I’ve just visited a fun web site, The Silver Age Marvel Comics Cover Index, that’s oriented to comic book fans, but it might be of interest to romance readers who want to know more about romance comics. It displays a limited selection of romance comic covers just when they were all about to be canceled back in the early 1960s, plus some from Marvel Comics’ glossy late 1960s-early 1970s versions, My Love and Our Love Story, that featured their most talented artists. Also, and this is always a hoot,there are covers of Millie the Model, Patsy Walker, and other “girl comics” that had nothing to do with serious romance and everything to do with comedy. Girl comics were, like Archie Comics, the sitcoms of the comic book world. Even today, you can pick up any Archie title and read the same ridiculous adventures of Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica and the rest of the gang. Every issue of Millie the Model was the same as every other issue, featuring rivalry between women, outlandish clothing drawn in a cartoony style, and silly plots. This is not the only place to view romance comics covers on the web, but it’s got a nice mix.
Admittedly, if you come at this kind of web site from being strictly a romance novel fan, it could be an acquired taste: You have to get past the hairstyles of yore and the outdated clothing. And the hats and gloves that women had mostly stopped wearing even when these comics were published. So the site might appear to be just a bit of historical trivia. But think of it. Newsstands were jammed with romance comics in the later 1940s and throughout the 1950s. The primary colors and simple artwork on the covers of these romance comics matched the lurid and bold artwork featured on paperback novels also sold at newsstands, novels by sensational writers like Mickey Spillane. Those usually featured a chesty, half-dressed blonde on the cover. Romance comics had the same blondes with red dresses on their covers, too. But usually more covered up.
Compare the situation today. Today, paperback novels meant for a male readership seldom have people on them. They often are dark colors shot through with eerie lighting effects. Sinister symbols abound, a favorite being a swastika. There are no blondes. Meanwhile, romance novels covers show glamor men in tuxedos and women in evening gowns. Or vignettes of bucolic middle-American life, with pregnant women and babies sitting on front porch swings. Or hero shots of sexy male ranchers, cops, or firefighters. Yet both kinds of books are sold in the same places. Newsstands hardly exist anymore, but now paperback novels are found in every drugstore and discount emporium. And even in bookstores. Originally, paperback books were considered too plebeian for bookstores, as were comics. Now these complementary popular fictions are still to be found together, and their covers don’t have to shout at pedestrians strolling past. Plus you can buy a latte on site and sit in a comfy chair to read them.