Romance comics is a comics genre depicting strong and close romantic love and its attendant complications such as jealousy, marriage, divorce, betrayal, and heartache. The term is generally associated with an American comic books genre published through the first three decades of the Cold War (1947–1977). Romance comics of the period typically featured dramatic scripts about the love lives of older high school teens and young adults, with accompanying artwork depicting an urban or rural America contemporaneous with publication.
The origins of romance comics lie in the years immediately following World War II when adult comics readership increased and superheroes were dismissed as passé. Influenced by the pulps, radio soap operas, newspaper comic strips such as Mary Worth, and adult confession magazines, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created the flagship romance comic book Young Romance and launched it in 1947 to resounding success. By the early 1950s, dozens of romance titles from major comics publishers were on the newsstands and drug store racks. Young Romance, Young Love and their imitators differed from the earlier teen humor comics in that they aspired to realism, using first-person narration to create the illusion of verisimilitude, a changing cast of characters in self-contained stories, and heroines in their late teens or early twenties who were closer to the target audience in age than teen humor characters.
With the implementation of the Comics Code in 1954, romance comics publishers self-censored any material that might be interpreted as controversial and opted to play it safe with stories focusing on traditional patriarchal concepts of female behavior, gender roles, love, sex, and marriage. The genre fell into decline and disrepute during the sexual revolution, and the genre's Golden Age came to an end when Young Romance and its companion Simon and Kirby title Young Love ceased publication in 1975 and 1977, respectively.
|This topic covers comics that fall under the romance genre.|
Fox Feature Syndicate
Jay Scott Pike
As World War II ended the popularity of the superhero comics diminished, and in an effort to retain readers comic publishers began diversifying more than ever into such genres as war, Western, science fiction, crime, horror and romance comics. The genre took its immediate inspiration from the romance pulps; confession magazines such as True Story; radio soap operas, and newspaper comic strips that focused on love, domestic strife, and heartache, such as Rex Morgan, M.D. and Mary Worth. Dating, love triangles, jealousy and other romance-related themes had been a part of teen humor comics (which emerged in the early 1940s) — featuring characters such as Archie, Reggie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica, and the kids at Riverdale High School — before the romance genre swept newsstands.
Aside from the one-time publication of Mary Worth comic-strip reprints, romance as a comic-book genre was the brainchild of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, two comics artists known for their superheroes, such as Captain America, and their kid gangs, such as the Young Allies. Simon was serving in the United States Coast Guard when he got the idea for romance comics: "I noticed there were so many adults, the officers and men, the people in the town, reading kid comic books. I felt sure there should be an adult comic book." Simon developed the idea with sample covers and title pages and called his production Young Romance, the "Adult Comic Book". Simon later noted he chose the love genre because "it was about the only thing that hadn't been done."
After the service, Simon teamed-up with former partner Kirby, and the two developed a first-issue mock-up of Young Romance. Bill Draut and other artists participated, with Simon and Kirby producing the scripts because "we couldn't afford writers." Rather than the dramatic comic strips, Simon took his inspiration from the darker-toned confession magazines such as True Story from Macfadden Publications.
The finished book was delivered to Crestwood Publications' general manager Maurice Rosenfeld. Crestwood owners Mike Bleir and Teddy Epstein were enthusiastic and worked out a 50% arrangement with the creators. Profit sharing was unusual at the time, and Kirby later noted he and his partner were, in fact, the first to receive percentages.
The first issue of Young Romance was cover-dated September–October 1947, and beneath the title bore the tagline "Designed For The More ADULT Readers of Comics". The title sold 92% of its print run. With the third issue, Crestwood increased the print run to triple the initial number of copies. Circulation jumped to 1,000,000 copies s month. Initially published bimonthly, Young Romance quickly became a monthly and generated the spin-off, Young Love — together the two sold two million copies a month. Kirby noted the books "made millions." The two titles were later joined by Young Brides and In Love, the latter "featuring full-length romance stories".
Fawcett Publications followed with Sweethearts (the first monthly title) in October 1948. Fawcett also published three issues of Negro Romance, which was notable for its eschewing of African-American stereotypes, telling stories interchangeable with those told about white characters.
