is a comic book
series created by Joe Simon
and Jack Kirby
for the Crestwood/Prize
publishing company in 1947
. Regularly hailed as the "first" romance comic
, the series ran for 124 consecutive issues under the Crestwood/Prize label, and a further 84 (issues #125-208) were subsequently published by DC Comics
after Crestwood Publishing stopped producing comics.
In his introduction to Eclipse Comics' 1988 collection of some of the earliest Simon & Kirby romance comics, Richard Howell writes that:
- "Romance has always been a major component in entertainment, be it novels, plays, or movies, but for over ten years after the first appearance of comic books, romance only had a token presence in their four-color pages."
This changed in 1947
with the return from war
of one of comics' earliest and best-known creative partnerships, that of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who had already created Captain America
, the Boy Commandos
and the Newsboy Legion
Working for Hillman Periodicals, the two created a "teen-humor comic book called My Date" debuting in March 1947, which contained within its pages "ground-breaking" stories concerned with "comparatively faithful depictions of teen-age life, centering especially on romantic experiences and aspirations." Arguably itself the first "romance comic," positive reaction to My Date allowed Joe Simon to negotiate a deal with Crestwood/Prize publishers Teddy Epstein and Paul Blyer (or "Bleier") - "before the four-issue run of My Date had run more than half its course" - to receive an unheard-of 50% cut of profits in return for producing their follow-up for that company.
Launched in September, 1947
, the Crestwood title Young Romance
staked its claim to innovative storytelling and ground-breaking storylines from its first issue, emblazoned with a banner reading "designed for the more adult readers of comics. Told from a first person
perspective, underlining its claim to be recounting "true" stories, the title was an instant success, "bec[oming] Jack and Joe's biggest hit in years," and selling "millions of copies in the process of 'selling through' a staggering 92% of its print run. Large sales convinced Crestwood to increase the print run by the third issue to triple
the initial numbers, as well as upgrade the title from bi-monthly to monthly between issues #13 and #72.
Before long, the company (and duo) were launching companion titles to capitalise on the success of this new genre. Crestwood/Prize's companion title Young Love was released "less than a year and a half" (Feb. 1949) after the debut of Young Romance and also sold well with "indistinguishable" content from its parent-title. Further spin-off titles Young Brides (married couples' stories) and In Love ("book-length" stories) also followed from Crestwood/Prize, and were produced by the Simon & Kirby stable, while imitators from other companies, including Quality Comics, Fawcett Publications, Fox Features Syndicate and Timely Comics, capitalized on the romance boom. Despite the glut of titles, the Simon and Kirby Romance titles "continued to sell five million" a month, allowing the pair "to earn more than enough to buy their own homes."
The slew of imitators caused Crestwood to adopt the "Prize Comics" identity and "Prize" seal on the covers of the Simon & Kirby produced titles as "the easiest means for readers to tell the S&K-produced love comics from the legions of imitators."
"For the first five years," Simon and Kirby produced "at least one story (usually a lengthy lead feature) per issue," but the increased output of the Crestwood/Prize Romance titles meant that in many cases they merely oversaw the production of 'their' titles. They remained "involved with every story," despite not writing or drawing them all, and "maintained a high standard of quality" by employing artists including "Jerry Robinson
, Mort Meskin
, Bruno Premiani
, Bill Draut
, Ann Brewster
, John Prentice
, and Leonard Starr
" to work on the title(s). Many of the other artists' output, according to Howell
"show the distinctive S&K layout style, and it was not uncommon for a newer artist's work to show signs of S&K retouching."
Lettering duties were initially handled almost entirely by Howard Fergeson, while Bill Draut occasionally lettered his own work. After the death of Fergeson, Ben Oda took on "the same herculean task."
As with most contemporary romance comics, and the pulps before them, the covers of Young Romance (and all the Simon & Kirby romance output) varied between photographic covers (see above) and regular artwork (typically produced by Simon & Kirby themselves). The photographic covers often depicted film starlets; Young Love Vol. 1, issue #4 for example, featured a cover picture of "then MGM starlet Joy Lansing," which was then reused as the cover for Eclipse Comics' 1988 "Real Love" collection, which reprinted in black and white a number of the Simon & Kirby romance stories, including early work by Leonard Starr, who went on to create the newspaper strip feature "Mary Perkins, On Stage".
Launched in September 1947
, Young Romance
ran for 124 issues, until June 1963
. Initially bimonthly, strong sales and demand inspired an increased production schedule, and from issue #13 (Sep. 1949) the title became monthly. Continuing to be released monthly for the next five years, with issue #73 (Oct. 1954), the title reverted to bimonthly status and continued to be published in this way for the next seventeen years, missing only one month - August, 1963 - when the title switched publishers from Crestwood/Prize to DC Comics
, alongside sister-publication Young Love
. One hundred issues after dropping back to a bimonthly release schedule, issue #172 (Aug. 1971) saw the return to monthly release for a scant twenty issues, and between issue #192 (Mar. 1973) and the titles' final issue - #208 (Dec. 1975), the title was, again, bimonthly.
Launching with a 10c cover price, and selling in the millions, Crestwood/Prize's 124 issues kept the cover price the same throughout the titles' initial 16-year life. Moving to National Periodicals (DC), (and that company's subsidiary Arleigh Publishing in particular) upon Crestwood Publications \"leav[ing] the comic book business\", the stories "became more predictable and the edgy art was replaced by the "slick" style" that dominated the later romance/love comics.
DC/Arleigh took over some Crestwood/Prize titles in 1963 and continuing publication particularly of the two flagship romance comics (Young Romance
and Young Love
) which became "part of a reasonably popular romance line aimed at young girls" for a further 12 years. By DC's fifteenth issue, the 'circulation statement' claimed sales of just over 200,000 copies, numbers that gradually dwindled throughout the early 1970s to c. 120,000 by issue #196. Creators who worked on the DC incarnation included artist Steve Englehart
. The last Crestwood/Prize issue was June 1963's issue #124, and the first DC issue of Young Romance
was #125 (Sep. 1963
). The series ran for a further 84 issues, until Nov/Dec 1975's issue #208.
A select number of Simon & Kirby romance comics, predominantly from Young Romance
were reprinted in 1988 by Eclipse Books
under the title Real Love
(edited, and with an introduction by Richard Howell).
Kirby biographer Greg Theakston has also reprinted some Simon & Kirby romance comics and pages in a number of books on Jack Kirby, while John Morrow's TwoMorrows Publishing has also featured occasional artwork from romance titles in issues of The Jack Kirby Collector.
In 2000, as part of their "Millennium Edition" reprints of key DC comics, DC reprinted the first issue of Young Romance - even though it (as well as the first issue of MAD magazine) wasn't originally printed by DC.