Young Romance #194 (DC Comics, 1973) totally ruined my usual ritual of finding a histrionic romance comic story and mocking it from start to finish. Not that “Full Hands, Empty Heart,” the story about the thwarted love of an African-American nurse and a white doctor, doesn’t have its ridiculous parts. However, I found myself having sincere feelings after reading it. That’s not how WTF? Wednesday is supposed to work!
Interracial relationships should be such a non-issue that I feel silly saying “interracial relationships.” Society was less accepting 40 years ago, though it’s worth noting that the sight of a black dad and a white mom in a Cheerios commercial induced outrage … in 2013. As with “That Strange Girl,” this was no doubt one of the most daring romance comics stories of its day. Too bad it has an utterly unacceptable ending that ripped out my heart and stomped on it just for kicks.
Phyllis Carter is an angelic nurse for whom love remains painfully out of reach for no apparent reason. She walks home alone, stares into empty mirrors and, we’re told, dreams “empty dreams,” because single people can’t possibly have full lives. All she can do is stand by while happy patients give birth and make out in the physical therapy room.
But then she meets foxy resident Dr. Allan Tate, and sparks fly across the table as they team up to resuscitate a cardiac arrest victim. Forget medical science. “Love brought him back, doctor. The medicine you can’t find in any medical book.”
Before long, Phyllis and Allan are strolling in parks, gazing dreamily at one another and drawing MUCH shade from disapproving onlookers. A lion at the zoo gives them the side-eye, which is actually kind of hilarious.
Allan’s friends are snooty bigots who see race-mixing a career killer, much like medical malpractice. Maybe worse.
Phyllis’ friends are at least decent enough to offer Allan some soul food (sigh), but then they give her grief about creeping with The Man after midnight and suggest she’s turned her back on her people. “Aren’t your brothers good enough for you?” Their fellow clinicians at the hospital suck, too.
And this is where I stopped laughing and started to root for Phyllis and Allan. They appear to live in a big, cosmopolitan city. Surely, I said to myself, Young Romance will find a progressive haven where they can live happily ever after!
But then THIS happens.
Nooooooooo! Romance comic book stories are supposed to end with explosions of anti-feminist fireworks where the heroines swoon in their unevolved partners’ arms. Is a tragic death is the only option for these guys? And why are Phyllis’ co-workers all, “I know your true love just died, but can you get back to your patients now?”
If anyone needs me, I’ll be sobbing in a corner.