I don’t post about a lot of comic book Kickstarter projects here because there’s always a billion of them going on, many of which look fun or intriguing for one reason or another. But every so often there’s a project that I think everyone should get behind, and today that project is Sequential Crush Presents How to Go Steady by Jacque Nodell, with art by Jenny Cimino. The book is a how-to guide for love and dating based on romance comic books from the 1960s and 1970s, and it looks fantastic.
Romance comics are often overlooked by comic fans these days. When we think of the history of the medium, we often just focus on superheroes, or the brief crime/horror surge of the early 1950s, but romance comics were a big deal for a long time. They first debuted in the mid-1940s and became increasingly popular; by the 1960s, practically every comic book publisher had at least one romance book, if not several. It was a massively popular genre, and one of the very few corners of the comic book world marketed directly at female readers.
Reading old romance comics today is always entertaining because they were very much of their time, and often behind the times a bit since they tended to embody the values of the old white men who published them rather than the trendy young girls who read them. But they definitely did evolve as American society did, even resulting in some distinctly feminist tales by the 1970s. The genre offers a fascinating perspective on how young women were viewed in this era, as well as the dominant values of the period and how they changed.
Nothing better captured these dominant values than the advice columns that appeared in almost every romance comic series. Young girls would write in to ask advice on everything related to romance, from kissing to dating to fashion to jealousy to break ups, and the advice columnists would try to steer them in the proper direction. Jacque Nodell has pored over innumerable stories and advice columns to put together this book that explores the “timeless dating advice, wisdom, and lessons from vintage romance comics.”
And she’s certainly the best woman for the job! Her website, Sequential Crush, is arguably the best online resource for classic romance comics, a veritable treasure trove of old stories, advice columns, and quizzes, along with thoughtful and illuminating commentary on them all. In a landscape where the history of romance comics is too often ignored, Jacque Nodell has continually shone a light on the genre.
Jacque was actually a huge help in my own research, too. While putting together Investigating Lois Lane, I was stumped by a blatantly anti-feminist letter column that ran during Lois Lane’s women’s lib era when editor Dorothy Woolfolk revitalized her series; I couldn’t find information about it anywhere, and had no idea how to tackle it in the book. Then I found out about a similar column from a romance comic that was also edited by Woolfolk on Sequential Crush, and all the pieces fell into place. You’ll have to read my book to find out how, but my chapter on the subject owes a huge debt to Jacque!
Sequential Crush Presents How to Go Steady also features original art by Jenny Cimino which looks gorgeous; she’s totally capturing the classic romance comic vibe with her work here. The project as a whole should be a great, interesting read, and will be of particular interest to comic book fans, romance fans, and history buffs alike. You should definitely go take a look at it and considering backing the project; it’s almost a third of the way there now, and I’m very much hoping to see it make its funding goal and even more because this is definitely a book I want to have. Comics! History! Romance! What more could you want?