The product of prolific illustrator and cartoonist Nell Brinkley, "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill" is a serial comic that concerns the adventures of a girl known as Golden Eyes during World War I. Running from March 1918 through February 1919, the serial was published in the form of 20 full-color, one-page illustrations for the cover of The American Weekly (a popular Sunday newspaper supplement). The series was renamed "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill" Over There after only a handful of installments (to reflect that the narrative had shifted to France) and would keep the new name for the remaining 15 covers.
As the serial begins, heroine "Golden Eyes" must bid her sweetheart Bill farewell when he is deployed to France to fight the Germans. He leaves his faithful dog "Uncle Sam" in her care, and while girl and dog try to do their part for the allies from home they're spurred into action by the discovery of a German spy in Golden Eyes' own backyard. Golden Eyes, with Uncle Sam at her side, enlists as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, and they are briefly reunited with Bill in France before duty separates them again. The three are reunited and separated several times throughout the course of the war, and end up rescuing each other from capture and injury alike as they fight for the allies - and for their future.
The serial is notable for its proactive heroine, patriotic underpinnings, and distinct Brinkley art style (which blended elements of Art Deco and Art Nouveau into elegant, sumptuous illustrations that embodied the ideals of feminine beauty in the 1910s).
Can be read here in its entirety, with a mostly accurate transcription of the text beneath each cover.
Unmarked spoilers below!
Tropes present in "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill" include:
- Animal Espionage: Uncle Sam — after Golden Eyes pilfers secret communiques off of Hugo Von Schwatzenburg's unconscious body, Uncle Sam ferries the intelligence across the front lines to the allied forces. He also accompanies Golden Eyes when she discovers that Germans are planning a sneak attack on the American side.
- Babies Ever After: The last installment skips a few years ahead to show Golden Eyes and Bill with their son, who is just learning to walk.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: After her ambulance is struck by a shell and Golden Eyes has to crawl out of the wreckage and shuffle through the underbrush in a tattered uniform, she's still so beautiful that a German officer who finds her sneaking about can't help but be instantly besotted with her looks.
- Breather Episode: Installment ten after the rename, when Golden Eyes spends a week away from the front lines- at an Orphanage of Love that she bankrolls with money she got from selling the jewelry Hugo Von Schwatzenburg loaded her up with during her Go-Go Enslavement in the previous arc.
- Bridal Carry: Happens immediately after Bill rescues Golden Eyes from the German field camp:"-against the evening sky, went Bill, for once not hearing the every word of his menfor in his arms he carried Golden-Eyeshis girlhis palhis little American with a "heart good as bread," her draggled finer blowing against his knees, the sweet feel of her again on his breastabove his heart. He clinched her tight, his blouse about hertied by the arms under her chine, and knew the strange, wonderful savoir of Love and Victory mingled."
- Call to Adventure: Golden Eyes sees the discovery of a German spy in her own garden as a wake-up call, after which she enlists to serve overseas.
- Canine Companion: Uncle Sam the collie. Bill sends him to keep Golden Eyes safe while he's away at war. Uncle Sam "enlists" with Golden Eyes as an ambulance driver, and even tracks her down and protects her when she's captured by a German officer.
- Captive Date: Golden Eyes' dinner with German officer Hugo Von Schwatzenburg, as a prelude to his I Have You Now, My Pretty advances once the champagne starts flowing - doubles as Go-Go Enslavement (what with the evening wear she's been dolled up in).
- Clothing Damage:
- After Golden Eyes' ambulance is shelled, she crawls out of the wreckage with her uniform tattered. Being that this is a work from the 1910's, the damage is limited to one knee of her pants and the shoulders/ sleeves of her blouse so as to preserve modesty.
- When Hugo Von Schwatzenburg attempts to force himself upon Golden Eyes in the German field camp, the pilfered fancy dress he had forced her to wear earlier gets torn up in the scuffle and her pearl necklaces are similarly damaged.
- Creator Thumbprint: Let's see... Female protagonist with ridiculously voluminous curly hair, huge eyes, and spindly limbs? Check. Male love interest with short, slicked-back black hair and a trim mustache? Check. Billowing fabric/costumes/drapery in nearly every illustration, whether it makes sense for there to be billowing fabric in the scene or not? Check. All trademarks of Brinkley's style.
- Curtains Match the Window: Golden Eyes has bright blond hair that matches her eyes.
- Dad the Veteran: Bill becomes one at the end of the story, once he and Golden Eyes have settled down and had a child - and a decorated veteran, nonetheless. Golden Eyes is the Rare Female Example of this trope, as she is also a decorated veteran.
- Damsel in Distress: The ambulance Golden Eyes is driving gets hit by shellfire, at which point she's captured by a German patrol. She's able to send a message to Bill, but she's only able to hope that Bill can rescue her. Until she becomes the Damsel out of Distress...
