Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Some Things to Think About

An upcoming issue of Back Issue magazine (published by the nice folks at TwoMorrows, who also publish the Jack Kirby Collector and Alter Ego, among others) is going to feature an article called "The Death of Romance (Comics)". The biggest thing you should know about this is that I didn't write the article. I have no clue who did, actually, but I'll still be buying it, and after reading it, I'll likely review it and give it my thumbs up or thumbs down.

I was thinking about the lack of minorities in comics the other day, and specifically in romance comics (but not exclusively). The thing is, while minorities are underrepresented in comics (everything from super-hero comics to sci-fi comics), I'm not so sure that comic fans are racially underrepresented. Go to a big city convention, and it's not as white as one would think (just as it isn't as male or overweight male). I know of a comic shop owner who has opened a couple of shops in areas that are racially mixed in Chicago, whose client base swings more toward non-white (black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) customers than white ones.

However, I think if (no, be positive, WHEN) romance comics come back full swing, they will have to deal with less of what was going on in the 50s-70s (you know, either suburban white couples or wealthy, urban couples, not a black or Asian or Mexican face to be found). Why? Because super-heroics don't have anything to do with real life. Yes, Spider-Man has money problems and Superman's married, but the whole thing is based in almost complete fantasy.

You can't have that with reality-based stories dealing with love and lust. You need to have real people (even if they're in fiction).


You know, you guys can comment if you want. I know there are a few of you who read this, and I'd like to hear your opinions, whether they're about romance comics or just my crazy ramblings.

And while you're commenting, click on some of those Google ads. Those things add up... 8 cents here, 12 cents there... next thing you know, I'm getting the wife a nice gift!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Wag That Tail!

Sorry for the long time in between posts. I started a new job today, and I had to spend a lot of time last week doing last-week-of-job things.


If you haven't read this article yet ("The Long Tail" by Chris Anderson), do so right away. If you have any interest at all about comics, specifically the comics industry, it's something that should be very telling about why the standard American comic book industry is dying and the manga industry is thriving.

To sum it up (if you decide not to read it, and if so, shame on you), industries do better when there is a greater selection, regardless of how few the lowest selling product sells. For example (and an example that Anderson uses), and iTunes sell a lot of the top 10 books and albums. A ton of them. But that's not where they make their money. They do so by selling a lot of different titles. While Amazon sells 2 million (a guess) copies of the latest Harry Potter book and counts their money for weeks doing so, they make MORE money selling the bottom 100,000 titles, titles that may sell only 1 or 2 or 3 copies a year.

A lot of comic book stores -- the majority I'd say -- are Short Tail establishments. They sell their copies of Spider-Man and X-Men and Identity Crisis and what not, but if a comic sells only a copy or two an issue, they'll often stop carrying it completely (in fact Diamond Comics, the industry's main distributor, is following suit). It's as if something doesn't make a lot of money, it's not worthwhile, when in fact, those comics and graphic novels that sell only a copy at a time (instead of handfulls) make you mucho dinero over the months and years.

The industry used to be Long Tail. In the 50s, when romance and crime and horror were kings, sales varied widely between the best selling and worst. But companies didn't give up very easily or quickly on low-selling titles, because they knew that there were enough people out there buying them, that a larger and more varied publishing output was good for the industry. Marvel/Atlas of the 50s is a perfect example. They published a lot of titles and they published everything. From romance to sci-fi to cartoon characters to teen humor. And while they weren't the most popular titles on the newsstands, they never felt the need to stop publishing comics. You can't say the same about Fawcett or Quality, both of whom routinely outsold Marvel titles.

Fast-forward 50 years, and the largest and most popular publisher in comics, Marvel, is now your classic Short Tail publisher. Super-heroes, super-heroes, and more super-heroes.

Contrast that with their main competitor, DC, who is a Long Tail kind of place. They publish Cartoon Network titles, Vertigo, Wildstorm, and super-heroes. And while titles like Fables and Y, the Last Man (both excellent, by the way) fall near the bottom of the top 100 (this most recent month, they're 90 and 96), I suspect they make DC a lot of money through their trade paperbacks.

(Same goes for other DC/Vertigo titles that weren't top sellers when they were published on a monthly basis: Sandman, Preacher, and 100 Bullets have done extremely well in the trade format, making many multiples of what they earned when coming out as periodicals.)

