Tuesday, 8 November 2011

it's just comics- part 10

In Part 4 I wrote about the swift rise of the romance comics genre: "By the middle of 1949 things were building to a glut," with the peak happening around Dec '49/Jan '50. That makes it sound like they were throwing every kind of junk into the market, but in fact one of the most beautiful looking comic books I have ever seen came out at the peak of this glut.

It was published by St John (last seen here in Part 6), and titled Adventures in Romance. It was cover dated Nov 1949. A second issue with the title changed to Spectacular Adventures had the date Feb 1950 and then that was the end of it. The comic was deliberately different, beginning with its slightly larger format (I've only seen it online, so i'm quoting the historical record on that account) and promising on its contents page: "Thrilling action, good-humored comedy, and heart-warming romance, are combined for the first time in this brand new, exciting magazine." the cover and lead story were drawn by Warren King, an artist who I think swiftly 'moved up' to doing paperback book covers

The knockout feature in this comic is that, as well as having art spilling out into the margins of the pages, each of the stories opens with a double page spread:

Adventures in Romance #1- Nov 1949

I love the fresh, bright and healthy quality that emanates from King's artwork.

Note also that the stories are not told in the first person, which would become de rigeur in the romance books.

Of the other three stories, one is a 'western-romance', a genre hybrid that had a short popularity, another is a light comedy and a third has a 17th century historical setting. When the smoke cleared after the glut, this kind of variation became rare. Of these other three stories, two 8-pagers were drawn by Leonard Starr, last seen in this series of posts doing assignments for Simon and Kirby earlier in 1949. In a period when most comic book stories were drawn anonymously, the artists have signed their names proudly in this book.

I'd love to see the second issue, in which Starr is in Caniff territory with a 20-page(!!) story titled China Bombshell. The other artistic contributor is Frank Bolle who I think nowadays is to be found drawing Apartment 3-G in the newspapers. The Grand Comics database gives the writing of this one to Dana Dutch. Furthermore, in a time when so many of these publishers were resorting to the formalities of Leroy mechanical lettering (if you look back over these posts you'll see it in the pages from Avon, EC and Famous Funnies. Quality were also using it), look at how smart the calligraphy is in this story. Perhaps the artist did it himself, since it is so perfectly integrated into the job as a whole. Look for example at the way the motif of the raised eyebrow in the final panel is inverted in the initial 't' of 'the end' that runs beneath the panel.

I read it and sampled the pages at The Digital Comics Museum, an online site that is a real education in old comics. I salute them! This particular book must have been scanned for a mint copy or somebody knows more about digital restoration than I do. That does not look like 62 year old newsprint. in fact, now that I look again, there are no staples showing in those spreads. Well done, whoever it was!

St John threw another gem into the bubbling glut, and again it only lasted two issues, Oct. and Dec. 1949. this was Hollywood Confessions and its appeal is that it has Joe Kubert all over it. He did the covers, and where he didn't draw some of the stories by himself, he inked over pencils by Joe Giunta and Hy Rosen. the result is a stylistically cohesive and attractive package.
That's the second issue's cover at left. (found at the Grand Comic Book Database, another invaluable source for comic book history.) The idea of a book of romances with a Hollywood angle may even have been Kubert's idea, and he may have put the whole thing together himself too. ( A little later he would be a creative force at St. John, with Tor in the world of 1,000,000 years ago and the very first 3D comic book.) On the other hand, it wasn't to be a unique idea. Quality Comics had two new comics out with Hollywood in the title over the following two months, and neither of them lasted more than six issues.

Hollywood Confessions #1 Oct 1949- art by Kubert

The above sequence is very unusual in a romance book. And the following story's pencilling by Giunta is full of unpretentious charm:

ditto- art by Giunta-Kubert



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here doggy, have some chocolate. Classic! I love these posts, makes me want to create a new romance comic series.

8 November 2011 at 17:21:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Kurt Busiek said...

That's an absolutely stunning cover on ADVENTURES IN ROMANCE.


8 November 2011 at 18:56:00 GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

You almost make me want to read romance comics. Almost.

10 November 2011 at 12:46:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Kimota94 aka Matt aka AgileMan said...

Does the story eventually pay off the fact that chocolate is harmful (deadly, in fact, in some cases) to dogs? Or did it just encourage a generation of young readers to unwittingly poison their best friends??

19 November 2011 at 17:45:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Myck White said...

The colouring on Adventures in Romance is phenomenal!
Flushed cheeks, patterned fabrics.
There was a lot more care taken here than in just about any other US comic-book I've seen from before the late 60s.
What an ambitious project it must have been.

5 January 2012 at 20:17:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

I read a bit more about the book since I posted. The artists King and Starr packaged the thing themselves for the publisher. They clearly had some ambition for it and put everything they had into it. "We had a piece of the action, so we were very anxious and worked very hard on it..." That was Starr in an interview. However, he couldn't recall who wrote the stories, though as artists I guess it would be fair to assume they oversaw the coloring themselves.

5 January 2012 at 23:08:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The colors on the original pop even more in person. The stat for the 'September Squall' has come off, leaving a small glue stain. But it's a large painting that is still a stunner!


5 November 2014 at 16:26:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Wyndchill said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

15 January 2015 at 00:12:00 GMT-5  

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