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On Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate a young woman trapping a man by faking her paralysis – Heart Throbs #25

February 14, 2013

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And so begins our obligatory Valentine’s Day romance comic post. Today our subject matter comes from Heart Throbs, originally a Quality mag before moving over to DC later on in its run, and a series with a giant heart in its title logo. What does that last bit mean? It means that it’s perfect for the day. The cover story will be our senses-shattering focus, with its mixed message tale of young love corrupted and oddly redeemed. If you think of women as flighty, vapid, sinister creatures, this one’s right up your alley. Woman Haters of the world, unite.

On a more serious note, it also features stellar artwork from Ogden Whitney, one of the underappreciated gems of his time. Which is a plus. Grab your cheap box of chocolates and settle in.

The main character in “I Tricked My Man” is Doris, a young lass who knew the love of her life from childhood on. It was a youthful infatuation that never wavered — not even in the face of relentless schoolyard taunting and graffiti:

heartthrobs25a

Since many of us once made similar vows of fidelity to a high school girlfriend (I was two days into my college life when I regretted my full-throated YOU’LL ALWAYS BE MY GIRL protestations), we can easily foresee the immediate future for this couple and how Jim’s feelings on the matter will evolve. Sadly, Doris doesn’t have the same level of foresight. Actually, she’s willfully blind to the distance that may or may not be creeping in between her and Jim, and she’s not the type to let go easily. Not even when Jim takes her for a drive and puts on his “Gee, I’m sorry” puppy dog face:

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Doris takes this quite well GOES ABSOLUTELY FATAL ATTRACTION CRAZY, and manages to wreck the car with her neediness, which is a new wrinkle to dependency:

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Jim is relatively unharmed, but Doris is banged up quite badly. Her legs will need extensive rehabilitation before she can walk again, and Jim, feeling guilty about the accident (though, let’s be frank, it was ALL Doris’ fault) stays with her all the time for support. This leads to a bit of Munchausen’s syndrome (the “real” Baron Munchausen was in a comic book once, did you know that?), as Doris, whose legs return to full strength in no time, keeps up her wheelchair-bound act. What a lady:

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The young doc’s name is Bob, and you quite likely see where all this is going just by that last panel. Bob likes Doris (God only knows why), Doris still wants Jim, there’s another woman who wants Jim, and Doris is all confused about Bob. It’s a mess. Things come to a head when there’s a fire at the hospital, and as Jim springs into action to rescue patients, Doris is confronted with a dilemma:

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GET. UP. OFF. YOUR. CONNIVING. FAT. ASS. AND. DO. SOMETHING.

She does. And finds new love in the span of two panels:

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Yeah, she’s real swell. (If she had let the child die in the blaze, maybe Crimebuster could have used his monkey-aided legal expertise to help her out of any legal troubles.)

The story formula here, with its love rectangle and much gnashing of teeth, is your standard romance comic fare, though the fake paralysis angle puts it far toward the odder end of the spectrum. We all realize that Doris is a tortured soul, but could she maybe have spent a few panels alone on her feet before running into another man’s arms? A little penance, you know? And as an addendum, does anyone else have the suspicion that Bob might have set the fire to spur Doris’ “recovery”? In some sort of extreme physical/mental therapy? Maybe you have to read the whole story to pick that up.

Whitney’s art sets this one apart even more than the psychologically disturbed goings on. He’d go on to a certain degree of cult classic fame when he illustrated the surreal adventures of DC’s Herbie, the Fat Fury, but it’s great to see his expressive style in a less outlandish setting. I’ve read other critiques of his work that mention how marvelous his close-ups were, and you can see some of that in the scans above. Look at Jim’s face in the car. At Bob’s raised eyebrows. There’s such tremendous subtlety in his faces, a replication of the interplay of the dozens of muscles in the human visage. It’s an illustrative dexterity that you don’t often see in comics work, and considering when this book was published — 1953 — they’re ahead of their time.

There. Happy Valentine’s Day. Enjoy it with your loved one, or cry as you eat a carton of ice cream while watching TV.

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