- Damsel out of Distress: Golden Eyes gets a brief stint as this when the Hugo Von Schwatzenburg gets knocked out trying to make a grab at her. She takes the opportunity to rifle through his pockets for the official German communiques he's carrying, and sends them off to Bill and the allies via Uncle Sam. But she falls back into the Damsel in Distress trope because she's unable to sneak out of the German camp and isn't willing to kill Hugo Von Schwatzenburg while he's unconscious. As soon as Von Schwatzenburg is up again, he's ready to shoot her in front of the incoming American forces.
- A Day in the Limelight: Uncle Sam the dog narrates the chapter in which Golden Eyes rescues an injured Bill:Uncle Sam: I am only a dog who carries a little search-light on my back to help my Country and my true-lovesand cannot tell a story very well.
- Demonization: Brinkley painted the Germans as generally prideful, vicious, cruel, and underhanded among other unflattering traits - the only named German character in the serial is a raging misogynist, as detailed under Politically Incorrect Villain below.
- Distracted by the Luxury: Hugo Von Schwatzenburg plies Golden Eyes with looted French gowns, jewelry, and champagne in the hope that it will make her fall madly in love with him. Needless to say, it doesn't work out as he planned.
- Dramatic Wind: Whenever Golden Eyes is outdoors, it seems. Things that get blown about include but are not limited to: her hair, her scarfs, Uncle Sam's fur, her hair, any coat or cape she's wearing, American flags, and her hair.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Golden Eyes, Bill, and Uncle Sam - between the three of them, one or more has ended up: in an ambulance on the wrong end of a shelling; captured by German soldiers; Go-Go-Enslaved by said Germans; shot at; nearly executed for espionage; shot in the leg; missing in no-man's land; nearly freezing to death; and nearly freezing to death after being shot in the leg and having gone missing in no-man's land. But it's all okay, because by the last installment they've all three settled down in a beautiful cottage in France with a healthy dose of Babies Ever After to top it off.
- Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: The illustrations of Golden Eyes trapped in the German officer's personal quarters show her dripping with pearls once she changes into her outfit for their Captive Date. Justified, as the officer is trying to invoke Distracted by the Luxury to seduce her.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Uncle Sam has keen animal senses, yes, but he is also able to detect that one of Golden Eyes' admirers is a German spy just by looking at him:"'Uncle Sam' sallied around the corner of a flower pot, took one long stare and launched himself through the Spring air, just at the terrible minute that the man with the bristling blond hair tried to take her [Golden Eyes] in his arms. And over his heart, under his thrown back coat, through the white mane of "Uncle Sam," who was howling at this throat, an Iron Cross shone out!"
- Fairytale Wedding Dress: Golden Eyes uses some of the money she's saved up to purchase one of these in post-war France:"Golden-Eyes didnt mean to be a bride but ONCE! So she spent her heart out on the misty froth and silver of bride-white a REGULAR bride, by gosh! breathed one of Bills dough-boys in reverent admirationand she carried roses with shell pink and gold hearts that matched her cheeks and eyes."
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: More like hair & eyes of gold, heart of gold. Protagonist Golden Eyes is nearly an All-Loving Hero - she's shown to be a friend to children (especially orphans!) and animals, faithful to Bill, and patriotic to her country. And she is reluctant even to physically harm the German officer who captures, confines, and menaces her.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Bill, an actual soldier, is only ever depicted in his helmet once throughout the series' run, and that's when he's storming the German trenches to rescue Golden Eyes. Other members of the allied force are intermittently depicted in their helmets, while the villainous German officer who captures Golden Eyes is introduced wearing a prominent picklehaube and wears a hat for the majority of his other appearances.
- Heroic Dog: Uncle Sam - he sniffs out a German spy even before he has the chance to enlist. Once he and Golden Eyes make it to France, he proceeds to knock out an enemy officer, assist with the transport of captured German intelligence, and work to find wounded soldiers after battles.
- Heroes Love Dogs: Both Bill and Golden Eyes dote on Uncle Sam. Meanwhile, the German patrol that spots Uncle Sam dashing through no-man's land shoots at him.
- Hospital Hottie: Golden Eyes is a cutie, especially in her nurse uniforms (she gets more than one!). Author/ artist Brinkley manages to make field hospitals look like Paris fashion week with Golden Eyes' slim figure and tendency towards encountering Dramatic Wind wherever she goes.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Hugo Von Schwatzenburg, the German officer who captures Golden Eyes, has her dressed up in looted French evening wear before "inviting" her for dinner and champagne - after which he wrenches the table aside and tries to make a move on Golden Eyes. Fortunately, his advances are stopped by the timely intervention of Uncle Sam, who tackles the officer and knocks him out.
