Comic Book Feature Review

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Forget "Days of Our Lives"-here's the comic equivalent of the soap opera

By Tony Whitt     March 23, 2002

"Love, exciting and new..." Cover to DC 100 PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR: LOVE STORIES!
© 2002 DC Comics
[Ed. Note: While this special has been around a bit, we couldn?t resist running this extended review of one of the most intriguing one-shot reprints released by DC in recent years. The original edition of this special remains one of the more sought-after publications in DC Comics? history for some collectors. Why? Read on and perhaps you?ll find out?or not?]

There's something seriously unsettling about reading DC's latest reprinted 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR: LOVE STORIES, but I'm not quite sure what it is yet. Is it the appearance of a set of stories like this under the banner "super spectacular," when neither of those adjectives really applies? Is it the vaguely sick feeling that comes with the realization that almost all the stories in this volume, all of which are told from the love struck girl's point of view, are written by one guy? Or is it the realization that this tripe was popular once, popular enough to justify a 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR?

Granted, I'm being unnecessarily harsh - surprisingly, most of these fifteen stories are not completely "tripe," and it's not just my ability to sit through things like DAWSON'S CREEK and FELICITY that made them at all palatable. They're not great romance literature, mind you - hell, they're not even good HARLEQUIN romance literature - but there's a wacky innocence to them all that's vaguely appealing. Until you remember that they're all written by Robert Kanigher, who was 56 at the time he was writing these titles at the same time as he was writing things like G.I. COMBAT. Then that sick feeling washes over you again.

I'll say this much for Kanigher, though: he was a man of range. Anyone who can make the trials and tribulations of a lovesick teenaged girl almost as convincing as the trials and tribulations of WWII hero Sgt. Rock has got to be talented. There are only a few stories in this volume that completely lose touch with reality, and since the worst offender is the one story not written by Kanigher, the statements above stand firm. "Made For Love," the "feature length novelette" written by Jack Miller (the creator of the Golden Age feature ROY RAYMOND, TV DETECTIVE), features a young TV model who can't accept that her actor boyfriend can kiss another girl in front of the camera with the same passion he kisses her. Not only is the premise just plain unbelievable, the resolution is equally wacky, and everything we've been expecting from these characters gets subverted.

Most of Kanigher's stories, by contrast, suffer from nothing more serious than a case of fulfilling our expectations far too easily-they're often all too predictable, much as a good romance novel should be. There's one instance where Kanigher does stray from the formula, though, and while the resolution may be no less believable than Miller's, it's far more surprising. In the dramatically titled "My Sister Stole My Man," a girl watches while her boyfriend slowly starts falling in love with her wheelchair-ridden sister who doesn't believe a man will ever love her. The surprise comes when the sister who can walk lets her sister have the two-timing boyfriend. (Presumably she knows that he'll dump her sister as soon as she can walk and as soon as he finds another hot chick in a wheelchair, but that's just my cynicism talking.)

Just as surprising as this ending is John Romita Sr.'s work on the same piece, even though it's clear he's not putting quite as much effort into it as his SPIDER-MAN pieces of the same era. Art-wise, Romita is the main standout, though it's hard to ignore Ric Estrada and Wally Wood's funky ?60s artwork on "The Wrong Kind of Love." Otherwise, despite the list of artists below reading like a virtual "Who's Who" of early ?70s illustrators, it's clear that these guys knew that this was the kind of work you did when you really, really needed the money. There's nothing to truly distinguish one story from another artistically, though the artists' restraint is admirable-in a world where T&A comics are the norm, it's refreshing to look back at a comic where the main characters are mostly female and where their naughty bits aren't made the center of attention in every panel. (Estrada and Wood break this rule exactly once, but the effect is hilarious rather than titillating.)

Overall, there's a lot of fun to be had in this volume, from the "Laura Penn, Your Romance Reporter" advice column (probably written by Kanigher as well...ick) to Ted Long, hairdresser of the TODAY SHOW's article "How To Look Fabulous". (Hmmm. Methinks Mr. Long might have been the only writer in this whole volume that did understand a young woman's longings for men, but again that's just me.) And how many comics do you know of that ran a competition for stories about "How I Met My Boyfriend" with a $50 prize in the offing? But if you're expecting a reproduction of a Silver Age comics masterpiece, you're looking in the wrong place. Even DC seems to have acknowledged how much of a guilty pleasure this book is: it's the one 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR reprint so far that has not featured a special introduction. Perhaps even they didn't want to admit how creeped out they were.


Grade: B-

Issue: N/A

Author(s): Robert Kanigher, Jack Miller, Ted Long, Jay Scott Pike, Bob Oksner, Win Mortimer, Art Saaf, Vince Colletta, John Romita Sr., Tony Abruzzo, Ric Estrada, Wally Wood, Norman Nodel, Mort Drucker, Bob Lander, Morris Waldinger, Mike Sekowsky, Bernard Sachs

Publisher: DC

Price: $6.95



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