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Love on the Racks: A History of American Romance Comics Hardcover – April 9, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
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 ›
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.
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 ›