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Confessions, Romances, Secrets, and Temptations: Archer St. John and the St. John Romance Comics Paperback – May 18, 2007

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One of the most popular comic-book genres half a century ago, romance comics have been largely ignored by recent comics scholarship. Benson, who has written seriously about comics for decades, aims to change that situation with this book on the romance titles published by St. John from 1947 to 1958, which were consistently better than their competitors. Their quality was a function of talented writers, artists, and editors, many of whom Benson interviewed, unfortunately not including key writer Dana Dutch, whose character-oriented stories downplayed glamour and moralizing in favor of verisimilitude and happy endings and set the approach for St. John's other scripters. Insightful critiques and a brief biography of company founder Archer St. John round out the volume. The pages reproduced from St. John's titles whet the desire to read the complete stories, which, fortunately, are available in a companion anthology, Romance without Tears (2003). Although this work's usefulness would be greater had Benson provided more context showing St. John's standing in the comics industry, it still offers invaluable guidance on a significant cultural phenomenon. Flagg, Gordon

About the Author

John Benson is a comics historian living in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics (May 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560977914
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560977919
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,966,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Hal Jordan VINE VOICE on December 31, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Romance comics are a neglected subfield of comic collecting. When modern comic collecting began in the 1960s, the focus was largely on super hero comics -- particularly Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and the other Marvel comics. There were also a significant number of Disney collectors -- with interest centered on the Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics written and drawn by Carl Barks. Smaller numbers of collectors were interested in Westerns or 1950s horror and science fiction comics. Almost nobody, though, collected romance comics.

The neglect of romance books in those days is unfortunate because if collectors had been interested, they could have preserved more copies of these books and they might have been able to interview some of the publishers, writers, and artists who have since passed away.

John Benson has helped remedy the lack of information on one particularly important publisher: Archer St. John. St. John had the great good fortune to employ probably Dana Dutch, who was probably the best writer of romance stores, and Matt Baker, who was certainly the finest romance artist -- and, to my mind, the finest comic book artist who ever lived. Unfortunately, by the time Benson began working on this book in the 1980s, St. John and Baker had passed away and Dutch couldn't be located, if he was still alive at the time. Still, Benson was able to locate other people who worked for St. John and was able to gather important information about the company.

This book is a quick read, at only 112 pages. It has many nicely reproduced black and white illustrations. The book's only drawback, to my mind, is that the structure seems backwards. After a brief two-page introduction, Benson reproduces interviews he conducted with 10 people connected with St. John.
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