Q & A with Michael Barson on "Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics"

Agonizing Love the Golden Era of Romance Comics interview with Michael Barson

Hi, all! I hope your week is off to a great start! Today I have for you a short Q & A session I did with author Michael Barson about his soon-to-be-released anthology of 1940s and '50s romance comics through Harper Design -- Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics. Grab your morning beverage of choice (coffee for me, please) and enjoy!

How and when did you become interested in romance comics?

I had been a comic book fan and collector since my teen years in the 1960s. But that was all about the superhero stuff -- I paid no attention whatsoever to the romance comics that were still being published then, though their heyday was already past. It wasn’t until much later, when I moved to New York City and was still collecting Golden Age comics, that I came across some early copies of the seminal Simon & Kirby titles Young Love and Young Romance – and I was hooked.

Why the time period of 1947-57, say over the later romance comics?

To me, the style of the stories and artwork seemed much more serious in that earlier time period. By the mid-60s, the content and art style has become simplified and, I think, also directed to a younger audience. For me, that didn’t work nearly as well. Of course, if I had grown up as a teenage girl in that same period, I might have liked them just fine. But I am a child of the Fifties.

Do you have any favorite romance comic book artists, writers, publishers, etc.?

I do favor the early Simon & Kirby material – those guys were flat-out geniuses! But as their titles became diluted as a product of the “S & K shop,” the standards were lowered to a way more average product. Matt Baker’s work for (primarily) St. John was always attractive and interesting. And I loved it when the Marvel/Atlas artists like Russ Heath and Bill Everett turned their talents to one of these Love stories… but that didn’t happen often enough! I also am a sucker for a good, trashy photo cover, many of which I have included in this book.

What publishers’ comics are featured in Agonizing Love?

There is a lot of material from a number of the pre-Marvel titles, a good amount culled from the Simon & Kirby titles Young Love and Young Romance, some from Harvey titles, some from St. John, from Quality -- probably a couple dozen publishers in all, if I stop to think about it. I didn’t do that much with Fawcett, Fox or DC, for various reasons.

Did you draw from your own collection for this book?

Yes, I drew largely from my own collection for this book, as I do for all of my pop culture books. But once I knew I had a publisher for this book, I did contact my dealer friends to augment my holdings with the best of what they had on hand at that point. You think you have seen it all, but you never really have. I even kept adding to my holdings after production on the book had closed. Such a shame!!

Do you have a favorite story included in the anthology?

If I had to pick, I’d probably opt for one of the several mother-in-law stories I included… maybe “Mother’s Boy” from Romantic Marriage #2 (1950). And yes, I have a mother-in-law. But I do also have a soft spot for the westerns that featured love stories—Real West Romances and the like. I guess I can identify with those (temporarily) untamed cowboys.

Thank you, Michael!  Michael Barson's Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics from Harper Design is set to release on May 10th and is currently available on Amazon! Be sure to get your copy!