Sunday, February 19, 2017

[Redacted] Is Love! Part 2 of 3: "I Was Reckless with My Kisses!"

I'm back again with another look at 1950s Harvey romance comics and how reprinting pre-code stories under the CCA wrecked the original intentions of the stories.

Today let's examine "Reckless with My Kisses!" from Hi-School Romance #27 (1954) by artist Ray Bailey.

Our protagonist, Janet, is a flirtatious teenager. In the opening scene she's on a romantic hayride with a boy named Corey, kissing amongst the hay. Later we see how aggressive she is with a dance partner, to the point where the man is almost afraid of her. But one day she's on a park bench with a boy named Roy Jansen and he turns the tables by trying to force himself on her. "Since when are you so choosy with your kisses?" he wonders. Janet leaves him and thereafter resolves to repair her reputation. It sounds like the story's over, but we're only on page 2!

Janet takes up a job as a baby-sitter and quickly finds employment for Tom Weldon, a young man about her age who has two young siblings he must care for since their parents' deaths. Janet enjoys caring for the two kids and soon finds herself drawn to Tom. Tom doesn't seem to notice Janet's interest so Janet finally decides to go back to dating, accepting an invitation to a dance with a boy named Andy. At the dance, Janet sees Tom with a date and is quite perturbed. Andy feels spurned by Janet's lack of interest in him and starts to become violent. Tom drives Andy away then reconciles with Janet, telling her he had been in love with her but hadn't realized she loved him too. So they kiss their way to a happy ending.

When the story was reprinted in Hi-School Romance #53 (1956) it was retitled "Reckless Boy... No Kisses!" This awkward title suggests Harvey was penny-pinching their budget on reprints by altering as few letters as possible. The title also suggests a change in focus from the original story, that the men of the story will be "reckless" rather than the female protagonist. This time, Janet is a college student who is a "careful shopper." Her date in the hay ride is Andy and instead of them making out, he's asking her to marry him but Janet is considering her options.

Above, you can see Janet in the original story, intimidating one of her dates. Now look below and see how the CCA changed it:

She's not flirtatious at all! Janet has been rendered pretty chaste in this revision. In the park bench scene, once again it's Andy who proposes to her and she flees, then becomes a baby-sitter, the caption remarking "I decided it was useless to look for the man in my life.. he would find me." From there, the story is much the same, except for when Andy gets violent. Here's his assault on Janet in the original comic:

And now, here's Andy menacing her in the reprint:

The dialogue surrounding the incident is also fixed, Tom's "Leave her alone, you swine!" becomes "You should learn some manners!" and Janet's fear that Tom "thinks I'm a hussy" becomes "what he can think of me going out with a boy like that?"

As in so many CCA romance stories, effort is made to render the story's ideal couple a pair of perfectly chaste individuals; even in the original story, Tom looking after his significantly-younger siblings was done to make him appear as a bachelor father. Ergo, by marrying Tom, Janet would have a family without ever having to engage in sex with him. What a perfect relationship! In the reprint, Janet is likewise made chaste and virginal by removing her flirtatious behaviour so that she no longer has a character arc but is instead a flatline which crawls along the pages until the men decide how the story ends.

By altering their stories for the CCA Harvey may have been upholding the "decency" which the CCA desired but the clumsiness of the edits in these stories make Harvey's late 50s comics look crude and trashier than anything they printed before the Code.

One more Harvey comic tomorrow - and I guarantee, it's the wildest bit of comics censorship yet!

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