Column: Comics Over Innsmouth: Marvel Romance Redux

By Lyndsey Holder

Marvel Romance Redux. Marvel (February 7, 2007). ISBN-13: 978-0785120902.

Generally speaking, when it comes to comics, love is never easy. Couples falling in love in a comic book have about as much of a chance at lasting happiness as couples trying to fall in love in an opera. It just doesn’t happen very often and if it does, it’s in a one-shot, or it ends up getting retconned. Or, someone cheats, gets fridged, or makes a deal with Satan, because lasting happiness is boring. Sure, you can create intrigue in a way that doesn’t compromise the integrity of you r characters’ relationships, but that’s hard. It’s much easier to make things interesting by making sure none of your characters are ever lucky in love (I’m looking at you, Joss Whedon). I think, also, comics (especially mainstream comics) try to write for what they perceive their audience to be and, since the stereotypical comic fan is a single man who lives in his mother’s basement and doesn’t know how to talk to women, I suppose publishers worry that they might terrify their fanbase if they wrote about a functioning relationship.

I guess this is why I never knew that Marvel made romance comics until I picked up Marvel Romance Redux. Well, that and the fact that the heyday of romance comics happened well before I was born. After the Sexual Revolution, comics that reinforced 1950s gender roles lost their appeal, but since the Comic Code at the time prevented anything more saucy, romance comics fell into decline.

Marvel Romance Redux revitalizes old romance comics by completely rewriting the scripts in a rather hilarious fashion. “The Boy That Got Away” is rewritten as “Hit or Miss” and is now about a contract killer who falls in love with her target. “Another Kind of Love”, by Stan Lee and John Buscema, is now “Hot Alien Love”, about a woman working for the Department of Homeworld Security, who runs away with an alien from the planet Lustaria.

It’s interesting to note, though, that the themes the original comics were based on are still apparent, no matter what silliness goes on in the speech bubbles. Some of the rewrites tackle this – “Too Smart to Date” (formerly “The Dream World of Doris Wilson”) follows a woman whose cleverness scares off men. Luckily, she finds romance comics, which cause her intelligence (and hygiene) to plummet, and she finds love in the arms of a nerdy comic fan. The idea that men aren’t interested in smart women is an old one and I did quite enjoy the fact that the cure for intelligence is reading romance comics (wait…isn’t that what I’m doing now? Oh, snap). If you missed that bit of darkly sarcastic humour, dear reader, don’t worry! It does it again, only this time, it underlines it and puts it in bold print. Doris’ love of comics has not only decreased her intelligence, but has also caused her to stop paying attention to basic hygiene and become interested in listening to men who like comics drone on about mint condition this and first edition that. My goodness! Comics do terrible things to people, don’t they?

Reading Marvel Romance Redux is like when you and your friends used to spend your boring classes in school ignoring whatever mind-numbing lecture the teacher was on about and instead, rewriting lyrics to popular songs to make fun of their singers. It’s deconstructing dogmatic notions that are no longer relevant, but managing to do so with a sense of humour. I’m certainly not trying to imply that I think that a humourous rewriting of speech bubbles in an old comic designed to try to reinforce gender roles is going to be a fantastic help to breaking down the archaic beliefs that still pervade our society to this day. And I’m not going to deny that many of these comics don’t also play into those stereotypes, in one way or another. I do think, however, that this sort of thing is important – perhaps, even vital – in comics as a whole. We need more people to point out the inherent silliness in the established conventions of comics (You can’t tell me that you’re not tired of how everything in comics lately is darker, bleaker and more depressing than listening to Morrissey while watching Requiem for a Dream), so that we can tear everything down and maybe finally get something new and interesting.

You can purchase Marvel Romance Redux from Amazon.com.

Bio: Lyndsey Holder is a Lovecraft nerd with a fondness for cephalopods.