Even though comics are dominated by superheroes, and have been since the 1960s, people often forget that there was a period after the Second World War where they really went out of fashion. In that time, lots of other genres sprung up and gained prominence: Westerns, horror and monsters (at least before the Comics Code Authority) and romance comics. Funnily enough, two of the pioneers of the romance genre were Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; as with so much of modern comics, Kirby's influence can still be felt pretty much anywhere you look.
Mostly known now for the infamously explicit masterpiece of a film which it inspired, Julie Maroh's graphic novel is still a great romance story in its own right, and quite different from the film version. There's nowhere near as
much sex, for one thing, and the ending is, if anything, even more depressing if not quite as believable.
Not exactly a cheerful read, it's very much a story about coming to terms with and accepting your sexual identity, even if other people won't. The only way any love is going to last is if the people who share it are happy in their own skin - if you can't love yourself, you'll struggle to love another. All love is a struggle, but it's still worth pursuing even in your darkest moments.
One of the most obvious descendants of Simon and Kirby's Young Romance was Spider-Man, whose stories were just as much about melodramatic teenage soap opera as they were about beating up supervillains. Spider-Man: Blue takes those early '60s tales and crafts one of the most touching love stories in comics, retelling how Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy ended up falling in love (and almost didn't).
Beautifully drawn by Tim Sale, it could have done without the inclusion of an overarching supervillain plot to tie the six issues together, but it doesn't detract from the love triangle which forms the real meat of the story. Because any story about Peter and Gwen is inevitably going to involve Mary Jane Watson as well, and Sale's recreation of the iconic "Face it, tiger... you just hit the jackpot!" moment is easily one of the highlights of the series.
It's a very sad comic, because the reader knows right from the beginning that Gwen isn't going to live long after getting together with Peter, and it's in this sense of young love snuffed out too soon that it's at its most potent. Maybe not one to read on Valentine's Day itself, but it's definitely a book to make you appreciate your partner and want to spend time with them - you never know how much time you'll have.
If you know anything about Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing, you've no doubt heard of this issue. It's the one where the Swamp Thing's girlfriend, Abby, eats a hallucinogenic fruit which the Swamp Thing grew from himself, and then starts tripping major balls before the two of them have psychedelic, transcendental sex. It's as weird as it sounds, but it's still possibly the best issue of Moore's now legendary run.
By eating the fruit, Abby absorbs a little of the Swamp Thing's consciousness and sees the world as he does - where all life is interconnected, forming a vast, symbiotic web of constant birth, growth and death. The two of them come together in body and soul for what is essentially a prose poem in comics form: beautiful, profound and with some of the most exquisite art Stephen Bissette and John Totleben produced for the series, it's a true celebration of life and love. Hard to recommend highly enough, really.
Love may be in the air, but do any of these comics float your boat? Let us know what you think below!