- Idiot Ball: The German spy in Golden Eyes' garden is easily identified because he's wearing an Iron Cross under his coat. This is a man whose job is to disguise himself and collect intelligence covertly, and he's openly wearing a military medal from the nation that the United States is actively fighting a war against.
- It's Personal: Bill's reason for wanting to Settle It Without Weapons when he gets his hands on Hugo Von Schwatzenburg - he just watched Hugo drag Golden Eyes to the top of the trenches with the intent to shoot her in front of the oncoming American forces. Von Schwatzenburg was fortunate to make it out of the trenches alive after Bill and Uncle Sam ganged up on him.
- Just in Time: Bill's rescue of Golden Eyes from the German field camp, moments before her captor intends to shoot her:"He [Hugo Von Schwatzenburg] would shoot her before the eyes of the American sentries of their lines three hundred yards away!... As the Hun raised his automatic, two mud-bespattered, glitter-eyed beings, Uncle Sam and Bill, fell upon him, a snarling dog and a roaring man, a man crying, 'My bare hands for you!'"
- Keep the Home Fires Burning: The first three installments could count as this, as Golden Eyes takes to selling war bonds and knitting socks for Bill while he's away. But by the time she discovers a German spy in her garden she's ready to ship out and serve overseas.
- Love God: The personification of love, who appears as a towheaded cherub that follows Golden Eyes in her travels, is alternately referred to as Love, "LOVE," or "The God of Love."
- Medals for Everyone: After their climactic battle with the forces of Hugo Von Schwatzenberg (and a Breather Episode wherein Golden Eyes gets to visit and Orphanage of Love in the French countryside), the trio of Golden Eyes, Bill, and Uncle Sam are decorated for their service in a ceremony held by allied French, British, and American forces:"-on Golden-Eye's and Bill's breasts gleamed and glimmered a decoration apiece; in their eyes tears glittered, and their cheeks burned hotly with the pride of a kiss from a brave and gallant Frenchman sealed there. On Uncle Sam's army collar shimmered a silver plate with the color's of Bill's regiment, and a little story engraved there, telling modestly of his great deeds!"
- New Season, New Name: The name of the serial changed from "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill" to "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill" Over There after a handful of installments to reflect that Golden Eyes had enlisted - it would retain the new title for the remainder of publication.
- Nicknaming the Enemy: The German forces are as likely to be referred to as "the bosche" or "the huns" as they are by their country's name - Truth in Television, as the "Real Life/History" section in Nicknaming the Enemy can attest.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Golden Eyes' real name is never mentioned.
- Orphanage of Love: After selling off the jewelry and gifts the french have given her, Golden Eyes finds she has "enough and more in [her] small fist to provide for around hundred French babiesorphaned by War!" The next paragraph sees her at a "beautiful chateau," far from the front lines, surrounded by happy children who call her "petite maman." It's unclear whether or not Golden Eyes founded the orphanage or if she's just a generous benefactor, as the war orphans are never mentioned again in the story.
- Parasol of Prettiness: One appears in installment 3, when Golden Eyes is in her garden, detaining a German spy.
- Patriotic Fervor: By the nature of the serial being a Propaganda Piece, Golden Eyes falls into these now and again. They lead her to do things like enlist as an ambulance driver and sing the star spangled banner in a field full of wounded soldiers.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Golden Eyes gets to wear several throughout the story. Of note are the dress she wears while detaining a German spy in her garden, the pilfered French finery the German officer dresses her up in during the brief Go-Go Enslavement arc, and her wedding dress."In the dark casket of the Hun captain's cave she glowsa jewela little rare thing of gold and scarlet decked out in siren-fashion, made gorgeous, her gold curls piled high, her throat laced with pearls, her feet in the silken shoes of lootwrapped with the lace and fur of a fled and vanished French girl, her eyes glinting goldenly, her lips smiling; a poised, jeweled love-bird..."
- Politically Incorrect Villain: The defining aspect of the only named villain, Hugo Von Schwatzenburg, has got to be his misogyny. Within moments of seeing a battered and frightened Golden Eyes lost in the woods, he decides that he will be easily able to detain and seduce her, believing that she'll instantly fall in love with him and "worship his 'SUPER'-mannishness" [sic]. Totally uncaring of the fact that Golden Eyes is on the side of his enemy, Von Schwatzenburg is utterly incapable of seeing her as a threat — to him, Golden Eyes is only a woman: a delicate, infantile creature who requires a man to guide her, and thus little more than a beautiful trophy he will easily be able to win.
