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Barbara Slate Week! – Angel Love

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Welcome to Barbara Slate Week, a (work) week’s worth of spotlights on the work of Barbara Slate, an underappreciated comic book creator who I’ve long been a fan of.

I’ll be going at this chronologically, so we begin with Slate’s acclaimed off kilter 1986-87 DC Comics series Angel Love, about a group of young people living in New York City during the 80′s.

Angel Love was really an extremely daring comic by DC to invest in. Here you have a book (written and drawn by Barbara Slate, with inks by John Lopez) that looked like it was a kid’s book but had content that was not even approved by the Comics Code! This was before DC had an imprint in Vertigo that was DESIGNED for off-kilter books. This was just sent out to retailers along with Fury of Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Action Comics and the rest. The legendary Karen Berger was the editor on this one. Man, don’t you just have to adore Karen Berger? As a complete and total tangential thought, you know who reminds me a little bit of Karen Berger? Mark Chiarello. He has that same great eye that Berger had and the same willingness to try different things. While it sucks that we’ve lost Berger from the world of comics, at least we still have Chiarello. That, of course, like I said, is quite a tangent. On to the task at hand, Angel Love.

The story centers around Angel Love herself, a struggling artist in New York City who works as a waitress to make ends meet.

One of the key points of satire in Slate’s early work is the general New York City “scene” of the mid-1980s. It is some of the sharpest work in Angel Love, and I’m pleased that she pursued the idea further in the next work I’ll spotlight this week.

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Angel shares an apartment with a rich ditzy wannabe actress. They live in a building with a friend of theirs and, of course, a bunch of cockroaches. Bizarrely (but awesomely) we can hear the cockroaches talk. One of them scares Angel’s roommate and their friend arrives because of the screams…

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You have to love that the cockroach was actually killed.

One of the biggest plot points of the early issues is Angel dealing with the fact that her boyfriend has a problem with cocaine…

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Slate handles it well. She doesn’t get too preachy.

What I love about Angel Love is just how discordant the whole thing is. Here’s a perfect example from a later issue. It opens up with Angel accidentally drawing her own guardian angel (while Angel interacts with us, the readers, through the fourth wall)…

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and then has a plot with a waitress friend of Angel’s dealing with an unwanted pregnancy!!

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The series ended after eight issues. It ended on a major cliffhanger (a BIZARRE major cliffhanger – Angel’s mother got sick and she needs a bone marrow transplant and only Angel’s long-lost sister can save her. Angel tracks her down but she is not interested in helping. So Angel breaks into her apartment and holds a gun on her at the cliffhanger).

Luckily, Slate was given an extra-sized one-shot in 1987 to wrap everything up. It has a real bittersweet resolution to the sister plot.

Angel Love was certainly not a perfect series. There was definitely some parts that were rough around the edges. However, it was a bold series that took an approach that few were taking, particularly in mainstream comics and it definitely marked Slate as a creative voice worth watching. Which is what we’ll be doing this week.

16 Comments

“Angel Love” got cancelled for a reason. It was made by a yuppie mahattanite without even an ounce of self-awareness and an equal lack of empathy or creative consideration for the fact that not everyone is an affluent urban hipster from the northeastern united states, and was made for other people/yuppies fitting the same description, i.e. no one who actually reads comics. It is a comic that is IMPOSSIBLE to relate to unless you’re the yuppiest yuppie in yuppie town.

Her “Yuppies From Hell” (which I’m assuming you’re going to cover) suffers from related, but different problems. Even when she tries to make fun of yuppies she’s still 100% oblivious and thinks she’s “not like that” and tries to distance/disassociate herself from the very behavior and attitude that completely overwhelms ALL of her work.

The ideology bleeding out from behind these characters reminds me of why no one misses the social attitudes of the 80′s and why EVERYONE remembers yuppies negatively.

inb4 that comment gets deleted because NO CRITICAL DISCUSSION ON CBR

Yes. How dare you disagree?

It’s too bad that Slate didn’t call you personally, Anonymous. She could’ve come up with much better subject matter given your obviously superior tastes. Unfortunately, she just went with what she knew. A waste, really.

Hm… looks like this might be worth checking out. I don’t imagine it’s easy to find these days, though.

