I’m willing to bet that your relationships with significant others aren’t as convoluted or mind-boggling as the ones you will find in Weird Love, a collection of love comics from decades past. I know that because I’m also willing to bet that you are more culturally evolved than your ancestral fictional characters that populated these four-color pages culled from the heyday of making women feel bad about pretty much everything. That’s what makes this collection so ridiculous. Weird Love gives us a glimpse into a time when the needle on the social gauge floated somewhere between “rampant sexism encouraged” and “casual sexism customary.”
While these stories probably weren’t intended to be comedic at the time, the warm blanket of history has swaddled them in ludicrousness. We have no analog for the petty, unflappable dickishness of the men, nor of the frank, almost callous lack of agency of the women depicted in the pages of Weird Love. Soap opera seems only a vague comparison, for soap opera tends to be at least a little self-aware. Nor can you compare it fairly to modern prose romance, for I would have to assume that modern romance writers likely enjoy what they do. The most important thing to remember about Weird Love is that literally all of these comics were written and drawn by middle-aged white men. They were either guys who typically wrote western, crime, horror, sci-fi, and superhero comics and liked doing those, or guys for whom creating comics was just kind of a job. Once you realize that, these stories start to make a kind of sense, in a middle-aged white-guy-from-the-50s kind of sense.
Another thing to keep in mind: these comics had only so many pages in which to lay down some groundwork, plow through some conflict, and happily resolve their various entanglements, sometimes in a bizarre turn of events but always with a moral takeaway. Once you know these things, Weird Love can be enjoyed as a rich, velvety farce, veritably stuffed with melodrama, and featuring selections such as “You Also Snore, Darling,” “Slave to Despair,” and “Weep Clown, Weep!” Despite the clown-based love story, the highlight of this book, for me, was the political drama, “I Fell for a Commie.” In this lovely little Red Scare of a tale, the heroine makes the decision to join up with a group of communist sympathizers because she’s fallen real hard for a guy in the group – hard enough to go through the motions of being indoctrinated just so she can spend more QT with her boo. I’m not sure that a rational actor would so quickly opt for the ideological cult when the love of an acquaintance she had only met a few days earlier was at stake, but maybe good men were as hard to come by in 1953 as they are now.
Surely, the faded, sepia newsprint of this fine collection will preserve for future generations the galling depths of what passed for mutual respect between man and woman during the 50s, 60s, and 70s (or, granted, some grizzled white guy’s interpretation thereof). I suggest the following for maximum enjoyment: snuggle up with your partner, crack open a bottle, and remind yourselves as you plumb the wacky depths of emotional infantilism that modern romance has come a long way indeed.
– Garrett Gottschalk