Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Vintage Romance!

Jack Kirby's influence on comics is indisputable. The larger public might still be mostly ignorant that most of the superhero movies flowing from Marvel are the product of his mighty imagination, but no comics fan should be so confused. That said, one aspect of Kirby's legacy which is perhaps overlooked is what he and longtime partner Joe Simon created in the waning days of the Golden Age, a whole new genre which would go on during the next decade to become a major revenue generator for the comics industry. That genre was Romance!

When Young Romance hit the stands it brought a new kind of tale to the four-color racks, stories more rooted in humdrum reality than the outlandish yarns of superheroes which had dominated the war years, this was storytelling which plumbed the depths of a young woman's heart and cared little for the broader universe. Soap opera, a staple of radio and soon to become the core of television found its own form in comics, written and drawn by seasoned pros who had learned their craft on the wild adventures of costumed maniacs. These stories now are quaint reminders of a time when sex was all but forbidden in the public square and love and marriage between a man and woman formed the rock on which society itself was rooted.

The stories were told often from the perspective of young girls, agog with some handsome man or suffering from some slight of attention. There were girls who were pure of heart, girls who were confused, and girls who all but wanton if not for the limits imposed by common perceptions of common decency. Men were handsome and virile but often clueless or perhaps they were cold or perhaps they were nice, but always they were the singular focus. That focus proved highly lucrative as these comics sold and sold well.

The collection Young Romance - The Best of Simon and Kirby's Romance Comics from Fantagraphics gathered up a smattering of these comics in which Simon and Kirby developed and refined this formula with colorful stories which hit many of the same notes as their crime dramas, good overcomes  evil, but within  a more domestic and sometimes downright quaint frame.  The energy so often unleashed in spades in the superhero and war and crime stories is muted here, but nonetheless these pages are far from static.

Apparently there is a second volume soon to be released which will focus on the early years of the romance phenomenon.

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