War and Romance in Comics and Film

2 Nov

Final article in our 5 week series on the War Film Genre

By Comic Relief

Readers of the Paulina Simon’s novel, The Bronze Horseman might likely wonder whether the war and romance themes of her book permeate other sequential art genres.  But first you might catalogue what those sequential art examples would be?  Recently Hollywood has recognized comic books as one very influential form of sequential art. To explore this form, first we’ll discuss why comics might be discussed in an entertainment blog focusing on feature films and adult forms of comic book content.  Second we’ll mention some of the greater war and romance books that have graced the genre.  Then third we will review some of the greater contemporary examples on war and romance stories in comics and the silver screen.

As drawing is to painting in static visual art, storyboards are to feature films in sequential art.  Drawing and storyboard art are and were frequently production, directorial and schematic aids, yet both might attempt to independently act as their own art forms.  When four-color printed storyboards sought to have their own audience, as they have for more than a century, they tended to express themselves as comic books.  These are the reasons we should not be surprised that superhero themes would eventually have their day as feature films. But is this the only genre of comics?

Though most are aware of the many genres of feature films many don’t realize that these genres were the mainstay of comics as well.  War, Westerns, Science Fiction, Horror, Comedy and Romance all had their day in contemporary comics.  Yet following the example of the Bronze Horseman we’re only interested in war and romance comics in this article.

Simon and Kirby (1950)

ROMANCE COMICS:

Detailing stories about first crushes, jealousy, longing, and affection according to Michael Barson each romance comic “played out like portable little soap operas” [1].

According to Matt Thorn, as Harvey Kurtzman the late creator of Mad magazine details [2], “Here’s a measure of how much the comic-book world changed after [World War II]: The very first romance comic-book, Young Romance, in 1947, was the brainchild of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby—the same team that had brought so much vitality to the super-hero comic books a few years earlier. So far had the mighty fallen.”

This negative perception might have been common in the genre’s still vibrant history, but today the genre is celebrated as one of the many highlights of comic’s history. In his book “Agonizing Love” Barson recounts many of the highlights of this gender inclusive golden Era.  Much like the women’s magazines that were later influenced by it, these books frequently features advice columns, quizzes, and instructional lessons to help young and mature women find boyfriends and husbands.

With names like “Career Girl Romance”, “Diary Loves”, “Falling in Love” and “First Kiss” the newsstands were full of romance comics [3]. Click here to sample a collection of these comics.

WAR COMICS:

According to Greg Bennett, the comic book industry would “really [kick] into full gear in 1938-39, it’s understandable that WWII would pervade the consciousness of the medium [4].” Some of the reason for this was the war would gain prominence and because of popularity titles could barely be kept on the shelves.  Of the many publishers, (Marvel, DC, Vertigo, Max, Wildstorm, EC, 4, etc.) that would produce war comics, who would have known the selection would be so wide. Titles like “Two-Fisted Tales,” “Frontline Combat”, “Our Fighting Forces”, “GI Combat”, “Army at War”, “The Losers”, “Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos”, “The Nam”, “Sgt. Rock: Between Hell & A Hard Place”,” War Stories”, “Battler Britton”,” Two-Fisted Tales”, ”Men at War”,”Capt. Storm”, etc. took turns as the  most popular books.

Though war comics are still in production eventually the volume o f books would diminish as it did with romance comics.  Yet the appeal of the books is still prevalent and apparent in recent entries to the genre.  Attesting to their popularity, ever more imaginative hybrids genre books and series seem to appear every few years.

Here are some of the most enthusiastic examples of this new hybrid genre in comics and film:

  Title page from Lora Innes’ web comic

THE DREAMER:

Artist Lora Innes’ web comic the dreamer follows the adventures of a high school student Beatrice “Bea” Whaley.  Exploring her feeling toward her high school boyfriends and peers, she seeks to find herself while periodically experiencing historic dreamed adventures during the American Revolutionary war. Click here to sample collection.

 A comic cover page by Rick Veitch.

