Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Sampling Millie the Model 100

Some long running series are unrepresented in the Essentials. From time to time I'll take a look at another modern reprint of some of the series.

In recent decades Millie the Model has largely languished in obscurity. There's been the odd appearance in various other titles and a couple of short series that have updated her in one way or another, but nothing's really lasted. At the same time her original stories have been almost completely untouched by reprints.

Despite the Millie the Model series lasting 207 issues plus a dozen annuals over twenty-eight years and spawning multiple spin-offs, I was only able to find one issue that's had any modern reprints. And it's appeared no less than four times in the last decade. Issue #100 was reprinted in issue #16 of the Marvel Milestones series back in 2006. That in turn was then reprinted in the Models, Inc. collected edition in 2010. Meanwhile the original issue was also reprinted in the Women of Marvel Omnibus edition in 2011 and it also seems to be the only issue available digitally. It's a pity that the same issue has been used so often but that may indicate the rest of Millie's tales need remastering before they can be reprinted.

So it's to issue #100 we turn, which is cover-dated January 1961. Nearly all the stories are signed by Stan Lee but artist Stan Goldberg is uncredited. There are six stories, a reminder of an earlier era of comics when there were many more stories in an issue. Also there was less concern about continuity. This is seen with the first tale "How Millie And Chili Met..." which also retells how Millie came to work for the Hanover modelling agency. Over the years this story would be told several times - and the details could vary. So here Millie was a typist until she was sent to the agency and Howard Hanover talked her into modelling. In contrast there's another version where she was a country girl who dreamed of being a model and came to the city to pursue that goal. Just as DC readers didn't stop to ask about the different versions of Superman's childhood or how Aquaman got his powers, I doubt Marvel readers were yet taking note and comparing.

"You, Too, Can Be a Model!" sees Millie visit a modelling school to give a talk and get caught in a comedy of mistaken identity. "Movie Madness!" is a two-page gag about none of the agency's models being suitable to appear in a movie - of the life of Millie the Model! "Girl Talk!" is another quickie as Millie and Toni discuss Chili. "A Kiss for a Miss!" sees Millie and boyfriend Clicker on a park bench and kissing. "Who'll Go On the Show??" is a tale with a moral as the girls await a  producer coming to pick a model to go on TV, with the discovery the young man also visiting is the producer's son.

With no story lasting more than five pages this is really just a collection of extended gags and the characters are frequently caricatures - Chili is especially bitchy whilst Millie is written as rather a ditz wandering through success by accident instead of the confident young career woman she has been on other occasions. In general the comedy is just too telegraphed and lightweight. The cartoony style does not help either.

This issue includes a text story entitled "Summer Vacation". This features completely one-off characters and here tells of a schoolgirl working a summer job and finding a new boyfriend. As also seen with Rawhide Kid, these text stories seem to have been included purely to qualify a comic as a particular status of periodical for one reason or another, and although usually fitting the series's genre they don't seem to have gone further. Maybe they were reprints or written for a general pile to be shoved in wherever.

One of the notable features of the Millie titles was the way readers could send in designs for fashions and/or hairdos and these would either be redrawn for standalone features or even used in the stories in a sign of reader interaction beyond just sending in letters. (This practice would also be used on the Patsy Walker titles.) The stories in this issues include contributions from readers as follows:
  • "How Millie And Chili Met..." by Anita Marie Carter, Catherine Studer, Karen Stevenson, Shirley McClain and Linda Zacharias.
  • "You, Too, Can Be a Model!" by Molly Slocum, Susan Harrison, Donna Elam, Marlene Baron and Glenda Butcher.
  • "Movie Madness!" by Jean Montgomery, Pedi Duggan and Piper Ann Pickrell.
  • "Girl Talk!" by Shelley Simpson, Pat Gibbs, Oliva Maniguez, Linda Silver, Marcia Allen and Judy Sorter.
  • "A Kiss for a Miss!" by Melvin Stewart.
  • "Who'll Go On the Show??" by Rita Rys, Ellen Gutknecht, Willma Slone, Jenny Currie, Pat Henderson, Linda Franklin and Pia Westerberg.
The feature pages include:
  • "When Millie gets Married" featuring a wedding dress designed by readers Cynthia & Mary Davis.
  • "Millie's Fun Page" featuring designs by readers Lucille Caso and Barbara Trock.
  • "Millie's Fashion Pin-Up" featuring designs by readers Sue Paulk, Diane Spyinkowski, Bonnie Gail Seymour, Nancy Balerud and Gay Goodenough.
  • "Millie's Cartoon Cut-Out" featuring designs by reader Kathy Foreman.
It's a sign of how even before the Fantastic Four Marvel was going out of its way to make readers feel more involved than even just the letters page would allow. The prospect of seeing one's own designs in print must have spurred some creativity and I wonder if there are any fashion designers or hair stylists who started out in the pages of Millie the Model?

In general this issue is a real disappointment. It's just a collection of jokes, some of them distinctly unfunny, with the lead characters poorly portrayed. Unfortunately if cover galleries are anything to go by it's probably representative of the majority of Millie's history but I strongly wish one of the "soap opera" issues from the mid 1960s was also available that could show the characters in a much better light.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect the reason for the scarcity of so many Marvel (and DC ) romance titles is that not very many females are serious collectors. It is a predominantly male-dominated interest.
    Here in the UK I don't ever recall seeing any of the titles in the spinner racks, so were they even imported over here?


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