And manga (and I group manga as one entity, instead of by individual publishers, which probably isn't really the best thing to do, but, oh well) has an incredibly wide variety of genres out there. Action, sci-fi, humor, romance, etc. And while some likely sell many multiples of others, they're still published, because it's a good business idea. Because if you sell 100,000 copies of your best title and 150,000 copies total of your worst 10 titles, you're a) making the same amount of money and b) entertaining a much larger audience who may come back and buy more of your books.

DC needs to stretch its Tail and add some romance titles. And Marvel needs to grow one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

They Just Grow Up So Fast Nowadays

This is installment three of the "why romance comics vanished" tutorial (you can read the first two here and here), and this time, I want to talk about the "changing times" (when I say things like changing times, I feel really old).

The influence of the late 60s and its counter-culture has been both over- and under-stated. It's been overstated because the whole summer of love and the Haight/Ashbury scene was just that -- a summer. (It reminds me of the Old West; the era of cowboys and indians, which has been captured in countless movies and books and TV shows and comics, lasted for only a couple of years, but you'd never know it from all the stuff out there.)

So while those no-good hippies and their funny cigarettes had their height of popularity (or whatever you'd call it) in the summer of '67, they quickly faded (the Woodstock festival in '69 seemed to be a swan-song of sorts) and were replaced with whatever came next (what did come next? what's between hippies and punks/disco?).

But many of the things that people associated with them -- sexual freedom, drugs, etc. -- became more accepted. Pot wasn't just a hippie thing any more, and drug use in general moved more into the mainstream. (While I don't think that marijuana is a gateway to other harder drugs like cocaine and heroin, I do think that a sociological acceptance of marijuana made those other drugs more likely to be tried by your white-collar executive and become more popular.)

Same goes for more openess of sexuality. The Stonewall riots of '69, while probably didn't make the gay lifestyle more accepted, brought things to light and created a greater legal (if not social) equality. Sexual promiscuity lost much of its taboo. It was free love, man!

And kids and teenagers knew about this. Parents, no matter how hard they tried, couldn't hide their children from these perverts and druggies and booze hounds. It was mayhem!

All exaggeration aside, it's obvious that society had drastically changed, and a lot of things couldn't keep up. One of those was comics.

Now super-hero comics are one thing. While Spider-Man's best pal Harry Osborn dropped his fair share of acid and Green Arrow's ward Speedy had a problem with smack, for the most part drugs were not a big problem in the super-hero universes of Marvel and DC. They didn't have to, because those guys (even the more down-to-earth Marvel heroes) fought larger-than-life criminals. Drugs and loose women aren't larger than life.

So yes, Superman wants to keep the drugs off the streets, but he goes about that by fighting Braniac, who has discovered a new, highly addictive opiate, not by shutting down the local street dealer. It just wouldn't work.

Romance comics are another story, however. They deal with the everyday life. Everyday life in the late 60s and early 70s was sex and drugs. But you can't talk about sex and drugs in a comic book. Not then at least. (Well, you could in Zap Comix or other underground titles, but that's a different thing altogether.) I really don't think that, as much as Stan Lee was a liberal thinker, he'd be willing to publish a story in Our Love where Suzy gets the clap or Jenny loses her boyfriend because she spends all her time high as a kite. The Comics Code wouldn't allow it, and I'm not sure if he'd even want to publish that.

And, yes, there were some drug stories published in romance comics in the early 50s, but they were few and far between, and they were relegated to smaller publishers (nothing from Fawcett or Marvel or DC, for sure).

And I think the readership just lost a lot of respect for romance comics. They were still telling stories about malt shoppes and dances, things that 12-year-old girls know about and care about, but they were just so saccharine sweet.

I really think that an ideal time to reintroduce romance comics to the market would've been in the Reagan-era 80s, where the drug and sex culture (while still there, obviously) was being pushed to the side, being portrayed as being deviant rather than just a part of American life. What better time to bring back the wholesome romance comic (and I'm not counting Angel Love, thank you very much)?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Derby Days

When I was around 10 years old, I remember seeing my first roller derby match on television. It was amazing. Seeing those men and women spin around the banked track, beating each other to submission, made me want to go out, strap on my own roller skates, and take out my sister.

I don't remember seeing more than a few episodes of it, as it seemed to be a quick and passing fad. At least to me. It was the early 80s, and I had no idea that roller derby was once a really popular spectator sport. (I also had no clue how they scored -- I was too busy watching people fly 10 feet in the air, landing soundly on their behinds.)

