In the 30's through to the 70's there was a phenomenum in American pop culture of the romance comic. Geared towards young girls and women it was an avenue which flourished well before the era of super-hero comics hit the scene.
In my interview with writer, artist, all-round nice guy Michel Gagne you'll discover the lost treasure and lost artform of the romance comic.
As brought to you by two powerhouses in comic lore. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon.
I hope you enjoy my interview with Michel Gagne.
1. What about romance comics interests you?
A few years ago, while reading a book on the history of comics, I realized that there was an entire facet of Jack Kirby’s (one of my childhood heroes) work that I hadn’t seen: romance.I became curious and wanted to read some of these stories. I started searching on the internet, and at comic stores and book stores, in the hope of finding a book compiling some of this obscure work. To my surprise, there was very little available. The only book I found was the long out of print, Real Love: The Best of the Simon and Kirby Romance Comics by Richard Howell: A volume featuring black and white reprints of thirteen stories, including nine by Simon and Kirby. The featured Simon and Kirby stories were excellent but they only spanned a three year period (1949-1951) while the team’s romance output lasted twelve. Granted, 1949 to 1951, was a potent period in terms of mature storytelling and lavish artwork, but my inquisitive mind wanted a general overview of the entire output, not a mere snippet. My search to find sample reprints from the post code era (1954-1959) turned up nothing. That’s when I started looking for the original comics. Certainly not an easy task.
Romance comics were bought by girls and women who, contrary to their male counterparts, did not have a tendency to collect. The comics were read and discarded. Even though the print runs were some of the highest in the history of American comics, very few copies survived and most of the ones that did are in pitiful shape. I quickly realized that if someone didn’t make an effort to preserve this material, most of it would vanish into oblivion. That’s when it hit me! Perhaps I should be the one to start the ball rolling. I had been itching to do a comic book preservation project for many years and this would be the perfect opportunity. Thus, I made the decision to restore, compile, and edit a book featuring an overview of the entire span (1947-1959) of Simon and Kirby’s romance comics.
2. Where you always a fan of romance comics?
I'm interested in the history of comics and the Simon and Kirby's romance comics played an important role in the evolution of the medium. It could be said that my interest is of an historical nature.
3. How did you get the idea to remaster the comic books into one big volume?
I get frustrated when I see restoration of old comics that are so digitally altered and modernized with garish colors, that they hardly have any connection left with the original material. For my project, I wanted to keep the integrity of the source material. I made a huge effort to stay true to the look of the comics printed on newsprint while restoring the inks to their original vibrancy and repairing color misalignments. The process was done over several years in my spare time. In essence, this book is my personal vision of how golden age comic book compilations should look.
4. What can people expect from Young Romance?
They can expect beautifully draw stories that are fun and varied, by two of comics master storytellers. The book is a well documented piece of American pop art and a true time capsule of an era.
5. What’s coming up next?
I'm finishing the last issue of ZED right now and I'm hoping to get the trade of all ten issues published sometime fairly soon. I'm also always busy with various projects ranging from films to video game. For up to date info on my work, people should check out my website at http://www.gagneint.com/
I want to thank Michel for his time and enthusiasm with this interview.
If you're interested in Michel's book Young Romance I highly recommend you track it down at all good book retailers, or online. The comic book stores in your local area should be able to get you a copy on request. But I suggest you be quick about it (I already have mine on order).If you'd like to check out Michel's other work please direct yourself to the following sites;
I hope you enjoyed this interview.
Until next time!