Romance Without Tears
Romance Without Tears sets out to collect love stories from the 1950s that feature “lively, independent… outrageous” girls who don’t spend all their time crying or pining away.
The opening essay by compiler John Benson provides an overview of romance comics from their early days through their later over-reliance on the cover image of “the tear-stained face”. The comics reprinted here, originally published by Archer St. John, contrast with those types of stories. These attempt to portray realistic dating scenarios instead of concentrating on glamour or pain and suffering.
As a result, the heroines tend to be working girls, not upper class daughters. These stories, written by Dana Dutch (according to Benson), feature young women with common sense and independence. They don’t need to be rescued or told how they should behave. They’re encouraged to date more than one or two boys, to gain valuable life experience, and to avoid the myth of a fated true love.
Honest communication and trust are emphasized over guilt, a staple of more traditional stories. Most are illustrated by Matt Baker, best known for his work on Phantom Lady. Characters fall in love based on mutual interests, good characters, honesty, understanding, and concern for each other’s wants and needs. Even girls who “learn their lesson” face the possibility of a happier future, where romance is an important part of their lives but not all of it. The two most consistent messages are “don’t mistake kisses (or petting) for love” and “treat parents as a valuable source of help and advice”.
It’s not often one sees a romance comic with the lesson that “those who pursue [love at first sight] are doomed to mocking disappointment and despair.” Even fifty years later, these stories are educational in their approach to love and romance.