From what little I could find out about the original roller derby leagues, it began in the mid-30s as a dance marathon type contest (where couples had to complete a certain number of laps) and then slowly evolved into a game, with a male-female team, a combination of offense and defense. (Check out some history here.)

It seemed that the roller derby hey-day was in the post-War era of the great American boom. People would try anything, it seemed, and there were enough people around (and more coming every day) that niche sports like roller derby could do very well. It straggled on for a few more decades, but sputtered out in the mid-80s. Since then, there seems to have been a few attempts at reviving it (and how can we forget the movies Rollerball [1975] and Rollerball [2002]? Oh, you've forgotten them both? Huh, me too), but they've either all failed or become a very insignigficant blip on the sports scene.

But back in the 40s and 50s, it seems like people actually made a living off of this. This includes Gerry Murray, one of the sports all-time greats. (You can read more about Gerry here and here, and would you believe she had her own hair bows.) This issue of Boy Loves Girl (published by Lev Gleason in December of 1954), features a roller derby story where Murray helps out a fan who loves two things: roller derby and Rick French, a member of Murray's team. (I couldn't find a Rick French listed as a roller derby-ite, so he's likely made up.)

The story and art (both unsigned) are pretty good, although nothing to write home about. There is a happy ending, however, and Gerry is happy to tell us the love-birds married and had three kids, all destined to be roller derby stars.

The cover is the worst part of the comic, though, and really has nothing to do with the story inside (the trouble is between two guys, not two girs). Lev Gleason's late-40s/early-50s romance comics usually has terrific photo and painted covers, but by then (nearing the end of the companies existence), they had resorted to line-drawn ones, and not very good ones at that.

Of course, if you're a roller derby fan (and who isn't?), I'm sure you're fine either way.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

This Is Not My Beautiful House

In my post on manga, a lot of you gave me a little lesson on what I should read, and I greatly appreciated it. A couple of you suggested Maison Ikkoku, by Rumiko Takahashi (also known for her very popular Lum*Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2 -- both of which I have read a little of), so I clicked on my link (which you should too) and ordered the first volume. (I also ordered the first Boys Over Flowers, by Yoko Kamio, but more on that later.)

A few things before I get into my evaluation of Maison Ikkoku (and whether or not it's a romance comic). First, I really enjoyed reading it left to right, back to front. It was different, and while I don't know how necessary any of it really is, I liked doing it. I must admit that after reading for a couple of minutes I got a bit queasy and had to put it down. You're used to doing something (reading) one way for your entire life, it's not so easy making the change.

I also didn't mind the size, which is significantly smaller than US comics, and is a complaint I hear about manga, at least the bound, reprinted books. I was able to read everything easily, and I don't feel as if any of the art was blurred by it.

As for the story...

Well, after finishing Maison Ikkoku Vol. 1, I thought to myself, "This is a sitcom, but without the jokes." All of the characters are charicatures. The two love-birds are foils -- the studious house manager and the the flighty tenant. There is the bossy mother with the bratty kid. There is the smarmy and perverted guy who usually only gets a zinger or two in each chapter. And there is the ditzy waitress always there for a drunken pratfall.

But there are no jokes per se. Nothing to make you laugh out loud.

One of the things that I never liked about the romantic television sit-com is that the back and forth between the guy and the girl, the "will they or won't they" gets old really fast. In only 200 some pages of this comic (and it seems like it goes on for over a dozen volumes), I've already lost interest in whether or not the widowed Kyoko and the love-struck Yusaka will ever get smoochy.

Now I want to emphasize that this is not a "I don't like manga" or a "I don't get manga" argument. I do like it (it's comics -- what not to like?), and I do get it (ditto). I just don't really like this.

And is it a romance comic? I don't think so. Although love is there (well, lust and yearning and the hope for love), it's not what the comic is about. Maybe it become more romantic as the comic continues -- I just don't know if I'll be buying any more of the books to find out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

My Romantic Adventures #104

Class plays a big part of romance comics, just as it seemed to (and still does) in the rest of popular culture. The rich girl, poor guy (or vice versa) scenario dates back to Shakespeare, and probably earlier. Victorian novelists like Dickens and Trollope and Gaskell were all about class and money, as it was an easy, built-in conflict.