The most concentrated dose of this characterization arrives later in Von Schwatzenburg's POV installment, immediately following the revelation that Golden Eyes has stolen his top secret communiques and ferried them off to the American side after he was knocked unconscious trying to force himself upon her. The revelations that firstly, his military authority has been utterly decimated by the theft of his communiques; secondly, that his "manhood" (bolstered by all the pilfered finery of France) was not enough to utterly enthrall the supposedly shallow, servile female he has captured; and thirdly, that his complete and utter downfall is due to a woman — all these factors combine to drive him to the point of "fury and fear." But what really breaks him is that he's forced to view Golden Eyes as an agent of her own will. It's only after he's had his misogynistic world view challenged so totally that he's able to overcome his infatuation with her beauty (and his false conception of Golden Eyes as a totem of simpering feminine helplessness) that he can truly appreciate the threat she poses. As the narration puts it, "the poor counterfeit love he had felt for Golden Eye's dear beauty was swallowed in the rage of defeat; and before his eyes she glimmeredthe enemy woman!"
Needless to say, Von Schwatzenburg does not react well to this realization. He immediately rejects the idea of his own failure as both a military commander and as a man, instead projecting and transmuting the cause of his own defeat into defects on the part of his enemy. He descends into a frothing rage, describing the Americans as "the hated who 'honored their women and did not understand that they were servants and slaves and dolls!'" With that he is able to re-categorize Golden Eyes as "an enemy" first and foremost and "a woman" secondly. And what does one do with an enemy? Shoot them in front of their comrades, obviously.
- Protagonist Title
- Purple Prose: Exuberantly so."At the rearing slope of a shell hole, where the roots of a stricken tree, stone and wrecked, earth made a wild heap, they lifted their stealthy lengths, and looked over the crest..... and the moon looked down for a quiet moment and sawthe statuestill, frozen figures of a listening girl and dog, a slim girl and a collie-dog."
- A Justified Trope, in that it was the style back then.
- Though even the chapter told from the point of view of a dog is told eloquently:Uncle Sam: And at last in the first, faint gray and rose of the dawn, in the blue-gray ghostly mist of the woods with the faint pink shining through loop-holes, in a smother of snow, we found him.
- Ripping Off the String of Pearls: The trope is set up in Installment 6◊ post re-name, when Golden Eyes is made to dress herself in stolen French finery after her capture by Hugo Von Schwatzenburg — the new outfit includes several long strands of pearls (which are given special mention by the text that accompanies the artwork). The trope is out in full force by Installment 7◊, when Von Schwatzenburg is knocked unconscious while trying to force himself on Golden Eyes. Her clothes are torn up in the scuffle, and the illustration shows her necklaces have been similarly damaged, scattering loose pearls at her feet and across Von Schwatzenburg's unconscious form.
- Settle It Without Weapons: Bill shouts "My bare hands for you!" when he and Uncle Sam reach Hugo Von Schwatzenburg Just in Time to prevent him from shooting Golden Eyes.
- Timmy in a Well: Might just come with the Heroic Dog territory, but when Golden Eyes is captured by a German officer, Uncle Sam runs off with her Red Cross brassard and treks across an active war zone to find Bill and deliver it to him. Bill is able to infer that Golden Eyes has been captured, and he makes preparations to rescue her. In the mean time Uncle Sam then proceeds to: return to the German field camp where Golden Eyes has been taken while carrying a secret message for her; knock out the same German officer who captured Golden Eyes; sneak out of the German field camp while transporting stolen intelligence to the American forces; and finally lead an American offensive to the Germans' position in time for a Big Damn Heroes rescue of Golden Eyes.
- Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: When Golden Eyes is captured by a German officer, he takes her back to the German field camp (though the camp is remarked to be within sight of the front line).
- The Von Trope Family: Hugo Von Schwatzenburg, the only named German in the entire comic.
- Wartime Wedding: As the war ends, Golden Eyes and Bill officially say "I do." Bill wears his Dress Uniform, with spurs and saber, and the men of Bill's troop stand as witnesses in the ceremony."The cannon that was their alter spoke again in a voice of thunder — after months of silence — and its tongue of fire licked again its grey muzzle lifted to a quiet sky. Bills company band blared out a stirring, silvery cataract of music — the Gone Away of a bride and groom! Love was there. The sun, golden and splendid like pale champagne —was there. Bills boys were there — their swords a glittering trellis overhead — bright points striking fire as they touched in the sun."
- What Beautiful Eyes!: The heroine - so much so that Brinkley seems to have forgotten to give her a name besides Golden Eyes.
- Wedding Finale: The penultimate installment covers the joyous wedding of Golden Eyes and Bill as the war ends.
- You Must Be Cold: When Bill rescues Golden Eyes from the German camp, she's wearing a flimsy evening gown and nothing more. As he carries her out of the trenches, the text notes that he's tied his "blouse" about her shoulders to keep her warm.