Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on February 16, 2012
Comic books and movies seem to be synonymous these days but both industries share a long and fascinating history that can be traced back to the 1930s. One of the many interesting offshoots of this unusual association was the publication of Movie Love in 1950. At the time comic publishers like DC and Fawcett had both attempted to publish action orientated movie-based comics with varied success. And some western stars such as Roy Rogers and John Wayne also had their own popular comic book series. Movie Love was distinct because it was a romance comic aimed at a female audience and the films it featured focused on adult relationships. It appealed to women of all ages and today it’s a fascinating reminder of what film fandom was like more than sixty years ago before home video and DVDs gave us all easy access to the classic movies we love.
As I mentioned earlier, the first issue of Movie Love was originally published in 1950. At the time the American comic book industry was booming and romance comics were extremely popular. Women were devouring them and there were about 150 different romance based comic book titles to choose from. Movie Love faced some tough competition but it maintained a steady readership for almost three years alongside its sister publication, Personal Love, which also featured illustrated film adaptations along with original romantic stories. Today romance comics are considered somewhat of an old-fashioned novelty but they’re slowly gaining more respect thanks to critical studies like Love on the Racks: A History of American Romance Comics by Michelle Nolan and Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics by Michael Barson. As a longtime comic book reader I personally find romance comics incredibly intriguing and just plain fun to read. But they have limited appeal, particularly to contemporary audiences who only associate comics with superheroes and the funny pages of their local newspaper.
Movie Love was tailor-made for movie fans that were eager to read more about the stars they admired and the movies they enjoyed. Each issue featured an eye-catching photo cover and included an illustrated adaptation of a new Hollywood movie along with biographical information about many beloved actors such as Fred Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor, Ronald Reagan, Esther Williams, Burt Lancaster, Joan Crawford, William Powell and Myrna Loy. These romantic comic books resembled the True Confession magazines that were also widely popular with female readers at the time. In many ways Movie Love was a toss away publication with a short shelf life but brilliant comic book artists such as the incomparable Frank Frazetta along with Al Williamson illustrated some of the issues. These men took great care in composing each comic panel and some of the best pages of Movie Love resembled colorful film storyboards that captured the reader’s imagination and offered them the opportunity to relive their favorite movie moments over and over again.
Today movie audiences are bombarded by movie trailers when they go to see a new film and there are televisions as well as computers in almost every home that allow us to watch movies on DVD and stream them online at our convenience. It’s easy for us to access information about any movie we want to see but in 1950 when Movie Love was originally published it provided readers with a unique and stylized look at select films and Hollywood stars. From the limited research that I’ve done it seems that most of the movies featured in Movie Love were associated with Paramount Pictures. The Eastern Color Printing Company must have developed a special working relationship with the studio in order to get information about the new films they were releasing. But actors linked to many studios were highlighted in the pages of Movie Love.
When the last issue of Movie Love was published in 1953 the Eastern Color Printing Company was facing increased competition from other comic book companies as well as pressure from the Comics Code Authority that demanded they tone down the adult content of their publications. Much like the Hollywood Production Code that came before it, the new and enforced Comics Code Authority insisted that comic books followed certain guidelines that were more “child friendly.” They wanted comics to show less sex and violence while promoting respect for authority and the sanctity of marriage. Eastern Color Printing Company faced particularly tough criticism for their war-themed comic books that were suddenly considered too violent for readers. The Comics Code Authority may have made comic books more child friendly but in the process they lost a large percentage of their adult readership and many publishers couldn’t stand the financial strain caused by these drastic changes. After suspending publication of many popular titles the Eastern Color Printing Company finally stopped production on all their comic books in 1955. They continued to operate as a printing company but their creative endeavors came to an end.
The Eastern Color Printing Company may not be all that familiar to modern comic book fans now but they produced some of the most sought after comics in the world. Issues of Famous Funnies featuring artwork by Frank Frazetta fetch huge sums of money in the collectors market and some original issues of Movie Love currently sell for as much as $100 on eBay. I don’t believe that anyone has published an official collection of Movie Love comics but you can currently find a few issues available to read at the Digital Comics Museum, which legally shares public domain Golden Age Comic Books. These colorful remnants from another era might appear rather quaint today but I suspect that many classic movie fans will find Movie Love comics as appealing as I do.
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