Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics
Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics by the masterful team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby is a hoot to read, a real time capsule. Most of the stories reprinted here first appeared in Young Romance, the book that created the romance comic, during the period 1947 to 1959. Also included are a couple of Western love stories (a genre that had its own, multiple titles) and three from Young Love.
All have a dynamism to them that you’d expect from Kirby, even if the emotion is pointed towards heartbreak instead of saving the universe. Some of the stories are much longer than I expected — my familiarity with the genre comes from reading the later DC versions of the titles, with shorter stories than the 14- or 15-pagers that here delve deeply into emotional affects based on age or class differences.
I didn’t expect to see stories that crossed genre boundaries, such as the crime-tinged murder story (highly melodramatic, and without the expected happy ending) or the piece set in just-post-War Germany about a girl in love with a visiting American soldier. The one set against the Korean battlefield was too abbreviated to have the desired full impact, but it was still effective.
I didn’t care much for the two Westerns, but they’re important to include as examples of the period. I really liked the two-page “advice column”-style strip that illustrated the girl’s problem, advice, and lesson learned. I wish there had been more. The same goes for stories about women trying to balance work and love.
Michelle Nolan (Love on the Racks) writes an introduction that puts the work in historical context. In afterwords, editor Michael Gagné writes about the genre, shows examples of his restoration work, and notes that he was careful not to include any stories from an earlier collection, Real Love, to avoid duplication for fans.
There’s also a cover gallery of the first dozen Young Romance issues, which sets the earlier material off from the later post-Comic Code work. In contrast to the earlier suggestions, those stories emphasize listening to parents and reform through hard work and medical struggles and obligations.
It’s neat to read these long-ago tales of girls acting out of jealousy or determining how to make the right love decision in such an easy-to-hold hardcover with restored coloring. I love seeing more of this forgotten period of comic history, particularly since it was so widely popular and yet so ignored these days.