Not to be a dead horse (race), but I'd like to further explicate my reaction to Modern Love, if I may. It doesn't invalidate your opinion in the least, Jeff, and I'm not trying to change your mind. I just want to explain what I'm basing my opinion on.
If you ever get a chance, read Romance Without Tears or Confessions, Romances, Secrets & Temptations. Both are collections of '50s romance comics that focus on St. John, which challenged the "tear-stained face" cliche and featured a lot of strong, level-headed women with agency.
DC Comics, too, while no doubt having their fair share of head-slapping stupidity, often featured career gals in and out of their romance books who didn't immediately quit their job when they fell in love to become a housewife. In fact, many of their books from Superman (Lois Lane) to Big Town focused on working women juggling romance AND their jobs.
I just read Captain Couragous #6 (and only) the other day, and wrote about it in this space. One of the few memorable moments in it was "Kay McVay, Stewardess" -- about a heroic stewardess who went from that one-shot to a longer career in various Ace books. Yes, she noticed handsome men and romance was a factor, but she never considered dropping her job for a strong jawline, or "melted" into anyone's arms who forced a kiss on her. She had a war to win!
Marvel had a number of career women, from the secret identities of their 1940s super-heroines, sidekick journalists, standalone journalists, policewoman Betty Dean, Linda Carter, Student Nurse (OK, that was 1961), and more. I'm not overly familiar with their romance comics outside of what was reprinted in Marvel Romance, but Stan Lee and his stable of freelance writers didn't adopt the condescending attitude of Modern Love on superhero and horror books, so I doubt they jumped the shark on the romance books.
Then there was ACG. Again, I'm not an expert on their romance books, but in their horror books the lead female was usually depicted as either the hero or partner of the hero, who has a job, insists on going into danger despite the (usually weak) objections of the boyfriend, and often saves the day. (Most stories ended with the lead male and lead female getting engaged, but it is a mutual decision.) Like St. John, ACG specialized in women who laughed off male pretensions and were in the thick of the action.
The upshot is that I've read every collection of pre-Code comics available (PS ArtBooks, DC, Marvel), almost every pre-Code horror story available in reprint or online, and Love on the Racks: A History of American Romance Comics; the Marvel Romance TPB; Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's Romance Comics; Heart Throbs: The Best of DC Romance Comics; and the two St. John works mentioned above, so I feel that I have a good overview of the field.
So believe me when I say EC Comics didn't simply reflect naivete typical of the time. It is far worse in its depiction of women than the hundreds, if not thousands of pre-Code books I've read featuring women. I would call them the worst, but I haven't read pre-Code romance comics comprehensively, and I'm sure somebody out there (Victor Fox? Lev Gleason?) managed to crawl under EC's bar.
So I was disappointed by how misogynist Modern Love was, standing out not only in an era of misogyny, but also in comparison to its contemporaries. As you go through, Jeff, notice how many working women quit their jobs the instance romance hits -- even the 30-ish woman who has made career her focus, and has an upper management job she's fought hard for. I would say ALL of them do -- I can't remember a single Modern Love story that ends with a working girl still in her job -- but I wasn't looking for that specifically and one or two might have slipped by me. And please notice the prevalence of scenes where a man kisses a girl against her will, and she "melts" into his arms it must have happened at least a half dozen times in 8 issues.
The good news is that Love on the Racks only gives one evaluation of EC Comics content, and it is to say that Saddle Romances was fairly imaginative. There is no mention of Modern Love, except to note that it exists. So like the artists of Modern Love (who weren't quite as good as they would become), maybe Al Feldstein (and whoever) will get better on the writing side of romance as 1950 recedes in the rear-view mirror.
And I still want to read A Moon, A Girl ... Romance. It's historic!
Sorry to blather on.
I've got a pretty decent collection of romance comics, but I own more than I've read. For whatever reason, I started reading Modern Love, but I'm not any further along today than I was last week. I was considering using the Modern Love collection as a sort of "gateway" to an EC reading project, moving into the War Against Crime collection next, then it's only uphill from there. My most recent romance collection, other than Modern Love, was that Ogden Whitney one. Whereas I haven't shelved it yet, I haven't cracked it, either. I have Romance Without Tears and a couple of the others you mentioned; Confessions, Romances, Secrets & Temptations I do not.
