It is no secret that the heyday of Romance Comics is well past. Romance Comics were one of the core genres in comics that exploded after World War2 inthe US and its popularity was immense right through to he beginning of the industry self imposed Comics Code Authority in 1954. Although the genre continued in a more censured form it was only a shadow of the material that came before and by the early 1970’s the genre was effectively dead.
Prior to the CCA in 1954, many romance comics carried a banner that instructed readers that the book was for the more adult reader, a category that Romantic Mayhem falls squarely in with the package coming together as respective nod to the past but adding modern storytelling devises to great effect.
Bringing together the cream of Irish talent, Romantic Mayhem lays out its stall from the very first strip with Paddy Brown and Gar Shanley’s ‘What’s Roy Thinking’ that uses the female Sally’s introspective narrative to reveal a neurotic headcase of a woman with a hopeless need to know what others think of her. This, as with other strips in the anthology, lends a dose of humour with many of the strips having laugh out loud moments. But humour isn’t a driving force in the book, Elida Maiques surreal Protolove is an imaginative take on the genre as was her second strip ‘The Thief’.
An issue highlight, for me, was Cathal Duggan’s ‘This Never Heavenly Heart’ that had heartbreak, comedy and more all in one strip. It was visually strong and thematically proficient.
‘All The Way’ from John Robbins is a take on modern romance with female experimentation in love that was incredibly well written and explored. ‘Perfect Nadine’ by Ian Pettit was a show on the spiteful nature that a woman can have when besotted with a character that intentionally or not bore a strong resemblance to ‘Easy A’ actress Emma Stone.
Davy Francis and Gar Shanley’s ‘For The Love Of God’ firmly had its tongue in cheek was very strong visually. I love that art style when used in a comedic manner and Gar pulled it off with aplomb.
Other contributors that ran with the baton with their strips was Luke Fallon’s take on relationships with a visual style that is uniquely his, more greatness from the high flying Alan Nolan, Ronan Kennedy’s surreal ‘Unhappy in Love’. The tragic ‘Why Don’t You Call’ from Archie Templar and Gar Shanley was great, as was John Robbins text piece ‘Hand in Marriage’. Back cover artist Deidre de Barra’s ‘Starcrossed Love’ was a showcase on female manipulation that came back to bite the character in a cruel manner.
The issue is interspersed with several ‘ads’ that are classic ‘Windell’ with the ad for cigarette filters just hilarious. Along with the strips and the ads, it lends the book a feel of completeness that I hope can inspire future editions if not in Romance than in other genres.
I must make mention to the great cover from Tommie Kelly that evoked the spirit of Terry Moore’s femme’s that he has become known for, it was quite evocative. All told, this is a runaway success on many levels with many bright spots and all involved should hold their heads high having evoked memories of bygone days with a distinctly modern flavour.