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