The Ogden Whitney book is on my to-get list, but isn't high on it. I got a lot of Ogden Whitney in the PS Artbooks collections of ACG material, and I find his work pretty bland. He's got a lot of fans, though, so I must be missing something.
I feel like I've read Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics, but a cursory search didn't turn it up. And the Captain's first rule is, of course ...
"...if you can't find it, you don't own it." ;)
I read a few more Modern Love stories last night and I definitely see where you're coming from. I think I was speaking more in terms of story structure and art than I was theme when I said I was enjoying it.
“How many rewrites has Superman's pre-Superman days gotten?”
SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN: This is another one I had completely forgotten about. (I came across it by accident this past weekend while looking for something else.) It’s post-New 52, yet it doesn’t jibe with Grant Morrison’s revamped origin from Action Comics.
RETURN TO ROMANCE: That title has double meaning. Not only is it the title of the Ogden Whitney collection, but I would also like to return to the discussion we were having last week. When I buy collections, I either read them immediately or I shelve them to be read at a later date. (Either that, or defer the decision by putting them on my “stack of shame” for six months.) On thing I always do is to read the introduction or foreword. The introduction to Return to Romance (subtitled “The Strange Love Stories of Ogden Whitney”) is by The New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck. She mentioned many of the same misogynistic attitudes in her introduction that you did in your post, but she liked the Whitney stories. I think I must have carried her attitude with me over to Modern Love, as if her introduction was written for that collection instead. Oddly, I began reading Return to Romance this weekend, and those stories I do find offensive.
Beyond that, I read a mix of new and older comics over the weekend. I think I’ll break them up into two posts.
STAR WARS #1: When Marvel got the Star Wars license back five years ago, I read the first six issues of the main series (which picked up after the first movie) and they were some of the best “Star Wars” comics I have ever read. I treated it as a tradewait “sampler,” though; I never intended to collect the series. It’s the same with the new Star Wars #1, which picks up immediately after the events of The Empire Strikes Back. One of these days (maybe soon) I will buy a collected edition of the first series, and someday I will likely buy a collection of this series, too.
TARROT #1: This is the first issue of an Avengers/Defenders crossover series by Alan Davis. It starts in WWII with the Invaders, the middle part deals with the Defenders, and the third with both the Defenders and the Avengers. As with other Alan Davis series, past continuity isn’t a big concern, but the story is so much fun I find that I don’t really care.
LOIS LANE #7: Every month I think I’m not going to like the new issue, and every month I do.
ACTION COMICS #1018: Carried along by the excitement of the current Superman storyline, I bought the new Action Comics thinking it would tie in. Nope. It’s part two f some other story. Four bucks wasted.
Now that Doomsday Clock has “legitimized” (for me) DC’s “New 52” universe, I thought I’d go back and read some of them. (I bought only five titles to start, and I didn’t stick with any of them long.)
SUPERMAN (2011) #1-12: The first six issues are by George Perez and are very dense (which I mean in a good way). The stories were so densely packed, that I “lost” the story by #5 and decided to come back and re-read the first storyline in a single sitting at a later date. Nine years later, the time is now. I hadn’t realized until I read it that I never before read the story’s conclusion.
The next six are by Dan Jurgens, and they are pretty good, too. The Jurgens storyline introduces Lucy Lane, who Lois is trying to set up with Clark. Because of his duties as Superman, Clark at first neglects to pick her up at the train station, then sticks her with the check on their first date. On their third date they go bungee jumping, but that’s the last issue I bought until Geoff Johns, John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson took over with #32.
WORLD’S FINEST (2011) #0-10: This is also the “New 52” version, featuring Huntress and Powergirl, by Paul Levitz, Kevin Maguire and George Perez. Huntress is the former Robin of [post-New 52] Earth-2, and Powergirl is the former Supergirl of that world. The series started out with Perez illustrating the modern day portions ans Maguire illustrating the flashbacks. I stuck with it as long as they did. It’s an “alternate reality” so it works for me (actually, I consider the whole “New 52” to be an alternate reality). Pretty good.
O.M.A.C. #1-8: Again, this is the “New 52” version. Buddy Blank is now Kevin Kho, and the “O.M.A.C.” acronym now stands for “One Machine Attack Construct.” (Kevin Kho transforms into a cyborg controlled by Brother Eye.) Speaking of acronyms, the titles of all eight issues spelled “O.M.A.C.” This was my favorite of the “New 52” titles, and the first to be cancelled. I thought at the time that the cancelation was due to low sales, but it may not have been intended to run any longer than eight issues. Either that or Dan Didio and Keith Giffen couldn’t think of any more “O.M.A.C.” titles.
[THE LAST] ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (#649): This is not a “New 52” title but rather an “Infinite Crisis” tie-in. Again, inspired by Doomsday Clock (and attracted by the cover), I fished this one out of the backissue bin. It’s part three of a three-parter and continues into Infinite Crisis #5. As such, it wasn’t a very satisfying read on its own.
MANHUNTER #1: This “OVERsize Special” is my favorite of the one-shots released a couple of years ago in celebration of Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday. I re-read it because it’s by the same team who did O.M.A.C., above.
THE BIG CHANGE: Inspired by re-reading the Jim Starlin Hulk/Thing story in Marvel Fanfare #21, I re-read this Hulk/thing graphic novel by Starlin and Berni Wrightson. It was a lot of fun. Would anyone be interested in a discussion of Marvel’s entire 1980s graphic novel line?
Darkseid vs. Galactus: The Hunger by John Byrne.
Infinite Crisis – Secret Files & Origins 2006.
I've been reading the PS Artbooks' two Pre-Code Classics: Space Cadet books, which have been in my to-read pile for at least a year. That's because I tried once and gave up on them.
I've gotten farther this time, and it's still not good, but it's less bad as the creators get into a groove. I'll talk about it more when I finish. I have a question for now, though. The GCD says these books were drawn mostly by Jack Lehti, but I swear there's a lot of John Forte in the DNA. Some expressions, body language, panel blocking -- very Forte. And not as mailed-in as his later Legion of Super-Heroes work. (Which I have found to be the case with most '50s horror/sci-fi artist who segued to '60s superheroes. Maybe they didn't want to draw superheroes, or maybe they had just gotten old.) Anyway, is there any way to figure out if Forte had anything to do with Space Cadet?
More along the lines of what I have read recently:
Houdini: The Handcuff King: This a really fun little book that takes place over the course of a day as he attempts one of feats of escape. It shows him with his relationship with his wife, his relationship with the press and local authorities. His hiring of a new employee. It was great.
Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child: Wow, was this terrible. Way too much talking. A Darkseid appearance (snooze central!). Bad art. The most interesting character, Carrie is barely in it. Lara and Jonathan are just aren't compelling in any way. Avoid at all cost.
At work I started Charles Burns' Black Hole. I've never read any of Burns' work before because new, it was always too expensive. I found this entire collection for 10 bucks at Half-Price Books, so I gave it a shot. I'm not too far into it, and it is kind of weird. I do like the art a lot. The problem is that I didn't know there nudity in it, so that was quite a shock at my desk.
Captain Comics said:
Anyway, is there any way to figure out if Forte had anything to do with Space Cadet?
Here's Wikipedia's entire entry on him:
John Forte (6 October 1918 - May 2, 1966) was an American comic-book artist, active from the early 1940s on, best known as one of the primary pencilers of DC Comics' early Legion of Super-Heroes stories.
Forte additionally drew for Timely Comics and Atlas Comics — the 1940s and 1950s predecessors, respectively, of Marvel Comics — as well as for the American Comics Group. Fiction House, Lev Gleason, and Quality Comics. He worked primarily for DC Comics beginning 1958, penciling Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane stories for the Superman family of titles. Forte was also the artist for "Tales of the Bizarro World" which preceded Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes as the lead feature in Adventure Comics. He also illustrated calendars, clothing catalogs and newspaper advertising. John Forte died of cancer at the age of forty-seven in Valley Stream, NY, on May 20, 1966.
NUKE ‘EM: Classic Cold war Comics Celebrating the End of the World: When I saw this collection on this week’s manifest I just assumed I had pre-ordered it, but when I got to my LCS, the owner told me I hadn’t. Upon closer inspection, I discovered why. It reprints Atomic War #1-4 and World War III #1-2, both of which series have already been collected (in two volumes with other supplemental comics filling out each one) by PS Artbooks. [See page 459 of this discussion for Captain Comics’ review of Atomic War.] The PS Art versions are less expensive than this one (from Hermes Press) and are printed on more appropriate paper stock.