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Michelle Nolan has been a newspaper and magazine feature writer for more than 40 years, working with such periodicals as Comics Buyer's Guide and Comic Book Marketplace. She lives in Bellingham, Washington.
Any comic fans out there that remember romance comics?
In writing my book on Joe Sinnott, I learned an amazing fact about the romance comic field. Outstanding artists like Jack Kirby, John Romita, Jim Steranko, Joe Sinnott, Vinnie Colletta, and Joe Simon worked on these unusual books. According to Joe Sinnot and other artists, it's really hard to draw a kiss!
Michelle Nolan is well suited to write this book on the history of romance comics. Her comic book research and collecting over 40 years is well documented. Her published work in CBM and Comic Buyers Guide is well regarded in the industry. Unlike the snippets in CBG (Krause Publications), Michelle goes whole hog, for the long kiss, the meaningful embrace....
And yes, the man and woman do get married, or split up, or something like that. The romance genre was packed with cliche storylines, cliche dialogue, and insipid, uninspired artwork. Other than that, it was moderately successful for over 30 years, breaking into the industry in 1947 (just before westerns), on the heels of successful pulp magazines. Titles like `Love Story Magazine' appeared on shelves (and ran 1158 issues!) Then inspired countless other magazines. The cycle from pulp, to comic book, to paperback was made complete with Harlequin Romances entering the field as well as well known entities like Ace.
Michelle Nolan has done her homework. Her research into the titles, stories, artists, and themes is impeccable. On a couple of occasions, her other published work has slipped, but this gets top notch marks. I loved the discussions on the individual stories, publishers, and artists for the genre. Goodness, even the short synopsis sound sappy!Read more ›
This is a cool book that finally gets down to the nitty gritty of the Vintage Love Comic Industry! The authoress has thoroughly well researched the Vamps, the Smoothtalkers, the Hussies, the Cards, and the Boys & Girls Next Door, to the last tiny scholarly detail and packed it all into one gorgeous reference source. Lots of juicy gossip and heart breaking stories about every dreamy love-triangle in the four-color world of vintage love comics, from the artists, the inkers, the writers, editors, publishers, and characters in all the love comics produced by all of the many American publishing houses. It's finally all in one affordable publication. The wild beast of love comic checklistlessness has finally been tamed! - David Saunders May 22, 2008
Romance was once the dominant genre in American comic books. Unfortunately, most histories of the comic book seldom touch on the topic, other than a token comment that comics legends Joe Simon and Jack Kirby pioneered the form with Young Romance 1 in 1947. Love on the Racks finally fills in the missing pieces with the whole story of the genre's beginnings through its end.
Michelle Nolan is a respected comic book historian who has documented dozens of obscure comics for Comic Book Marketplace and Comics Buyer's Guide. There is probably no one more qualified to write the history of American romance comics, and the book serves well as a history of the genre. Nolan has an engaging style that keeps the book moving quickly, and she picks out notable stories for further description, which keeps the book from being too dry a recitation of publication dates and name changes. However, the book could have used a more thorough editing job. It appears to be in part derived from a number of her previously published columns, and those columns were not combined as seamlessly as one would hope. This does lead to some problems in the book's flow, as redundancies or backtracking distracts from the overall narrative. I would also have appreciated more insight from those who worked on the last days of the Romance comic, some of whom should have been relatively easy to contact via the internet, like Tony Isabella, one of the last editors of DC's Young Love, the last major romance title. In all, though, it's well worth the money to anyone interested in comic book publishing history and especially in the days when love conquered all.
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Michelle Nolan is well-known in comics fandom for her work on the history of comic books. This book will almost certainly stand the test of time as the definitive account of romance comics. Given that no new romance comics have been published for more than 35 years and given that not all that many comic book collectors collect romance books, it seems unlikely that anyone will again attempt to write this extensively on the genre.
Romance comics arose fairly suddenly in the late 1940s, peaked in popularity in the early 1950s, and then limped along until they finally fizzled out in the late 1970s. Along with teen humor comics, such as Archie, romance books were the main way in which comic publishers attempted to appeal to preteen and teenage girls.
Nolan has done a great deal of research and it shows in her detailed account of each of the major romance publishers. For a fan of the genre, the detail is a plus and the book will be very useful as a reference work. For the casual reader interested in the history of comics, however, the level of detail is likely to be too much. At times, the list of book titles becomes a bit tedious and there are some pretty dry stretches in her discussion. In addition, the book has relatively little to say about Archer St John, his publishing house, and his star artist Matt Baker. Because Baker has become the focus of a lot of current fan interest, having a longer discussion of him would have been a plus. Unfortunately, Baker died in 1957 while still in his thirties and not a great deal is known about him, so Nolan may have done her best.
Overall, then, for hard-core fans of romance comics, I would give the book five stars. For readers interested in the history of comic book publishing, I would give the book four stars.Read more ›