Friday, April 13, 2007


The genre of "Romance" in comic books once comprised a huge portion of the total number of comic books printed and sold in the United States.
Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, co-creators of CAPTAIN AMERICA, BOY'S RANCH, BULLSEYE, MANHUNTER, and one incarnation of THE SANDMAN, were largely respomsible for the development and success of comic books with romance themes.
Their titles, published through Prize Comics, including YOUNG ROMANCE and YOUNG LOVE, broke new ground in comic books, with very sophisticated writing, sometimes ina "campy" vein, and featured powerful drawing by Simon & Kirby themselves, plus other cartoonists like John Prentice, Leonard Starr, and Bill Draut. Prentice succeeded Alex Raymond, the original illustrator of FLASH GORDON on the syndicated newspaper detective strip RIP KIRBY; Leonard Starr was later famous for his beautiful and realistic drawing in the newspaper strip ON STAGE and his more "cartoony" drawing in ANNIE.
In any case, the stories "produced by Simon & Kirby", and their various shop cartoonists and writers and letterers, were some of the most stylish, best written, and most imitated around, but few romance comic books were as good as those from the "S&K shop".
The great cartoonist Alex Toth drew some exquisite romance comic books for Standard Comics, and even Vince Colletta, later a much maligned inker of work drawn by Jack Kirby, produced some beautiful romance stories, as did Matt Baker and Jay Scott Pike, but romance comic books virtually ceased to exist during the early 1970's, losing a huge number of female, as well as a smaller number of male readers.
What was the reason for this sharp change in publishing, after thousands of romance comic book pages were drawn and published during the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's?
Some say it was the rise of "soap operas" on television, that medium also being likely responsible for the decline of comic book sales in general.
There has been a bit of attention paid to romance comic books with mew titles centering on the theme just recently, a collection of the Simon & Kirby romance comics in the 1980's, and also new printings of old romance comic books with new, parodying captions and dialogue, but it seems that much of the romance has gone out of comic books.


Ramon said...

Personally, I don't really think that romance comics faded away. Instead, they were incorporated into the prevailing genre, superheroes. That, coupled with declining sales all-round, killed the romance comic.
After decades of having a large market share, they gradually dwindled, until only Charlton was publishing any amount of romance titles, into the mid and late 1970s.
But there is still a market for them, judging by the popularity of the manga strips for girls and young women.

Dan McFan said...

Vinnie Colletta was a standout artist at Standard comics before Goodman grabbed him to draw for Atlas Comics. Goodman may have been a dummy but he certainly knew talent as is evidenced by his stable of illustrators including Colletta, Kirby, Buscema, etc.

Dan McFan said...

Vince Colletta was one of Standard's best illustrators before Goodman stole him to draw for Timely-Atlas. Goodman may not have been much of a businessman but he sure knew talent as evidenced by his stable of artists that included Colletta, Kirby, Buscema, etc.