 ARMY @ LOVE:

A satirical war and romance comic and the product of the writing duo of Rick Veitch and Gary Erskine’s, Dc’s Vertigo line’  ‘Army @ Love” attempted to be cutting edge in as many genres as it could.  According to Boingboing’s.net’s Cory Doctorow the recent series “concerning the pornographic adventures of the middle-managers drafted to serve in America’s endless war in “Afghanistan,” where corporate sponsorship logos adorn the fuselages of jets, and combatants gossip with their loved-ones via cell-phone while taking heavy casualties defending the contractor-erected shopping malls in the middle of the wasteland.[5]”

Click here to view.

Here are some of the movie presentations of comic book characters.

NICK FURY:

A standard of his own war book, “Sgt. Fury and Howling Commandos”, actor Samuel Jackson is the current personification of this hero in feature film.  Unfortunately the character hasn’t seen any romantic action in the presentation of this character.

THE LOSERS:

One of the favorites for DC’s war comic series, “the Losers” was made into a feature length film in 2010.  And here we do witness some romantic suggestion. Click here to watch video.

Apart and sometimes combined romance and war will likely continue to provoke interested and excited readers and viewers of comics and films.

Also see: Hollywood & PTSD Among Military

Please join us for a discussion on this topic: Thursday 11/3/2011@7pmE/12UTC

——————————————————————————–

Resources used:

[1] http://www.npr.org/2011/06/15/135919828/a-romantic-anthology-of-comically-agonizing-love?ft=1&f=13

[2] http://www.matt-thorn.com/comicology/romance/index.html

[3] http://www.matt-thorn.com/comicology/romance/collection/index.html

[4], http://www.comicsalliance.com/2007/05/28/war-comics-101/

[5] http://boingboing.net/2008/03/11/lovewar-romancewar-c.html

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88 Responses to “War and Romance in Comics and Film”

  1. comic relief November 2, 2011 at 12:24 PM #

    This is the full Losers trailer.

    • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:10 PM #

      I saw this film online. I did not think I would like it at first but it was pretty good. The cast was good.

  2. littlebells November 2, 2011 at 12:29 PM #

    Wow! I had no idea these existed. Thank you CR. 🙂

    • comic relief November 2, 2011 at 7:16 PM #

      LB,

      Strangely many don’t know of them.

      I’m going to first assume you are thinking about the romance comics. They tell us a lot about men’s perceptions about women’s interests and tell us a lot about women’s entertainment appetites also.

      As for the war books, comics used fulfill every adventure interest that Hollywood satisfied.

      What shocks me was both creators Kirby and Simon were at the forefront of each genre.

  3. Open Book November 2, 2011 at 1:46 PM #

    CR!

    Excellent and very informative article.

    Q: Are War comic books more popular given we are at War?

    • comic relief November 2, 2011 at 7:23 PM #

      OB,

      War comics are still going strong and I assume one reason that they may be they are easily shippable by mail. Yet something we do not talk about often on LIH; War is extremely popular in video games as well.

      Video games may be edging out comics in regard to their symbiotic relationship with films. Yet to be honest even films fear the popularity of interactive video games.

  4. Littlebells November 3, 2011 at 6:51 PM #

    CR,

    I may not be able to be here much for the discussion, so I wanted to make sure I got some questions out there.

    Why did Simon and Kirby divert to romance comics? Was it to get the appeal of a woman audience?

    Are their comics geared toward women today?

    Regarding that cover by Veitch: how effective are women in battle who are perfectly coifed and sex-up uniforms? haha! 🙂 Had to ask.

    • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 6:58 PM #

      Love it LB—-Great Q’s

      • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:15 PM #

        1. Why did Simon and Kirby divert to romance comics? Was it to get the appeal of a woman audience?

        To be honest I don’t believe people thought that way then other than they wanted as much audience as they could possibly get.
        In interviews they claimed they had done everything else, I believe women’s interest was just a new frontier.

        • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:16 PM #

          2. Are their comics geared toward women today?

          No they aren’t, I think soap operas ate up this audience. Between that and popular magazines I think women were more provoked by moving images.

          You may have seen ads for posters of David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman; that day’s teen heartthrobs.

          • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:17 PM #

            3. What shocks me was both creators Kirby and Simon were at the forefront of each genre.

            Simon and Kirby are master innovators of genres and master innovators within genres.

          • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:21 PM #

            Soap Opera’s Ugh!! Really? I have never understood the interest in them. However, I’m not a comic book follower either. I just started paying attention to them because superhero films have a passionate and loyal fanbase.

          • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

            Listen to the titles of the Romance comic covers. Don’t they sound like the same kind of stuff you see on the covers of COSMO or on the inside of many of the teen beat magazines. Except COSMO is ten times more racy!!!!!!

            http://www.cosmopolitan.com/

            • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:34 PM #

              Yes! Very creative titles. Hmmmm! They set the bar so high on originality.

              • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:41 PM #

                Oddly or maybe not “the Dreamer” finds time to talk about ancient issues like “propriety”.

                • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:47 PM #

                  Propriety? What’s that? Is there such a thing as proper behavior today when dating?

    • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:01 PM #

      Until CR can answer LB.

      I will step in and answer your last Q. I would say the sexy costume is used to distract and disorient the enemy. Very typical male thinking……LOL!!

      CR- How did I do?

      • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:18 PM #

        What sexy costume? Hey i want to see it too.

        • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:28 PM #

          Uh! Hello….Did u not see the scantily clad picture of the women in your article? Her cleavage is saluting us? LOL!!

          • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:39 PM #

            And the troops may be saluting back. Feel free to ignore my presumptions.

            • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:44 PM #

              Speaking of respecting the genre.

              Actually my avatar is an offhand tribute to this genre. This image was painted by Roy Lichtenstein he was a pop artist in the 60’s and created this image as a homage to the romantic comics genre.

              • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:00 PM #

                Are you referring to another board discussion? That’s just wrong.

                • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 8:16 PM #

                  I don’t understand?

                  • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:25 PM #

                    WE separated my reply from the original statement; that can’t possibly be my fault alone.

            • littlebells November 3, 2011 at 8:06 PM #

              Oh my gosh! You both are killing me! HAHAHAHAHA! 🙂

              • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 8:25 PM #

                Yes! He’s quite coquettish..

    • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:27 PM #

      Is this the sexy costume that OB was talking about? Oh LB I guess you are right. But see what happens when these books are written by men.

      The army @ Love team call that satire.

      • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:30 PM #

        Yes!!

  5. Open Book November 3, 2011 at 6:57 PM #

    Hi Everyone,

    Welcome to our discussion tonight. New and returning visitors if u have any Q please feel free to join in, we love to hear from u to.

  6. Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:03 PM #

    CR-Why do u think Romance in comics was so popular after WWII but seems to be less popular today?

    • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:23 PM #

      We have more technological diversions today. But think of all the hot and bothered women who were nearly crazy because their husbands, boyfriends and even strange men returned from the war. Essentially all that anxiety was mined by Kirby Simon and the other creators.

      If I remember right Paulina had alot to say about this.

      • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

        Yes! Lot’s and lot’s of love making and babies…..=)

      • littlebells November 3, 2011 at 8:09 PM #

        Lots of loving during war too.

  7. comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:07 PM #

    Hi everyone. Thanks for the great questions, I will attempt to get back to them soon.

    • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:11 PM #

      Hi CR!

      • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:12 PM #

        Believe it or not I’m trying to catch up to the questions. Now you have my full attention.

        • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

          No problem LOL!!

          • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:28 PM #

            To learn more about the romance genre I would read Michael Barson’s; Agonizing Love.

            http://www.amazon.com/Agonizing-Love-Golden-Romance-Comics/dp/0061807346

            • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:30 PM #

              10. The Archies are a kind of left-over of the romantic comics period. Many kept reading to find out who was going to be successful, Betty or Veronica with their ongoing conquest for Archie Andrews.

              • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:35 PM #

                Yes! Archie was HOT!!! LOL!!

  8. Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:31 PM #

    Are War comics today trying to incorporate more realistic themes into their storylines? Like for example Captain America?

    • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:37 PM #

      Just like the movies l think they are.

