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Romance Without Tears: Love Comics With a Difference    edited by John Benson order for
Romance Without Tears
by John Benson
Order:  USA  Can
Fantagraphics, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

John Benson's enjoyable and enlightening Romance Without Tears is a retrospective of the short but rich heyday of the once immensely popular romance comic ... 'Was I Too Young For Love?', 'I Set a Trap for a Wolf', 'Allergic to Love', 'My Double Life Caught Up To Me', 'They Call Me Boy-Crazy' are only a few of the lurid titles showcased.

According to Benson, romance comics thrived from 1949-1955, with no less than 200 titles and 35 publishers vying for precious rack space. Total sales of romance comics during these seven years bordered on one billion copies. Benson's particular focus here are comics written by Dana Dutch, who was something of a comic book upstart in his day. Rather than offering readers the standard and very popular cookie-cutter heroine, 'dull, passive, and rather stupid', he chose to set his young female characters apart by portraying them as 'lively, active young women who, though often naive and inexperienced, had character, a sense of worth, and a great deal of common sense'.

After reading the re-produced stories and strips in this slim volume, I would have to agree. While the dialogue is dated ('there goes my dreamboat', 'save your breath, chum', 'I was too flighty to love') and the drawings characteristic of comic book heroines of that day and age (blonde, voluptuous figures with wasp-like waists and those big soulful and sometimes tear shimmered eyes), Dutch's young ladies did indeed do things their way. Or as Oprah would say, they were empowered. They set goals for themselves and went after them. Though they sometimes failed, these young women always learned a lesson.

Romance Without Tears should appeal to romance lovers and comic book aficionados alike. It takes a close look at a small slice of our creative past, one that almost certainly influenced the romance genre today.

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