So too with romance comics. A wealthy guy comes into town (usually visiting an aunt or uncle for the summer) and falls for the daughter of the town soda jerk. Can their love survive the evil, rich father? Or a gal goes on a summer vacation (usually lasting the ENTIRE summer) and falls for the guy who works at the ranch. Is her family's money and his love for the simple country life a match made in heaven or hell?

This cover (and the first story, "Taxicab Romance") is your typical class story. (Since we're just talking about the cover, however, we'll leave the inside for another time.)

The things I like about this cover are its logo (see previous post about good/bad logos) and its overall composition. The logo is terrific, just as the other 2 ACG romance titles (Lovelorn [later Confessions of the Lovelorn] and the short-lived Search for Love), as the heart around the "My" is a nice touch. As for the composition, well, there are nice things here. The hand gently touching his cheek. The hat pushed to one side. He sitting in the back of the cab, she in the driver's seat. It's well thought out.

The problem, though, is in the execution. The art by John Rosenberger (I think it's Rosenberger) is not his best. If it is Rosenberger, he did a lot of work for Atlas (Marvel) in the 40s and early 50s, and later on did plenty of romance comic art for DC (see my Girls' Romances cover of a couple of posts ago); a lot of it was good.

This seems like it was thrown together one night, fighting a deadline. There is little depth to the characters, and the details are scarce. The coloring, usually bright on most ACG covers, is also very plain.

This was published long past the romance comic's hey-day, and perhaps it was already being pushed to the back as far as time and quality were concerned. It's a shame, because the idea behind it to me seems very cool.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Darling Love #1

I'm a terrible artist. Not only can't I draw, I can't compose, and I can't design. I'll often picture something in my head for something I want to create (a Web site, for example), and it either comes out completely different than how I wanted it to, or I can't find a way to even comprehend how I wanted it in the first place.

And logos, well, I'm just as bad. I've tried to create them several times, and they've all come out looking like crap.

But while I can't do this stuff myself, I do know a good logo when I see it. In super-hero comics, the Amazing Spider-Man used to have a great logo (not so much now), and the Avengers always had a pretty dumb one. The Superman logo is classic -- simple, yet dynamic.

A lot of romance comics logos are pretty boring. Standard block type is the norm. Sometimes they would go crazy with a cursive script, but not often. But nobody was going out on a limb.

Different type is good. That Western Love cover the other day had a terrible logo. But this Range Romances one? Well, who doesn't like rope and log fonts?

So it goes with Darling Love. Along with Darling Romances, this was one of only two romance titles published by Archie Comics. And while neither lasted particularly long, they had, what I feel, is the best logo in romance comics-dom. I mean, it stood out. It seemed that the designer actually tried to do something different rather than just the same ol', same ol'. And while there are about 3 too many different fonts on this cover, the logo really stands out.

Both of the Darling's (Love and Romance) had a large logo and a photo, with some text running down the left-hand side, and the layout was not award winning. But that big LOVE... Man, it's something.

I'm not sure if that font is made up specifically for the titles or if it was taken from somewhere else, but whoever created it deserves a pat on the back.

(Cover courtesy of this eBay auction.)

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Sometimes when I'm writing this, it's on the fly. And the problem is that I make mistakes. Big mistakes. And I hate making mistakes. But if I do, I want to correct them.

Here are some of them:

  • In this post, I said that Archie and Harvey never made romance comics. I couldn't have been more wrong. Archie had a couple of series (Darling Love, being one of them), but Harvey had a ton, including First Romance, First Love, and High-School Romance, all which lasted more than 50 issues. I don't know how I screwed that one up.
  • I still haven't read any of the manga I bought, but someone wrote a comment saying that Fruits Baskets is not a romance comic. So I'm sorry about that. And I do promise to read some of this stuff, although I can't promise I'll like it.
  • When I wrote about the Fox Comics romance titles here, I said that Victor Fox, the owner and publisher, worked for DC before starting out on his own. Well, that's just an old wives' tale. According to the book, Men of Tomorrow (which is excellent, by the way, and highly recommended), a history of the very beginnings of the comic book industry, this is bunk. Fox never worked in the comic book industry before he started up his own company.
That's all the mistakes I know I made -- if I've made some more, please post a comment. I'd much rather be corrected than be wrong.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Western Love #3

I've talked about Western romance comics a couple of times before (notably here) and I talked about photo covers here, but Western Love #3 seems to meld all of the things that are creepy about the two genres into one. But to me, there are just too many unflattering things going on in this cover, so much so that I have to place it in the "not-so-good" column.

