Charlton needed 10 pages to tell today's story, the ambitious Kiss or Be Killed. Set in the exotic land of May-hee-co, it seethes with the threat of violence and is populated with obnoxious Americans, leering banditos and perhaps worst of all ... geologists.
Kiss or Be Killed is really trying to have a message. It takes pains to let the reader know that racism is bad, and daringly shows an American girl kissing a Mexican. Perhaps even more tellingly, the bigot that finds this innocent kiss offensive earns himself a beating and the heroine's disdain. The main problem is that the writer and artist apparently learned everything they needed to know about Mexico from watching Speedy Gonzales cartoons, and the unfortunate use of the surname MANSON doesn't help, either.
You know, I don't think I'd like to take a trip with Manson Bus Tours, no matter how nice the Yucatan might be. For one they don't seem to bother training their staff - does Cleo really think it's wise to open up the tour by admitting she's never been to Mexico before? She's just begging for a busload of mutiny.
The message is clear: you can kiss a Mexican as long as there's no tongue. Plus it's wrong to be racist. However, if you happen to insult a Mexican, you better get the hell out of town. Because they will cut you.
Can anything else go wrong on this tour? A guide who has never been to Mexico before, having to flee town before one of the paying customers is murdered, and now this creepy shack-dweller is telling them they narrowly avoided driving over a collapsed bridge. It's making the salmonella incident in Paraguay pale in comparison.
Okay, it just got worse, they're stopping until morning, and the creepy drifter is now apparently leading the whole shebang. Does anyone have overnight garments? Is there a toilet on the bus? Why is Cleo leaving the bus to go walking with the creepy dude that just hijacked her bus? How is it that she's still alive?
I have to disagree with the sentiments in Panel 2, because if any of this happened to me I'm pretty sure I wouldn't love telling about it later. Except maybe when I spoke to my lawyer roughly 30 seconds after I got home, to discuss litigation against Manson Bus Tours.
As obnoxious as Mr Lutz is, at least he has the sense to be skeptical about the bearded stranger who comandeered the bus and made them stop in an area inhabited by coyotes. I'm not sure what's up with the Fatso remark, or what's going on in the last panel - did Freer just punch Lutz in the... armpit? Whatever happened, it looks like it hurt. Smaaaaaaakk is pretty serious.
Okay so creepy drifter has led them into an ambush. Hands up, who saw this coming?
So let's try to get this straight. It was necessary to stop the bus so that the banditos could see Lutz get his ass beaten and for creepy drifter to kiss Cleo so she doesn't get assaulted. Couldn't all of this be avoided by, I don't know, fuckin' flooring it out of Mexico? It's not like they were in a vehicle, dude.
...and why is Cleo fantasizing about his tickly kisses and drifter breath?
"No Cleo... I'm respectable." Also kind of a dumbass who endangered your life to kiss you and expose Manson Bus Tours to what will be an inevitable lawsuit by Mr Lutz, but whatever.
I like how Larry secures his date with Cleo by letting her know that she has no choice in the matter. You better attend that fiesta, girl, or you don't even want to know how the locals will exact their revenge.
This is the first story I've scanned from Charlton's Career Girl Romances, but since the stories are definitely a cut above Charlton's usual fare you'll be seeing more of them.