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Romance Without Tears: 50's Love Comics with a Twist
     

Romance Without Tears: 50's Love Comics with a Twist

by John Benson (Editor), John Benson (Editor)
 
A first-time collection of the best romance comics of the 1950s.Four genres dominated American comic books in the 1940s and '50s: superheroes, funny animals, horror, and... romance. This revisionist collection of romance comics stories from the '50s challenges the cliché of the "tear-stained face" that later dominated the genre and became widely known and

Overview

A first-time collection of the best romance comics of the 1950s.Four genres dominated American comic books in the 1940s and '50s: superheroes, funny animals, horror, and... romance. This revisionist collection of romance comics stories from the '50s challenges the cliché of the "tear-stained face" that later dominated the genre and became widely known and vilified as a tiresome icon of moral uplift. These bright, naturalistic tales (originally published by Archer St. John and written by unrecognized comics master Dana Dutch) are about high school girls who may be inexperienced but definitely have minds of their own: they choose their guys, not the other way around, and they use their heads in dealing with life's difficulties rather than waiting to be saved by some cardboard Romeo. They make all kinds of mistakes, learn from them, and hardly ever suffer. What kind of mistakes? Well, there's going out with a prude or a conceited jerk, of course. But also, improbably enough: Allowing themselves to be picked-up by strangers in a neighboring town; leading guys on with heavy petting; making nervous boyfriends check into a room as man and wife, as a gag after the car breaks down; lying to the folks and going on a "thrill" weekend in the big city; eloping with a couple of rough guys they met at a riverfront café and finding out after the marriage was consummated that it was all a sham... Well, okay, in that last case they did suffer, but it was a rare exception. Many of these stories are illustrated by Matt Baker, who achieved fame for his work on Phantom Lady and other sexy female characters in the '40s and '50s. His work for St. John is less known yet the most sophisticated and mature of his career. Baker was a superb illustrator and a first-rate draftsman with a slick, urbane approach to contemporary material. In addition to the stories themselves, the book includes also 16 pages of Baker's luscious full-color covers. Romance Without Tears is edited by comics historian John Benson, who also contributes an introductory essay.


About the Author:
: John Benson is one of the founders of what is known today as comic book fandom, having published one of the very first fanzines about comics in the 1950s, when he was a teenager. He lives in New York with his wife.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
This is the kind of unusual, well-researched book readers have come to expect from Fantagraphics: a collection of romance comics from the 1950s that, rather than appealing to kitsch, offers a kink in the usual formula. These comics empower, rather than infantilize, women. Written by the somewhat mysterious Dana Dutch, a man mostly remembered as middle-aged and Irish, these comics were published by the equally unusual Archer St. John, who gave his talent a wide berth in the heady, fly-by-night days of 1950s publishing. Completing this unusual group is Matt Baker, one of the few African-American artists in comic books at the time, renowned for his voluptuous (but not exploitative) drawings of women. Baker's biography, like Dutch's, is cloudy at best no one seems to know much about them. This is almost fitting for a couple of mainstream talents at odds with the very genre they excelled in. The normal romance comics of the time castigated strength, taught subservience and generally reinforced the contemporary stereotypes of good girls and bad girls. Dutch's stories always managed to subvert that norm with subtlety and wit. Rather than being dull and helpless protagonists, his women were active, feisty and independent. With bold writing and smooth, graceful artwork, these tales are fun and visually compelling stories not just relics of the past, but good comics that hold up. The combination of Dutch and Baker might best be compared to the films of Douglas Sirk: rich, gorgeous but subversive takes on a familiar genre. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781560975588
Publisher:
Fantagraphics Books
Publication date:
12/19/2003
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
7.70(w) x 10.40(h) x 0.40(d)

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