First off, who are we supposed to think that cowgirl is falling in love with? She's sure as heck not smiling at a cowboy. So we're to think that she's smitten with the horse, right? The horse!? Even in the sweet and innocent 40s and 50s you'd have to think something fishy was going on. And that smile. It's just plain creepy.

Now while I don't much care for Westerns (movies, comics, what have you), I do like the Western wear (I have a few spiffy plaid shirts with mother-of-pearl snaps), but this lady is a little over the top, don't you think? Make-up, painted nails, hair done just right. Yeah, that looks like a real cowgirl to me.

And then there's the logo. It's practically half the cover (and even repeated right below the "W" in Western, which I can only assume would be for people to see the title when most of the cover would be obscured on the newsstand), and it's black with yellow trim. It just sits there, not standing out from the crowded competition nor from its own background. In fact, most of the cover text is either the title or selling of the title ("The Original Young Romance Group" and "Big 52-Pages of Real-Life Comics - Don't Take Less" and "True-Life Ranch Romances"), none of which really draw you in.

Luckily, the inside has a story by John Severin and Bill Elder (who also did some great stuff for Prize Western, and, of course, later for EC).

I think this is the biggest problem with photo covers -- they're just there. And I'm not sure if it's there enough for me to have wanted to buy it off at the local newsstand.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Girls' Romances #103 (For Lack of a Better Title)

To me, the DC romance comics of the 50s and 60s always looked very nice, and I use that word very much as a complement. They had very pretty (but not particularly sexy) women on it, and very handsome men either running after them or hugging them. They were emotive, but only of happiness or sadness: never anger. And they were full of bright, primary colors. Even in night scenes, there was something very alive about the covers.

Like I said, nice. Safe. Pretty.

Then, right around issue #100, something changed. Perhaps there was a new editor (I'll have to snoop around and do some research), perhaps they were just catching up to the mid-60s and realized that not everything still had to have the Donna Reed flair. But whatever it was, the colors began to be more garish (also in a good way), more alive. The dialogue became more rough around the edges. And so did the art. Even though it was still the DC stable of artists (joined by new-to-the-fold John Rosenberger and Gene Colan), everything stopped being so damn perfect. (If you don't believe me, check out the cover gallery over at the Grand Comics Database. Look at the pre-100 and post-100 covers.)

Issue #103 reminds me a bit of the monochromatic covers that Marvel did during that same period (you can check them out here), but the lack of any in-panel shading make it even more outlandish. And the dialogue -- "I never want... to see you again... after what you did to me!" -- is really very harsh. This isn't just an argument between two teenagers. This is something much worse. And she shows it, each panel getting sadder and sadder, more despondent, more depressed. And each color gets harsher -- yellow to orange to red.

Covers are meant to make you want to pick up the comic, and if I were browsing the racks in the summer of 1964, I think I would've picked this one up.

(The GCD attributes this art to Gene Colan, but I don't see it. To me, this is John Rosenberger, who has a similar style as Colan, but without the exaggerated fluidity, and while there is a Colan story on the inside [the cover story, "Too Late for Tears"], even Gene Colan's own Web site says that he didn't do the cover art.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

I Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty

I spent a good part of the holiday weekend trying my best to re-design this blog, to make it seem more interesting, more "of the subject". I don't think I did a very good job as I lack any and all ability to design anything that actually looks half decent. It may be because of the way blogs are designed -- the code is CSS (which I don't understand very well), not HTML (which I've been able to teach myself with some success) -- and this lack of knowledge really sent me for a loop.

So in honor of my own lack of artistic ability (and coding skills), for the next few days I'm going to be posting different covers -- good and bad -- and saying why I (the artistic novice) think they're good. This includes layout, logo, art, text -- whatever.

I'll take suggestions, too, if you're so inclined.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Revisionist History

I'm not a "real" historian in the sense that I never studied history (other than those 4 required classes in college) and I don't really do research for a living (I write boring pharmaceutical documents, whose research is whatever thousand-page tables and graphs they plop down in front of me), but I am an observer of historical research, both inside and outside of the field of comics.

And in both arenas (the large banner of HISTORY and the very small piece of it comics history), there seems to me to be a sense of constantly wanting to discover new things, often times at the expense of accuracy and common sense. And often times it gets to the point that the historical discoveries of someone or something becomes more important than what that someone did or something was. Who Shakespeare was, for example, seems much more important to some than what Shakespeare wrote. Abraham Lincoln being gay is a recent one (or at least recent to my ken), in that several new biographies' successes seem to hinge on proof that Lincoln locked up the wife in the West Wing of the White House not because she was nuts but because he enjoyed the company of men better.

