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 Dana DutchSee more books from this Author
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.| Read Full Review of Romance Without Tears