Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cigarettes and Smoking in Romance Comics

For anyone who has watched AMC's Mad Men, it is no secret that smoking was rampant in mid-century America. In a genre touted for its glamor and true-to-life stories, it is only natural that cigarettes and smoking were prevalent in the romance comics. I have collected for your reading and viewing pleasure, a sampling of images and attitudes from the romance comics concerning smoking. Enjoy this romp through days of yore!

Long gone are the days of advising people to smoke -- much less teenage girls! This advice from Ace's Real Love #35 (January 1951) advice column, "The Charm Corner" advises young women looking for friends to light one up in the name of comradery:

"If it's permissable [sic] in your office to take time out for a cigarette in the rest room, choose a time when some girl you'd like to know is doing the same thing. Many pleasant friendships have had their beginnings over a cigarette."

The romance comic book stories featured many a character who smoked. Sometimes it was part of the plot, and other times it was just a part of everyday life for the characters as evidenced by the following splash page from a 1964 story.

"End With A Kiss"
Young Love #41
(January/February 1964)

Two years later, in 1966, fourteen year old "Betts" wrote in to Young Love advice columnist, Jane Ford to ask her opinion on girls who smoked. Miss Ford had this to say:

"There's nothing distinctive nor talented about being able to smoke. Any fool can light a cigarette..."

"As Jane Ford Sees It..."
Young Love #54
(March/April 1966)

Though subtle, this page from a 1967 DC romance story depicts a young woman sitting at a bar with her pack of cigarettes and what looks to be a martini. Quite glamorous, no?!

Everyone smoked in this story!

"Her Last Chance for Romance!"
Falling in Love #94
(October 1967)

Even by 1970, health professionals such as Jewel (a nurse)
were depicted as smokers:

"Confessions" Episode 4
Girls' Love Stories #150
(April 1970)

The characters from the long running serial "3 Girls -- Their Lives -- Their Loves" were big smokers, as seen in the next two images. Most everyone seemed to smoke in this serial, doctors not exempt!

Episode 9
Heart Throbs
(October/November 1970)

My, my!
What a large cigarette
you have there, sir!

Episode 12
Heart Throbs #113
(April/May 1968)

Though it is not surprising in the least that the following panel originally appeared in a story from 1960 (My Own Romance #74 - March 1960); it is a little shocking that this smoking scene was not edited out of its subsequent reprinting in 1971.

"He Was Perfect -- But I Lost Him!"
Reprinted in Our Love Story #12
(August 1971)

Smoking in the romance comics seems to have pretty much disappeared from the sequential art in the early '70s, but it certainly hadn't vanished from minds of young comic book reading folk. Donna Fayne's anti-smoking rhetoric was a bit more groovy than Jane Ford's, but seems to get the same message across -- don't do it!

"At your age, you don't need any artificial turn-ons:
everything you do, think, experience and feel is a heavy scene."

"Like It Is! by Donna Fayne"
Heart Throbs #138
(February 1972)

I have to say, it is the subtle things in the romance comics that really get me excited and are so telling of the evolution of attitudes in American society!


  1. I don't think Vince Colletta knew HOW to draw a person WITHOUT a cigarette!

  2. Jacque: the guy in the panel from Heart Throbs 113 has a suspiciously large cigarette! You've hit upon an interesting topic here. Something I'd noticed in late 50s, early 60s comics, particularly, is the combination of pipe smoking and scientist gurus. Jack Kirby was one for drawing such characters. The pipe, the slightly older guy, sometimes with gray hair above his ears, and smoking a pipe, was as much a visual formula for indicating a respected, educated, trustworthy authority as was the pencil thin mustache and cigarette smoking associated with the rogue in early 50s romance comics. Jack Kirby's archetypal scientific older good guy is, of course, Reed Richards, who sure enough is puffing away on his pipe in FF#1, although you'll find plenty of Kirby characters like that (without the super powers) in the monster books and other stories by him all over the place. The Invisible Girl must have gradually convinced Reed to pack in the habit over the years!

  3. Ha ! That Doctor smoking is classic ! If they ever invent a healthy cigarette, I will pick that habit right up again. As is, a Non-Smoker now for 8 years. Quitting was the HARDEST thing ever; harder than trying to quit drinking or texting !

  4. ...which put me in mind of the old mid-Sixties Iron Man stories that showed Tony Stark smoking...and him with a barely-there heart! (And I'm NOT talking about the kind that shows up in love stories!)

  5. Great stuff - I particularly like that Doctor.

    I truly wonder when the last Romance smoking panel occured. Charlton reprinted some stories right into the 80s. I wonder if they kept the smoking in.

    Terrific work, Jacque.

  6. Scott: Thanks! That is a really good question... I will keep my eye out in the '80s Charlton romances.

  7. I find this an interesting topic as I myself am an ex-smoker. I had found this stop smoking ad in First Love #25 from 1953. I was surprised that they had anti-smoking aids back then when smoking was so acceptable at the time.

    I took this pic before I had a scanner: