Ah, romance! As Valentine's Day lingers on the horizon, it is once again time to turn our thoughts -- and our hearts -- to love. Or at least, the truly bizarre and occasionally downright mind-boggling version of love that appears in that most dubious of genres, the Romance Comic. Because really, you can't have enough stories of weepy teenagers wondering if they'll ever love again.

Today, I'm kicking off the season with a shot of heartbreak (and a generous helping of crime) from the first of two stories in the pages of Young Love #119, a comic that promises agony and ecstasy and really only delivers on the former.Our first tale of woe in this romantic season is titled "Love Behind Bars," and while that sounds like the kind of movie you'd catch on USA Up All Night, the actual product is significantly less erotic than it sounds. Our story focuses on young Stephie, who is enamored with a young man named Vic. Sadly, their relationship has hit a bit of a snag, owing to the fact that he is currently a guest of the local state correctional facility.

We've all been there, right ladies?

As you can tell from her dramatic pose in the second panel -- complete with clenched fists that show you she really really means it, Stephie's a little conflicted over where this relationship is going. As for why, and what heinous crimes Vic could've committed to land in the hut, it's time for a flashback:

I'm a little concerned about Stephie's strategy of wooing Vic by claiming that she doesn't know whether or not she's standing in the middle of a rainstorm, but I'm willing to accept that courtship was different in the '70s. I mean, Stephie would probably think it was weird to look at someone's online dating profile and then put a picture of their dumb hat on your Tumblr, too.

Anyway, in the classic tradition of every '60s girl group song ever, Vic is poor, working "grease jobs" at a gas station rather than high finance or something that'll allow him to treat Stephie to the finer things in life. Specifically, his major hangup is that he doesn't have a car, which means that they have to walk everywhere and make out on park benches in front of God and everybody. Worse yet, they have to stop making out when it rains, even though rain is prime making out weather. It's a devil of a problem, only made worse by the fact that Stephie's mom seems convinced that Vic's going to leave her daughter, presumably for some other economically disadvantaged trollop who doesn't mind getting to second base on a soaking wet park bench.

Things only get worse when Stephie's cousin Hal comes to town and she has to go out for a romantic evening of dinner and dancing, which is a plot point in literally every romance comic ever published. Is this a thing that used to happen a lot? Were the cool teens of yesteryear forced to go on dates with their attractive cousins of the opposite sex? I've never heard of this happening even once in real life, and folks, I'm from South Carolina. You'd think if that was a problem, we'd have heard about it 'round here.

And yet, here we go again:

It's also worth noting that, again, in every single Romance comic I have ever read, nobody ever thinks to mention that they have to go hang out with their cousin, which would seem to be a pretty easy excuse to make. Stephie's no different, although she does make the smart (and kinda dickish) choice to make sure they're going to some high-class joint (with fancy menoos, no doubt) to minimize their chances of running into Vic.

But there's one thing she didn't take into account: Roads.

Amazingly, this does not suddenly turn into a story where Vic assumes that she's running around with some rich fella while he's slaving away on "grease jobs" to buy her a promise ring or something. Realizing that she can't fight the narrative structure of a romance comic, Stephie immediately calls Vic up to let him know that it's just her cousin and she lied about saying she was sick.

Seriously though, how is this not a huge warning sign for Vic? Between pretending not to know it's raining and spinning lies about hanging with her family, I'm pretty sure Stephie might actually be a sociopath.

Apparently Vic values girls who do sexy poses in pajama tops more than his status as someone who has never been stabbed to death by his girlfriend, because he not only forgives her, but shows up to take her on a date the very next day in the brand new car that he got when he "hit the numbers!"

You can probably guess where this is going.

Yes, as it turns out, Vic was doin' fifty-five in a fifty-fo'. Stephie gets released, but Vic's hauled in for an unspecified amount of time, leaving her to "relive his kisses" in between visits to the slammer. But can she ever really love Vic, knowing that he won't be satisfied when she tells him the material things don't matter? Thus, we're back where we started, with Stephie standing around outside the prison trying to sort her problems out. As for how it works out...

...your guess is as good as mine. This entire thing is a setup for a reader contest to elicit "the most honest answers" from Young Love's readership in a pretty blatant attempt by Robert Kanigher to avoid doing any more work than he absolutely had to. I gotta admit, as a fellow freelancer, I genuinely admire this tactic? Don't you? Send in your answer and we'll print the most honest ones in a future column!

Sadly, this is the most recent issue of Young Love in my collection, so I'm not sure how the readers voted on Stephie's plight. Personally, I like to imagine that she was running to Vic -- specifically, that she was running to bust him out of jail with a truckload of dynamite so they can go on a bloody multi-state crime spree, taking revenge against the society that shattered his mind by destroying their precious material goods, and the mindless consumer sheep who worshiped them, an anarchic orgy of destruction that could only be stopped by... The Batman.

But then, that's how almost all of my romantic ideas end.

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