Andrew Collins

May 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I was only ever vaguely aware of this series back then, as it got a couple weird house ads in DC’s books (including one spotlighting the “cocaine!” panel) and that was about it. I never even realized it was a regular series, I just assumed it was a mini at 8 issues…

Hm… looks like this might be worth checking out. I don’t imagine it’s easy to find these days, though.

You can find them for pretty reasonable prices on eBay. Basically the price of a current comic when you factor in combined shipping.

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_odkw=angel+love&_osacat=0&_from=R40&_trksid=p2045573.m570.l1313.TR2.TRC1&_nkw=angel+love+comic&_sacat=0

I was only ever vaguely aware of this series back then, as it got a couple weird house ads in DC’s books (including one spotlighting the “cocaine!” panel) and that was about it. I never even realized it was a regular series, I just assumed it was a mini at 8 issues…

Yeah, that was the really fascinating thing about it to me – that DC just advertised it the same they would any other book coming out at the same time.

Those are dirt cheap! I’ll have to pick a couple up come payday.

Travis Pelkie

May 15, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I snagged this whole series in some cheapo bin, and I remember not being a huge fan, but enjoying it a fair amount. It really is astonishing that DC published this (not that it’s not a good comic, certainly), and featured it in house ads and all. Kinda like how they tried pushing ‘Mazing Man, just a strange little outlier that still is an amazing comic.

Totally agree on the Berger/Chiarello tangent, too.

Man, I did sigh with relief when I saw that you weren’t doing this week because Ms Slate had passed. Phew. (Thankfully it’s just to feature good comics and not to spotlight a creator no longer with us.)

Can’t imagine how one could possibly be too preachy about cocaine problems, but whatever.

I’m sure he meant that she didn’t try to turn it into an after-school special, with “Just Say NO!” and all that.

Reply To Anonymous

May 17, 2013 at 7:00 am

Anonymous, I loved Angel Love… but that is besides the point – why attack Ms. Slate’s personal character? Do you know her? I love having FAIR discussion and debate… but why so angry? I wish someone would delete that post simply because it is annoying to read as the first comment on this page; then again, Anonymous, I guess you follow Ms. Slate enough to be the first to read this article. :-) Anyway, Angel Love was truly one of my favorite Slate series (specifically #8, I always remember that bold blue cover).

I have been a fan of Barbara Slate’s work and of Barbara Slate herself since I first encountered it years ago when she came to the Marvel Comics Offices. I also think it’s cowardly to criticize someone’s work and hide behind a cloak of anonymity. Cowards shouldn’t be taken seriously and I suspect the person who criticizes others is really masking a deep hatred of themselves, which is probably well-justified.

Jennifer Kennedy

May 22, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Why are you heiding behind “Anonymous”?

LEADER DESSLOK

March 7, 2014 at 4:44 pm

I don’t understand the anonymous rant at the top of the comments. ANGEL LOVE was cancelled because no one was interested in yuppies? That’s funny, I remember picking up a couple of issues of the series at my LCS back when they first came out because I was exploring genres other than super-heroes because I was frankly starting to get bored with them. My main problem with the Angel Love comics was the artwork, which I found perplexing. I was a bit naive when it came to The Arts at that time. ‘A “humorous” style shouldn’t be used for “realistic” stories’ and that kind of Tommy Rot! I hadn’t yet seen Manga (Gekiga), EC, or even ROBERT CRUMB’s work–much less that of Picasso, Gauguin or Paul Cadmus! Fast Forward 10 years or so, I learned about those artists as well as great cartoonists like Los Bros. Hernandez, Peter Bagge and Mary Fleener– and my interest in ANGEL LOVE increased to the point where I haunted comic book conventions until I managed to obtain the entire series!

I think I can call myself a Barbara Slate fan. But I didn’t know that she was working at ARCHIE COMICS. I had erroneously assumed that she had gotten out of the business entirely. Is there sort of a Slate checklist anywhere? If there is, I’ll find it!

But getting back to Anonymous’ rant. The cancellation of ANGEL LOVE was because no one was interested in “Yuppies”? It didn’t have anything to do with the domination of the super-hero genre in comics or the small percentage (at that time) of female readers? I guess not. So it must be equally baffling how AARON SPELLING managed to make a boat load of money creating shows like DYNASTY, BEVERLY HILLS 90210 and DAWSON’S CREEK because no one is interested in yuppies…

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