By Paul Kupperberg
There’s no use trying to deny it. Everybody knows I’m a comic book serial killer...the evidence is right there, published for all the world to see. In my career, I’ve been the mastermind behind the rubbing out of Arthur Curry Jr. (Aquababy), Adrian Chase (Vigilante), Cliff Carmichael (The Thinker), Arani Desai (Celsius), and, most recently and famously, Archie Andrews.
But for all that, I’ve got one more shameful secret in my dark, murderous past. Oh sure, mine wasn’t the only finger on the trigger, but I feel guilty about it nonetheless. The victim?
|Simon & Kirby's Young Love #1|
Sure, sure. It was 1977 and the genre was on its last legs. Marvel had long given up on love, and Charlton Comics was left with just a single romance title on their schedule, having cancelled For Lovers Only, Love Diary, My Only Love, Teen Confessions, Time for Love, and Secret Romance (although that would be revived for a short run as a reprint title in 1979-1980) only the year before, leaving them with just I Love You to hobble along until the love died for good in 1980.
|The victim: Young Love #126|
DC Comics was also down to a lone title: Young Love (which was not, FYI, the continuation of the venerable progenitor of the genre created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for their Prize Comics line in 1949, but rather a continuation of the series by the same name first published in 1960 that picked up the numbering from 1957’s All for Love...comic book numbering, like love, can be confusing). And that book was on its last legs.
Which is where I came in, penning two stories for Young Love #126 (July 1977): the 8-page “Love In Peril” and the 1-page “How We Met.” The latter was a quick and cutesy little bit of fluff about a stage magician falling in love at first sight with his temporary assistant. The former, though...
That’s what did it. The fatal blow from which no comic book, no genre could hope to survive. How bad was it? I’ll let a 2005 review on the blog Comics Should Be Good speak to that:
“There is a pretty straightforward story about a woman not wanting her daughter to get involved with a race car driver that falls apart with an idiotic finale, which is so stupid that it would really work well as a SNL skit, as it is sooo ridiculous (a quick recap, the daughter is so distraught that she accidentally runs onto the race track, where the guy almost kills her, but manages to avoid her, but hits near the old man who is a friend and confidant of the race car driver - which removes the amnesia of the old man, as it turns out that he is the girl's father, who was a daredevil who was presumed dead years ago, which is why the mother is so hard on the race car driver. You can't make stuff like that up! Well, rather, you shouldn’t make stuff like that up!)”
No, nobody should. But we did. And after that, there was never another issue of Young Love. So deep was my horror and shame that I had my name taken off the story in an attempt to conceal my evil deed. Young Love died...and I’ve have the stain of red printer’s ink from that broken heart on my hands ever since.
I’ve lived with that guilt for 37 years, but now, at last, at long last...redemption! A couple of years back, I had an idea for a new kind of romance comic that I called Postmodern Lover Stories. Along with artists Pat and Tim Kennedy (my collaborators on the “Archie Marries Betty” half of the Life With Archie series) I created a proposal, complete with 3 stories penciled in 3 different and stunning styles by Los Hermanos Kennedy, that I sent around to just about every comic book publisher around, major, minor, and indie. Those that responded (including DC’s Vertigo line) praised the material but turned it down because “romance comics don’t sell.” (Being used to mainstream comics’ uncanny ability to make self-fulfilling prophecies, I held my tongue and didn’t ask “How do you know? Nobody’s publishing one!”)
But I never lost hope and that faith was finally rewarded because I’ve finally found my one true love, the comic book publisher who gets me and wants me...and all the love I have to give!
And that’s how Paul Kupperberg’s Secret Romances came into this world. The love child of my guilt and the warm, accepting embrace of Charlton Neo...and really, I’m going to put an end to this tortured analogy before I reach the point where none of us can get the image of Mort Todd, Roger McKenzie, and me in any type of embrace out of our minds.
|"Men Like Henry Bertram" pencils by Pat & Tim Kennedy|
So here’s what’s coming, Neophytes and young lovers:
Covers by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (Superman, Batman, and Charlton Classic romance comics veteran) and Dean Haspiel (The Fox, Billy Dogma)!
Nine stories (11 if you count the text feature in each issue!).
|"You Have the Right to Remain Smitten" by the Kennedys & Jeff Austin|
Art by Pat and Tim Kennedy, inked by Barbara Kaalberg (Wonder Woman, Impulse), Bob Smith (Green Lantern, Archie), and Jeff Austin (Avengelyne, Big Bang Comics), Joe Staton (E-Man, Green Lantern), P.D. Angel Gabriele (Fantastic Four, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents), Mort Todd, Fernando Ruiz (Archie Comics), and Daerick Gross (Batman, Excalibur), Kevin George Tuma, and illustrator Rob Kelly.
And stories, written by me in an act of contrition almost 40 years in the making. It feels good to finally get this all off my chest and to once again find love...even if it is in the strangest places.
|"My Heart Took Wings" pencils by the Kennedys|
Paul Kupperberg’s Secret Romances #1, coming in February 2015.
Just one word of caution though: “Happily Ever After” isn’t what it used to be!
Paul Kupperberg's Secret Romances © Paul Kupperberg, Art © Pat & Tim Kennedy