Few comics re-packagers have remained as steadfastly committed to the idea of comics as disreputable art as Craig Yoe. From his collections of genre horror comics (“The Chilling Archives of Horror”) to his reprints of left field work like Steve Ditko’s Gorgo comics, Yoe’s collections trample all over the dividing line between camp and gonzo creativity. Of all the sets Yoe has produced to date, perhaps the one that most tests its audience’s affinity for WTF? storytelling is his newest comic collection co-edited with Clizia Gussoni, Weird Love (Yoe Comics/IDW).
A 48-page collection of romance comics from 1952–71, WL works as an amusing collage of the frequently messed-up messages that young girls have been given over the years about love and marriage. The five tales presented in this first issue are unabashedly cheesy, though the art in the earliest tales, in particular, proves fine.
The book’s two stand-out tales come from the early fifties: “I Fell for a Commie!” (Love Secrets, 1953) is just as McCarthy-esque as you’d expect. In it, our heroine falls for a clean-cut guy who turns out to be a regular at the Young Americans’ Club. Said club, our girl is appalled to learn, is devoted to spreading communist propaganda. “I will join . . . but I will keep my mind and soul free of their beliefs!” she tells herself, but can she love a man who appears to be bent on destroying the American capitalist system? The answer won’t surprise you, but the story’s period take on the Red Menace remains fun.
Just as much of its era is the 1954 cover story, “Love of a Lunatic!,” produced for ACG’s Romantic Adventures. Drawn by Ogden Whitney (perhaps best known to lovers of cult comics for his work on Herbie) with plenty of wide-eyed horror comics histrionics, it opens with our heroine Ruth telling her tale from a padded cell. The neurotic daughter of a rageaholic father who himself has returned home from an asylum, Ruth has been involuntarily hospitalized by her overly controlling mother after throwing a fit in front of the old lady. Fearful that she’s inherited her father’s madness, she breaks off an engagement to a nice guy named Ed, but since this is a romance comic, we know that the two will get back together following a few panels of fifties psycho-babble.
The remaining tales are less overwrought – and subsequently less entertaining – though they do provide object lessons in the retrograde attitudes that romance titles were peddling in the wake of the feminist movement. In 1967’s “The Taming of the Brute,” from Charlton’s Just Married, a bossy heroine “tames” a hunky dolt into behaving like a “living doll . . . well behaved, well trained and eager to please.” Once the two are settled, of course, her seemingly whipped hubby does an about-face and takes charge. The Taming of the Shrew writ small.
Yoe and his crew of digital tweakers present this entertaining crap with a historian’s affection and a winking recognition of its essential silliness. If a few pages from the Charlton tales (most specifically, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez’s fine work on “You Also Snore, Darling!”) doesn’t come across as crisply as you’d like, well, that’s in keeping with the original comic line’s poverty row ethos. (Charlton, which served as the launching pad for a variety of neophyte artists, was notoriously cheap.) Issue #2 of this bi-monthly reprint series has as its cover story: “I Was An Escort Girl!” Can’t wait to see how that particular over-ripe topic gets treated.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00K1NIOO0]