  9. comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:36 PM #

    Back to the war aspect of the whole genre OB, I was wondering did you get a chance to look a look at “The Dreamer” comic book.

    Like with Paulina we finally have a woman writer and artist dictating what she thinks is sexy, romantic, and provocative in regard to war centered relationships.

    I was wondering how compelling you found the female perspective?

    http://thedreamercomic.com/comic.php?id=275

    • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:41 PM #

      I like the illustrations she depicts the female figure very realistically. I need to read the story more in depth. But I like it.

      • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

        Ah, then my work is done. 🙂

  10. Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:43 PM #

    It seems romance was more three dimensional in the 1940’s comics than what exist in superhero films today. Why is that?

    • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 7:46 PM #

      Would you please elaborate..?

      • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 7:55 PM #

        It seems in Romance comics of WWII they were more concerned with attracting women. It seems they spent more time developing relationships and longing etc…that u typically find in romance novels. Is that true? However, in superhero films. Filmmakers don’t really feature that as much. Does that make sense?

        • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:03 PM #

          Are you criticizing super hero movie gender representations?

          For good reason (they as a genre make the most money) but DC in general supports a lot of other genres. One of the greater non-super heroic characters distributed lately was Jonah hex. Are you saying the scenes featuring Megan Fox are really one dimensional. I only use this example because she has done a lot of these movies and levels this criticism herself.

          • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:04 PM #

            Though not in the provided clip. She does mention her charactr though.

          • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 8:08 PM #

            YES! YES! YES! YES!!!!!!!!! I would say her girls had more lines than she did.

            • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:13 PM #

              I won’t disagree with you.

  11. Open Book November 3, 2011 at 8:13 PM #

    Why does realism in War comic’s turns off comic book fans but filmmakers find it appealing today? So much so they are incorporating real events in history like in Captain America and X-Men.

    • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

      Please unpack that, I’m exhausted. Please speak slowly…

      Sorry if my spelling mistakes are having a celebration, I’ve been fighting a major case of dislexia as well.

      • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 8:29 PM #

        I will give u a get out of jail free card on this Q. I think I know the answer.

  12. littlebells November 3, 2011 at 8:15 PM #

    You two are having such a great discussion! I’m trying to think of more questions. You have provided some terrific comic examples, CR. I need to find time to really give them attention.

    May I ask you a personal question? When did you get interested in comics and what entertainment value do you find in them?

    • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:24 PM #

      “When did you get interested in comics…?”
      As a child like most.

      In asia comics are popular literature much more than here. I assumed because they are more graphic than we are. Their written language is a series of pictograms; but may be this topic should be saved for another day.

      Comic books or story boards are the building blocks for feature films, I think that’s as introspective as I think i can be right now.

      • littlebells November 3, 2011 at 8:27 PM #

        Yes, I liked the info about story boards. I never put two and two together, but it makes complete sense. And so much can be sad within a picture.

        • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

          C’est true. And add in some living an breathing actors and I things come a life even more.

        • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

          LB-

          CR-Is also an amazing artist. He’s being very modest.

  13. comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:28 PM #

    OB and LB,

    Since this is presumably the last night, did you think anything was wrong with the way Paulina Simons had a great time detailing how much Alexander “got a lot of tail” prior to Tatiana. But “Tania” had to be a virgin to be good enough for Mr. Barrington. Dasha nearly convicted herself as a series villain just because she had sex with Alexander prior to “Tania”.

    Speaking of propriety, did you find those sexual politics to be a little ancient despite the book’s many other narrative innovations.

    • littlebells November 3, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

      Great question!!! Let me think about my answer.

      • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:32 PM #

        As OB says, “Tick Tock”.

      • littlebells November 3, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

        I don’t think Tania had to be a virgin for him. I think he just didn’t like the thought of her being with anyone else because she was”it” for him. OB?????

        I think there has always been a double standqrd when it.comes to the different sexes: men can have it and get experience but a woman you marry has to he pure. I’m not saying that is true of all cultures/societies, but a.very large percentage still think that way.

        • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 8:38 PM #

          Great response LB!! ITA…

          • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 9:16 PM #

            I appreciate that too.

    • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 8:36 PM #

      Good Q. CR-

      I think it was totally unfair. I will discuss this in an upcoming article. However, in all fairness Alexander always wore a shield (condom) until he slept with Tatia. So u could say he was a “technical virgin” with a lot of field experience. LOL!!

      • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

        Touche’. Like that lunge… 🙂

  14. littlebells November 3, 2011 at 8:39 PM #

    My phone is DOA. I’ll be back.

    • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 8:44 PM #

      No problem!

  15. comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:45 PM #

    Since we’re talking about the Bronze Horseman, here’s another question. Alexander is obviously “Tania’s superman. He speaks multiple languages, he’s a click magnate, he’s big and strong and athletic, and he’s an excellent fighter and survivor. Other than starting his sexual life a little young I don’t remember him having too many faults. The environment tends to hone and refine all of his strengths.

    Oddly, oddly Tania’s faults all seem to be a product of her inner nature. She has tons of intuition but she worries excessivly, tends to be naïve in some respects, and frequently is slow to irradicate threats in her immediate environment like (her family first then Demitry).

    Sure they’re opposites, but doesn’t Ms. Simmons really load the deck on Alexander’s side.
    Please be kind remember I did not read the book.

    • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:46 PM #

      “CHICK magnate”, not click magnate.

      • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 8:53 PM #

        Oh! U have ventured into territory that can’t be quickly summed up in this discussion. We have only five minutes left. However, I will definitely come back to it tomorrow.

        • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:59 PM #

          Great. I certainly will return for the response.

          Make sure to play nice.

        • ozzie20 November 3, 2011 at 9:04 PM #

          Wait, there’s only 5 mintues left?……………Oh, I’m an idiot, the time changed this last weekend! We went an hour back so I should of been here at 11 rather than 12. Doh!

          • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 9:08 PM #

            LOL! No problem Oz! U have the whole board to yourself. Haha! Be good!

  16. comic relief November 3, 2011 at 8:56 PM #

    OB and LB,

    By the way what did you think of the gender representation in the Losers. Zoe Saldana’s charcater certainly wasn’t a push over but in terms of dolling out the violence, is this what women like in warrior women.

    A tiger in the bedroom and battle field?

    • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 9:03 PM #

      I think a tiger is what men want in the bedroom. NO?

      Correct me if I’m wrong ladies.

      • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 9:13 PM #

        Should I assume you don’t think this is a step in the right direction? Well now I think I’ve learned something about war and romance that I wasn’t necessarily expecting. Thanks.

    • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 9:06 PM #

      This is a lot of multi-tasking, sorry for the spanish version. I thought women were frequently critical of being held to super woman expectations. Yet I certainly know why men might like it.

      I’m curious to hear your response.

  17. ozzie20 November 3, 2011 at 9:00 PM #

    Hi All!

    I have been here the past 50 minutes trying to catch up. Just when I thought I had, there were several more comments!

    Great article CR! Mentioning the different types of comic brings back vague memories of some girly ones I used to sometimes read when I was younger. Unfortunately, I cannot remember their names.

    • comic relief November 3, 2011 at 9:02 PM #

      If you remember them later I’d still be interested in hearing them. And thanks for the compliment?

    • Open Book November 3, 2011 at 9:04 PM #

      Hi Ozzie!

      • ozzie20 November 3, 2011 at 9:10 PM #

        Hi OB!

        Sorry I’m so late. I was still going off BST time, I should of remembered to check the GMT time conversion for the discussion times.

  18. Open Book November 3, 2011 at 9:06 PM #

    CR!

    I have to go. This was a great informative article and discussion. If there are more Q I will come back and answer them tomorrow.

    Goodnight Everyone!

  19. comic relief November 3, 2011 at 9:09 PM #

    Thanks everyone for showing up. I imagine I will have to come back because the informative aspect of the evening doesn’t appear to be over.

    Bye all.

    Thanks.

  20. ozzie20 November 3, 2011 at 9:24 PM #

    Ok, as my brain is obviously not working tonight, I’ll come back tomorrow….Well later today for me. Hopefully, the old head will be working properly! 🙂

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