The story of Brides In Love begins where so many great love stories do– in prison. Charlton comics started when a guy who went to jail for selling books of song lyrics without the writer’s permission met a lawyer (presumably not a great one because he was also in prison). Together, they decided to start a publishing company that specialized in, among other things, comics for broads.
To decide on titles, they stuck the words love, marriage, teen, romance, bride, and secret into a sack, shook it up, and whatever popped out was the name of their next comic. What they ended up with were things like I Love You, Sweetheart Diary, Romantic Secrets, Romantic Story, My Secret Life, Just Married, Teenage Love, Teen Confessions, and Teenage Confidential Confessions.
I don’t know what gave Charlton comics the idea that this was what women were looking for in comic books. I would be way more likely to pick up a comic titled Teen Confessions: I Fell Into A Vat Of Nuclear Waste, or I Love You, and I Fight Crime, With My Six Extra Arms, or My Secret Life As A Six-Armed Monster Hunter.
However, a think tank of -certainly no women- decided that what ladies want in a comic book is a hero who is a woman, a villain who is her husband, and a solution to their conflict that is they have to stay married because it’s 1963. Instead of doing battle, they make up, and usually, the woman apologizes and admits that she was a dumb idiot all along. Then they all live happily ever after, which for them is, like, ten more years until they die of lung cancer, or gout, or one of those other diseases you get from having too much fun.
Since Brides in Love is an anthology series, we get to see this same scenario play out over and over again like we’re stuck in the misogynistic romance comic circle of hell– a magical land where a woman can go from wanting to end her marriage to being ready to apologize in one panel because she took a nap.
“I don’t know why I told my husband that I wanted to divorce him. Probably because I was on my period or some dumb shit like that; remember me from exactly two panels ago? What a friggin bitch!”
The story featured on the cover is called “JUST FOR KICKS,” but for some reason, they recolored the whole thing to change the woman from a redhead to a blonde.
The main character in it is super pissed at her husband because he keeps making her go to parties, and she’s tired. Which, wow, I would kill for 1963 problems.
One day she leaves her husband and goes to a hotel where she naps and eats a bunch. So basically, she’s living the dream, and all of the men around her are like, “A woman? Eating? Send her to the insane-atorium! Blast her with a firehose until the ghosts leave her uterus!”
But it isn’t a uterus ghost that’s making her crazy. It’s a baby, which is much scarier! She went to a hotel and ate hotdogs, not because she’s insane, but because she’s insane from pregnancy! Which is fine. When she finds out, she wishes her husband were there, and he is! He tracked her down and is standing over her bed in a posture that is not all threatening, calling her a little idiot.
It’s not just the writing that suffers in Brides In Love. They could have hired an artist who doesn’t use twins conjoined at the head as a model for two people kissing.
Seriously, that one is the most terrifying but all of the kissing pics have the same vibe as the drawings of elephants from the Middle Ages done by monks who had never actually seen one.
It’s like every illustrator for Brides In Love was a graduate of The Art Institute For Male Virgins Who’ve Never Even Met A Woman.
I look at this, and I can hear the artist saying, “Kissing? Sure I can draw kissing. That’s uh, um, that’s when the girl puts her whole mouth around the boy’s lips so that his mouth is in her mouth, right? No, I’m not sweating. YOU’RE SWEATING.”
This artist has a problem with mouths in general. For instance, there’s the last panel of the third story, which is about a woman who marries a much older man. Her new stepdaughter, who is her age, for some reason, refuses to call her “Mom.” The woman ends up inheriting a bunch of money, which she gives to her husband to help out his failing business. This convinces her stepdaughter she’s not a gold digger. Then they all do this for some reason:
You know, just a stepmom and her new daughter, hanging out with their mouths open and tongues slightly out. It’s like someone wanted to draw a comic for women but forgot women have eyes.
Since this isn’t your typical comic book, it doesn’t have your typical comic ads. Most of the ads in Brides In Love are for weight loss, hair extensions, and nursing school. But on the very back is the kind of insane ’60s shit that makes me vaguely miss a time when everything was legal. It’s an ad for a photography studio that promises to send you 20 coupons, and if you get them 20 clients, they will give you a live miniature monkey. The ad is sure to note the supply of monkeys is limited, which makes me picture a man sitting in a stinky room with nine monkeys begging God for some kid in Yonkers to sell enough portrait sessions.
Do I wish I were alive in the sixties? No. Nothing has made me happier to be born in an era where women have some creative say in their lives than reading this comic. But do I also wish I were alive in a time when you could win a free monkey from a comic book? Hard yes.
Lydia will send you a live miniature monkey if you follow her on Twitter.