By 1950, more than 150 romance titles were on the newsstands from Quality Comics, Avon, Lev Gleason Publications, and DC Comics. The DC Comics romance line was overseen by Jack Miller, who also wrote many stories. Fox Feature Syndicate published over two dozen love comics with 17 featuring "My" in the title—My Desire, My Secret, My Secret Affair, et al.
Charlton Comics published a wide line of romance titles, particularly after 1953 when it acquired the Fawcett Comics line, which included Sweethearts, Romantic Secrets, and Romantic Story. Sweethearts was the comics world's first monthly romance title (debuting in 1948), and Charlton continued publishing it until 1973.
Artists working romance comics during the period included Matt Baker, Frank Frazetta, Everett Kinstler, Jay Scott Pike, John Romita, Sr., Leonard Starr, Alex Toth, and Wally Wood. Marie Severin once was given the job at Marvel of updating the clothing from old 1960s romance comic stories for publication in the 1970s.
Romance comics sold well, and affected the sales of both superhero comics and confession magazines. The publisher of True Story admitted that magazines sales were being hurt by the upstart romance comics. The August 22, 1949, issue of Time reported that love comics were "outselling all others, even the blood and thunder variety ... For pulp magazines the moral was even clearer: no matter how low their standards for fiction, the comics could find lower ones."
By 1954, parents, school teachers, clergymen, and others taking an interest in the welfare of children, believed comic books were a significant contributor to the epidemic of juvenile delinquency sweeping America. While romance comics did not bear the contempt and scrutiny heaped upon crime comics and horror comics, the genre did provoke comment from a psychiatrist, Dr. Fredric Wertham. In his book, Seduction of the Innocent, Wertham deplored not only the "mushiness" of the romance comics, but their "social hypocrisy", "false sentiments", "cheapness", and "titillation". He claimed the genre gave female readers a false image of love and feelings of physical inferiority.
Following the implementation of the Comics Code in 1954, publishers of romance comics self-censored the content of their publications, making the stories bland and innocent with the emphasis on traditional patriarchial concepts of women's behavior, gender roles, domesticity, and marriage. When the sexual revolution questioned the values promoted in romance comics, along with the decline in comics in general, romance comics began their slow fade. DC Comics, Marvel Comics and Charlton Comics carried a few romance titles into the middle 1970s, but the genre never regained the level of popularity it once enjoyed. The heyday of romance comics came to an end with the last issues of Young Romance and Young Love in the middle 1970s.
Charlton and DC artist and editor Dick Giordano stated in 2005:
[G]irls simply outgrew romance comics ... [The content was] too tame for the more sophisticated, sexually liberated, women's libbers [who] were able to see nudity, strong sexual content, and life the way it really was in other media. Hand-holding and pining after the cute boy on the football team just didn't do it anymore, and the Comics Code wouldn't pass anything that truly resembled real-life relationships."
Decades later, romance-themed comics made a modest resurgence with Arrow Publications' "My Romance Stories", Dark Horse Comics' manga-style adaptations of Harlequin novels, and long-running serials such as Strangers in Paradise — described by one reviewer as an attempt "to single-handedly update an entire genre with a new, skewed look at relationships and friendships."
Romance comics were a product of the postwar years in America and bolstered the Cold War era's ideology regarding the American way of life. Central to this ideology was the perception of the American middle-class family as the symbol of affluence, consumption, and the spiritual fulfillment promised by the American way of life. Girls of the Cold War era were encouraged to grow up early and assume the roles of loving wives, concerned mothers, and happy homemakers. Female promiscuity, career ambition, and independence degraded the American ideal and were vilified.
The basic formula for the romance comic story was established in Simon and Kirby's Young Romance of 1947. Other scriptwriters, artists, and publishers tweaked the formula from time to time for a bit of variety. Stories were overwhelmingly written by men from the male perspective, and were narrated by fictional female protagonists who described the dangers of female independence and touted the virtues of domesticity.
Women were depicted as incomplete without a male, but the genre discouraged the aggressive pursuit of men or any behaviors that smacked of promiscuity. In one story, the female protagonist kisses a boy in public and is thereafter labelled a "manchaser" to be avoided by decent boys. An advice page in one issue blamed female public behavior, flirting, and flashy dress for attracting the wrong sort of boys. Female readers were advised to maintain a passive gender role, or romance, marriage, and happiness could be kissed good-bye.
