It was the beginning of the millennium when I learned that romance comic books existed. I spent my formative years reading any comic I could get my hands on, but I guess I was just out of the loop on this particular genre. Probably because I completely avoided anything I perceived as girly, and baby, these things are pretty damn feminine.
While the never-ending fight between Veronica and Betty over Archie always pushed my feminist buttons (I MEAN REALLY? Do they not see the completely adorable and loveable Jughead sitting right there?!? They are gonna choose to fight over Archie instead? Laaaaame!), my first look at romance comics really sent me over the edge. Written mostly for teenage girls, they started off, just as super hero comics did for boys, indoctrinating the youth into the social mores of the adult world. I’m not a huge fan of early romance comics, my favorites are from the late 60’s through the 70’s. The radical shift in gender roles is played out SO interestingly in these stories. Once I read one comic from the 70’s I was hooked. I love the fashion, the lingo, the ads, the advice columns, and the stories. The stories are so indicative of a culture and an industry trying to take a step forward, catering to that young women who is not as stodgy as those old folks, but also knowing that she gets her allowance from her parents, and they can’t push the issues tooooo far.
I can’t wait to share some of my favorites with you! This first one was published in “Just Married” Comics and is from issue number 55 which was published in 1967. The piece is about Cheryl & Andrew, and is one of those stories that is a big lead up to a fizzled out ending. I included the last three panels to show you how the comic REALLY pulled its punch at the last second.
In the very last panel, Cheryl asks, “If you ever have this problem, girls… You know what not to do. No?” And really, NO we do not. The problem isn’t really resolved, and this gross guy she is married to is still just as gross whether she is manipulating him or not. You have to trust me when I tell you though, that this is a huge departure from the older romance comic books where two guys would just fight over a girl, or some weird misunderstanding has occurred to cause conflict. This shit is real y’all! Andrew is really a jerk, and for most of the story Cheryl is trying to let him know he is being so. She didn’t get a totally understandable resolution, but at least she stood up for herself. What are your thoughts?