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LOVE IS IN THE AIR
By Ed Sanchez

The inimitable duo of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon created the Romance genre in comics in the late 1940s with the publication of Young Romance #1 (Sept-Oct 1947). Like they did with Captain America and would do with dozens of characters for decades to come, the Romance genre in comics would go on to enjoy a healthy run stretching into the seventies. Along the way, close to 6,000 issues of Romance comics were published, including titles from just about every publisher. At the genre's peak, there were over 140 Romance titles.

Unlike today, in the late fifties and early forties, women were a formidable part of the comics buying public. However, Romance comics were still marketed for the young adult male, even though an equal or larger part of the readership was female. With titles like Haunted Love, Just Married, My Love, Girl's Romances and Girl's Love Stories, the Romance genre stands today as one of the least recognized, yet most interesting, genre of comics that has ever been on the news stands.

Romance comics didn't have larger than life costumed heroes, space aliens or horrible creatures of the night (well, maybe that one girl) . What they had were real people facing real issues. Issues that were really out of the norm for comics of that era, or any era for that matter. Open the pages of a Romance comic and you could find a story about out-of-wedlock children, infidelity, divorce, or interracial relationships, among other mature subject matter.

The talent working on these titles was almost exclusively male, and they reinforced the now outdated notion that a woman's goal was ultimately to be happily married. Some of the industry's most notable creators worked in the Romance genre: greats such as Frank Frazetta, John Romita, Gene Colan, Alex Toth, Matt Baker and Jack Kirby were all contributors.

Despite the old fashioned notions of what a woman should be, Romance comics did present women as intelligent, significant people who lived in the real world. These were your sisters, girlfriends, aunts, cousins and mothers dealing with everyday problems that everyday people faced. There were no earth-shattering crises or world threatening megalomaniacs, just your average Jane and her average Joe - nothing to call Galactus about, but certainly relevant.

Perhaps the stories are dated, but they're still great reads if for no other reason than they are so far removed from anything else comics has to offer. The covers alone are worth the price -- each one an isoteric gem. So don't be shy guys, pick up a Romance comic and maybe Cupid will come knocking on your door.

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