In romance comics, domestic stability was made obviously preferable to passion and thrills. Women who sought exciting outlets were depicted as suffering many disappointments before settling down (finally) to quiet home lives. In "Back Door Love", the heroine learns that the man she is infatuated with is a "rat". She degrades herself to be with him, but comes to her senses and eventually marries an unexciting man who provides her with stability. In "I Ran Away with a Truck Driver", the tale's small town heroine runs off with a handsome truck driver who promises her thrills. After being robbed and abandoned in Chicago, she returns home, chastened and wiser, to share the company of a decent local boy.
Careers were discouraged. Working women were depicted as unhappy and unfulfilled because careers complicated relationships and limited chances for marriage. In one story, a female advertising executive makes it clear to her boyfriend her career comes first. After he leaves her in disgust, she realizes she does love him and drops her career to become a happy wife and mother. Romance comics made it clear that men were not attracted to working women, were bored with intelligent women, and preferred domestic homebodies.
Men, on the other hand, were depicted as naturally independent and women were expected to accommodate such men even if things appeared a bit suspicious. In one story, a wife suspects her husband of infidelity and leaves him only to discover later she was wrong (according to him). She returns to her husband and draws the conclusion that "love means faith in the face of any evidence, no matter how overwhelming".
As real world young men went off to the Korean War, romance comics emphasized the importance of women waiting patiently, unflinchingly, and chastely for their return. In one war-colored tale, a woman who loves to social dance remains faithful to her boyfriend and marries him even though he loses a leg in the war. The two will never dance together again, but it is clear that her sacrifice is as patriotic as that of her lover.
Romance comics plots were typically formulaic with Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights a seeming inspiration. Many stories of the genre featured a young heroine torn between two suitors: one, a wild Heathcliff type who promised thrills and threatened heartbreak, and the other, a stolid but dull Edgar Linton type who oozed respectability, security, and social acceptance. Adolescent girls could harmlessly indulge their bad boy fantasies in such stories but, in truth, romance comics tried to be democratic in their depiction of bad boys, giving them a softer side and not depicting them as irredeemably bad. Some plots depicted young women challenging social conventions and the patriarchal authority of fathers and boyfriends. Parental concern found expression in romance comics for what were considered dangerous youth cultural artifacts like rock and roll. In "There's No Love in Rock and Roll" (1956), a defiant teen dates a rock and roll-loving boy but drops him for one who likes traditional adult music—much to her parents' relief. Teen rebellion stories such as "I Joined a Teen-Age Sex Club!", "Thrill-Seekers' Weekend", and "My Mother Was My Rival" were dismissed as "girls' stuff" at a time when crime, horror, and other violent comics were being regarded with suspicion by those concerned with juvenile delinquency and the welfare of the young.
|A Date with Judy||DC||79||1947–1960||Combined romance with humor|
|Falling in Love||DC||143||1955–1973|
|First Love Illustrated||Harvey||90||1949–1963||Harvey's only notable romance comic|
|Girls' Love Stories||DC||180||1949–1973|
|146||1949–1972||Acquired from Quality in 1957|
|I Love You||Charlton||124||1955-1980|
Confessions of the Lovelorn
|Millie the Model||Marvel||207||1945-1973||Ostensibly a humor title; only a true romance comic from 1963–1967|
|My Date Comics||Hillman||4||1947-1948||Simon & Kirby; first humor-romance comic|
|My Life True Stories in Pictures||Fox||12||1948-1950||Fox's longest-running romance comic — the only one of the company's 17 romance series with the word "My" in the title to last more than 8 issues|
|Patsy Walker||Marvel||124||1945-1965||Ostensibly a humor title; only a true romance comic in 1964–1965|
My Romantic Adventures
|87||1949–1964||Acquired from Fawcett in 1953|
|130||1949–1973||Acquired from Fawcett in 1954|
|Secret Hearts||DC||153||1949–1971||Issue #83 was borrowed by Roy Lichtenstein for the Drowning Girl painting|
|Strangers in Paradise||Abstract Studio||106||1994-2007|
|Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane||DC||137||1958–1974||Ditched the romance angle by c. 1970; eventually merged into The Superman Family|
|170||1948-1973||First monthly romance comic; acquired from Fawcett in 1954|
|Teen-Age Romances||St. John||45||1949-1955|
|199||1947–1977||Acquired from Crestwood in 1963|
|208||1947–1975||Generally considered the first romance comic, created by Simon & Kirby. Acquired from Crestwood in 1963|
Comics historian John Benson collected and analyzed St. John Publications' romance comics in Romance Without Tears (Fantagraphics, 2003), focusing on the elusive comics scripter Dana Dutch, and the companion volume Confessions, Romances, Secrets and Temptations: Archer St. John and the St. John Romance Comics (Fantagraphics, 2007). To research the 1950s era of romance comics, Benson interviewed Ric Estrada, Joe Kubert and Leonard Starr, plus several St. John staffers, including editor Irwin Stein, production artist Warren Kremer and editorial assistant Nadine King.