And comics is no different, although sometimes I wonder if our scholarship is based less in the need for new discoveries and more on the need to increase the value of previously non-important comics.

About a decade ago, the Marvel prototype craze hit comicdom. No longer was it good enough to buy the first appearance of The Hulk, that giant, green-skinned thorn in General Ross's hide, but you also had his first first appearance, when he was a hairy gray beast in an early issue of Journey into Mystery. No matter that it really wasn't anything like the super-hero Hulk -- no green skin, no gamma radiation -- the mere fact that they shared the same name and company was good enough for people to yell "prototype" and suddenly a $20 comic was an $80 comic. (Tom Lammers did a terrific job of outlining what was and wasn't -- with even the was group being tenuous -- related to the later Marvel Silver Age heroes in several issues of Alter Ego, beginning with #29.)

Now you're obviously thinking to yourself, "Not romance comics. There were no prototypes of them, were there?" And, to me, the answer is a clear no. To others, however...

Most people (and I'm assuming most who bother to read this blog, even though I haven't directly mentioned it) know that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby produced the first romance comic, Young Romance, which was published in mid-1947 (a September-October cover date). They caught off guard the rest of the comic publishing world so much, they didn't have a competitor (other than their own Young Love) for nearly 2 years, even though it was selling exceptionally well. So you'd think that this would be a slam dunk, then. Cut and dried, Young Romance #1 was the first romance comic.

Well, not entirely, at least for some. Romantic Picture Novelettes showed up on newsstands in 1946 (I'm not sure when, exactly, as it has no specific date on its cover or indicia). Well that sounds like a romance comic, I'm sure you're all saying to yourselves. The cover showed a couple, sitting lakeside, with the fellow leaning in to grab a smooch from his pretty date. And the word "Romantic" is in the title, for crying out loud. But if you look more closely (by that I mean, look on the inside -- and on the blurb in the lower right-hand side of the cover) you'll see that it says "A Complete Mary Worth Adventure".

As some of you may know Mary Worth was (and is) a comic strip, starring a busy-body old woman (Mary Worth, naturally) who's always poking her nose in other people's business. Said business often included the love stuff. (Mary Worth is still being published today, with art by comic veteran Joe Giella. Yes, after nearly 70 years in newspapers, that Mary is still alive and kicking.)

But newspaper reprints have never really been that important to the comic book other than helping start up the format. Comics on Parade, Famous Funnies, et al., were crucial to getting comics on the newsstands, but their content rarely was. The content (at least the most popular) in comic books was original (although quite derivative).

But that hasn't stopped the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide from having Romantic Picture Novelettes as the first "Love Comic. To me, its claim to fame is that it's yet another comic strip reprint that failed on the newsstand. And that's not much of a claim.

Another Overstreet proclamation (and it seems that they are one of the worst in creating dubious comic history) is that My Date was a romance comic. My Date was a Simon and Kirby-produced comic released by Hillman (known mostly for their Airboy title), which was a teen-humor title in the vein of Archie and others of its ilk. It did, however, have a feature in it called "My Date -- Unusual Dates as told to Jean Anne Marten, 'My Date's' famous young people's counselor". The 6-page story (the only issue of the titles I own is #2, so that's all I can talk about with any confidence) featured art by Dan Barry, and while it was about a date and had romance and did end with a peck on the cheek, it was still funny.

Was this a romance story? Sure. Does that mean that My Date was a romance comic? I don't think so. The rest of issue #2 features the cover feature starring Swifty Chase, another starring Violet, an awkward girl who doesn't know the right way to impress her beloved Merril, Ginny, a takeoff on Quality's Candy, and The Rosebud Sisters, "Those 70-Year-Old Teen-Agers".

The first issue of My Date was cover-dated July 1947, a couple of months before the first Young Romance, and while I think that Simon and Kirby certainly had the latter in mind when doing the former, I'm pretty confident in saying that it's not a romance comic. To put it in a super-hero perspective, it's what Challengers of the Unknown is to the Fantastic Four. There are similarities, but one is a sci-fi/adventure series, the other is a super-hero series.

I think it's important that we call things for what they are, and not for what they might be. And Romantic Picture Novelettes and My Date aren't romance comics.