by Johanna Draper Carlson
For Valentine’s Day, KC told you about some classic superhero couples, but if you’re looking for love in comics, there are a lot more options available to you.
(Who am I? I’m Johanna, KC’s wife, and I’m constantly trying to get him to try some of these non-DC/Marvel books that I enjoy. That’s the fun of being a comic book couple — even if you both read comics, you may read very different ones, which means there’s always something new to try around the house.)
An Independent Superhero
One of my very favorite-est superhero comics is a romantic comedy — Thom Zahler’s Love and Capes. Mark, aka the Crusader, is a traditional hero, saving the world every day. Abby is the bookstore owner he falls in love with, shares his secret identity with, and marries. One of the best things about this series is that, because the cast are Zahler’s very own creations, he’s been able to move their relationship forward instead of having to maintain a status quo for marketing purposes. As a result, the first 12 self-published issues cover Abby and Mark’s life from first date to wedding. (They’re collected in two books from IDW, Do You Want to Know a Secret? and Going to the Chapel.)
As you’d expect, there are a lot more people involved in this process than just the two of them. They have to meet each others parents and cope with friends and family, including Abby’s sister Charlotte and Mark’s best friend and fellow superhero Darkblade. Most complicating: Mark’s ex-girlfriend Amazonia, a stunning hero who seems perfect for him, thus providing plenty of opportunities for Zahler to show us just how right Abby and Mark are together in very amusing ways. Along the way, classic superhero storylines make their appearance, from Abby getting Mark’s powers temporarily to time travel and impersonation via shape-changer.
Love and Capes is an excellent choice for a comic-loving couple to share, since there’s a little something for everyone — comedy, true relationship moments, adventure, and great characterization. You can sample the strip at loveandcapes.com. The next phase of Mark and Abby’s life together has begun in a five-issue miniseries, also from IDW, called Love and Capes: Ever After.
One of the most eternally popular genres in independent comics has been autobiography. It’s thus natural for love, especially the desire for a boy- or girlfriend, to feature frequently, although too often, it’s frustrated or portrayed in despair. (“Why won’t the person I like notice me? Why am I such a loser?”) One of my favorite examples, though, has a happy ending … and beginning!
Tom Beland met his soon-to-be-wife Lily at Disney World. They struggle with a long-distance relationship — he’s a cartoonist in California, she’s a Puerto Rican journalist — before they marry and he moves to her island for their life together. Many of the comic stories in his resulting series True Story Swear to God deal with culture clash and his adaptation to a land where he doesn’t even speak the language at first, but through it all, they have each other.
Look for the thick Archive volume from Image Comics collecting the first 17 issues of Beland’s self-published run. There are additional issues as well from Image, although the series seems to be on hiatus currently.
Love in Foreign Lands
Of course, if you’re really into romance comics, the best place to look these days is at shojo manga, an entire genre dedicated to nothing but. These black-and-white digests aimed at teen girls provide all kinds of love stories, from school-day puppy love (High School Debut) to rock-n-roll romance (Nana) to action-movie-style wooing (Flower in a Storm) to nostalgic stories of growing up and finding a life partner (Sand Chronicles). All of those are from Viz’s Shojo Beat imprint, which has a bunch more options, too many to list here.
If you want something aimed a little older, try a josei (manga for women) volume. One of my favorites is All My Darling Daughters by the talented Fumi Yoshinaga. The artist tells a set of connected stories about a mother and daughter and their love lives in this award-winning book, and it’s complete in one volume.
Manga also provides different kinds of love stories, including
* parental love — Bunny Drop features a man who adopts his deceased grandfather’s young daughter and learns to become a father.
* love for pets — Chi’s Sweet Home is about an adopted kitten, or Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs follows a young woman who works at a pet shop.
* love of reading — Kingyo Used Books recommends various older manga series.
* love of food — Yoshinaga’s Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! contains illustrated restaurant reviews in each story, while Oishinbo a la Carte explores various areas of Japanese cuisine.
In short, manga has something for any comic reader.
Johanna writes regularly at ComicsWorthReading.com. She and KC met because of comics, for which she will always love the medium.
KC will be back next Monday with 10 Things.