Ran across another really good example of the way in which the arrival of the Comics Code impacted on the contents of the stories that could see print. The contents of TRUE BRIDES’ EXPERIENCES #15 was reprinted in its entirety from FIRST ROMANCE MAGAZINE #18 in 1952 pre-Code. Both were published by Harvey, only three years apart. But what a difference those couple of years will make! We’ll be looking at one story in particular–the author is unknown, but the artist was Jack Sparling.
The story was called either “Call Me Cruel” or “Call Me Wicked” depending on where you happened to read it, and the Code’s efforts to sanitize it were about as obvious and ham-fisted as could be. They hadn’t built up much experience in such matters yet. So beginning here on the opening splash page, we can see that the introductory caption has been entirely obliterated, covered over with black ink that now surrounds the new title. I’m not quite sure how “Cruel” was any better or different than “Wicked”–I suppose the latter more directly refers to a woman being loose or easy. But the Code knows better! You can see that not only has the central figure in the splash image been re-inked to eliminate any emphasis on her bosom (and even to remove the highlight that delineates her leg beneath her skirt) but the censors don’t stop there. They also remove a handful of texture lines from the accusing hands and fingers, to make them, I suppose, less scary. In the second panel, a reference to “my usual movie date” has been changed to simply “a date” without even really concealing the fact that something has been cut out. But we’ve only just begun to see this sort of thing.
This second page is the one that made me do a write-up on this story. How ballsy, to just cut the third panel completely, replacing it with a single caption and a black square, rather than a relatively chaste kiss. All of the copy in Panel 2 has been changed, eliminating any hint of passion–and swaths of copy in the following panel has been erased, leaving an enormous but largely empty balloon. Panel 5 goes one better–it removes an entire balloon but somebody forgot to correct the coloring, so we wind up with an empty balloon space that clearly shows that something is missing here. Apart from that, a few other words have been changed, and the woman’s skirt has been completely inked in for Panel 5.
Here’s a whole lot more addition-by-subtraction, as any indication that Roxy is acting deliberately and that she’s after a rich sugar daddy who can take her places and buy her things is eliminated from the text–again, leaving huge gaps (including another empty thought balloon in an otherwise-silent panel, and an empty caption box as well. Even the kiss in Panel 6 has been altered to make it simply a peck on the cheek.
Another awkward change here in Panel 1, but at least they didn’t forget about the coloring this time. A whole balloon is totally blacked out in ham-fisted fashion, and the caption above it is likewise scrubbed (though not blacked in.) There are more edits throughout the page, including Roxy being money-hungry. Even the tiny graphics of the cat and the gifts have been taken out, though they missed the cat in the coloring. And the Panel 2 kiss has been transformed into almost a non-kiss in the revision.
PAGE 5, and still more changes. Pete still loses all of the money he has at the track, but now the idea that he’s been stealing from the company to finance his and Roxy’s hijinx has been excised–which makes the exchange in Panel 4 especially funny in the revised version. (“If you weren’t the son of an old friend–okay–you can have a loan.” That’s some mind control at work.) Panel 5 loses a pair of balloons, and here, the alteration is at least a little bit more subtle. And again, any intimation that Roxy is anything other than pure has been taken out. I especially like them losing “much later” from the Panel 7 caption.
Roxy Moore may be a golddigger, but never let it be said under the auspices of the Comics Code that she’s a HEARTLESS golddigger! Panel 4 is wonderful in how they just bulldozer two balloons and an entire background by pouring ink atop it. Even poor Pete is given a shave in Panel 5, and his words sanitized for your protection. The top of Roxy’s gown has been reworked to make it a bit less revealing. And the guts of the story have been taken out, for all that it tries to reach the same conclusion. But having attempted to excise all of Roxy’s misdeeds (with the exception of her giving Pete the bracelet on this page) it doesn’t come off at all. The original version of the story was boiler plate, but it at least hung together and made sense. The revision is a swiss cheese disaster. There are three other stories in these issues that suffer the same fate–so possibly I’ll take a look at another one in the days ahead.
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