Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Journey Into Mysterious Comics #3: Weird Love #1 Review (Edited by Craig Yoe, Clizia Gussoni)

Each week we read comics we know and love – that’s why we read them! But what about the scores of other comics that get published that we don’t read? In Journey Into Mysterious Comics, I’ll pick up a random comic I know nothing about each week and review it. Maybe I’ll strike gold and find a great new title to follow, maybe I won’t – but I live in hope!

Join me each week as we… Journey Into Mysterious Comics! 


Weird Love delves into the romance comics of yesteryear to reprint long-forgotten stories of, well, weird love!

As editor Craig Yoe wryly notes, most romance comics from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s were boring, telling the same kind of contrived crap over and over again. These stories though are the odd ones out - the romance stories that were bonkers at the time and look even stranger now in 2014.

That’s not to say they’re all gems – the first story, “I Fell for a Commie” (1953), is a bit of a snoozer. It’s about a brain-dead woman chasing after a man she doesn’t realise is an undercover FBI agent trying to bring down American Communists. The “red fever” is indicative of the time when mad old Joe McCarthy had America’s attention, but other than that it’s not a standout comic.

“Love of a Lunatic” (1954) is slightly better. It’s about a woman who grew up without a father, believing he was dead, and an overbearing mother whose controlling behaviour incites her daughter’s rage. This strange woman decides to pretend to fall in love with a man her mum set her up with and then falls in love with him for reals. Her dead dad shows up in the lead up to the wedding and she realises he’s just been in an insane asylum for some unspecified illness for her entire life.

She then thinks his mental illness (which seems to consist of sometimes raising your voice) will be inherited so she breaks it off with her fiancĂ© and tells her crazy mum to fuck off. Her mum calls the funny farm and they come get her, dragging her off to be in a strait jacket in a padded cell – because that’s all it took in those days! Later on when a doctor finally gets around to looking at her case (under whose authority was she locked up in a mental hospital again?!) he diagnoses her as somewhat neurotic rather than a basket case. Wow – imagine all of the lunatics on Twitter who would’ve been locked up in the ‘50s!

“Love of a Lunatic” (great title!) is basically a non-story though the main character was a lunatic in believing that her fate to become a lunatic was sheer lunacy!

“The Taming of the Brute” (1967) is the story of how when a woman tries to domesticate a man, she gets put in her place by his superior brain and physicality - don’t get any ideas, doll! It opens amazingly with a thug beating up the boyfriend of our main character, yet another witless woman, who’s turned on by seeing her former boyfriend emasculated and immediately hooks up with this beach dick. Of course, they get married, she tries changing him from a “brute” to a living Ken doll (did they have those back in 1967? Probably. Ah, you know what I mean!) and literally ends with the man spanking the woman for trying to change him! Brilliant – this comic was the real “love of a lunatic”!

“Love in High Stlye” (1954) is an example of how totally dated contemporary fashion can be. The boyfriend’s first name is Chick (Americanised “chic”?) and he wears giant, garishly coloured coats, while the girl wears matron dresses – all of which is cool “high style” that the kids were into in the 50s, apparently. Enter a balding, older man who immediately starts hitting on our teenage heroine (who’s the oldest looking teenager in comics, ever!) and actually starts to win her over! They go out on the world’s most inappropriate date, he tries to rape her but is stopped by Chick who’s been stalking her since they broke up – and she chooses him as the lesser of two creeps! What an amazing comic this was – ‘50s “love” at its finest!

“You Also Snore, Darling!”(1968) isn’t the best comic but it’s the best title. Dumb blondes don’t get dumber than our protagonist who spends her honeymoon living out some childish fantasy for her man, only for him to do horrid things like look at other women on the beach in Hawaii or fall asleep on the couch while she spends hours in the bathroom doing her makeup and hair! Her big secret is that she knows her husband snores – but she doesn’t tell him. The finale is that her husband says she snores too – and she never knew! ...

The comic ends with a Mad Men-esque one pager called “About Face” (1952) where women are told how to make their bums look good (clean clothes well presented) otherwise they won’t get any male attention!

So many of the comics here leave you stunned at how misogynistic, patronising, and stupid society’s views on women were, and the bad writing and art only accentuate the cheesiness of it. You do notice certain things about the comics like how the ‘50s issues are more heavy on the narrative captions and in the ‘60s the captions have been winnowed down or are missing altogether. The ‘50s comics have a uniform approach to their layouts with six panels per page while the ‘60s stuff plays around with panel size and placement.

Weird Love #1 is a comic that starts slow but once you get past the opening duds, it becomes genuinely riveting, so-bad-it’s-good stuff. Definitely check this out if you want to read some hilarious “romance” comics from the mid-20th century.

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