by Jeet Heer
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Toth’s phallic-sensitive staging. A 1950s romance comic, one that features a stereotypically weepy woman crying over her love life, is normally not where you would expect to see a commentary on erectile dysfunction. Yet take a look at “Man of My Heart,” (New Romance #16, June 1953 and illustrated by Alex Toth, author unknown). The story is about Pris, a young woman torn between two lovers: Jim Foster who is a long time friend her own age and the much older Dan London, a distinguished gent and friend of her deceased father. Like the knights of old, Dan and Jim compete for Pris’s love by trying to best each other in an athletic competition. Take a look at the key climatic tier on the final page where Dan gallantly explains why he’s bowing out of the competition. “”There’s no compensation for real youth … or the complete sharing of the things you two alone can have!” Dan says in the last panel of the tier. Toth has carefully cropped the panel so that we don’t see Dan’s face, only his torso. He’s wearing a bathrobe with the cords dangling down. Off in the bottom right-hand corner of the panel we see the outline of Pris’s face with an eye lash, an eye brow and part of her hair and an earring. But we can’t see her eyes and have no sense of what she is thinking. Dan’s incompletely viewed body is contrasted with Pris’s incompletely viewed face. The discordance between body and face underscores the theme of sexual incompatibility. Is there any doubt that Toth is underscoring the point that as an older man Dan won’t be able to sexually satisfy Pris? Aside from this, the story is overloaded with phallic symbols: a cane, swords, tennis rackets, a long cigarette holder. The story is both post-Freud and pre-Viagra. Derik Badman offers another reading of the story and more excerpts here. The whole story was also reprinted in Alex Toth: Edge of Genius Vol. 2.