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 […]

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Three Days in Europe

I love romantic comedies. There are too few of them in comics (which is one reason I’ve been reading more manga, where the genre is more firmly established). When I saw the publicity for this screwball story, I was eager to try it, but I was disappointed. It’s not that Three Days in Europe is a bad story, although it’s got some problems (of which more later). The problem is all the false advertising, from the cover quotes to the […]

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Strange Detective Tales #1

I’m no fan of zombie comics, but this one caught my attention favorably due to the odd combination of elements in the premise. In 1958 Los Angeles, Igor Vorlic (as in Frankenstein) and Renfield (as in Dracula) are struggling private detectives, serving a community of monsters and zombies hanging around the movie community. Just as the main characters are best known for supporting bigger stars, they work with those left around the edges of Hollywood. Their client is the ghost […]

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Clan Apis

Clan Apis is the biography of a honeybee. It’s educational, as you might guess, but it teaches more than biology facts. Each chapter of the story also illustrates a life lesson as well as being wonderfully entertaining. I never thought I could care so much about, or learn so much from, a bee. The story opens with a bee’s version of the creation of the universe, which turns out to be a tale an older bee, Dvorah, is telling Nyuki, […]

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Boys Over Flowers Volume 1

Tsukushi is a middle-class student at an ultra-elite high school in Boys Over Flowers. Her schoolmates are dropped off by chauffeurs and carry designer bags costing thousands of dollars, while she works part-time just for spending money. The school is run by a clique of cool, rich, and handsome students who ostracize anyone who displeases them. Tsukushi’s innocently good heart manifests through her huge, round eyes (resembling out-sized marbles) and her braided pigtails. She feels everything intently, allowing the inequities […]

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Armageddon & Son

Doonald Feeney wants to be tough, but he’s a selfish loser. He’s never known his dad, until one day, Father Feeney reappears in Armageddon & Son. It turns out that Dad is a supervillain out to destroy the world, only he’s not as good at it as he portrays himself to be. As a result, some of his cohorts have stolen his plan, so he enlists Doonald to help him save the world (because if he can’t destroy it, no […]

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Genshiken Volume 1

I’d heard good things about this series by Kio Shimoku, but I found it disappointingly predictable. It’s a manga about being a fan of manga and anime, so its first strike is violating my self-referentiality rule. (In general, I find that comics about comics are more likely to disappoint me. They often indicate a lack of creativity and an author having a hard time coming up with fresh ideas, although for all I know, this is a well-respected and -established […]

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Nodame Cantabile Volume 1

Although containing more subtly-drawn characters than many manga series, Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya left no significant impression on me after reading. Shinichi wants to be a conductor, but he’s currently studying piano to improve his overall skills. (He also turns out to be quite the violin virtuoso when the plot demands.) Nodame is the girl next door, an untrained piano genius with a pigsty of an apartment. She’s driven by appetite, stealing other people’s lunches and loyal to whichever […]

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