"Communist Kisses!" is an overheated Cold War romance nestled between two more traditional tales of sentimental foolishness in the February 1954 edition of the comic book Confessions of the Lovelorn, "the magazine that dares to tell the truth!" "Kisses" recounts the breathless saga of Sonia Lubyanka, "Russian-bred notorious Communist!"
Over the course of ten hyperbolic pages the lovely Comrade Sonia evolves from a humorless, steely Stalinist into an emotional woman overcome by her passion for an American diplomat and the Statue of Liberty. Her extreme transformation is, of course, absurd, but getting from one polarity to the other is half the fun.
After some traumatic childhood backstory (parents killed by Nazis, Sonia working in a munitions factory, Sonia's Communist brainwashing, etc.), Sonia is seen accepting a promotion in a Party office. In a not-so-subtle jab at the desirability of feminism, Sonia brags "I was a model Soviet girl – one who could compete with men on their own terms and win!"
As her first assignment in her new role with the "department," Sonia is ordered to attend a diplomatic ball at the American Embassy in Moscow. She is instructed to take note of her conversations while at the function because "the Yankees are babbling fools before a pretty woman!"
Sonia appears at the ball in a stunning red strapless number, but her inner-thoughts betray her revulsion: "How strange it was to be face to face with the hated Americans! The sight of that glittering ballroom, the flowing champagne, the lilting music, all conspired to enrage me..."
Soon Sonia is approached by the dashing Bob Chesney, Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador and she accepts his invitation to dance because, she explains, "it is considered appropriate at these childish functions!"
Chesney's charm, however, serves only to annoy Sonia and she chides him by stating: "I am not in the mood for banter Mr. Chesney! The times are too serious! Have you read the latest European economic report?" To which the incredulous Chesney replies "Sure! But there’s a time and place to discuss such things! Don’t you ever knock that stuff off?" When Sonia dismisses him as a rich man not interested in the plight of the poor, Chesney explodes: "Look, sister, as a kid I sold newspapers after school and my mother took in washing! I worked my way through college – and I don't have to take that arrogant nonsense from you! Goodbye!"
After Sonia apologizes for her rudeness and she and Chesney continue their dance, the festive atmosphere loosens the Soviet spy up: "One dance followed another, while the bubbling champagne set my head to reeling! It was all so joyously light-hearted and gay – my companion was so charming and amusing – that I was astonished to hear the gay tinkle of my laughter ringing out over the throbbing music!"
Later, at the same time Sonia is praised by her superior for her undercover work ("excellent, Comrade Lubyanka – you have established a useful rapport with Mr. Chesney! As a typical product of decaying American society, he can be of use to us!"), she is ordered to continue her subtle interrogation of him. When she questions the propriety of such an assignment, the commissar barks: "In the struggle between the Soviet and Yankee imperialism, all methods are justified! You will do your duty – that's an order!"
Gradually, of course, Chesney and Sonia fall in love. The unlikelihood of her change in emotion is addressed in the bewildered woman's narration (that appears over an illustration of the couple's first kiss): "Strange, wasn't it? Me a well-trained Communist, with labor statistics for a heart, a girl who thought love a degenerate bourgeois concept – gasping rapturously at the touch of a man’s lips!"
But outdated, inferior Soviet intelligence indicating that Chesney is married almost destroys their burgeoning romance. Sonia looks at the file on her beloved and spirals into a deep depression and rage: "How could I have thought I was in love and wept over a man? He’s a treacherous swine – like all Americans!"
After a confrontation in which Sonia reveals her "true" motives for spending time with him, Chesney announces that he intends to take a post in Geneva that he had originally turned down. Sonia screams at him: "Go! And good riddance! If we meet again, it will be when the Red Army conquers America - when your kind will be shot!"
Over the course of the next few panels in the story, Sonia comes to realize that Communism isn't the utopia she had been taught to believe. And she also recognizes her continued unresolved feelings for Chesney ("He was a disease, a poison still in my system"). In an effort to escape Russia, Sonia requests a transfer to a foreign post so that she can "observe first hand the evils of capitalism." As luck would have it Sonia is assigned to accompany the Soviet foreign ministers to Geneva (!) the following month. That night she dreams of her first kiss with Chesney.
While in Geneva Sonia is stunned and elated to hear from an American diplomat that Chesney is not actually married, but is a widower whose wife died several years earlier. This revelation leads to another meeting with Chesney, one in which Sonia asks for help in defecting. But Chesney is justifiably skeptical of Sonia's sincerity: "You expect me to believe that a devoted Commie like you had a change of heart?"
But of course, after Sonia explains the misunderstanding arising from the erroneous Soviet file and how it threw her into an emotional tailspin, true love wins out. Soon the couple is wed and they are headed to the land of liberty aboard a ship. Sonia paints the picture in her blissful narration: "Mrs. Robert Chesney, the most beautiful name in the world! We honeymooned on the ship bearing us to America, the land which offered me sanctuary! I adored Bob, I worshipped him, and I vowed to make him proud of me!"
No comic book story of this type would be complete without a closing panel wherein the theme and the lesson learned is hammered into the head of the reader one last time. In this case, Sonia’s words are underscored by the comic book artist's stagecraft. Indeed, she is standing in front of an American flag with her handsome new husband. Gone are the militaristic Russian rags of the opening panel – she is now wearing stylish American clothes!
I won't pretend it's been all a bed of roses for me! But little by little, I’m becoming accepted – with Bob’s love to sustain me, I know the future can only hold happiness! And often I shudder at what my life would have been had not love come along – to destroy the evil veil which Communism had thrown before my eyes! I ask only one thing more of life... that someday I may hear someone refer to Sonia Chesney as – a fine American girl.
By an uncredited writer and artist
Copyright 1954 by Regis Publications, Sparta, Illinois
Part of Confessions of the Lovelorn comic book
Issue Number 56 / February 1954
10 pages (Communist Kisses! story)
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