In 2011, an anthology Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics, edited by Michael Barson, was published by Harper Design. In 2012, many of Simon and Kirby's romance comics were reprinted by Fantagraphics in a collection entitled Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's 1940s-'50s Romance Comics, edited by Michel Gagné.
Archie's Holiday Fun Digest was an annual holiday-themed comics collection for Archie Comics, issued as part of the Archie Digest Library.
The book revolves around the Christmas season and draws on typical situations of that time of year, from what to buy for everyone, snow removal, parties, caroling and such. Usually there is some money problems like the gang not having enough money for all of their gifts or Betty teaching Veronica the real reason of the season.
There are some religious stories as well such as Betty and Veronica attending church or creating religious cards for their friends.
Usually at the end of the digest are various pin up pages with various messages that relate to the season such as "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"
After 2007, the 12th annual issue the title didn't return the following year for unknown reasons. Instead a holiday themed issue of the long running Archie Digest title has been printed.Archie's Pals 'n' Gals
Archie's Pals 'n' Gals was an ongoing comic book series published by Archie Comics featuring Archie and his friends. It originally ran from 1952 to 1991. The title showcased other members of the Archie gang, such as Betty and Veronica, Jughead and Reggie. It was later brought back in the form of a digest magazine in 1992.Archie Americana Series
The Archie Americana Series is a series of comic book trade paperbacks, published by Archie Comics from the early 1990s to the present. The series attempts to present a history of Archie comics, with each book featuring significant stories from a specific decade, and featuring introductions by famous writers and celebrities. The series initially covered the entire span between the 1940s and the 1980s with stories showcasing some of the more significant stories from those decades. Archie Comics has printed "book 2" for those decades as well as two books covering the 1990s.Archie and Me
Archie and Me was a comic book title published by Archie comics from 1964 to 1987. Most issues and covers focused on the interaction of Archie Andrews and the school principal, Mr. Weatherbee. This suggests that Mr. Weatherbee is the "Me" mentioned in the title, whereas the "Me" in Reggie and Me and Betty and Me appeared to refer to Archie Andrews himself.Archie at Riverdale High
Archie at Riverdale High was a comic book title published by Archie Comics from August 1972 to February 1987, focusing on the Archie gang's day to day exploits at Riverdale High School.
Archie at Riverdale High differed from most Archie Series comic books in the following ways:
The cover of the book displayed a teaser for one of the stories inside, complete with a "Don't miss..." description. For most Archie comics of the time, the cover had a gag bearing little connection to the inside material.
At least one of the stories—usually the cover story—had a more serious tone than the usual fare; it either taught a moral lesson, or portrayed the gang being thrown into a dangerous (sometimes life-or-death) situation.
At least one of the stories—including the aforementioned "serious" one—was often but not always 10 pages long, rather than the usual five or six pages. Some of the issues had 2 10-page stories, rather than the usual 4 5-page sequences.The comic Life with Archie had a similar format.Crazy for Daisy
Crazy for Daisy was a British comic strip published in the magazine The Beano. It was created and drawn by Nick Brennan and made its debut in issue 2865, dated 14 June 1997. It was part of an ongoing selection of six comic strips that were to be voted into the comic by readers. This strip (along with Tim Traveller) was the winner, beating Camp Cosmos, Have a Go Jo, Sydd and Trash Can Ally.Jughead (comic book)
Jughead (also known as Archie's Pal Jughead) is an ongoing comic book series featuring the Archie Comics character of the same name. The character first appeared in Pep Comics #22 (cover dated December 1941). Jughead proved to be popular enough to warrant his own self-titled ongoing comic book series which began publication in January 1949.Laugh Comics
Laugh Comics was a comic book produced by Archie Comics in two volumes, from 1946 to 1987 and 1987 to 1991. The title showcased some of the early appearances of the "Archie gang." Beginning with issue #145, Josie began making semi-regular appearances (some of her earliest), with art by Dan DeCarlo.List of romance comics
Starting in the late 1940s, several American comic book publishers sought out older audiences by creating a new genre: romance comics. Although the genre had waned in popularity by the 1970s, romance comics continue to be produced in the 2000s.Long Sam
Long Sam is an American comic strip created by Al Capp, writer-artist of Li'l Abner, and illustrated by Bob Lubbers. It was syndicated by United Feature Syndicate from 1954 to 1962. The strip was initially written by Capp, who soon turned the duties over to his brother, Elliot Caplin. Lubbers eventually assumed the writing duties himself in the strip's final phase.Millie the Model
Millie the Model was Marvel Comics' longest-running humor title, first published by the company's 1940s predecessor, Timely Comics, and continuing through its 1950s forerunner, Atlas Comics, to 1970s Marvel.My Date Comics
My Date Comics was a short lived series of comics that ran from July 1947 to January 1948.
The title was the first in the "romance humor" genre. It was a collaboration between Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
They mainly concerned Swifty Chase, a lovestruck athlete who competed with rival Snubby Skeemer for the hand of Sunny Daye.
The most colourful character was House-Date Harry, a lanky teen who preferred to entertain his dates in their homes and not go out.Night Nurse (comics)
Night Nurse is a Marvel Comics comic book series published in the early 1970s, as well as the alter ego later taken on by one of its characters, Linda Carter. Carter was one of three central characters who first appeared in Night Nurse #1 (cover-dated Nov. 1972), though she was previously the lead of another Marvel series, Linda Carter, Student Nurse, published in 1961. Carter later adopted the name "Night Nurse" for herself, and in this incarnation, first appeared in Daredevil #58 (May 2004), as a medical professional specializing in helping injured superheroes.School Belle
School Belle was a British comics series, originally published in the first issue of the British comics magazine School Fun on 15 October 1983 until the magazine merged with Buster on 2 June 1984. The strip continued to run in "Buster" until the magazine ceased publication in 2000. The series was written by Keith Reynolds and drawn by Tom Paterson.Tales from Riverdale
Tales from Riverdale was a comic digest magazine by Archie Comics Publications, first printed in 2005. The format changed from the old books, with Tales from Riverdale having one multi-part feature story, and the rest reprints or new stories.Trouble (comics)
Trouble is a five-issue romance comic book limited series published in 2003 by Marvel Comics as a part of its mature Epic Comics imprint. Written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Terry and Rachel Dodson, the series deals with teen pregnancy. The basic concept was created by Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada.
Trouble was considered by Marvel's editorial group as the possible origin of Spider-Man. It was also meant to re-popularize romance comics (which were very popular in the 1950s, selling millions of copies), but failed.
A trade paperback collecting the five issues was originally scheduled to be published on 18 February 2004, but canceled when Epic was shut down after Bill Jemas, who had been a driving force behind the imprint, resigned as president of Marvel Comics. A hardcover collection was published by Marvel on June 1, 2011.Venus (comic book)
Venus is an American romance comic book published by Timely Comics in the United States. Running for 19 issues from 1948 until 1952 it transformed over its run from its romance led stories to finish as a science fiction and horror anthology. It is noted for introducing the Marvel character Venus and an early incarnation of Loki who would later become the nemesis of Marvel character Thor. The final three issues were published through Atlas Comics.Young Love (comics)
Young Love was one of the earliest romance comics titles, published by Crestwood/Prize, and later sold to DC Comics.Young Romance
Young Romance is a romantic comic book series created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for the Crestwood Publications imprint Prize Comics in 1947. Generally considered the first romance comic, the series ran for 124 consecutive issues under Prize imprint, and a further 84 (issues #125-208) published by DC Comics after Crestwood stopped producing comics.