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Weird Love: You Know You Want It (2015)
Book Reviews

Weird Love: You Know You Want It (2015)

Overcomes a lackluster presentation to showcase fun, politically incorrect retro comic love from a very different era.

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Weird Love: You Know You Want It isn’t the hotbed of comic book love and lust the ads may have led you to believe; IDW presents a solid 19 (plus one hilarious, in retrospect, look at a seriously dreamy future president) stories of love and romance in smudgy CMYK coloring. Here we have hapless heroines and their smitten paramours engaged in tales of love lost and found, often in the midst of serious mental illness, clowns, and helpful circus bears.

Those wanting a brief overview of these semi-scandalous treats should skip the new few paragraphs as I’m going to prattle on some about the packaging and context – boring stuff if you’re just looking for action. You’ve been warned.

While the stories are fine (for what they are) the collection itself is largely a failure in cataloging, which is especially disappointing as it comes from the otherwise capable hands of fastidious comics historian Craig Yoe. Did you know this is actually a collection of the first three issues of IDW’s Weird Love comic book series? Yeah, me neither (I had to check the website for that little nugget). It would’ve been helpful to have a “volume number” somewhere if more in the series get published – which will surely happen, because there’s more than enough Weird Love to go around.

Even the stock introduction by comics enthusiasts/historians Clizia Gussoni and Yoe is little more than yet another stale retelling of the 1950s Comics Code, despite the nice gallery of comic covers from the era showcasing a slice of hot comic love action (“I Fell For A Commie” becomes the red-tinged “My Wrong BOYFRIEND”). With the exception of brief line blurbs at the bottom of each story detailing where and when they were published, as well as artist attribution (when available) there isn’t much else putting these relics in context.

To be honest, the largely pointless ‘introduction’ by YouTube celebrity Comic Book Girl 19 could have been cut entirely (it adds nothing) and replaced with more artwork. A pink-haired geeky girl talking about pop culture…on the internet? You don’t say. I bet she’s lovely but I’d much rather see more vintage covers. More artwork, please!

It does these largely sexless stories a disservice to position them as more lascivious than they actually are. I understand the need to apply, retroactively, a sense of kitsch and eyebrow-raising sexuality to the past (thanks, Mad Men), but you’d have to really dig deep to find anything remotely that sexy here.

Clearly, these comics showcase a type of sexism and misogyny that was prevalent in the times they were created. But one could argue this was due more to ignorance than malice, as the accepted social mores of the mid-century were replicated in comic form to help those less interested in spandex heroes and mutant powers join the ranks of fans (and buyers).

A such, one could also make the case that such sexism still exists, only now through forced inclusion and overt pandering in efforts to not only ‘appear’ to be thoroughly modern, but to expand comic readership – and sales – to disinterested female readers.

I’m not going to get too nit-picky about the tone and triumphalism that’s been collected here in these 20 tales; these are museum pieces from an entirely different time and place, designed and intended for an entirely different audience; I assume future generations will look back at our fascination with ‘sexy’ celebrities like the Kardashian Klan and their ilk and have similar questions about our tastes. One can only hope.

The selection is fine, though a few running themes will give those giving a quick read through a sense of deja vu (how many times will their secret love be an undercover agent of the law?). But with such a wide stretch spanning early 1950s through the early 1970s it’s a romantic trip through reactionary throwbacks all the way through hippy-dippy modern match-making. After all, if there’s one thing these comics can teach us is that nothing puts a lady in her place like a good old-fashioned slap…am I right?

Now let’s talk about what we all came here for – stories about love, betrayal, clowns! Yeah, it’s like that.

The best is “Love Of A Lunatic”, which isn’t just pretty sophisticated storytelling (considering the material) but demonstrates the fine line between love and insanity; talk about asking for a commitment! “I Fell For A Commie” is straight-up 1950s Cold War hysteria, complete with requisite anti-Soviet propaganda for all the good citizens. “Yes, I Was An Escort Girl” isn’t nearly as provocative as its awesome title, though it’s still good, pulpy fun. “The Taming of the Brute” demonstrates that not even well-intentioned emasculation came stand up to a good spanking when domestic bliss is at stake.

“Weep, Clown, Weep!” isn’t, sadly, the hotbed of hot clown love the title teases, though those looking for a consequence-free tale of selfishness being rewarded, here you go. “Too Fat For Love” is a glandular-enhanced tale of love denied to our curvy heroine, one that works even better when considered against our recent booty-centric culture. “There’s No Romance in Rock and Roll” shows, once and for all, that evil rock and roll just has to go – that rotten noise will never take the place of a sweet love song.

And lest we forget the dreamy Ronald Reagan, Sweethearts’ May 1952 “Dream Bea of the Month” for the ladies. That Ronald, he’s definitely going places!

OK, the stories may been a little far out, but how good is the presentation? I could be wrong, but it appears IDW hasn’t remastered or touched up the original art at all, instead opting to reproduce the original comic books instead – imperfections and all. This means colors are all out of sync, resulting in blotches and newsprint-quality smears that rarely match the black line drawings.

Honestly, I’m a little on the fence in calling this a gripe. Clearly, this was how the art was originally presented to anxious boys and girls (mostly girls, I’m sure), smudgy colors and all. The actual binding and paper quality is, as expected, top notch, which makes for a strange experience reading inferior reproductions on high-quality stock. Only one story, the cautionary tale of alcoholism gone wild “Bottled Love”, is reproduced from the original art, corrections and all. It’s also in razor-sharp black ‘n white and is the cleanest piece in the book.

Weird Love: You Know You Want It collects the first three issues of IDW’s strangely addictive Weird Love comic book reprints, warts and all. If you can look past the lackluster effort to put these stories in historical context (and ignore the implication they’re being mocked) then you’ll probably enjoy what’s being presented here in all their politically incorrect, uncensored comic glory showcasing just how far we’ve come. Or think we have.

About the Author: Nathan Evans