Girls' Love Stories, Romance comic

Girls’ Love Stories #145, August 1969

If some enterprising publisher were to put out a mag titled Girls’ Love these days it’d most probably be a very different kind of magazine! And it would almost certainly have the apostrophe in the wrong place too—but that’s a whole different kettle of worms.

In those more innocent, halcyon days, Girls’ Love was a romance comic. Nah, let’s give it a capital ‘R’… It was a Romance comic. That now much maligned genre, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1947, helped save the entire industry following the disastrous post-war sales slump caused by the returning GIs dropping comics from their reading lists. The arrival of Romance comics to the newsstands saw women and girls buying comics in significant numbers, and very quickly every surviving publisher jumped on the bandwagon. Although the initial excitement and strong sales didn’t really survive the mid-1950s Kefauver/Wertham witch-hunts, Romance comics remained a staple ingredient of Marvel and DC output until the mid-1970s when they were all cancelled. I doubt we’ll ever see their like again—at least not in “traditional” comics, still largely a male preserve. Manga, of course, is full of romance—and guess who’s reading?

This beautiful cover is by Nick Cardy, and was what initially attracted me to buy the comic in the first place. It was the very first Romance comic I’d ever bought—I was well and truly an adult by then, by the way, I’d not have been caught dead buying such and item as a teenager!—and the quality of the artwork opened my eyes to what was available in these shunned books. It’s not too easy to pick up Romance titles in the UK, as so few comic shop proprietors bother to stock them, but I’ve persisted over the years and now have a few hundred. True enough, the artistic quality rarely rises as high as that displayed by the always magnificent Mr Cardy, but there are real gems hidden away—and find one is worth the time spent plowing through the >ahem< less accomplished efforts.

Cardy has drawn a lovely piece here, the girl in the foreground contrasting brilliantly with the stark white background, her knees leading the eye to the mischievous teenage boys at the next table. Wonderful. And, I would contend, as worthy a piece for hanging on the wall as any Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece.

Image ©2012 DC Comics