After the end of the Second World War, superhero comics quickly started to fall out of favour. Comic fans were looking for entertainment they could identify with, which would allow them to move past the war. In 1947, amongst a slew of new radio soap operas and newspaper comic strips, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon – the pair behind Captain America – came up with the idea for the very first romance comic, Young Romance.
By 1949, romance comics outsold every other type of comic in America and by 1952, there were upwards of 500 different titles available for purchase. Aimed at men and women in their late teens and early twenties, these romance comics dealt with the often-melodramatic relationship issues faced by young people in mid-century urban and rural America.
Unfortunately, at their core, romance comics weren’t as harmless and fluffy as today’s 2pm soap operas. Despite being written from a female first-person perspective, these comics were almost always written and drawn by men from a contemporaneous male standpoint, pushing a Cold War-era ideology about the female role in America between the late 1940s and early 1970s.
Encouraging early marriage and a homemaker lifestyle, romance comics maligned female sexuality, independence, and career-related aspirations. Usually replicating a Wuthering Heights-style plot, women in romance comics were often faced with a choice between an exciting but unstable man, or a dull but respectable man. Obviously, women who chose cheap thrills over domestic stability were punished. Consequences were also laid out for women who chose a career over a family, or who didn’t wait faithfully for their men during the Korean War. Women who made the “correct” choices in romance comics ended their narratives contented with a middle-class suburban family life.
So, now that you know the horrible motives behind most romance comics– and because Valentine’s Day is mere days away– let’s take this opportunity to make fun of the most ridiculous romance comic covers ever.
1. Young Love
2. Heart Throbs
3. Love Romances
4. Romantic Adventures
5. Girls’ Romances
6. Young Love (multiple offender!)
7. Diary Secrets
8. Romantic Marriage
9. First Love
10. My Personal Problem