Now boys, don't fret. It's okay to collect romance comics.
In the post-war period and into the 1950s, they literally
sold millions of copies per issue. The genre, first drawn by
artistic team of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, also showcased many
other significant artists, including 1960s and 70s genius
But also just as important, they are maintaining their value
- and collectability - in the comics market. Granted, nothing
in the romance section brings in the dollars today like an Amazing
Fantasy 15, the first Spider-Man, but I challenge anyone to find
a Night Nurse 4 in high grade with a low price tag.
There are a few problems about romance comics, though. They
were so well read that finding a mint copy, especially from the
40s or 50s, could be an onerous task. And because
there were so many titles, be wary of the poorly drawn art and
poorly told stories.
Having the Overstreet Price Guide with you while scouring
romance books is a good way of separating the hot from the homely.
In the 1940s, the comics market weakened as the boys returned
home from fighting in Europe and Asia. Super-heroes were taking
a beating after the war. How could super powered He-Men possibly
settle for bank robbers and mad scientists after defeating the
Axis Powers? Besides, people were a little more sophisticated
and demanded storytelling in their comics.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, comic artists sought other subjects
- such as westerns, crime and sci-fi/horror - to put into the
four-colour funny papers. And if comics are the food of love,
scribble on, dear Jack and Joe.
The comics industry seemed to launch a thousand titles and
the story lines played to the morals of the day. Most of the
time. Stories dealt with heartbreak, conniving men or women trying
to steal hearts and, of course, good girls gone bad and of good
girls struggling to remain wholesome.
It was the powerhouse duo of Kirby and Simon - creators of
Captain America - that created the romance comic genre shortly
after the Second World War. They were working for McFadden Publications
when they made what is believed to be the first romance
comic, My Date, says comics writer Mark Evanier in his book,
Kirby, King of Comics.
There were four editions of My Date under the Hillman Publications
stamp. They were drawn in a humourous vein, but once it hit the
stands, the concept of romance comics shook an industry that
was on shaky ground and looking for new ideas.
Within months, S&K,
as Simon and Kirby are affectionately known in the comics biz,
sold Young Romance to Crestwood Publications Prize Comics.
It was the first real serious romance comic, a title that was
also ground breaking because the creative team kept 50 per cent
To emphasize the sophistication in story content, the subhead
on the Young Romance cover read, Designed for the more
ADULT Readers of Comics.
The first edition of Young Romance sold more the 90% of its
print run and soon reached a circulation of one million copies.
Let's be clear: Thats one million copies per month. If
success means anything, it means spin-offs and soon Prize and
S&K issued Young Love and the two titles hit two million
Of course, other comics houses responded. Marvel came
up with My Romance, while Fox Features responded with My Life.
The best title had to be E.C.s A Moon, a Girl a
Romance, which was spun out of Moon Girl Fights Crime, and prior
to that, simply Moon Girl.
By 1950, the newsstand was crowded with about 150 romance
comic titles. The romance genre outsold superheroes and the confession
magazines. The genre was also mixed with others, in particular,
westerns. E.C. published Saddle Romances, Superior had G.I. War
Brides and D.C. published Sinister House of Secret Love.
While S&K books are prizes among collectors, the most
sought-after artist of the genre is Matt Baker. His graceful
lines put the ooh in ooh la la.
But alas, all good things
The formula story - mostly written by men - was based on
the American ideal of a middle-class woman whose life was incomplete
without a man, that is, a husband. She almost always got her
man by the last panel.
With the 60s, womens perspectives changed and
so did the concepts of romance, family, and sex. Circulation
fell and romance comics more or less faded from the market by
Women turned away from the genre and the few remaining comic
companies refocused their attention to super-heroes, sci-fi,
swords and sorcery and horror.
Even Night Nurse Linda Carter was brought back as a
supporting character in a super-hero comic.
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti,
who started collecting comics when the going price was 12 cents
an issue and Peter Parker really was a teenager. He dabbled in
the comic convention circuit in the Toronto area for a while,
but stopped to concentrate on his career as a not-so-mild- mannered
crime reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped
he managed to record a little bit of history the past three decades.