Thursday, September 6, 2012

Recently Read: Young Romance, The Best of Simon and Kirby's Romance Comics

A beautifully restored (by Michel Gagne) overview of Simon and Kirby's romance output, from 1947 to 1959.

As we know from previously reading Simon and Kirby romance comics, the early years are the hardest hitting, with dense, detailed, almost claustrophobic art, social concerns comics hadn't addressed before and characters you care about who seemingly stepped out of '30s Warner Bros. films.

The post-code stories, by contrast, are glib, short, drawn quickly (i.e. cranked out) and border-line bizarre in their heightened abbreviations of romance story tropes and formulas.

There's been recent discussion online as to whether Kirby wrote these stories. I don't think there's any doubt he wrote most of them. The book is filled with his cadences, word choices, sentence structures, rhythms, ideas, themes and very deliberate ways of expressing himself. 

Specifically, much of the writing here sounds quite like the unpublished romance comics Kirby wrote and drew for DC in the early '70s. For better or worse, Kirby's writing sometimes had an unintentional formality, a sometimes awkward, didactic way of expression that was uniquely his, God love him for it. Who else could have written, "The years that bound us were snapping cords of living tissues that inflected horrible pain upon us both as the hand of death reached to sever the last remaining strand..."? From "The Town and Toni Benson!"

Or, try this line on for size: "I didn't see the descending blow! Its devastating impact was transmitted to me through its unfortunate recipient." From "Sailor's Girl".

And: "My meeting with Sophie Morrison Scott recalled to my mind the jungle sequence of an old movie in which the unarmed native having been frozen into immobility by the ominous low rumble of sound behind him, turns slowly about - and watches with terrible fascination the stealthy movements of the tigress as her sleek, cat-like shape emerges into full view...peering out of Sophie's blase mask was a predatory animal poised to spring..." Great stuff, from "The Town and Toni Benson!"

I highly recommend this book, published by Fantagraphics.
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