Stan Lee and are basically re-worked themes or gags from old Nellie books from the original series. Probably Stan was testing the water to see if there was still a market for watered down post-code good girl art, and the kind of humor that made Nellie successful in the late 40s. Clearly the answer was no. I would suggest that Archie Comics pretty much had the teen humor market covered in the late 50s. The choice of Bill Everett for the art is interesting. Considering he drew Namor and Venus, this deCarlo-ish style certainly isn't typical of him. The cover image here is from the internet, and the selected story scans are not mine - I don't yet own a copy of this rarity. The copy these were scanned from is clearly 'burnt' with age - probably found in a hot, humid garage or attic somewhere.

Nellie's back to being innocent but not so dumb, kind of a reprise of the late 40s Nellie around issue 15-20. Now she's a blond, and still has a shapely figure with a tight (but not as tight as before) uniform and realistically proportioned breasts. Her arch-rival Pam is still around, as is Dr. Dingbat and Miss Witherspoon, but the young men have been reduced to one, with a name change.

In this next short we're seeing the 'battle-axe" nurse stereotype - the older unattractive spinster whose dedication to career may have resulted in some advancement in rank, but at the cost of romance.

The nurse's search for a doctor as a partner in love and marriage has become the assumed norm.

This coloring page suggests the comic is aimed at a younger readership, although the humor, swiped from the cover of an earlier issue, might not appeal to the coloring pencil brigade.

Finally, this 3-page short at the end of the book suggests nurses are literally run off their feet with work. The doctor doesn't seem to be doing much, but he's a man, so that's okay (!). A relict of the old good girl art tactic of giving glimpses of Nellie's undergarment as she's running (often used in the 40s and 50s with a breeze-induced lifting of the edge of the dress or skirt to show a lacy edge to a slip underneath) is in evidence. Basically, though, despite this being Bill Everett's work, and it's nicely executed, it's a shadow of good girl art.

That was the end of Nellie the Nurse for Marvel. Dell's Nellie actually came from a different lineage, and I'm not sure how the Atlas and newspaper strip that was the basis for Four Color 1304 could have coexisted legally. Anyway, we'll see a change in concept and artistic style in the final part of this look at the de-evolution of Nellie the Nurse.

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